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Seven Factors That Will Make 2018 A Challenging Year For EMR Vendors

Posted on May 24, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Unless they’re monumentally important, I generally don’t regurgitate the theories researchers develop about health IT. But this time I’m changing strategies. While their analysis may not fit in the “earth shattering” category, I thought their list of factors that will shape 2018’s EMR market was dead on, so here it is.

According to a report created by analyst firm Kalorama Research, a number of trends are brewing which could make next year a particularly, well, interesting one for EMR vendors. (By the by, the allegedly Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times” probably wasn’t Chinese in origin — it seems to have been minted in the 19th century by a British politician named Joseph Chamberlain. But I digress.)

According to Kalorama publisher Bruce Carlton, many forces are converging, including:

  • Frustrated physicians: Physician rage over clunky EMRs may boil over next year. No one vendor seems positioned to scoop up their business, but of course many will try.
  • Hospital EMR switches: While hospitals have been switching out EMRs for quite some time, defections may climb to new levels. Their main objective: Improve workflows.
  • Emerging technologies: Trendy approaches like dashboarding, blockchain and advanced big data analytics will begin to be integrated with existing EMR technologies. Or as the report notes, “the Old EMR doesn’t cut it anymore.”
  • IT staff shortages: It takes a pretty seasoned IT pro to run an EMR, but they’re hard to find, especially if you want them to have a lot of relevant experience. But without their expertise, provider organizations may not get the most out of their systems. This may spell opportunity for vendors offering better service, the report says.
  • Breach of the day: With each cybersecurity breach, EMRs get negative coverage, and the effects of this bad PR are accreting. Tales of ransomware, a particularly lurid form of cybercrime, are only making things worse.
  • Many EMR vendors remain: Despite a barrage of M&A activity in the sector, there are still over 1,000 vendors in the EMR space, Kalorama notes. In other words, competition for EMR customers will still be brisk, particularly given that no one vendor – even giants like Cerner and Epic – owns more than one-fifth of the market (This assertion comes from firm’s own market estimates.)
  • New Administration, new goals: To date the White House hasn’t proposed specific changes to health IT policy, but one clue comes from the appointment of an HHS Secretary who dislikes the meaningful use program. Anything could happen here.

In addition to the factors cited by Kalorama, I’d suggest one other trend to consider. As I’ve noted above, Kalorama argues that customers will demand EMRs that incorporate sexy new technologies, perhaps more so than in the past. I’d go further with this projection. From what I’m hearing, a consensus is emerging that EMR architectures must be completely deconstructed and rethought for today’s data.

With important data flows emerging from wearables, apps, remote monitoring devices and the like, it may not makes sense to put a big database at the center of the EMR platform anymore. After all, what’s the point of setting up an enterprise EMR as the ultimate source of truth if so much important data is being generated by mobile devices at the network edge?

Anyway, that’s my two cents, along with Kalorama’s predictions. What do you think 2018 will look like for EMR vendors, and why?

How Will APIs Change Health IT? – #HITsm Chat Topic

Posted on May 23, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’re excited to share the topic and questions for this week’s #HITsm chat happening Friday, 5/26 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). This week’s chat will be hosted by Chad Johnson (@OchoTex) on the topic of “How Will APIs Change Health IT?.”

First, let’s define API: An application programming interface (API) is a set of standards that enable communication between multiple sources, most typically software applications. More specifically, an API is a set of routines, protocols, and data standards defined by a software vendor (an EHR for example) that specify how other vendor applications can contribute to or remove data from their database.

Other industries have profited from modern API integration, driven by the boost of internet technologies such as cloud applications and smart phones. Almost every consumer-facing technology runs on modern APIs – facebook, Twitter, Waze, Mint, etc. Facebook’s internal API, for example, pulls in data from all your friends’ FB feeds and displays it onto your feed. FB’s external API allows you to post items to your facebook feed using other applications, such as Instagram or Twitter.

Can you think of a popular/widespread/well known example of APIs in healthcare? No? Not surprisingly, healthcare has some catching up to do with APIs.

The good news for healthcare is that providers and vendors are realizing the potential impact modern APIs have on workflows, patient care, and… profits. The HL7 FHIR healthcare standard, along with Meaningful Use Stage 3 API requirements, have solidified the hype and marked API and cloud integration almost essential to understand.

Let’s discuss that in this week’s #HITsm chat.

T1: What barriers do you see for API adoption in hospitals? #HITsm

T2: Will EHRs eventually allow two-way API connectivity (read & write)? #HITsm

T3: Can API connectivity change perceptions about ‘siloed’ EHR patient databases? #HITsm

T4: Will APIs motivate hospitals to store their patient data in the cloud? #HITsm

T5: Will APIs open up the door to other vendors and applications? Or just broaden current EHR footprint? #HITsm

Bonus: What innovative solutions do you predict creative IT teams can employ for patients and caregivers? #HITsm

Upcoming #HITsm Chat Schedule
6/2 – Patient Stories, Not Just for Story Time Anymore
Hosted by the #WTFix Community

6/9 – TBD
Hosted by TBD

6/16 – TBD
Hosted by Danielle Siarri (@innonurse)

6/16 – TBD
Hosted by Megan Janas (@TextraHealth)

We look forward to learning from the #HITsm community! As always let us know if you’d like to host a future #HITsm chat or if you know someone you think we should invite to host.

If you’re searching for the latest #HITsm chat, you can always find the latest #HITsm chat and schedule of chats here.

E-Patient Update:  Changing The Patient Data Sharing Culture

Posted on May 19, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

I’ve been fighting for what I believe in for most of my life, and that includes getting access to my digital health information. I’ve pleaded with medical practice front-desk staff, gently threatened hospital HIT departments and gotten in the faces of doctors, none of whom ever seem to get why I need all of my data.

I guess you could say that I’m no shrinking violet, and that I don’t give up easily. But lately I’ve gotten a bit, let me say, discouraged when it comes to bringing together all of the data I generate. It doesn’t help that I have a few chronic illnesses, but it’s not easy even for patients with no major issues.

Some these health professionals know something about how EMRs work, how accurate, complete health records facilitate care and how big data analysis can improve population health. But when it comes to helping humble patients participate in this process, they seem to draw a blank.

The bias against sharing patient records with the patients seems to run deep. I once called the PR rep at a hospital EMR vendor and complained casually about my situation, in which a hospital told me that it would take three months to send me records printed from their EMR. (If I’d asked them to send me a CCD directly, the lady’s head might have exploded right there on the phone.)

Though I didn’t ask, the vendor rep got on the phone, reached a VP at the hospital and boom, I had my records. It took a week and a half, a vendor and hospital VP just to get one set of records to one patient. And for most of us it isn’t even that easy.

The methods providers have used to discourage my data requests have been varied. They include that I have to pay $X per page, when state law clearly states that (much lower) $Y is all they can charge. I’ve been told I just have to wait as long as it takes for the HIM department to get around to my request, no matter how time-sensitive the issue. I was even told once that Dr. X simply didn’t share patient records, and that’s that. (I didn’t bother to offer her a primer on state and federal medical records laws.) It gets to be kind of amusing over time, though irritating nonetheless.

Some of these skirmishes can be explained by training gaps or ignorance, certainly. What’s more, even if a provider encourages patient record requests there are still security and privacy issues to navigate. But I believe that what truly underlies provider resistance to giving patients their records is a mix of laziness and fear. In the past, few patients pushed the records issue, so hospitals and medical groups got lazy. Now, patients are getting assertive, and they fear what will happen.

Of course, we all have a right to our medical records, and if patients persist they will almost always get them. But if my experience is any guide, getting those records will remain difficult if attitudes don’t change. The default cultural setting among providers seems to be discomfort and even rebellion when they’re asked to give consumers their healthcare data. My protests won’t change a thing if people are tuning me out.

There’s many reasons for their reaction, including the rise of challenging, self-propelled patients who don’t assume the doctor knows best in all cases. Also, as in any other modern industry, data is power, and physicians in particular are already feeling almost powerless.

That being said, the healthcare industry isn’t going to meet its broad outcomes and efficiency goals unless patients are confident and comfortable with managing their health. Collecting, amassing and reviewing our health information greatly helps patients like me to stay on top of issues, so encumbering our efforts is counter-productive.

To counter such resistance, we need to transform the patient data sharing culture from resistant to supportive. Many health leaders seem to pine for the days when patients could have the data when and if they felt like it, but those days are past. Participating happily in a patient’s data collection efforts needs to become the norm.

If providers hope to meet the transformational goals they’ve set for themselves, they’ll have to help patients get their data as quickly, cheaply and easily as possible. Failing to do this will block or at least slow the progress of much-needed industry reforms, and they’re already a big stretch. Just give patients their data without a fuss – it’s the right thing to do!

The EHR Market – #HITsm Chat Topic

Posted on May 17, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Note: We’re sorry to share that Anne Zieger (@annezieger) who was suppose to host this week’s chat had some health issues and so we had to change the topic and host. Anne is doing ok and we’ll be sure to have her back as host of a future chat.

We’re excited to share the topic and questions for this week’s #HITsm chat happening Friday, 5/19 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). This week’s chat will be hosted by John Lynn (@hospitalEHR) on the topic of “The EHR Market.”

The EHR market has gotten very mature. Thanks to $36 billion in stimulus money fromt he government, most organizations have adopted an EHR. Depending on who you check for EHR market penetration numbers, in the hospital world EHR adoption looks to be well over 90%. The ambulatory world is further behind, but it’s well over 50% adoption now.

Given the maturity of the EHR market, I thought it would be fun to hold an #HITsm chat to discuss the future of the EHR market. Let’s talk about where it’s at today, where it’s going in the future, and what else we can expect from EHR vendors that will now be working in a largely saturated market. What does this mean for the industry and for you as a customer of these EHR vendors?

Join us on Friday May 19th at 12:00pm ET as we discuss the following questions on #HITsm:

The Questions
T1: How would you describe the state of the EHR market today? (specify ambulatory and/or hospital) #HITsm

T2: In what ways will the EHR market evolve over the next 5, 10, 20 years? #HITsm

T3: How much EHR switching do you expect to see in the future? What will be the impact to vendors and customers? #HITsm

T4: Where will we see EHR vendors expand as the market for EHR sales dries up? #HITsm

T5: What must have products will form alongside the EHR or even replace the EHR? #HITsm

Bonus: Which EHR vendors will be gone (or basically gone) in 10 years? #HITsm

Upcoming #HITsm Chat Schedule
5/26 – How APIs Will Change Health IT
Hosted by Chad Johnson (@OchoTex)

6/2 – TBD
Hosted by TBD

6/9 – TBD
Hosted by TBD

6/16 – TBD
Hosted by Danielle Siarri (@innonurse)

6/16 – TBD
Hosted by Megan Janas (@TextraHealth)

We look forward to learning from the #HITsm community! As always let us know if you’d like to host a future #HITsm chat or if you know someone you think we should invite to host.

If you’re searching for the latest #HITsm chat, you can always find the latest #HITsm chat and schedule of chats here.

Direct, Sequoia Interoperability Projects Continue To Grow

Posted on May 15, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

While its fate may still be uncertain – as with any interoperability approach in this day and age – the Direct exchange network seems to be growing at least. At the same time, it looks like the Sequoia Project’s interoperability efforts, including the Carequality Interoperability Framework and its eHealthExchange Network, are also expanding rapidly.

According to a new announcement from DirectTrust, the number of health information service providers who engaged in Direct exchanges increased 63 percent during the first quarter of 2017, to almost 95,000, over the same period in 2016.  And, to put this growth in perspective, there were just 5,627 providers involved in Q1 of 2014.

Meanwhile, the number of trusted Direct addresses which could share PHI grew 21 percent, to 1.4 million, as compared with the same quarter of 2016. Again, for perspective, consider that there were only 182,279 such addresses available three years ago.

In addition, the Trust noted, there were 35.6 million Direct exchange transactions during the quarter, up 76 percent over the same period last year. It expects to see transaction levels hit 140 million by the end of this year.

Also, six organizations joined DirectTrust during the first quarter of 2017, including Sutter Health, the Health Record Banking Alliance, Timmaron Group, Moxe Health, Uticorp and Anne Arundel Medical Center. This brings the total number of members to 124.

Of course, DirectTrust isn’t the only interoperability group throwing numbers around. In fact, Seqouia recently issued a statement touting its growth numbers as well (on the same day as the Direct announcement, natch).

On that day, the Project announced that the Carequality Interoperability Framework had been implemented by more than 19,000 clinics, 800 hospitals and 250,000 providers.

It also noted that its eHealth Exchange Network, a healthcare data sharing network, had grown 35 percent over the past year, connecting participants in 65 percent of all US hospitals, 46 regional and state HIEs, 50,000 medical groups, more than 3,400 dialysis centers and 8,300 pharmacies. This links together more than 109, million patients, Sequoia reported.

So what does all of this mean? At the moment, it’s still hard to tell:

  • While Direct and Sequoia are expanding pretty quickly, there’s few phenomena to which we can compare their growth.
  • Carequality and CommonWell agreed late last year to share data across each others’ networks, so comparing their transaction levels to other entities would probably be deceiving.
  • Though the groups’ lists of participating providers may be accurate, many of those providers could be participating in other efforts and therefore be counted multiple times.
  • We still aren’t sure what metrics really matter when it comes to measuring interoperability success. Is it the number of transactions initiated by a provider? The number of data flows received? The number of docs and facilities who do both and/or incorporate the data into their EMR?

As I see it, the real work going forward will be for industry leaders to decide what kind of performance stats actually equate to interoperability success. Otherwise, we may not just be missing health sharing bullseyes, we may be firing at different targets.

MUMPS and Healthcare

Posted on May 11, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Leave it to David Chou to point out how odd it is to work in healthcare IT. What’s shocking about the image David Chou shared above is that there are so many languages listed. However, despite the vast number of languages listed, MUMPS is so far off the radar of most tech people that they literally didn’t care about it enough to add it to the chart. That’s pretty sad for those of us who care about healthcare.

If you want to get another view about the challenge of so much of healthcare being run on MUMPS, check out this MUMPS thread on Hacker News. For those not familiar with Hacker News, it’s a site that was started by YCombinator and has grown into a community of some of the most progressive tech startup people in the world. The Hacker News thread is really long, so for those who don’t want to read it all the message is simple: MUMPS? What’s that? That’s awful!

To be fair, there were a few dissenting voices who commented on the great features of MUMPS. However, I have to admit that these people sound a little bit like those who espouse the benefits of the fax machine. Sure, it has some extremely beneficial features, but it’s downsides far outweigh the benefits described.

The reality is that we’re not going to get away from MUMPS in healthcare. When you realize that Epic, MEDITECH, Vista (VA), and Intersystems all use some form of MUMPS (or M as they prefer to call it now), you can see why MUMPS will be part of healthcare for a long time to come.

What’s more disappointing to me after reading the Hacker News thread was how people described the culture of the EHR vendors that use MUMPS. They really described it as uninterested in even exploring other more modern options that could help them better able to innovate their products and serve their customers.

Plus, it also hurts to hear so many programmers in the thread talk about how they shunned healthcare because they saw working on something like MUMPS as a career killer. I’m sure this is a common refrain for most developers out there. It’s disheartening to think that many EHR vendors will never benefit from the best developers as long as we’re on MUMPS.

I’m sure MUMPS was great in its day. It seems to have been a wise choice by Epic to start using it when I was born back in 1979. However, can you imagine the technical debt that’s accumulated all these years? Is it any wonder that innovation in healthcare works so slow?

What’s a Patient?

Posted on May 10, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

For quite a while I’ve been pushing the idea that healthcare needs to move beyond treating patients. Said another way, we need to move beyond just helping people who have health problems which are causing them to complain and move into treating patients that otherwise feel healthy.

Said another way, Wanda Health once told me “The definition of a healthy patient is someone who’s not been studied long enough.”

If you look long enough and hard enough, we all have health issues or we’re at risk for health issues. There’s always something that could be done to help all of us be healthier. That’s a principle that healthcare hasn’t embraced because our reimbursement models are focused on treating a patients’ chief complaint.

In another conversation with NantHealth, they suggested the idea that we should work towards knowing the patient so well that you know the treatment they need before you even physically see the patient.

These two ideas go naturally together and redefine our current definition of patient. In the above context, all of us would be considered patients since I have little doubt that all of us have health issues that could be addressed if we only knew the current state of our health better.

While NantHealth’s taken a number of stock hits lately for overpromising and under delivering, the concept I heard them describe is one that will become a reality. It could be fair to say that their company was too early for such a big vision, but it’s inspiring to think about creating technology and collecting enough data on a patient that you already know how to help the patient before they even come into the office. That would completely change the office visit paradox that we know today.

This is an ambitious vision, but it doesn’t seem like a massive stretch of the imagination either. That’s what makes it so exciting to me. Now imagine trying to do something like this in the previous paper chart world. Yeah, it’s pretty funny to just even think about it. Same goes with what we call clinical decision support today.

Software Choice Is Not the Key Success Factor

Posted on May 4, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As I look across the EHR market and think about the hundreds of healthcare organizations I’ve talked to, it’s become abundantly clear to me that the software you choose has very little to do with whether you’ll have a successful EHR implementation.

One way to illustrate this is to look at the EHR marketplace. Every single EHR out there has healthcare organizations successfully using their product. Sure, we could get into the nitty gritty of how hard it was to implement. We could dive into how one EHR may have an advantage in one area over another, but then the opposite is likely to occur in another area. The reality is that there are pros and cons to every EHR system out there. The real question isn’t can you successfully implement that EHR, but what are the problems you’re likely to have with the EHR you select.

Yes, all EHRs have problems.

I love the whitepaper that my sponsor, The Breakway Group put together on “Leadership Insights: Gaining Value from Technology Investments.” It’s worth reading the whole whitepaper, but one of the key insights from their research is that the biggest determining factor in a successful EHR implementation is leadership. Leadership matters more than anything else…even the software you choose.

I’m sure that many of you are looking at your EHR implementation and wondering if you agree with this insight or not. It’s easy to think about how the EHR selection process influences a successful implementation or not. If you get buy-in to the EHR selection process, then the EHR implementation goes much smoother. Others of you might be thinking about the process you used to implement the EHR and how that was extremely important to your successful (or not successful if you had a bad process) EHR implementation. I’m sure there are many more.

While these two items and many more influence a successful EHR implementation, what so many people miss is that each of these things mentioned is dramatically influenced by having an effective leader at the helm.

A great leader ensures that there’s buy-in by the staff during the EHR selection process. A great leader makes sure that the EHR is implemented in a way that is effective and takes into account the needs of the organization. We could go on and on. Great leadership will inspire everyone that’s involved in the EHR implementation. Nothing is more important.

Many of you reading this will probably look back and know all the issues you had in your EHR implementation that led to what you might considered a failed EHR implementation. You may even wish that you’d had the right leaders to avoid these problems. If that’s the case, the solution is still the same. A great leader can inspire an organization to overcome past failures and lead an organization down a path to make their EHR useful.

I think that organizations are finally realizing that EHR implementations aren’t a one time event. The EHR go-live is an important event, but it’s really just the start of the ongoing optimization that’s required to make the software as useful as possible for an organization. This takes thoughtful planning and you got it…inspired leadership.

The Government EHR Mess – Coast Guard Publishes EHR RFI – VA Looking to Replace Vista

Posted on May 1, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

If you’re like me and enjoy a little inside baseball in the EHR world, then you have to watch what’s going on with EHR use in the government. In many ways, it’s like passing that car wreck on the freeway. There’s no way you can pass by without taking a look and seeing what’s gone on and what’s still going on. You want to know what’s happening.

A car wreck might be an apt comparison since we’re talking about the various government EHR situations. For those who haven’t followed this as closely, here’s a quick recap.

The DoD had the awful AHLTA EHR system. The VA had (and still has) their own homegrown VistA EHR system which most users seem to like. After a bunch of political jousting back and forth, the DoD did a $9+ billion RFP and finally selected Cerner EHR (although, Leidos was really the lead company and much of the $9 billion was going to them and not Cerner).

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard had selected Epic as their EHR. Long story short, things didn’t work out and the Coast Guard stopped implementing Epic and went back to paper. Yes, I said that right. They had to go back to paper.

Near the start of 2017, word came out that the VA was likely to replace their current VistA EHR with a commercial EHR replacement. That process is ongoing.

In the last week, the Coast Guard published their RFI to purchase an EHR. I guess that’s the final nail in the coffin for Epic at the Coast Guard.

I’m sure I’m leaving out some other government organizations that have EHR or are looking for an EHR. However, these are some of the high profile ones. As we sit here today, the question remains, which EHR will the VA and Coast Guard choose?

The obvious choice to everyone watching this is that the VA and Coast Guard and every other government organization that needs an EHR should go with Cerner. Interoperability between the DoD and VA has been awful and you’d think that having one EHR would help that situation. Plus, shouldn’t the VA be able to benefit from the experience the DoD has had implementing Cerner already? Not to mention, shouldn’t the VA and Coast Guard be able to get a discount from Cerner for bundling the purchase or does that not happen with $8 billion purchases.

The problem is that most of us (including me) don’t know all the politics at play. What seems completely obvious to us outside observers misses many of the political and cultural nuances at play in this situation. I’m not saying those nuances are right or accurate, but you can be sure that the EHR selection decision is going to have a lot of people chiming in with their own personal biases.

One simple example that’s easy to understand is you could see the VA making the case for why they should go with a commercial version of the VistA EHR that they’re already familiar within their organization. It’s hard for me to see them making this decision, but you can see why one could make a pretty solid argument for why choosing a commercial version of VistA would be a good idea.

When it comes to the interoperability potential I mentioned above, it’s sad to ask, but is having all of these organizations on the same EHR really that much better? We’re not talking about the government implementing a single instance EHR that’s shared across all organization. That would never happen, so even if the DoD and VA both buy from Cerner, they’re still going to need an interface between the systems. This should be presumably easier, but you can be sure it’s not going to be as turnkey as one might imagine it to be.

No doubt we’ll be watching to see what the Coast Guard and VA decide. Which EHR do you think they’ll choose? Which EHR should they choose and why? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

More Vendors, Providers Integrating Telemedicine Data With EHRs

Posted on April 27, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

One of the biggest problems providers face in rolling out telemedicine is how to integrate the data it generates. Must doctors make some kind of alternate set of notes appropriate to the medium, or do they belong in the EHR? Should healthcare organizations import the video and notate the general contents? And how should they connect the data with their EHR?

While we may not have definitive answers to such questions yet, it appears that the telehealth industry is moving in the right direction. According to a new survey by the American Telemedicine Association, respondents said that they’re seeing growth in interoperability with EHRs, progress which has increased their confidence in telemedicine’s future.

Before going any further, I should note that the surveyed population is a bit odd. The ATA reached out not only to leaders in hospital systems and medical practices, but also “telehealth service providers,” which sounds like merely an opportunity for self-promotion. But leaving aside this issue, it’s still worth thinking a bit about the data, such as it is.

First, not surprisingly, the results are a ringing endorsement of telemedicine technology. The group reports that 83 percent of respondents said they’ll probably invest in telehealth this year, and 88 percent will invest in telehealth-related technology.

When asked why they’re interested in delivering these services, 98 percent said that they believe telehealth services offer a competitive advantage over those that don’t offer it. And 84 percent of respondents expect that offering telehealth services will have a big impact on their organization’s coverage and reach.

(According to another survey, by Avizia and Modern Healthcare, other reasons providers are engaging with telehealth is because they believe it can improve clinical outcomes and support their transition to value-based care.)

When it comes to documenting its key thesis – that the integration of EHR and telehealth data is proceeding apace – the ATA research doesn’t go the distance. But I know from other studies that telemedicine vendors are indeed working on this issue – and why wouldn’t they? Any sophisticated telemedicine vendor has to know this is a big deal.

For example, telemedicine vendor American Well has been working with a long list of health plans and health systems for a while, in an effort to integrate the telehealth process with provider workflows. To support these efforts, American Well has created an enterprise telehealth platform designed to connect with providers’ clinical information systems. I’ve also observed that DoctorOnDemand has made some steps in that direction.

Ultimately, everyone in telehealth will have to get on board. Regardless of where they’re at now, those engaging in telehealth will need to push the interoperability puck forward.

In fact, integrating telehealth documentation with EMRs has to be a priority for everyone in the business. Even if integrating clinical data from virtual consults wasn’t important for analytics purposes, it is important to collecting insurance reimbursement. Now that private health plans (and Medicare) are reimbursing for telemedical care, you can rest assured that they’ll demand documentation if they don’t like your claim. And when it comes to Medicare, arguing that you haven’t figured out how to document these details won’t cut it.

In other words, while there’s some overarching reasons why integrating this data is a good long-term strategy, we need to keep immediate concerns in mind too. Telemedicine data has to be seen as documentation first, before we add any other bells and whistles. Otherwise, providers will get off on the wrong foot with insurers, and they’ll have trouble getting back on track.