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Switching EHRs, The Trends And What To Consider

Posted on September 8, 2016 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 Winyen Wu, Technology and Health Trend Blogger and Enthusiast at Stericycle Communication Solutions as part of the Communication Solutions Series of blog posts. Follow and engage with them on Twitter: @StericycleComms
Winyen Wu - Stericycle
In recent years, there has been a trend in providers switching Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems: according to Software Advice, the number of buyers replacing EHR software has increased 59% since 2014. In a survey by KLAS, 27% of medical practices are looking to replace their EHR while another 12% would like to but cannot due to financial or organizational constraints. By 2016, almost 50% of large hospitals will replace their current EHR. This indicates that the current EHR products on the market are not meeting the needs of physicians.

What are the reasons for switching EHRs?

  • Complexity and poor usability: Many physicians find that it takes too many clicks to find the screen that they need, or that it is too time consuming to fill out all the checkboxes and forms required
  • Poor technical support: Some physicians may be experiencing unresponsive or low quality support from their EHR vendor
  • Consolidation of multiple EHRs: After consolidating practices, an organization will choose to use only one EHR as opposed to having multiple systems in place
  • Outgrowing functionality or inadequate systems: Some current EHRs may meet stage 1 criteria for meaningful use, but will not meet stage 2 criteria, which demand more from an EHR system.

Which companies are gaining and losing customers?

  • Epic and Cerner are the top programs in terms of functionality according to a survey by KLAS; cloud-based programs Athenahealth and eClinicalWorks are also popular
  • Companies that are getting replaced include GE Healthcare, Allscripts, NextGen Healthcare, and McKesson; 40-50% of their customers reported potential plans to move

What are providers looking for in choosing an EHR?

  • Ability to meet Meaningful Use standards/criteria: In September 2013, 861 EHR vendors met stage 1 requirements of meaningful use while only 512 met stage 2 criteria for certification, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Because stage 2 criteria for meaningful is more demanding, EHRs systems are required to have more sophisticated analytics, standardization, and linkages with patient portals.
  • Interoperability: able to integrate workflows and exchange information with other products
  • Company reliability: Physicians are looking for vendors who are likely to be around in 20 years. Potential buyers may be deterred from switching to a company if there are factors like an impending merger/acquisition, senior management issues, declining market share, or internal staff system training issues.

Is it worth it?
In a survey conducted by Family Practice Management of physicians who switched EHRs since 2010, 59% said their new EHRs had added functionality, and 57% said that their new system allowed them to meet meaningful use criteria, but 43% said they were glad they switched systems and only 39% were happy with their new EHR.

5 Things to consider when planning to switch EHRs

  1. Certifications and Compliance: Do your research. Does your new vendor have customers who have achieved the level of certification your organization hopes to achieve? Does this new vendor continually invest in the system to make updates with changing regulations?
  2. Customer Service: Don’t be shy. Ask to speak to at least 3 current customers in your specialty and around your size. Ask the tough questions regarding level of service the vendor provides.
  3. Interoperability: Don’t be left unconnected. Ensure your new vendor is committed to interoperability and has concreate examples of integration with other EHR vendors and lab services.
  4. Reliability and Longevity: Don’t be left out to dry. Do digging into the vendor’s financials, leadership changes and staffing updates. If they appear to be slimming down and not growing this is a sign that this product is not a main focus of the company and could be phased out or sold.
  5. Integration with Current Services: Don’t wait until it’s too late. Reach out to your current providers (like appointment reminders) and ensure they integrate with your new system and set up a plan for integrating the two well in advance.

The Communication Solutions Series of blog posts is sponsored by Stericycle Communication Solutions, a leading provider of high quality telephone answering, appointment scheduling, and automated communication services. 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

Let Doctors Be Doctors – If Jay Z Sang EHR

Posted on October 19, 2015 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 medical world’s comedy rapper, ZDoggMD is at again with support from athenahealth. ZDoggMD just published a Jay Z parody video he calls EHR State of Mind which also promotes a new website called LetDoctorsBeDoctors.com. The timing of the video is interesting considering my recent blog posts on meaningful use dissatisfaction and one doctor’s dissatisfaction to name a few. I guess this post is a continuation of that theme. Enjoy ZDoggMD’s latest video on EHR and don’t let it hurt too much if it hits a little too close to home:

HL7 Backs Effort To Boost Patient Data Exchange

Posted on December 8, 2014 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.

Standards group Health Level Seven has kicked off a new project intended to increase the adoption of tech standards designed to improve electronic patient data exchange. The initiative, the Argonaut Project, includes just five EMR vendors and four provider organizations, but it seems to have some interesting and substantial goals.

Participating vendors include Athenahealth, Cerner, Epic, McKesson and MEDITECH, while providers include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Intermoutain  Healthcare, Mayo Clinic and Partners HealthCare. In an interesting twist, the group also includes SMART, Boston Children’s Hospital Informatics Program’s federally-funded mobile app development project. (How often does mobile get a seat at the table when interoperability is being discussed?) And consulting firm the Advisory Board Company is also involved.

Unlike the activity around the much-bruited CommonWell Alliance, which still feels like vaporware to industry watchers like myself, this project seems to have a solid technical footing. On the recommendation of a group of science advisors known as JASON, the group is working at creating a public API to advance EMR interoperability.

The springboard for its efforts is HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources. HL7’s FHir is a RESTful API, an approach which, the standards group notes, makes it easier to share data not only across traditional networks and EMR-sharing modular components, but also to mobile devices, web-based applications and cloud communications.

According to JASON’s David McCallie, Cerner’s president of medical informatics, the group has an intriguing goal. Members’ intent is to develop a health IT operating system such as those used by Apple and Android mobile devices. Once that was created, providers could then use both built-in apps resident in the OS and others created by independent developers. While the devices a “health IT OS” would have to embrace would be far more diverse than those run by Android or iOS, the concept is still a fascinating one.

It’s also neat to hear that the collective has committed itself to a fairly aggressive timeline, promising to accelerate current FHIT development to provide hands-on FHIR profiles and implementation guides to the healthcare world by spring of next year.

Lest I seem too critical of CommonWell, which has been soldiering along for quite some time now, it’s onlyt fair to note that its goals are, if anything, even more ambitious than the Argonauts’. CommonWell hopes to accomplish nothing less than managing a single identity for every person/patient, locating the person’s records in the network and managing consent. And CommonWell member Cerner recently announced that it would provide CommonWell services to its clients for free until Jan. 1, 2018.

But as things stand, I’d wager that the Argonauts (I love that name!) will get more done, more quickly. I’m truly eager to see what emerges from their efforts.

Not So Open: Redefining Goals for Sharing Health Data in Research

Posted on June 24, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Andy Oram, writer and editor at O’Reilly Media.

One couldn’t come away with more enthusiasm for open data than at this month’s Health Datapalooza, the largest conference focused on using data in health care. The whole 2000-strong conference unfolds from the simple concept that releasing data publicly can lead to wonderful things, like discovering new cancer drugs or intervening with patients before they have to go to the emergency room.

But look more closely at the health care field, and open data is far from the norm. The demonstrated benefits of open data sets in other fields–they permit innovation from any corner and are easy to combine or “mash up” to uncover new relationships–may turn into risks in health care. There may be better ways to share data.

Let’s momentarily leave the heady atmosphere of the Datapalooza and take a subway a few stops downtown to the Health Privacy Summit, where fine points of patient consent, deidentification, and the data map of health information exchange were discussed the following day. Participants here agree that highly sensitive information is traveling far and wide for marketing purposes, and perhaps even for more nefarious uses to uncover patient secrets and discriminate against them.

In addition to outright breaches–which seem to be reported at least once a week now, and can involve thousands of patients in one fell swoop–data is shared in many ways that arguably should be up to patients to decide. It flows from hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies to health information exchanges, researchers in both academia and business, marketers, and others.

Debate has raged for years between those who trust deidentification and those who claim that reidentification is too easy. This is not an arcane technicality–the whole industry of analytics represented at the Datapalooza rests on the result. Those who defend deidentification tend to be researchers in health care and the institutions who use their results. In contrast, many computer scientists outside the health care field cite instances where people have been reidentified, usually by combining data from various public sources.

Latanya Sweeney of Harvard and MIT, who won a privacy award this year at the summit, can be credited both with a historic reidentification of the records of Massachusetts Governor William Weld in 1997 and a more recent exposé of state practices. The first research led to the current HIPAA regime for deidentification, while the second showed that states had not learned the lessons of anonymization. No successful reidentifications have been reported against data sets that use recommended deidentification techniques.

I am somewhat perplexed by the disagreement, but have concluded that it cannot be resolved on technical grounds. Those who look at the current state of reidentification are satisfied that health data can be secured. Those who look toward an unspecified future with improved algorithms find reasons to worry. In a summit lunchtime keynote, Adam Tanner reported his own efforts as a non-expert to identify people online–a fascinating and sometimes amusing tale he has written up in a new book, What Stays in Vegas. So deidentification is like encryption–we all use encryption even though we expect that future computers will be able to break current techniques.

But another approach has flown up from the ashes of the “privacy is dead” nay-sayers: regulating the use of data instead of its collection and dissemination. This has been around for years, most recently in a federal PCAST report on big data privacy. One of the authors of that report, Craig Mundie of Microsoft, also published an article with that argument in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs.

A simple application of this doctrine in health care is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. A more nuanced interpretation of the doctrine could let each individual determine who gets to use his or her data, and for what purpose.

Several proposals have been aired to make it easier for patients to grant blanket permission for certain data uses, one proposal being “patient privacy bundles” in a recent report commissioned by AHRQ. Many people look forward to economies of data, where patients can make money by selling data (how much is my blood pressure reading worth to you)?

Medyear treats personal health data like Twitter feeds, letting you control the dissemination of individual data fields through hash tags. You could choose to share certain data with your family, some with your professional care team, and some with members of your patient advocacy network. This offers an alternative to using services such as PatientsLikeMe, which use participants’ data behind the scenes.

Open data can be simulated by semi-open data sets that researchers can use under license, as with the Genetic Association Information Network that controls the Database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP). Many CMS data sets are actually not totally open, but require a license to use.

And many data owners create relationships with third-party developers that allow them access to data. Thus, the More Disruption Please program run by athenahealth allows third-party developers to write apps accessing patient data through an API, once the developers sign a nondisclosure agreement and a Code of Conduct promising to use the data for legitimate purposes and respect privacy. These apps can then be offered to athenahealth’s clinician clients to extend the system’s capabilities.

Some speakers went even farther at the Datapalooza, asking whether raw data needs to be shared at all. Adriana Lukas of London Quantified Self and Stephen Friend of Sage Bionetworks suggested that patients hold on to all their data and share just “meanings” or “methods” they’ve found useful. The future of health analytics, it seems to me, will use relatively few open data sets, and lots of data obtained through patient consent or under license.

Physician Acquisition: Is It The Right Strategy For Your Health System?

Posted on September 9, 2013 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.

Today I was talking with a vendor of EHR conversion services. I’ll be writing a lot more about our conversation soon, but I wasn’t surprised by his comment that mane of the EHR conversions that they’re doing are due to physician practice acquisition. Whether it’s a large hospital system acquiring the practice or a group practice acquiring a practice, there’s often the desire to move that practice to the same EHR platform.

As I thought about the trend of acquired physician practices, I ran across a whitepaper by athenahealth which asked the question: Physician Acquisition: Is It The Right Strategy For Your Health System? The whitepaper highlights how varying interpretations of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the launch of Accountable Care Organizations (ACO), bundled payment pilots, and the persistent pressure on commercial reimbursement rates makes planning for healthcare leaders a challenging task. However, what does seem clear is that doing the same thing you’ve always done won’t be a viable long term strategy.

All of these pressures are driving the physician acquisition strategy of most organizations. Does anyone see these pressures changing anytime soon? I don’t see any changes in this regard on the horizon.

Despite the widespread physician acquisitions that are happening, there are legal barriers (antitrust) that prevent a clinic from controlling all of healthcare in a community. What does this mean for an organization? How do they integrate with providers that they haven’t acquired? Plus, it’s naive to think that the acquired physicians are going to remain with your organization forever. We have seen the cycle before where acquired doctors leave the mothership and venture out on their own again. Organizations without a strong external strategy are going to be in a difficult position.

The whitepaper does make an interesting case for clinical integration versus full on practice acquisition. This is a great concept that every organization should consider. Can you clinically integrate with an organization that you don’t own? How would that clinical integration work? I think these integrations are still evolving, but the whitepaper had two case studies from organizations that were working on it.

What’s the right strategy for health systems when it comes to physician acquisition?

Marketing Your Medical Practice in the Digital (Social) Age

Posted on June 28, 2013 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.

On Saturday, June 30, Tweeters, Instagramers, Pinners and the like will gather to celebrate the fourth annual Social Media Day, presented by Mashable, a leading online source for news and information focused on the Connected Generation. And each year, social media plays a greater role in #healthcare and #HealthIT. Here are a few stats from recent months:

  • 51% of those surveyed say that digital health communications would make them feel more valued as a patient
  • 90% of adults 18-24 years of age say they would trust medical information shared by others in their social media networks
  • 41% of people say social media would affect their choice of health care provider

To raise awareness about the social media benefits for health care professionals, I asked Dr. Lawrence Rosen, an athenahealth client, social-savvy clinician, practice owner and influencer, about best practices and tips for marketing a medical practice on social networks.

When did you realize it was time to put your practice on Facebook? When was that ‘a-ha’ moment?

It happened the day I started my practice, The Whole Child Center, in 2008. I recognized that savvy parents were using Facebook to gather and share information about their kids. They not only wanted to post photos of their one-year-old’s birthday party but also wanted to interact with their health care providers. I thought it would be great if we could develop this online community to build on the brick-and-mortar community we developed within the four walls of our practice.

To create an effective Facebook strategy, it’s key to know your audience and what you’d like them to do. Who are your Facebook target audiences? Are you surprised by any groups that you’re reaching?

As a pediatrician, my primary target audience is easy—moms. And for Facebook, that’s a key demographic. Recent insights showed that 80% of our Facebook audience is women with more than 60% ages 25-44.

The most surprising demographic? Other health care practitioners interested in the unique integrative and eco-sustainable approach we take to medicine.

Discuss the types of content you have generated and how you personally grown your Facebook presence and, in essence, your practice.

Initially, our content was mostly health information, current articles and trends in the news. I then realized that photos and videos garnered much more interest, so we developed a space for parents to post photos of their kids having fun in our office. With HIPAA concerns, we are really careful to never post patient information directly, but parents can certainly share information about their own experiences, and they love sharing these pictures. Also, I’ve found videos of my media appearances or webinars, when posted on seasonal or topical issues, always get a lot of likes and shares.

What are examples of online content that have increased visibility or engagement for your practice? 

The most gratifying and widespread content has been related to our response to the 2012 Hurricane Sandy tragedy in New Jersey and New York. We posted a call for new or gently used baby equipment—strollers, car seats, high chairs—for one of our practice’s  moms to deliver to a devastated section of Queens, NY.  In one week, we gathered enough donations to fill a box truck. This mom, who had family in the damaged area, was so thrilled to partner with us, and it really helped raise awareness in our area of the plight of young families.

Are there any rules of the road, things people should remember when marketing their practice on a social network?

Don’t post private information. Don’t pester your audience by posting 40 things a day. Be strategic, know your audience, pay attention to what people like and share, and keep your content relevant to hot topics, and local or regional health issues. In general, stay away from divisive political or religious issues.

What you post is going to be seen as a reflection of your organization’s values and will positively or negatively affect your reputation. Recognize the power of your social network to engage and build your community.

Dr. Rosen is an integrative pediatrician based in Oradell, N.J. and a contributor to the athenahealth blog

CommonWell Health Alliance – The Healthcare Interoperability Enabler?

Posted on March 4, 2013 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 biggest news that will likely come out of HIMSS was the big announcement that was made about the newly formed CommonWell Health Alliance. They’ve also rolled out a website for the new organization.

This was originally billed as a Cerner and McKesson announcement and would be a unique announcement from both the CEO of Cerner and McKesson. Of course, the news of what would be announced was leaked well before the press briefing, so we basically already knew that these two EHR companies were working on interoperability.

In what seemed like some final, last minute deals for some of the companies, 5 different software products were represented on stage at the press event announcement for CommonWell Health Alliance. The press event was quite entertaining as each of the various CEOs took some friendly jabs at each other.

Of course, Jonathan Bush stole the show (which is guaranteed to happen if he’s on stage). I think it was Neal Patterson who called Jonathan Bush the most articulate CEO in healthcare and possibly in any industry. Jonathan does definitely have a way with words.

One of Jonathan’s best quote was in response to a question of whether the CommonWell Health Alliance would just be open to any health IT software system, or whether it was just creating another closed garden. Jonathan replied that “even a vendor of epic proportions” would be welcome in the organization. Don Fluckinger from Search Health IT News, decided to ask directly if Judy from Epic had been asked about the alliance and what she said. They adeptly avoided answering the question specifically and instead said that they’d talked to a lot of EHR vendors and were happy to talk to any and all.

Although, this is still the core question that has yet to be answered by the CommonWell Health Alliance. Will it just be another closed garden (albeit with a few more vendors inside the closed garden)? From what I could gather from the press conference, their intent is to make it available to anyone and everyone. This would even include vendors that don’t do EHR. I think their intent is good.

What I’m not so sure about is whether they’ll put up artificial barriers to entry that stop an innovative startup company from participating. This is what was done with EHR certification when it was started. The price was so high that it made no sense for a small EHR vendor to participate. They could have certified as well, but the cost to become certified was so high that it created an artificial barrier to participation for many EHR vendors. Will similar barriers be put up in the CommonWell Health Alliance? Time will tell.

With this said, I think it is a step forward. The direction of working to share data is the right one. I hope the details don’t ruin the intent and direction they’re heading. Plus, the website even says they’re going to do a pretty lengthy pilot period to implement the interoperability. Let’s hope that pilot period doesn’t keep getting extended and extended.

Finally, I loved when Jonathan Bush explained that there were plenty of other points of competition that he was glad that creating a closed garden won’t be one of them. I hope that vision is really achieved. If so, then it will be a real healthcare interoperability enabler. Although, artificially shutting out innovative healthcare IT companies would make it a healthcare interoperability killer.

The False Economies of EMR

Posted on January 2, 2013 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.

In my recent look around the EMR twittersphere on EMR & EHR, I briefly commented on the challenges of choosing the wrong EMR and EMR Switching. Dan Haley from athenaHealth asked for some deeper clarification of my comment, “I’d say the biggest driver of EMR switching is thanks to the EHR incentive money and meaningful use.”

Here was my response:

I think there are a whole list of things in the HITECH act which encourage and promote the use of outdated technologies. I’m sure this is something you agree with and know all about as well.

My core argument has been, sure we’re seeing an increase in EHR adoption. However, what if the EHR incentive money is incentivizing doctors to adopt the wrong EHR. By wrong EHR I mean one that they don’t like, that can’t adapt to changing technology, that can’t support the future Smart EMR requirements that are bound to come, that kill a physician’s workflow, that cause a doctor to not want to be a doctor, etc.

I think we may be headed this direction and the number of doctors switching EHR software is a decent example of why this is the case. I’m sure that some would argue that meaningful use is driving people to switch EHR software and that the switch we’re seeing happening is from EHR software that isn’t highly functional to EHR software that is highly functional.

While this argument is true in some cases, there are just as many cases which illustrate that the EHR switching was because their first MU EHR was such a terrible experience that they had to switch EHR. Plus, we’re just at the start of this. Many are painfully grinding through the day to day with an EHR they hate. Wait until that explodes.

Even worse is those clinics that are switching EHR for the sake of EHR incentive money and go from an EHR they enjoy to one they hate. Add in the many doctors who are stuck using an EHR that was selected by some large company who didn’t worry too much about the physician needs and we’re in for a crazy next couple years.

Hopefully this gives you a better idea where my comment was coming from. Needless to say, I’m not sure that HITECH has been a benefit to doctors. The short term numbers might look good, but it might have just created some painful underlying difficulties going forward.

With all of this said, there are some beautiful EHRs out there that make doctors lives better. I’m pro-EHR when it’s done right. I just don’t see meaningful use and EHR incentive promoting the right EHR adoption methods.

This provided some interesting background for a conversation I had recently with a doctor. He told me, “It seems like there are a number of false economies driving EMR adoption.

I think meaningful use and EHR incentive money driving EHR adoption is a false economy. This doctor described to me how many of his colleagues weren’t using the EHR that they wanted, but instead were using an EHR that they “had” to use. What are some of the forced requirements for EHR that create these false economies besides meaningful use and EHR incentive money?

Another False EMR economy is around HIE connections. Many doctors can’t select the EHR they want to use and fits their workflows best because their local HIE may or may not choose to support a connection with that EHR. So, the doctor opts for an EHR that does connect with the local HIE even though it wasn’t their EHR choice.

Hospital Connections is another false economy. Similar to an HIE, many doctors will opt for what they consider to be a less than desirable EHR because it’s the one that works with their local hospitals.

I’m not trying to pretend that doctors should be the end all be all in EHR selection. A physician can think one EHR is the best and not realize until after using it that another EHR would have been better. Sometimes you think you have a great EHR until you actually use another one and realize what you’re missing. However, the easiest recipe for disaster with EHR is for a doctor to hate using an EHR. As I mention above, it will not end well and will drive the future EMR switching that I’ve predicted.

Private Payers Need to Join Humana, CMS With EHR Subsidies

Posted on June 30, 2011 I Written By

Ever since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act became law in February 2009, giving birth to the phrase “meaningful use,” I’ve wondered when private insurers would follow the federal government’s lead and start offering financial carrots and sticks for using and not using EHRs. After all, one of the purposes of the Medicare and Medicaid incentive program was to address the fact that payers tend to reap the greatest financial gains from hospitals and physicians adopting EHRs, even though most if not all of the cost of acquiring the technology falls on the provider.

Federal officials have made it clear all along that “meaningful use” is just that, the meaningful use of the technology. The government was not simply going to write checks so providers could go out and buy technology. As the country’s largest purchaser of  healthcare services, CMS wanted some value for its money (not exactly something you hear every day when it comes to government spending).

I’d been hearing for years that major commercial health insurers also were willing to share some of the savings from EHR adoption, but not until the largest payer of them all, Medicare, did so first. The private sector usually does follow Medicare’s lead when it comes to major policy shifts. Medicare now has done so, but private payers have been mostly silent. Mostly.

This month, as InformationWeek reports, Humana teamed up with Allscripts Healthcare Solutions to offer physician practices financial incentives for purchasing Allscripts EHR systems. The deal is similar to one Humana cut last year with Athenahealth. A few Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, notably in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, have led similar programs at the state level, with eClinicalWorks the main partner.

But unless I’m forgetting something, Humana is the only big payer that has jumped into the game. Where are the UnitedHealthcares, Aetnas, Cignas and WellPoints of the world?

Payers, it’s time to make good on the lip service you gave years ago and start passing on some of the savings you will realize from Medicare, Medicaid and hundreds of thousands of providers spending billions of dollars on EHR technology and health information exchange efforts.

 

Do You Trust the Cloud for EHRs?

Posted on May 26, 2011 I Written By

A blog post today by Microsoft’s Dr. Bill Crounse got me thinking again about the cloud.

Crounse cited a new CDW poll showing that 30 percent of healthcare organizations could be considered “cloud adopters,” and for good reason. “The flexibility, scalability and lower costs associated with moving certain line of business applications to the cloud are compelling, especially for an industry like healthcare. After all, the primary focus of hospitals and clinics is caring for patients, not running an IT empire. There’s not a CIO, CFO, CEO, COO, CNO, CMIO, or CMO who wouldn’t love to shift some of their IT spending to delivering better care to the communities they serve,” Crounse wrote.

They were more likely to turn to the cloud for “commodity” services such as e-mail, file storage, videoconferencing and online learning. “Moving your ‘commodity’ applications to the cloud is an excellent place to start,” Crounse said. “I’d suggest first reaching out to your health industry peers and professional organizations to get a better sense of who’s doing what. I think when you’ve learned about some of the best health industry practices in cloud computing, you’ll be ready to explore what might be possible in your own organization.

But the fact that 30 percent of healthcare organizations use the cloud means that 70 percent do not. I suspect a lot of hospitals and physician practices still run aging, legacy client-server management systems in-house, just because that’s how people did things when those systems were first installed. As they replace their legacy technology, expect more healthcare organizations to opt for cloud services for these commodity-type services.

And what about clinical services?

At HIMSS11 back in February, Athenahealth honcho Jonathan Bush, a longtime fan of the cloud, told me he wanted to lead the “Cloud Cavalry” into Las Vegas (there’s no better place for an over-the-top spectacle, of course) next winter for HIMSS12. (See the second video for that.) Athenahealth, which has a certified, cloud-based EHR, straddles the line between clinical and administrative, and it’s not alone. I can’t think of a single ambulatory EHR vendor that doesn’t offer at least a cloud option if not a full-fledged SaaS product.

But is the cloud truly reliable for critical applications such as inpatient EHRs? In the wake of April’s Amazon EC2 cloud outage, I can imagine more than a few CIOs, practice managers and, especially, physicians are a bit skittish now.

What do you think?