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Does Healthcare IT Need Stability?

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Last night during one of my favorite TV shows, Charlie Rose, he interviewed a guy about the economy. One of the discussion points that came out of this interview and that I’ve heard a lot in all the discussions about the economy is having some stability to the economy. Many argue that one of the biggest things holding our economy back is all the unknowns. When there are unknowns companies get paralyzed and hold back doing things they’d do if the economy felt stable.

I wonder if we’re experiencing the same thing in healthcare IT? Could we use some stability in healthcare IT?

Think about all the various unknowns that exist in healthcare IT. Let’s start with ICD-10. The pending ICD-10 implementation date is looming, but that date has been pushed back so many times it’s still unknown if it’s really going to happen this time. That’s the opposite of stability.

I’m sure that many also wonder if the same will be the case with EHR penalties. Will the EHR penalties go into effect? What exceptions will be made for the EHR penalties? I could easily see the EHR penalties being delayed, but then again what if they’re not?

Is it hard for anyone else to keep up with what’s happening with meaningful use? I do this every day and so I have a pretty good idea, but even I’m getting confused as it gets more complex. Imagine being a doctor who rarely looks at meaningful use. So, we’re in meaningful use stage 1, but meaningful use stage 2 is coming, unless you didn’t start meaningful use stage 1 and then meaningful use stage 2 won’t come until later. Oh, and they’re making changes to meaningful use stage 2. That’s right and they’re also coming out with meaningful use stage 3. However, don’t worry too much about meaningful use stage 3 because a lot of people are calling for it to be slowed down. So, does that mean that meaningful use will be delayed? Now how does the meaningful use stages match with the EHR certifications? Which version of my EHR software does which stage of meaningful use?

I think you get the picture.

Of course, I haven’t even mentioned things like ACO’s, HIE’s, 5010, HIPAA, RAC Audits, Medicare/Medicaid cuts, or healthcare reform (ACA) to name a few others.

It’s a messy healthcare IT environment right now. We could definitely use some stability in healthcare.

February 12, 2013 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 Coming Physician EHR Revolt

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From my blogging viewpoint I’m sensing a growing discontent among doctors that is starting to really heat up. I can’t quite predict when this discontent will reach a boiling point that will start to boil over, but the fireworks are coming. As I’ve watched the past couple years, doctors were first overwhelmed with all the government regulations. They were confused by everything was coming out and really just didn’t know where healthcare IT and EHR was headed. That overwhelmed confusion is slowly turning into a reality that many doctors are realizing is changing how they practice medicine. If you’re not seeing this, then you might want to get out and spend some more time with your casual every day doctors.

One doctor emailed me today suggesting that doctors were being literally “eaten alive” as they are working harder to provide patient centered care. It would be a disservice to doctors if we don’t take the time to acknowledge and understand the enormous pressures that many doctors are feeling right now.

Here’s a quick look at what I believe is the perspective of many doctors I connect with on a daily basis.

Regulations
Everywhere doctors look they’re getting hammered by new regulations. I recently heard Shahid Shah say, “We’re experts in the industry that spend all day thinking about the market and regulations and even we have a challenge understanding what’s going on. Now think about the doctors and adminstrators which have challenging day jobs and only a small amount of time to understand the regulations. They don’t really understand the details of what’s being regulated.”

This is a reality for many doctors and practices. Is it any wonder that many are happy to sell off their practices to major hospitals? I’m sure that many do so just because they’re tired of trying to understand all the changing regulations they’re required to know.

If we look at just the healthcare IT and EHR related regulations you have: meaningful use, ACOs, ICD-10, 5010, and Obamacare/Healthcare Reform. Any one of those is a challenge to understand and implement. Yet doctors and hospitals are dealing with all five of them simultaneously. Not to mention doctors being asked to participate in HIEs, being graded and rated online, engaging with empowered patients through social media, and embracing a new technology savvy culture while reimbursement lags behind.

Is it any wonder that doctors feel overwhelmed, overworked, and unsure whether they want to continue being doctors. Is this going to lead to a real shortage of medical professionals?

EHR Discontent
Since this is an EHR blog, we should spend some time on the growing discontent with EHR software. I hate to dwell on this, because EHR is going to be the future of clinical documentation. It’s hear to stay and no amount of belly aching and moaning is going to stop EHR software from becoming the de facto standard for clinical documentation. However, just because this is the case doesn’t mean we should ignore the realities that so many doctors are facing when it comes to EHR software today.

Many doctors see EHR as a major time suck. Their EHR software requires them to work longer hours and/or see fewer patients. Overtime this usually improves, but we have to acknowledge the initial productivity hit that pretty much every EHR implementation sees. Some clinics never get back to their previous productivity. We’ve discussed the reasons for this over and over again on this blog. We’ll save the list of reasons and ways to avoid those issues for another blog post. However, until all 300+ EHR vendors solve the EHR productivity issue, we’re going to hear more and more stories of how much of a time suck an EHR is to many doctors.

Not all doctors see it this way. Many doctors can’t imagine their practice without an EHR. As we’ve been covering in our EHR Benefits Series, there are a lot of benefits to having an EHR. Many of the benefits we’ve already covered in that series are ways that a clinic can save time thanks to an EHR. However, it can take time for a new EHR user to get up to speed where they can speak the EMR language well. It’s not easy learning a new language, and so this adds to the growing discontent that many doctors feel towards EHR.

Template EHR and Copy Paste
Many EHR vendors have implemented a complex set of templates that doctors can use to be more efficient. It’s a thing of beauty to see a full template pulled into a patient’s chart with a single click. A full patient physical documented with a single click sounds like it should save the doctors a lot of time and make them more efficient. In fact, many have argued that template based EHR documentation is a great way for doctors to achieve higher reimbursement levels since they are better able to document the actual care they’re providing. In the paper world they would have passed on the higher reimbursement because they didn’t have the time or desire to document all of the items they examined and so they just accept a lower reimbursement level. EMR templates made it possible for doctors to finally be reimbursed for all of the care they provided a patient since the templates made it easy to document.

Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, it did until the government realized that EHR software often drove up their costs. This shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone in the EHR world. I’ve been writing about the ability to increase your reimbursement rates from EHR for over 7 years. However, instead of the government choosing to acknowledge something that was apparent to many in the industry, they decided to blame the increased costs on, you guessed it, dishonest doctors.

Think about the message that we’re sending doctors. First the government tells doctors to start using EHR. Then, the government calls those doctors dishonest for using the tools that the government told them to use. A doctor recently described their perspective is like being stuck in a pit with sly hyenas all around ready to take their bite out of them.

Add in all the recent discussions about copy and paste in EMR’s, and it shouldn’t be any wonder that doctors are gun shy. When they implement technologies to try and make things more efficient they get their hands slapped or even worse.

Reduced Reimbursement and Penalties
In the midst of all the things mentioned above, doctors are also getting hit with reduced reimbursement rates. This is particularly true for those in the general medicine area. They’re being asked to do more to improve patient care, reduce hospital re-admissions, treat the whole patient, etc and they’re getting less reimbursement.

Plus, now the EHR penalties are hanging over their head if they choose to not show meaningful use of a certified EHR. I still have my doubts that the EHR penalties will be enforced. I expect there will be a whole series of exceptions offered up which make it so pretty much all of the doctors avoid the penalties. However, that’s still unknown and many doctors see those EHR penalties as just another slap into the face.

Data Data Data
Most doctors see the push for EHR as a way for someone to get at the data in healthcare. In many ways, they’re right. EHR’s were first created as big billing machines to get at the financial data. Now with meaningful use, EHR’s are repositories of other healthcare data. The data is being used to optimize reimbursement (rarely a good thing for doctors). The data is wanted for population health analysis. The data is wanted for public health needs. The data is wanted to be able to facilitate ACOs. Everyone wants a piece of the healthcare data it seems.

The problem from a physician perspective is that everyone wants that data, but it’s not often clear how that data is going to facilitate that doctor being a better doctor. In many cases it won’t and there’s the rub. Almost every doctor I know wants to improve healthcare. So, they don’t have any problems supporting initiatives that improve healthcare, but I think that most of them also sit back and wonder at what cost.

Audits
I don’t know anyone that likes audits. Yet, most doctors are surrounded by a wide variety of audits. RAC Audits are on the way. HIPAA audits are possible and HIPAA is always lingering in the back of most doctors minds. Especially when you start talking about technology and HIPAA. There are so many unknowns that there’s no place of comfort for those doctors who want to be compliant. Most make a best effort and then push it out of their minds as they try to provide great patient care. Next up our meaningful use audits. You can be sure they’re coming.

Solutions
I wish I could say that I have a bunch of really good solutions available. What does seem clear to me is that most of the challenges that doctors face revolve around the current reimbursement models that we have today. I’m not sure we can fundamentally change those. One interesting option that’s emerging is concierge medicine.

Every doctor I know loves the idea of concierge medicine. When you tell them they don’t have to worry about reimbursement, insurance companies, etc, you see this huge weight lifted off of their shoulders as they wonder what life would be like for them if all they did was provide the best patient care to those who came to their office. The problem with concierge medicine was highlighted in a tweet I saw recently that said, “Concierge Medicine – Does it really work?”

The answer to that question is: it’s still too early to know for sure. Although, my prediction is that concierge medicine will work in certain situations and communities, but won’t be able to provide the widespread change of reimbursement that we need for healthcare to alleviate doctors concerns.

When it comes to EHR, concierge medicine is quite interesting. None of the mainstream EHR vendors really work for concierge medicine since they’re all focused around reimbursement and concierge throws that out the window. Plus, think about how few of the meaningful use requirements a concierge medicine clinic cares about. In fact, implementing many of the meaningful use and EHR certification requirements gets in the way of the concierge doctor’s workflow. I expect many doctors would love a concierge focused EHR software.

The other solution is likely going to be EHR vendors yielding to the idea that they’re the database of healthcare. Once they make this decision, EHR vendors can really open up the proverbial EHR kimono and let outside developers really make their EHR useful for doctors across all specialties, all regions, all sizes, and every unique workflow. One company can’t satisfy every doctor the way a community of empowered developers can.

No One Feels Bad for Doctors
I’ve written about this idea before, but almost no one feels bad for what most people think of as “well paid doctors.” Far too many doctors are still driving around Mercedes and BMW’s for most people to feel too bad for them. Compared to many people who don’t have a job at all, I don’t feel bad for them either.

While we don’t have to feel sorry for them, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t acknowledge the pressures that doctors are facing. Plus, I see this only getting worse before it gets better. As an entrepreneur, I see this as a tremendous opportunity. Plus, I see a number of companies that are working to capture this opportunity. However, far too many companies are blind to this physician discontent. I’m not sure if it’s purposefully blind, ignorantly blind, or arrogantly blind, but many are ignoring it. As I predicted in the beginning of this post, I see this reaching a boiling point soon which leads to some fireworks.

Let me highlight what I’m talking about using the words of a doctor’s message I literally received in my email as I was writing this post:

EMR’s are making it more and more difficult to practice medicine. They used to be fun and helped my daily work. Now, they are getting so complex that is takes much more time to do them. MU is becoming a nightmare for physicians.

February 5, 2013 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.

Keeping Up with Healthcare Regulations

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I know that meaningful use and the EHR incentive regulatory process has been an eye opening experience for many of us that weren’t as familiar with how the government put regulations in place. However, most hospitals are quite familiar with this process since they have been having to deal with it for a very long time.

Even with all this background and expertise, I’ve heard more and more organizations telling me that “they just can’t keep up with all of the healthcare regulations.”

Think about all of the regulations in just healthcare IT. It’s overwhelming and the healthcare IT regulations pale in comparison to many of the other regulations that hospitals must know about and follow. Plus, we’re just getting started with the fun of 5010 and ICD-10 is right around the corner.

With all of these regulations I was intrigued by a new offering from HCPro I saw during the AHIMA convention in Chicago this year. While HCPro has long been a publisher of healthcare content, they have a new product they are just launching called HCPro Comply. I think the best way to describe HCPro is a portal into every healthcare regulation imaginable. Certainly you could find all these regulations in other locations for free, but there was something beautiful about having them all available in one easily searchable place.

Plus, HCPro Comply does a lot of things to add value to the regulations they make available. For example, they chunk out sections of the regulations that really matter. I remember my shock when I heard that the Meaningful Use regulation was 692 pages. Then, as I looked at the regulation, I realized that there were really only a small number of pages in the middle that really mattered since the beginning was a bunch of overview. From what I understand, HCPro uses its clinical regulation experts to help you identify and bring out those sections of the regulation that matter most.

The other part of HCPro Comply that I found quite interesting was their “Ask An Expert” feature. While many hospitals likely have someone (or multiple people) in their organization that understand regulatory changes very well, there are always situations where it’s beneficial to get outside advice and analysis about a particularly challenging regulatory change. I’m quite familiar with meaningful use, but I’m often emailing a number of other experts to either make sure my interpretation is correct or to ask about nuances I haven’t quite figured out.

One thing that I think HCPro Comply should consider adding is allowing the experts from the various hospitals share their expertise with their colleagues. I can easily see a community of healthcare regulatory compliance experts interacting on their platform to discuss the latest regulatory changes. I’m sure that HCPro has many experts on their staff, but a network of the top hospital compliance experts would be an even more powerful offering.

Now that Obama won the Presidential campaign, ACA, HITECH and other healthcare reform are here to stay. I can see portals like HCPro Comply being a great asset in the ever changing healthcare regulatory environment.

November 7, 2012 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.

Hospital CIO Jobs

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The past couple days, I’ve been at the CHIME Fall CIO Forum in Palm Springs. This is my first time attending the event and it’s been an eye opening experience to say the least. It’s an amazing experience to have casual conversations with many in the healthcare IT industry and particularly with hospital CIOs.

While chatting with a former hospital CIO who now is on the vendor side, he made this fascinating observation:

I travel around and talk to a handful of CIOs every week as part of my job. When I meet with these hospital CIOs and hear about the challenges they face in their institution, I don’t get the feeling “That’s a really swell place to work. I want that job.”

In this current economic climate, it’s hard for anyone to feel really bad for a well paid hospital CIO (Yes, some are better paid than others). I acknowledge that many around the country would argue that a hospital CIO should be glad to have a job, and one that pays above the national average salary.

This general economic argument aside, I think it’s worth noting the challenging situation that many hospital CIOs face. Regardless of how much someone is paid, that doesn’t change the enormous challenge that most hospital CIOs confront every day.

Yes, we could start with the list of alphabet soup including: meaningful use, EHR, ACOs, 5010, HIE, and ICD-10 to name just a few. However, that’s just the beginning of what they’re dealing with in their jobs. Another major one worth mentioning is managing the budgets. It’s a complex, high pressure job whenever money is involved. Add in all the various maintenance, people management, process management, etc etc etc and the hospital CIO has a tough job.

This has never been more clear to me than at CHIME where the hospital CIOs all come and commiserate. I don’t think we should feel bad for these hospital CIOs and I don’t think they’re asking us to do that either. Although, it’s worth acknowledging that hospital CIOs face a tough and challenging job and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I appreciate those that are willing to take up the challenge and that perform so well in the face of such a changing environment.

October 18, 2012 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.

EHR and Healthcare IT in 2012

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I was asked by Practice Fusion to provide them some Health IT and EHR predictions for 2012. Here’s what I sent them:

“Next year will be all about Meaningful Use: Meaningful Use, ACOs, Meaningful Use, ICD-10, Meaningful Use, Meaningful Use, 5010, and a little more Meaningful Use covered in Meaningful Use.”

Sadly, I think this is a summary of what we can expect over the next year. Yes, it’s sad for me to predict that we’re going to be so mired in government requirements in 2012 that it is really hard to predict anything else really breaking significantly into the conversation in 2012.

As I ponder this New Year, I think my off the cuff (almost sarcastic) response above is actually going to be a pretty solid 2012 EHR and health IT prediction. However, that doesn’t mean it’s what I want to have happen and that doesn’t mean that other things won’t be happening. As such, over the next week or so I’m going to do a series of posts covering the following areas:

- My 2012 EMR and Health IT Wish List (things I wish would happen)
- Predictions on EHR adoption in 2012
- 2012 EHR and Health IT Noise (things that will make a noise, but have little impact)

If you have other topics you think I should cover, I’d love to hear any other ideas you have. If I have something of value to offer, then I’ll be happy to add it to my list. Should be a fun week prognosticating about the future of EHR and health IT. I hope you’ll join me in the comments with your own commentary on what we should expect and I invite other bloggers to do similar posts around these topics.

January 1, 2012 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.

Top Health Industry Issues of 2011 – “Top 10″ Health IT List Series

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Next up in our evaluation of the various end of 2011 Health IT lists series is one that takes a bit of a look back at 2011. In this list, PwC lists what they consider the Top Health Industry Issues of 2011. The list starts with an interesting comment about the health IT spending in 2011:

More than $88.6 billion was spent by providers in 2010 on developing and implementing electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchanges (HIEs) and other initiatives. This surge is a sign of technology’s critical place in health system improvement.

$88.6 billion is a lot of health IT spending and larger than most numbers I’ve seen. Although, most numbers I’ve seen are only the EMR and EHR market and doesn’t include HIE spending and other healthcare IT initiatives. It’s quite clear that the health IT spending is up, and up Big!

Their list of top Health issues isn’t that surprising, except possibly one of them:

Meaningful Use – This has to be topic number one for health IT in 2011. It’s had a trans formative effect on healthcare IT and EMR and EHR as we know them. Pretty much every EHR vendor I’ve talked to basically had to take an entire software development life cycle to meet the meaningful use and certified EHR requirements. This is the dramatic effect of meaningful use on EHR development.

PwC actually focuses on how meaningful use will encourage patient participation in their healthcare or “shared medical decision-making.” To be honest, I’m not sure meaningful use has done much to help this goal, yet(?). Possibly meaningful use stage 2 and meaningful use stage 3 will help to further these goals. MU stage 1 has done little to encourage this. Regardless of the impact of meaningful use, shared medical decision-making is going forward fast and furious.

HIPAA 5010 and ICD-10 – The interesting issue for 5010 and ICD-10 is that they’ve basically been overwhelmed by meaningful use and EHR incentive money. Either of these changes alone would have been a reasonable challenge for a normal year. However, clinical organizations are battling through 5010, ICD-10 and meaningful use all at the same time. Are there any other IT projects going on that don’t involved these three things? I’d say probably very few.

Electronic medical device reporting (eMDR) – I found this point quite interesting. There’s been a lot of movement in 2011 in regards to what constitutes a medical device and who should take care of tracking and collecting the adverse events that occur on these devices. I don’t think we’ve come to a final conclusion on what will be considered a medical device and how we’re going to deal with reporting adverse events, but finally getting electronic reporting of adverse events is a good step in the right direction.

Be sure to read the rest of my Health IT Top 10 as they’re posted.

December 28, 2011 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.