EHR and Health IT Consulting
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EHR and Health IT Consulting
Technical Doctor's insights and information collated from various sources on EHR selection, EHR implementation, EMR relevance for providers and decision makers
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IBM’s Watson Extracts EHR Patient Data to Improve Care

IBM’s Watson Extracts EHR Patient Data to Improve Care | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

Anyone who enjoys watching the quiz show Jeopardy! has heard about the computer system Watson, which was initially developed to compete on the show but has since garnered the attention of leaders across a variety of industries. Watson can even be used to better analyze EHR patient data and lead to improved quality of care.

The company division IBM Watson Health has announced today that it is working with Epic and the Mayo Clinic to apply some of the computing capabilities of Watson to analyzing EHR patient data and systems in order to boost patient health outcomes. Providers will also gain advantages when applying Watson’s power to EHRs and gaining faster analysis of the many issues that affect a patient’s health and wellness.EHR Patient Data

Using secure, cloud-based Watson services will help physicians with clinical decision making and understanding of patients’ medical conditions. Over the last year, Epic has exchanged more than 80 million patient health records within its community and outside of it.

“Building on our recent announcement of IBM Watson Health, we are collaborating with Epic and Mayo Clinic in another important validation of the potential of Watson to be used broadly across the healthcare industry,” Mike Rhodin, Senior Vice President of IBM Watson, remarked in a public statement. “This is just the first step in our vision to bring more personalized care to individual patients by connecting traditional sources of patient information with the growing pools of dynamic and constantly growing healthcare information.”

The hope is to have Watson and Epic software be utilized to effectively create patient treatment protocols and more customized health management solutions for patients with chronic conditions. Watson would be used to bring forth relevant case studies and medical knowledge that is applicable to treating a patient when doctors and other healthcare professionals share EHR patient data with Watson in real-time.

Epic will be incorporating Watson’s computing features into its clinical decision support tools including Health Level -7 (HL7) Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Through this combined system, clinicians will be able to more quickly access the knowledge necessary to more effectively treat patients and improve health outcomes.

IBM and Mayo Clinic is collaborating on ways to revolutionize cognitive computing by applying it to clinical trials matching among cancer patients. With the streamlined and accurate processes available through Watson’s computing capabilities, physicians are able to register patients much faster in relevant clinical trials that are customized to each individual’s needs. With more than 1 million patients seen at the Mayo Clinic every year and more than 1,000 clinical trials available year-round, integrating Watson should lead to significant progress in quickly assigning patients to innovative studies.

“Patients need answers, and Watson helps provide them quickly and more thoroughly. We are excited by Watson’s potential to efficiently provide clinical trials information at the point of care,” Dr. Steven Alberts, an oncologist at Mayo Clinic, said in a public statement.

IBM’s Watson offers significant opportunity for healthcare providers to bring about high-quality care through the use of cognitive computing capabilities tailored to each individual patient.


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Electronic Health Record Vendors Take Patient Data Hostage: What Should We Do?

Electronic Health Record Vendors Take Patient Data Hostage: What Should We Do? | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

In today’s interconnected world it seems intuitively true that instant access to comprehensive medical patient histories will help physicians to provide better care at a lower cost. This simple argument was persuasive enough for the federal government to spend $26 billion to incent medical providers to adopt electronic health records (EHR) systems so that they can electronically share medical records. The initial investment appeared to be large, but it was an economically sound solution to control the rising healthcare expenditure. The resulting HITECH act is one of the few healthcare laws that maintains bipartisan support. To establish a nationwide health information exchange network, officials designed a two-stage plan. First, incent every medical provider to create an electronic archive of their patients’ medical records. Second, connect these electronic archives together so that the providers can share their patients’ records. The $26 billion in federal incentives was a lucrative source of revenue for hundreds of different software vendors to develop and aggressively market their own type of EHR products in a medical market that knew little about information technology. According to the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT, in 2008, less than 10 percent of hospitals had basic EHR systems, and a mere five years after, 94 percent of the hospitals use a certified EHR system.

The next step forward is to connect these electronic silos together so that physicians can share their patients’ records. The billions of dollars in federal spending will only have any tangible benefit if this is done successfully. EHR vendors have taken patient data hostage and are not willing to release it unless they receive a big ransom. They typically claim that technical problems limit the interoperability of their products. This prevents physicians from sharing their patient records with other doctors. This is like T-Mobile claiming that its users cannot make calls to AT&T customers. The claimed interoperability limitation does not end here. The vendors are proposing hefty charges to allow data sharing between their own customers.

As I have discussed in detail before, this a hole that the government has dug for itself. A nationwide health information exchange network sounds great, but it is not possible to achieve this goal without the proper alignment of economic benefits for every player in the healthcare market. In the face of this problem, the government has three choices:

  1. Pay EHR vendors the ransom that they are asking to release their hostage and allow sharing of the patient data among medical providers.
  2. Regulate the industry and force the EHR vendors to allow sharing of patient data among medical providers.
  3. Do nothing.

The government appears to be following the first plan. Officials had not anticipated interoperability challenges and assumed that all of the providers with EHR systems would have the capacity to exchange records. Based on this assumption, the third stage of the EHR incentives program was designed to encourage physicians to actively engage in the exchange of medical records. Today nearly every physician has an EHR system and although many of them also want to exchange information, the EHR vendors do not allow them. The incentives, which were initially planned to encourage physicians, will end up with EHR vendors and help drive future profits. As Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) put it, "we have been subsidizing systems that block information instead of allowing for information transfers, which was never the intent of the [HITECH] statute.”

Regulating the industry seems like the only feasible solution to this problem. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), the leader of the House Energy and Commerce trade subcommittee is drawing up a bill to enforce data sharing. The benefits of regulating the EHR industry, if any, will take a very long time to become tangible. The EHR vendors will furiously push back against any kind of regulation and will insist that technical challenges are a real barrier to interoperability. Congress is poorly situated to adjudicate this claim. Time is a critical factor in the long term success of HITECH plans, which threatens the viability of this strategy.

The best solution for the government is to do nothing. The new pay for performance payment methods in which the medical providers are being paid a fixed amount for treating patients would drive them to become more efficient and increase their profit margin by seeking solutions such as health information exchange to cut costs. Because the market for new EHR products is now saturated, the only revenue source for EHR vendors are charges for data exchange. Currently, they can get away with outlandish charges because they know the incentives from the federal government allow doctors to cover their costs. But if the free money from the government were to stop, then EHR vendors would have to persuade the physicians to pay for the exchange fees. Just like any other service, the highest price that the medical providers would pay is equal to the value of the service for them. If the electronic exchange of information helps medical providers to cut back on their costs and save some money they will be willing to pay a fair price for it. EHR vendors will end up lowering their fees to a reasonable level or will eventually go out of business.


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New Medical Tech Not Hard to Swallow, Just to Implement

New Medical Tech Not Hard to Swallow, Just to Implement | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

The "always on" smartphone world of today matched with personal digital diagnostic technologies in development by the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Google, and other digital powerhouses promise to revolutionize chronic disease management and empower population health to stratospheric levels.

The development initiatives using data created and transmitted via smartphones using wearable, clothing embedded, ingestible, and other personal sensors are limited more by imagination than technology.

Just one little problem: The ability to convert another tsunami of new patient data into usable and actionable information for physicians using existing EHR technology is more than a decade in the rearview. The existing system platforms are static warehouses, not digital highways.

Further, each EHR's warehouse is an island unto itself because it uses a different layout, nomenclature, and even language designed to make changing to a competitor as difficult as possible by making data migration to a new system an expensive and daunting process. Until Congress stepped in, exorbitant ransoms imposed by some EHR companies to translate the data into the standard language are effectively bad memories.

The Wall of Interoperability

Still, federal law, which prescribes that all EHR data is to be contained in a standard format called a CCDA (Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture, if you must know), to be certified. The law, however, has more loopholes than grandma's knitting.

That makes the new healthcare information highways, population health, and similar programs that convert EHR warehoused data into usable information for physicians and other healthcare providers (among a host of other enabling and time-saving features), the ultimate solution hobbled by that EHR industry manufactured wall to data called "interoperability."

Circumventing EHR companies by automating removal of the CCDAs out of EHR systems has been solved by a very clever few, as has even making them interactive, but it comes at a cost because each version of each EHR has to be done separately.

To achieve a single-keystroke model (inputting data only one time), which is not only desirable but the only way to get people to use it, tons of EHR data has to be machine translated into a common language, delimited, mapped, parsed, validated, and, finally, populated into a common platform so that it can be made into something useful for providers. Every day. That takes lots of time, money, and skill, which can be undone by EHR companies at will every time they issue an upgrade, new version, or even a simple update — and expensively redone.

In return, providers get useful, time-saving tools that can allow them to do much more in much less time, which is the key to a reasonable quality of life for physicians.

That makes effective population health, let alone enhancing it by new wireless, personal smartphone app-enabled diagnostics, equivalent to baking a cake by having to get and process the raw ingredients from farmers and dairies instead of a cake mix from the supermarket.

The obvious solution, of course, is to pull the data directly into the information manufacturers' systems, circumventing the EHR warehouses, which will be hoisted by their own petard in the open ocean without a paddle because information systems cannot be EHR-specific to be effective.

In the end, there is a bright future for developers, physicians, healthcare providers and, especially, patients.

EHR companies? They took a different road. The survivors will join the program, and the time to do so is so very close.


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