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Do Security and Privacy Concerns Drive Cloud Adoption?

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In one of my recent conversations with Dr. Andy Litt, Chief Medical Officer at Dell, he made a really interesting but possibly counter intuitive observation. While maybe not a direct quote from him, I took away this observation from Dr. Litt:

Security and privacy drives people to the cloud.

Talk about an ironic statement. I imagine if I were to talk to a dozen CIOs, they would be more concerned about the security and privacy implications of the cloud. I don’t imagine most would look at the cloud as the solution to some of their security and privacy problems.

However, Dr. Litt is right. Many times a cloud based EHR or other software is much more secure than a server hosted in a doctors office. The reality is that many healthcare organizations large or small just can’t invest the same money in securing their data as compared with a cloud provider.

It’s not for lack of desire to make sure the data is secure and private. However, if you’re a small doctor’s office, you can only apply so many resources to the problem. Even a small EHR vendor with a few hundred doctors can invest more money in the security and privacy of their data than a solo practice. Although, this is true for even very large practices and even many hospitals.

One reason why I think many will disagree with this notion is because there’s a difference between a cloud provider who can be more secure and private and one who actually executes on that possibility. It’s a fair question that everyone should ask. Although, this can be verified. You can audit your cloud provider and see that they’re indeed putting in security and privacy capabilities that are beyond what you’d be able to do on your own.

What do you think? Is hosting in the cloud a way to address security and privacy concerns?

April 24, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Six Reality Checks of HIPAA Compliance

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Between Windows XP causing HIPAA compliance issues and the risk associated with the risk assessment required by meaningful use, many in healthcare are really waking up to the HIPAA compliance requirements. Certainly there’s always been an overtone of HIPAA compliance in the industry, but its one thing to think about HIPAA compliance and another to be HIPAA compliant.

This whitepaper called HIPAA Compliance: 6 Reality Checks is a great wake up call to those that feel they have nothing to worry about when it comes to HIPAA. While many are getting ready, there are still plenty that need a reality check when it comes to HIPAA compliance.

Here’s a look at why everyone could likely benefit from a HIPAA reality check:
(1) Data breaches are a constant threat
(2) OCR audits reveal health care providers are not in compliance
(3) Workforce members pose a significant risk for HIPAA liability
(4) Patients are aware of their right to file a complaint
(5) OCR is increasing its focus on HIPAA enforcement
(6) HIPAA Compliance is not an option, it’s LAW

Obviously, the whitepaper goes into a lot more detail on each of these areas. As I look through the list, what seems clear to me is that HIPAA compliance is a problem. Every organization should ask themselves the following questions:

Are we HIPAA compliant?

What are you doing to mitigate the risk of a breach or HIPAA violation?

When I look at the 6 Reality Checks details in the whitepaper, I realize that everyone could benefit from a harder look at their HIPAA compliance. A little bit of investment now, could save a lot of heartache later.

April 23, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

ACO’s and the Tech Needed to Be Ready

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The following is a guest post by Barry Haitoff, CEO of Medical Management Corporation of America.
Barry Haitoff
For those not familiar with ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations), I want to provide some insight into ACOs and how a medical practice can better prepare themselves for the coming shift in reimbursement, which is epitomized by the ACO. This is a challenging subject since the ACO is a somewhat nebulous idea that’s rapidly changing, but hopefully I can provide you some strategies that will help you be prepared for the coming changes.

You may remember when we talked in a previous post about the Value Based Payment Modifier and its impact on healthcare reimbursement. As we talked about in that post, healthcare reimbursement is changing and CMS is looking to only pay those providers who are providing quality care. As part of this movement, an ACO is an organization that works on behalf of a community of patients to ensure quality care.

The metrics of how they’ll measure what they reimburse and what they consider quality care are likely to rapidly change over the next few years while CMS figures out how to measure this. However, one key to being ready for this shift is that you’ll need to be part of an organization or group of providers that will take accountability for a patient population.

In some areas of the country, the hospitals are leading these organizations, but in other areas groups of physicians are coming together to form an ACO of just physicians. Either way can work. The key is that the members of these groups are going to each share in the reimbursement the group receives for improving the quality of healthcare patients in the community receive.

Also worth noting is that membership in an ACO isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for value based reimbursement. Whether you choose to be a member of an ACO or not, you’re going to be impacted by value based reimbursement and will need to be ready for the change. Not being ready could lead to lower reimbursement for the services you provide.

While it’s great that organizations of doctors are coming together to meet the need for ACOs, much more is going to be needed to do well in an ACO reimbursement world. The reality is that an ACO can’t exist without technology. Don’t even think about trying to meet the ACO requirements without the use of technology. ACOs will base their reimbursement on trackable data that can be aggregated across a community of providers that are likely on hundreds of different systems. Try doing that on paper. It just won’t happen.

In fact, many people probably think that their EHR software will be enough to meet the needs of the ACO as well. I believe this to be a myth. Without a doubt, the EHR will play a major role in the gathering and distribution of the EHR data. However, unless you’re a homogeneous ACO with providers that are all on the same single instance of an EHR, you’re going to need a whole suite of services that connect, aggregate, and interpret the EHR data for the community of patients. Add on top of that the communication needs of an ACO and the care manager style tracking that will need to occur and it’s unlike your EHR is going to be up to the task of an ACO. They’ll be too busy dealing with meaningful use and EHR certification.

Let me highlight three places where an ACO will need technology:

Communication
One of the key needs in an ACO is quality communication. This communication will happen provider to provider, provider to care manager, provider to patient, and care manager to patient and vice versa. You can expect that this communication will be a mix of secure text messaging and secure emails. In some cases it will be facilitated by a patient portal, but most of the secure messaging platforms for healthcare are much slicker and more effective than a patient portal that so far patients have rarely used.

Are you using a next generation secure messaging system to communicate with other providers, your staff, and the patient? You’ll likely need to use one in an ACO.

Provider Data Aggregation
Much like paper charts won’t be enough in an ACO world, faxed documents won’t be enough either. Providers in an ACO will need to have patient data from across the entire community of ACO providers. At a minimum providers in an ACO will need to have their EHRs connected with Direct, but most will need to have some sort of outside HIE that helps transfer, aggregate and track all the data that’s available for a patient in the ACO.

The ACO and doctor will really benefit from all the patient data being available at the click of the button. Without it, I’m not sure that ACOs will be able to meet the required quality measures.

Patient Data Aggregation
While all of the providers will need to be sharing their patient data, I think most ACOs will benefit from aggregating patient data as well. At first the ACO won’t be aggregating all of the patient generated data that’s available. Instead, they’ll find a slice of their patient community where they can have the most impact. Then, they’ll work with those patients to improve the care they receive. This is going to require ACOs to receive and track patient generated data. Without it, the ACO won’t have any idea how it’s doing. With so many patients on mobile devices or with access to the internet, what an amazing opportunity we have to really engage with patients.

Those are just a few of the ways technology is going to be needed for the coming changes in healthcare reimbursement and the shift towards value based care in things we call ACOs. Far too many providers are sitting on the sidelines while they let ACOs settle into place. What a missed opportunity. The fact that the ACOs are rapidly changing means that if you participate and make your voice heard, you can help to shape the direction of them going forward. We definitely need more doctors involved in these conversations.

Medical Management Corporation of America, a leading provider of medical billing services, is a proud sponsor of EMR and HIPAA.

April 22, 2014 I Written By

Breaking News: Meaningful Use is Not Covering Costs

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In one of my recent interviews with a healthcare IT consulting company, they revealed some breaking news for those of us in the EHR world. They told me point blank that:

Meaningful Use is Not Covering Costs

Ok, so that’s not really breaking news. Although, it seems that very few people want to actually articulate this point. It almost feels like heresy that someone would “complain” about the fact that the government is spending $36 billion on EHR incentives and that the money isn’t enough to cover the implementation of these EHR systems.

Actually, I should clarify that last point. The EHR incentive money is covering the costs to purchase the systems. It’s not covering the costs of implementing those EHR systems and then poking, prodding and otherwise cajoling end users to show meaningful use of that system (not to be confused with meaningfully using the system).

Let me also be clear that I’m not complaining about the EHR incentive money. I’ve done enough of that previously. What I’m just trying to acknowledge is something that everyone who deals with the EHR budget already realizes, but no one seems to want to say it. Organizations are spending more money on EHR and meaningful use than they’re getting from the government.

I think this is important for a couple reasons. First, many organizations didn’t budget any EHR money beyond what the EHR incentive money. You can certainly argue this was a mistake on their part, but that’s going to leave a bunch of organizations in a lurch. We’re already seeing the fall out of this as news reports keep coming out about hospitals systems in financial trouble due to the costs of their EHR system. Plus, in each of these cases, it seems their costs continue to balloon out of control with no end in sight. It makes me wonder if the compressed meaningful use timeline is partially to blame for a rushed implementation and poor EHR implementation and cost planning.

Second, there is still a swash of providers and organizations that haven’t yet implemented their EHR. If you can’t support the cost of EHR with government money, how does that bode for those who won’t be getting any EHR incentive money? One could make the argument that they’ll actually be in a better position since they won’t have to worry about meaningful use and can just focus on getting value out of their EHR. Hopefully that’s the case, but many of the meaningful use functions are now hardcoded into the EHR systems. Even if an organization isn’t planning on attesting to meaningful use, that doesn’t mean they won’t be forced by their EHR software to do a bunch of things they wouldn’t have done otherwise.

What are you seeing from your perspective? Is the EHR incentive money covering the costs of an EHR implementation? What are the impacts if it doesn’t?

April 21, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

EMR Interfaces, MU vs Quality Care, and Data Outside EMR

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I’m not sure I agree completely with this tweet. I don’t know enough about Covery My Meds to say either way. Although, I wondered if many EMRs will integrate with Covery My Meds. From my experience, EMR vendors don’t want to interface with many outside software companies. A few embrace outside companies interfacing with them. We’ll see if that changes over time.


I haven’t had a chance to look at this study yet, but did anyone think that quality of care would improve because of MU?


No doubt we’ll eventually have outside data from wellness tracking apps incorporated in EMR, but I don’t think it will ever be a free for all. There are tens of thousands of wellness apps and I don’t see doctors wanting data from just any app. They’ll want to only get data from apps they trust. That’s a high bar for most apps. Plus, once you win the trust of one doctor, you still have to win the trust of all the other doctors. There’s not a trusted third party that doctors look to for apps.

April 20, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

The Programmer – Healthcare Divide

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I’ve regularly seen the divide (sometimes really wide) between the programmer and technical people in an organization and the healthcare professionals. For example, a healthcare IT company recently emailed me about an issue they had with their main developer. They asked the insightful question, “Is it possible to find quality developers who are not, shall we say, “difficult”?”

There’s no simple answer to this question, but let me first suggest that this divide isn’t something that just happens between tech people and non-tech people. I’m sure many doctors feel the same way when dealing with other people who try and do their job. It turns out, people are hard to work with in general.

That disclaimer aside, tech people do like to think they’re in a tribe of their own. Check out this video which definitely comes from a programmer perspective and illustrates the divide that often exists.

Just the fact that the programmer feels like they’re considered a “code monkey” describes a major part of the issue. Much like I wrote about today on EMR and EHR, one of the keys is making a human connection as opposed to treating a programmer like a code monkey that’s just there to do your bidding. While there are exceptions, most people respond to someone who deeply cares about the individual and works to understand their needs as much as the project’s needs or their own needs.

The reason I think there’s usually a big divide between the healthcare people and the tech people is that it’s a real challenge for these two groups to connect. The healthcare people don’t want to talk about Battlestar Gallactica and Game of Thrones and the tech people don’t want to talk about Dancing with the Stars and The Voice. Yet, this is what needs to happen to build trust between the two different groups. It’s a rare breed that enjoys both.

If all of this fails, then try the nuclear option. Bring donuts. Most people can relate to donuts.

April 18, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Why Is It So Difficult To Reduce The Cost Of Care?

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By refusing to pay for readmissions within 30 days of discharge from a hospital, Medicare has sent a strong message across the healthcare industry: < 30 day readmissions should be avoided at all costs. As a result, providers and vendors are doing everything in their power to avoid < 30 day readmissions.

This seems like a simple way to reduce costs, right? Well, not quite…

The vast majority of costs of care delivery are fixed: capital expenditures, facilities and diagnostics, 24/7 staffing, administrative overhead, etc. In other words, it’s extremely expensive just to “keep the lights on.” There are some variable costs in healthcare delivery – such as medications and unnecessary tests – but the marginal costs of diagnostics and treatments are small relative to the enormous fixed costs of delivering care.

Thus, Medicare’s < 30 day readmission policy doesn’t really address the fundamental cost problem in healthcare. If costs were linearly bound by resource utilization, than reducing readmissions (and thus utilization) should lead to meaningful cost reduction. But given the reality of enormous fixed costs, it’s extremely difficult to move down the cost curve. To visualize:

Screenshot 2014-04-14 23.46.37

Medicare’s < 30 day readmission policy is a bandaid – not a cure – to the underlying cost problem. The policy, however, reduces Medicare’s outlays to providers. Rather than reduce (or expand, depending on your point of view) the size of the pie, Medicare has simply dictated that it will keep a larger share of the metaphorical pie for itself. Medicare is simply squeezing providers. One could argue that providers are bloated and that Medicare needs to squeeze providers to drive down costs. But this is intrinsically a superficial strategy, not a strategy that addresses the underlying cost problems in healthcare delivery.

So how can we actually address the fixed-cost problem of healthcare? Please leave a comment. Input is welcome.

April 17, 2014 I Written By

Kyle is Founder and CEO of Pristine, a company in Austin, TX that develops telehealth communication tools optimized for Google Glass in healthcare environments. Prior to founding Pristine, Kyle spent years developing, selling, and implementing electronic medical records (EMRs) into hospitals. He also writes for EMR and HIPAA, TechZulu, and Svbtle about the intersections of healthcare, technology, and business. All of his writing is reproduced at kylesamani.com

ICD-10 Flight Delayed, But Keep Your Bags Packed – Breakaway Thinking

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The following is a guest blog post by Jennifer Bergeron, Learning and Development Manager at The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Jennifer_web

If you’ve ever traveled to a country that doesn’t speak your native tongue, you can appreciate the importance of basic communication. If you learn a second language to the degree that you’re adding nuance and colloquialisms, you’ve experienced how much easier it is to explain a point or to get answers you need. What if you’re expected to actually move to that foreign country under a strict timeline? The pressure is on to get up to speed. The same can be said for learning the detailed coding language of ICD-10.

The healthcare industry has been preparing in earnest to move from ICD-9 coding to the latest version of the international classification of diseases. People have been training, testing and updating information systems, essentially packing their bags to comply with the federal mandate to implement ICD-10 this October — but the trip was postponed. On April 1, President Barrack Obama signed into law a bill that includes an extension for converting to ICD-10 until at least Oct. 1, 2015. What does this mean for your ICD-10 travel plans?

Despite the unexpected delay, you’ll be living in ICD-10 country before you know it. With at least another year until the deadline, the timing is just right to start packing and hitting the books to learn the new codes and to prepare your systems. For those who have a head start, your time and focus has not gone to waste, so don’t throw your suitcases back into the closet. The planning, education and money involved in preparation for the ICD-10 transition doesn’t dissolve with the delay – you’ve collected valuable tools that will be put to use.

Although many people, including myself, are disappointed in the change, we need to continue making progress toward the conversion; learning and using ICD-10 will enable the United States to have more accurate, current and appropriate medical conversations with the rest of the world. Considering that it is almost four decades old, there is only so much communication that ICD-9 can handle; some categories are actually full as the number of new diagnoses continues to grow. ICD-9 uses three to five numeric characters for diagnosis coding, while ICD-10 uses three to seven alphanumeric characters. ICD-10 classifications will provide more specific information about medical conditions and procedures, allowing more depth and accuracy to conversations about a patient’s diagnosis and care.

Making the jump to ICD-10 fluency will be beneficial, albeit challenging. In order to study, understand and use ICD-10, healthcare organizations need to establish a learning system for their teams. The Breakaway Group, A Xerox Company, provides training for caregivers and coders that eases learning challenges, such as the expanded clinical documentation and new code set for ICD-10. Simply put, there are people can help with your entire ICD-10 travel itinerary, from creating a checklist of needs to planning a successful route.

ICD-10 is the international standard, so the journey from ICD-9 codes to ICD-10 codes will happen. Do not throw away your ICD-10 coding manuals and education materials just yet. All of these items will come in handy to reach the final destination: ICD-10.

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.

April 16, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Secure Text Messaging is Univerally Needed in Healthcare

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I’ve written regularly about the need for secure text messaging in healthcare. I can’t believe that it was two years ago that I wrote that Texting is Not HIPAA Secure. Traditional SMS texting on your cell phone is not HIPAA secure, but there are a whole lot of alternatives. In fact, in January I made the case for why even without HIPAA Secure Text Messaging was a much better alternative to SMS.

Those that know me (or read my byline at the end of each article) know that I’m totally bias on this front since I’m an adviser to secure text message company, docBeat. With that disclaimer, I encourage all of you to take a frank and objective look at the potential for HIPAA violations and the potential benefits of secure text over SMS and decide for yourself if there is value in these secure messaging services. This amazing potential is why I chose to support docBeat in the first place.

While I’ve found the secure messaging space really interesting, what I didn’t realize when I started helping docBeat was how many parts of the healthcare system could benefit from something as simple as a secure text message. When we first started talking about the secure text, we were completely focused on providers texting in ambulatory practices and hospitals. We quickly realized the value of secure texting with other members of the clinic or hospital organization like nurses, front desk staff, HIM, etc.

What’s been interesting in the evolution of docBeat was how many other parts of the healthcare system could benefit from a simple secure text message solution. Some of these areas include things like: long term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, Quick Care, EDs, Radiology, Labs, rehabilitation centers, surgery centers, and more. This shouldn’t have been a surprise since the need to communicate healthcare information that includes PHI is universal and a simple text message is often the best way to do it.

The natural next extension for secure messaging is to connect it to patients. The beautiful part of secure text messaging apps like docBeat is that patients aren’t intimidated by a the messages they receive from docBeat. The same can’t be said for most patient portals which require all sorts of registration, logins, forms, etc. Every patient I know is happy to read a secure text message. I don’t know many that want to login to a portal.

Over the past couple years the secure text messaging tide has absolutely shifted and there’s now a land grab for organizations looking to implement some form of secure text messaging. In some ways it reminds me of the way organizations were adopting EHR software a few years back. However, we won’t need $36 billion to incentivize the adoption of secure text message. Instead, market pressures will make it happen naturally. Plus, with ICD-10 delayed another year, hopefully organizations will have time to focus on small but valuable projects like secure text messaging.

April 15, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.

Taking a Second Look: Accessing Your Data beyond the PM or EMR

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Editor’s Note: The following is an update to a previous EMR and HIPAA blog post titled “EMR Companies Holding Practice Data for “Ransom”.” In this update, James Summerlin (aka “JamesNT”) offers an update on EHR vendors willingness to let providers access their EHR data.

Over the years I have been approached with questions by several solo docs and medical groups about things such as the following:

  • Migrating to a different PM or EMR system.
  • Merging PM’s or EMR’s such as when a practice buys out another practice.
  • Interfacing the EMR and PM.
  • Custom reports.
  • More custom reports.
  • LOTS MORE CUSTOM REPORTS!!!

And there have been plenty of times I’ve had to give answers to those questions that were not favorable.  In many cases, it was with some online EMR or PM and the fact that I could not get to the database and the vendor refused to export a copy to me or the vendor wanted thousands of dollars for the export.  With the on-premises PM and EMR systems, getting to the data was a matter of working my way around whatever database was being used and figuring out what table had what data.  Although working with an on-premises PM or EMR may sound easier, it too often isn’t.  The on-premises guys have some tricks up their sleeves to keep you away from your data such as password protecting the database and, in some cases, flat out threatening legal action.

A few years back, I wrote a post on a forum about my thoughts on how once you entered your data into a PM or EMR, you may never get it back.  You can see John Lynn’s blog post on that here.

My being critical of EMR and PM software vendors is nothing new.  I’ve written several posts on forums and blogs, even articles in BC Advantage Magazine, about how hard it can be to deal with various EMR and PM systems.  Much of the, at times, downright contemptuous attitudes many PM and EMR vendors have towards their own clients can be very harmful.  Let’s consider three aspects:

  • Customization.  Most of the PM/EMR vendors out there would love to charge mega-bucks to write custom reports and so forth for clients.  However, this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  First, most clients simply aren’t going to pay the kind of money many PM or EMR companies want to charge.  Second, custom reports have to be maintained.  Eventually, you have all these clients running around needing changes to their reports and the PM or EMR vendor simply can’t get to them all in a timely manner without hiring lots of technical (read: EXPENSIVE) staff which turns what was once a money-making ordeal into a money losing one.  And, of course, the client’s suffer since they can’t fine-tune their practice to the degree needed in today’s challenging economy.
  • Interfacing.  What happens if a client wants to interface encounters and demographics from their EMR to their PM system and then interface dollar amounts and so forth from the PM system with receivables and expenditures in Quickbooks or other financial software into a series of reports that give a total view of how the practice is doing?  We are talking about the ability to, day-by-day, forecast incoming receivables from carriers and patient payments (within certain limits, of course), with expected expenditures (payroll, taxes, etc.) from the accounting software to get a financial outlook for the practice for the next few weeks or even months for long-term planning.  A PM or EMR vendor, already dealing with HIPAA or meaningful use, may not want to get involved in that kind of hard-core number crunching, yet the practice is demanding it.
  • A second part to interfacing.  Getting the EMR and PM vendors to get along.  Often what you see is the EMR vendor has a certain way they do an HL7 interface and the PM vendor has a certain way they do an HL7 interface and if they don’t line up properly, you’re just out of luck.  Either it works with reduced functionality or it doesn’t work at all and neither vendor will budge to change anything.  And that’s assuming they both use HL7!

In situations like those above, the best way to resolution is for the practice to perhaps obtain its own technical talent and build its own tools to extend the capabilities of the data contained within the various databases and repositories it may have such as the databases of the PM and EMR.  Unfortunately, as I have reported before, most PM and EMR systems lock up the practice’s data such that it is unobtainable.

At long last; however, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel that doesn’t sound like a train.  Some of the EMR systems that doctors use are beginning to realize that creating a turtle shell around a client’s data, in the long run, doesn’t do the client nor the PM/EMR vendor any good.  One such EMR I’ve been working with for a long time is Amazing Charts.  Amazing Charts has found itself in a very unique situation in that many of its clients are actually quite technical themselves or have no problem obtaining the technical talent they need to bend the different systems in their practices to their will.  The idea of having three or four databases, each being an island unto itself, is not acceptable to this adventurous lot.  They want all this data pooled together so they can make real business decisions.

Amazing Charts; therefore, has decided to be more open regarding data access.  Read only access to the Amazing Charts database is soon to be considered a given by the company itself.  Write access, of course, is another matter.  Clients will have to prove, and rightly so, that they won’t go spelunking through the database making changes that do little more than rack up tech-support calls.  Even with the caution placed on write access this is a far jump above and beyond the flat out “NO” any other company will give you for access to their database.  I consider this to be a great leap forward for Amazing Charts and, I’m certain, will set them apart from competition that still considers lock-in and a stand-offish attitude the way to treat clients who pay them a lot of money.

Perhaps one day other PM and EMR vendors will see the light and realize the data belongs to the practice, not the vendor, and will stop taking people’s stuff only to rent access to it back to them or withhold it altogether.  Until then, Amazing Charts seems to be leading the way.

April 14, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus. Healthcare Scene can be found on Google+ as well.