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Hospitals Aren’t Getting Much ROI From RCM Technology

Posted on July 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.

If your IT investments aren’t paying off, your revenue cycle management process is clunky and consumers are defaulting on their bills, you’re in a pretty rocky situation financially. Unfortunately, that’s just the position hospitals find themselves in lately, according to a new study.

The study, which was conducted by the Healthcare Financial Management Association and Navigant, surveyed 125 hospital health system chief financial officers and revenue cycle executives.

When they looked at the data, researchers saw that hospitals are being hit with a double whammy. On the one hand, the RCM systems hospitals have in place don’t seem to be cutting it, and on the other, the hospitals are struggling to collect from patients.

Nearly three out of four respondents said that their RCM technology budgets were increasing, with 32% reporting that they were increasing spending by 5% or more. Seventy-seven percent of hospitals with less than 100 beds and 78% of hospitals with 100 to 500 beds plan to increase such spending, the survey found.

The hospital leaders expect that technology investments will improve their RCM capabilities, with 79% considering business intelligence analytics, EHR-enabled workflow or reporting, revenue integrity, coding and physician/clinician documentation options.

Unfortunately, the software infrastructure underneath these apps isn’t performing as well as they’d like. Fifty-one percent of respondents said that their organizations had trouble keeping up with EHR upgrades, or weren’t getting the most out of functional, workflow and reporting improvements. Given these obstacles, which limit hospitals’ overall tech capabilities, these execs have little chance of seeing much ROI from RCM investments.

Not only that, CFOs and RCM leaders weren’t sure how much impact existing technology was having on their organizations. In fact, 41% said they didn’t have methods in place to track how effective their technology enhancements have been.

To address RCM issues, hospital leaders are looking beyond technology. Some said they were tightening up their revenue integrity process, which is designed to ensure that coding and charge capture processes work well and pricing for services is reasonable. Such programs are designed to support reliable financial reporting and efficient operations.

Forty-four percent of respondents said their organizations had established revenue integrity programs, and 22% said revenue integrity was a top RCM focus area for the coming year. Meanwhile, execs whose organizations already had revenue integrity programs in place said that the programs offered significant benefits, including increased net collections (68%), greater charge capture (61%) and reduced compliance risks (61%).

Still, even if a hospital has its RCM house in order, that’s far from the only revenue drain it’s likely to face. More than 90% of respondents think the steady increase in consumer responsibility for care will have an impact on their organizations, particularly rural hospital executives, the study found.

In effort to turn the tide, hospital financial execs are making it easier for consumers to pay their bills, with 93% of respondents offering an online payment portal and 63% rolling out cost-of-care estimation tools. But few hospitals are conducting sophisticated collections initiatives. Only 14% of respondents said they were using advanced modeling tools for predicting propensity to pay, researchers said.

Healthcare Cybersecurity Cartoon – Fun Friday

Posted on July 21, 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.

This week’s Fun Friday comes from the #IoMTchat (Internet of Medical Things) and was shared by Rasu Shrestha. This cartoon has so many good elements including the great password sticky note. As in most humor, this isn’t too far from the truth.

Rasu is spot on in his tweet too. Key to cybersecurity in healthcare is understanding employee behaviors and motivators. You’ll never change the culture and improve cybersecurity if you don’t understand your employees’ needs.

One Hospital Faces Rebuild After Brutal Cyberattack

Posted on July 20, 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.

Countless businesses were hit hard by the recent Petya ransomware attack, but few as hard as Princeton, West Virginia-based Princeton Community Hospital. After struggling with the aftermath of the Petya attack, the hospital had to rebuild its entire network and reinstall its core systems.

The Petya assault, which hit in late June, pounded large firms across the globe, including Nuance, Merck, advertiser WPP, Danish shipping and transport firm Maersk and legal firm DLA Piper.  The list of Petya victims also includes PCH, a 267-bed facility based in the southern part of the state.

After the attack, IT staffers first concluded that the hospital had emerged from the attack relatively unscathed. Hospital leaders noted that they are continuing to provide all inpatient care and services, as well as all other patient care services such as surgeries, therapeutics, diagnostics, lab and radiology, but was experiencing some delays in processing radiology information for non-emergent patients. Also, for a while the hospital diverted all non-emergency ambulance visits away from its emergency department.

However, within a few days executives found that its IT troubles weren’t over. “Our data appears secure, intact, and not hacked into; yet we are unable to access the data from the old devices in the network,” said the hospital in a post on Facebook.

To recover from the Petya attack, PCH decided that it had to install 53 new computers throughout the hospital offering clean access to its Meditech EMR system, as well as installing new hard drives on all devices throughout the system and building out an entirely new network.

When you consider how much time its IT staff must’ve logged bringing basic systems online, rebuilding computers and network infrastructure, it seems clear that the hospital took a major financial blow when Petya hit.

Not only that, I have little doubt that PCH faces doubts in the community about its security.  Few patients understand much, if anything, about cyberattacks, but they do want to feel that their hospital has things under control. Having to admit that your network has been compromised isn’t good for business, even if much bigger companies in and outside the healthcare business were brought to the knees by the same attack. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it is.

That being said, PCH seems to have done a good job keeping the community it serves aware what was going on after the Petya dust settled. It also made the almost certainly painful decision to rebuild key IT assets relatively quickly, which might not have been feasible for a bigger organization.

All told, it seems that PCH survived Petya successfully as any other business might have, and better than some. Let’s hope the pace of global cyberattacks doesn’t speed up further. While PCH might have rebounded successfully after Petya, there’s only so much any hospital can take.

Simulation-Based Education: The New Paradigm in Healthcare Technology – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on July 19, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Heather Haugen, PhD, Managing Director and CEO at The Breakaway Group (A Conduent Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Heather Haugen
Imagine a warehouse filled with classroom training sessions running simultaneously, hotel lobbies packed with consultants checking in and out at the same time, overrun parking lots, buses shuttling employees off campus, and more. These are the harsh, yet common challenges healthcare organizations face with classroom training – a predicament explored in the second edition of Beyond Implementation: A Prescription for the Adoption of Healthcare Technology. As the book explores the real-life headaches of classroom training, it calls on healthcare leaders and organizations to embrace a new education paradigm.

Today the healthcare industry has made considerable advances in technology. Enterprise applications now offer more features and functionality than ever before. Analytics programs, telehealth platforms, mobile health applications – each represents one of the many innovations changing the face of our industry. Yet despite these advances, classroom training remains one feature that has yet to change, a feature deeply-engrained in the habits, mental models, and beliefs of the industry. Healthcare executives already face significant pressure from making multi-million-dollar investments in clinical information systems. Changing how users are educated disrupts another component of healthcare for which executives become solely responsible, and must address and manage.

Despite the strength of the status quo, Beyond Implementation calls for healthcare’s departure from the classroom training model, as research highlights its ineffectiveness for teaching learners how to use new technology – a reason why most industries have abandoned or redesigned the model. Instead of face-to-face instruction, the book recommends healthcare organizations take a simulation-based approach to education, which provides learners with hands-on experience completing their workflows in a simulated EHR. The value of simulation-based education was first proven in the commercial airline industry. Like healthcare today, the airline industry experienced significant disruption through technology as the industry transitioned from analog to flight control systems. Unable to educate pilots quickly enough, the industry developed flight simulators that provided hands-on training that was relevant, accessible, repeatable, and sustainable. The new education model produced impressive learning outcomes, which is why the book argues for a similar model to be applied to healthcare.

Unlike classroom training, simulation-based education is more personalized and targeted. Education is role-specific and teaches learners how to complete their daily tasks in a simulated EHR environment. Users learn to complete their daily tasks according to best practice workflows guided by real-life clinical scenarios that increase relevancy, retention, and engagement. One significant benefit is users accumulate experience in the application without risks to patient safety. They also access their education at a time most convenient to them, as education is accessible 24/7 anywhere there is an internet connection. The accessibility of simulation-based education eliminates the headaches and costs of renting out warehouses, hiring trainers and consultants, scheduling staff to attend three eight-hour training sessions, and more.  It’s no wonder why simulators are shown to improve confidence and knowledge in the system – which are key indicators of proficiency.

Considering the challenges and opportunities facing healthcare organizations, the need for a better education paradigm is apparent. Now more than ever, our industry is grappling with the challenges of swapping their legacy systems with new enterprise applications, which research has shown brings significantly greater challenges than the switch from paper to electronic. In addition to new strategies around leadership and other areas, organizations must provide education that helps users make the transition from old workflows, keyboard shortcuts, and habits more quickly and seamlessly. Our industry is also beginning to focus on improving outcomes through technology, a trend that requires organizations to create a workforce of proficient users efficiently and effectively.

In every aspect, healthcare stands to benefit by replacing its analog approach to education. Whether reducing costs or improving knowledge and confidence in the system, the argument for classroom training is obsolete. It’s time that our industry embrace a new model that reflects the level of innovation healthcare leaders and professionals are working so hard to adopt.

Conduent is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts. The Breakaway Group is a leader in EHR and Health IT training. Download their Free Whitepaper “Leadership Insights: Gaining Value from Technology Investments.”

Meeting the Patient Where They Are – #HITsm Chat Topic

Posted on July 18, 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, 7/21 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). This week’s chat will be hosted by Melody Smith Jones (@MelSmithJones) from HYP3R on the topic of “Meeting the Patient Where They Are.”

Every day, decision-makers across the healthcare industry sit in boardrooms charting the course for the future of patient engagement.

At the same time, individual patients are turning to new sources for health information, researching symptoms online and crowdsourcing answers from friends on social media.

More than ever, healthcare providers need to meet patients where they are.

Join this Twitter chat to explore how healthcare decision-makers can get out of the confines of the boardroom and truly understand the patient experience of today.

Questions we will explore in this week’s #HITsm chat include:
T1: As the healthcare consumer turns away from traditional media & towards digital channels, how can we meet the patient where they are? #HITsm

T2: Since financial literacy and price transparency have a steep learning curve, how can we meet the patient where they are? #HITsm

T3: As healthcare consumers continue to become avid researchers in their own right, how can we meet the patient where they are? #HITsm

T4: As the patient stares blankly at the available patient portal, how can we meet the patient where they are? #HITsm

T5: As patients and families bring digital devices with them into the care setting, how can we meet the patient where they are? #HITsm

Bonus: As the worlds of social media and intelligence continue to merge, how can we meet the patient where they are? #HITsm

Upcoming #HITsm Chat Schedule
7/28 – How Does Age Impact Patient Satisfaction & Provider Switching?
Hosted by Lea Chatham (@leachatham) from @SolutionReach

8/4 – TBD
Hosted by Alan Portela (@AlanWPortela) from Airstrip

8/11 – TBD
Hosted by TBD

8/18 – Diversity in HIT
Hosted by Jeanmarie Loria (@JeanmarieLoria) from @advizehealth

8/25 – TBD
Hosted by TBD

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.

A Programmatic Approach to Print Security

Posted on July 17, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Sean Hughes, EVP Managed Document Services at CynergisTek.

Print devices are a necessary tool to support our workflows but at the same time represent an increasing threat to the security of our environment.

Most organizations today have a variety of devices; printers, copiers, scanners, thermal printers and even fax machines that make up their “print fleet”. This complex fleet often represents a wide variety of manufacturers, makes and models of devices critical to supporting the business of healthcare.

Healthcare organizations continue to print a tremendous amount of paper as evidenced by an estimated 11% increase in print despite the introduction of the EHR and other new systems (ERPs, CRMs, etc.). More paper generally means more devices, and more devices means more risk, resulting in increased security and privacy concerns.

Look inside most healthcare organizations today and even those with a Managed Print Services program (MPS) probably have a very disjointed management responsibility of their inventory. Printers are most often the responsibility of IT, copiers run through supply chain with the manufacturer providing support, and fax machines may even be part of Telecommunications. Those organizations that have an MPS provider probably don’t have all devices managed under that program – what about devices in research or off-site locations, or what if you have an academic medical facility or are part of a university?

These devices do have a couple of things in common that are of concern – they are somehow connected to your network and they hold or process PHI.

This fact and the associated risk requires an organization to look at how these devices are being managed and whether the responsibility for security and privacy are being met. Are they part of your overall security program, does your third party manage that for you, do you even know where they all are and what risks are in your fleet today?  If multiple organizations manage, do they follow consistent security practices?

Not being able to answer these questions is a source of concern and probably means that the risk is real. So how do we resolve this?

We need to take a programmatic approach to print and print security to ensure we are addressing the whole. Let’s lay out some steps to accomplish this.

  • Know your environment – the first thing we must do is identify ALL print devices in our organization. This includes printers, scanners, copiers, thermals, and fax machines, whether they are facility owned, third-party managed, networked or local, or sitting in a storage room.
  • Assess your risk – perform a comprehensive security risk assessment of the entire fleet and develop a remediation plan. This is not a one-time event but rather needs to be part of your overall security plan.
  • Assign singular ownership of assets – either through an internal program or a third-party program, the healthcare organization should fold all print-related devices into a single program for accountability and management.
  • Workflow optimization – you probably have millions of dollars of software in your organization that is the source of the output of these devices. Even more was spent securing the environment these applications are housed in, and accessed from, to make sure the data is secure and privacy is maintained. The data in those systems is at its lowest price point, most optimal from a workflow efficiency standpoint, and most secure — yet every time we hit print we multiply the cost, decrease the operational efficiency and increase the risk to that data.
  • Decrease risk – while it is great that we identify all the devices, assess and document risk and develop a mitigation/remediation plan, the goal should be to put controls in place to stem the proliferation of devices and ultimately to begin the process of decreasing the unnecessary devices thereby eliminating the risk associated to those devices.

The concept of trying to reduce the number of printers from a cost perspective is not new to healthcare. However, many have achieved mixed results, even those that have used an MPS partner. The reason that happens is generally because they are focused on the wrong things.

The best way to accomplish a cost-effective print program is to understand what is driving the need or want for printers, and that is volume. You don’t need a print device if you don’t need to print. I know it sounds like I am talking about the nirvana that is the paperless environment but I am not. This is simply understanding what and where is unnecessary to print and eliminating it, thereby eliminating the underlying need for the associated device, and with it the inherent security risk as well as the privacy concern of the printed page. Refocusing on volume helps us to solve many problems simultaneously.

Putting a program in place that provides this visibility, and using that data to make the decisions on device reduction can significantly reduce your current risk. Couple this with security and privacy as part of your acquisition determination, and you can make intelligent decisions that ensure you only add those devices you need, and when you do add a device it meets your security and privacy requirements. More often than not the first line of defense in IT is better management of the environment.

The Digital Juxtaposition – Fun Friday

Posted on July 14, 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.

Eric Topol shared these 2 cartoons showing the interesting juxtaposition of technology in our lives:

I’m sure many of my readers will hate the 2nd cartoon which helps to perpetuate the stereotype that older people don’t want to use technology. So, I’ll just head that off by saying that many older people are great users of technology and love it. However, there is still a difference between youth that are glued to technology and the older generation that uses technology, but often prefers something printed. Finding the balance is tough.

What I’ve found interesting is watching my kids and technology. They certainly love technology and they love playing games, watching Netflix, etc. However, I’ve also realized that they still have a lot to learn when it comes to learning technology. They’re not unlike the older generation in that regard. The only difference is that they are generally more open to learning the technology. However, they’ve had such well done experiences in their games and entertainment that I think the younger generation gets really frustrated when they come across technology with a poor user experience.

A little something to chew on this Friday. Any other observations you’d add to this digital juxtaposition?

Best Practices for Patient Engagement

Posted on July 13, 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.

The following is a guest blog post by Brittany Quemby, Marketing Strategist for Stericycle Communication Solutions, as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Brittany Quemby - Stericycle
Knowledge is power… so the saying goes.  When it comes to patient engagement, it couldn’t be more true. Being “in tune” is the key to unlocking the ultimate patient experience. Knowing what your patients need and want allows you to close the gap and deliver on those desires, while developing a deeper connection through effective patient engagement.

Here at Stericycle Communication Solutions, we are a group of individuals with all different types of needs and wants as patients. Below are some of the best practices that we preach to our doctors and healthcare providers when it comes to patient engagement and the patient experience:

Connect with meaning – Reach us where we spend most of our time. Roughly two-thirds of us own a smartphone, meaning we have access at our fingertips.  We expect an interactive and omni experience with our healthcare providers. We are looking for simple ways to connect with our doctors, schedule appointments, and prepare for important appointments.  By engaging on these terms, healthcare practices can be sure to connect to patients on a deeper level and encourage repeat visits to their health system.

Engage through multiple and preferred channels – We expect our healthcare experience to fit seamlessly into the rest of our lives. This means integrating with the technologies that we prefer including online, in person, and on our devices.

Did you know that:

  • 91% of us email daily
  • 77% of us set up appointments with their primary care provider via phone call
  • Text messages have a 98% open rate

These simple touch points, enables you to effectively engage using more than one mode of communication, ensuring you connect with us the right way each time!

Get personal! – Patients are no different than the everyday consumer.  We love personalization. In fact, 47% of us said we wanted “personalized experiences” when it comes to our health. Communicating based on our specific needs and wants gets noticed and evokes action! This allows providers to not only connect on a more personal level with us, but also empowers us to take an active role in own healthcare.

Involve Us! – Keep us in the loop! We are more involved in our own health than ever before.  Use of health apps and wearables have doubled in the last two years. We want to play an active role when it comes to important healthcare related moments.  Both US consumers (77%) and doctors (85%) agree that the use of health apps and wearables helps patients engage in their health. We want to be involved; take advantage!

To learn more about effective patient engagement, download this patient engagement whitepaper.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality call center & telephone answering servicespatient access services and automated communication technology. Stericycle Communication Solutions combines a human touch with innovative technology to deliver best-in-class communication services.  Connect with Stericycle Communication Solutions on social media: @StericycleComms

Healthcare Data Integration Cutting Room Floor: Cluttered with Valuable Unused and ‘Laundered’ Data – #HITsm Chat Topic

Posted on July 12, 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, 7/14 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). This week’s chat will be hosted by Bill Fox (@FoxBigData) of @MarkLogic on the topic of “Healthcare Data Integration Cutting Room Floor: Cluttered with valuable unused and ‘laundered’ data.”

Improving healthcare data integration, flexibility, agility and time to market for development and implementation starts with ingesting data and ends with analytics and insights-an operationalize before you analyze best practice approach.

How healthcare data is captured, represented, secured and made available to the application services intended to support the value-based models of care everyone expects to improve patient outcomes, while addressing escalating costs, is a fundamental necessity for digitally transforming today’s healthcare organizations.

Thankfully, operational data integration technologies have rapidly emerged that address and support the critical functionality healthcare providers, health plans and ancillary organizations need to support the healthcare consumers and patients, and effect true health care outcome improvement and cost containment challenges.

The intention of this chat is to share ideas, facts, thoughts, and opinions on the theme of whether the legacy technology that still dominates most IT shops in healthcare supports reform and innovation initiatives or not. Quite simply, are we leaving too much valuable, unused and ‘laundered’ healthcare data” on the ‘Cutting Room Floor’ of the very healthcare organizations we’re all counting on to best leverage that data? Our hope is that this chat helps to surface how healthcare organizations – providers, payers, 3rd parties and vendors – can get the most from our respective investment in our healthcare data platforms.

Reference & Resources:

This Week’s Topics
T1: What’s your biggest, most expensive health data “hairball” or pain point in combining data across domains or multiple systems? #HITsm

T2: What is the most valuable data that’s not being used today in #healthcare due to cost / complexity of integration? #HITsm

T3: What data impacts #healthcare consumer / member / patient experience and service the most? #HITsm

T4: 80% of all data is unstructured. What types of unstructured data can help improve service, outcomes & lower costs the most? #HITsm

T5: Why should scarce resources be invested in analytics before combining, enriching, harmonizing and operationalizing data first? #HITsm

Bonus: Why do firms continue using legacy ETL & tools vs adopting a “next gen” data integration platform approach? #HITsm

Upcoming #HITsm Chat Schedule
7/21 – Meeting the Patient Where They Are
Hosted by Melody Smith Jones (@MelSmithJones) from HYP3R

7/28 – How Does Age Impact Patient Satisfaction & Provider Switching?
Hosted by Lea Chatham (@leachatham) from @SolutionReach

8/4 – TBD
Hosted by Alan Portela (@AlanWPortela) from Airstrip

8/11 – TBD
Hosted by TBD

8/18 – Diversity in HIT
Hosted by Jeanmarie Loria (@JeanmarieLoria) from @advizehealth

8/25 – TBD
Hosted by TBD

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.

The Fight For Patient Health Data Access Is Just Beginning

Posted on July 11, 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.

When some of us fight to give patients more access to their health records, we pitch everyone on the benefits it can offer — and act as though everyone feels the same way.  But as most of us know, in their heart of hearts, many healthcare industry groups aren’t exactly thrilled about sharing their clinical data.

I’ve seen this first hand, far too many times. As I noted in a previous column, some providers all but refuse to provide me with my health data, and others act like they’re doing me a big favor by deigning to share it. Yet others have put daunting processes in place for collecting your records or make you wait weeks or months for your data. Unfortunately, the truth, however inconvenient it may be, is that they have reasons to act this way.

Sure, in public, hospital execs argue for sharing data with both patients and other institutions. They all know that this can increase patient engagement and boost population health. But in private, they worry that sharing such data will encourage patients to go to other hospitals at will, and possibly arm their competitors in their battle for market share.

Medical groups have their own concerns. Physicians understand that putting data in patient’s hands can lead to better patient self-management, which can tangibly improve outcomes. That’s pretty important in an era when government and commercial payers are demanding measurably improved outcomes.

Still, though they might not admit it, doctors don’t want to deluge patients with a flood of data which could cause them to worry about inconsequential issues, or feel that data-equipped patients will challenge their judgment. And can we please admit that some simply don’t like ceding power over their domain?

Given all of this, I wasn’t surprised to read that several groups are working to improve patients’ access to their health data. Nor was it news to me that such groups are struggling (though it was interesting to hear what they’re doing to help).

MedCity News spoke to the cofounder of one such group, Share for Cures, which works to encourage patients to share their health data for medical research. The group also hopes to foster other forms of patient health data sharing.

Cofounder Jennifer King told MCN that patients face a technology barrier to accessing such records. For example, she notes, existing digital health tools may offer limited interoperability with other data sets, and patients may not be sure how to use portals. Her group is working to remove these obstacles, but “it’s still not easy,” King told a reporter.

Meanwhile, she notes, almost every hospital has implemented a customized medical record, which can often block data sharing even if the hospitals buy EMRs from the same vendor. Meanwhile, if patients have multiple doctors, at least a few will have EMRs that don’t play well with others, so sharing records between them may not be possible, King said.

To address such data sharing issues, King’s nonprofit has created a platform called SHARE, an acronym for System for Health and Research Data Exchange. SHARE lets users collect and aggregate health and wellness data from multiple sources, including physician EMRs, drug stores, mobile health apps and almost half the hospitals in the U.S.

Not only does SHARE make it easy for patients to access their own data, it’s also simple to share that data with medical research teams. This approach offers researchers an important set of benefits, notably the ability to be sure patients have consented to having their data used, King notes. “One of the ways around [HIPAA] is that patient are the true owners,” she said. “With direct patient authorization…it’s not a HIPAA issue because it’s not the doctor sharing it with someone else. It’s the patient sharing it.”

Unfortunately (and this is me talking again) the platform faces the same challenges as any other data sharing initiative.

In this case, the problem is that like other interoperability solutions, SHARE can only amass data that providers are actually able to share, and that leaves a lot of them out of the picture. In other words, it can’t do much to solve the underlying problem. Another major issue is that if patients are reluctant to use even something as simplified as a portal, they’re not to likely to use SHARE either.

I’m all in favor of pushing for greater patient data access, for personal as well as professional reasons. And I’m glad to hear that there are groups springing up to address the problem, which is obviously pretty substantial. I suspect, though, that this is just the beginning of the fight for patient data access.

Until someone comes up with a solution that makes it easy and comfortable for providers to share data, while diffusing their competitive concerns, it’s just going to be more of the same old, same old. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for that to happen.