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Realizing the Value of Health IT

Posted on September 16, 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.

I’ve been focused on the value of healthcare IT for a long time. Obviously, I’ve been particularly focused on the value of EHR including a whole series of posts on the benefits of EHR (which I need to finish). I’m a huge fan of the value of EHR and healthcare IT, but I also am a realist. I realize that we aren’t getting all of the value out of healthcare IT that we could be getting. I also realize that poor health IT implementations can actually decrease value as opposed to increasing the value of health IT. Plus, I also see a huge disconnect between the value government sees in healthcare IT and what doctors find valuable.

If you don’t believe healthcare is missing out on the value healthcare IT could provide we don’t need to look any further than the fax machine. A recent CovisintPorter Research study found that “76% of respondents stated that they are handling their inflow of information via Fax.” Mr H from HISTalk aptly described this: “Healthcare: the retirement home for 1980s technology.”

I’ve also seen illustrated dozens of times the way a poor implementation can actually cause more problems than it solves. The Sutter EHR implementation is one example to consider. No doubt there is a lot of internal politics involved in the challenges that Sutter is facing with their EHR, but soon I’ll be publishing on Hospital EMR and EHR some first hand experiences with that EHR implementation. It’s a sad thing to see when an EMR implementation is done the wrong way. However, the opposite is also true. I’ve seen hundreds of organizations that love their EHR and can’t imagine how they practiced medicine before EMR.

One thing I’ve never heard a practicing doctor say is that they want to show meaningful use to be able to realize the value of health IT. I’ve certainly heard doctors say they have to show meaningful use to get the government money. I’ve certainly heard doctors say they want to show meaningful use to avoid the EHR penalties. I haven’t heard any doctor say they want to show meaningful use because it provides value to their clinic.

To me this illustrates the wide divide between the value government wants to see from healthcare IT and the value healthcare IT can provide a healthcare organization. Currently the government is riding on the back of incentive money and penalties to motivate healthcare organizations. No doubt this has caused many healthcare organizations to adopt an EHR. However, the incentive money and penalties won’t last forever. Then what?

What’s sad for me is that EHR adoption was starting to gain some momentum pre-HITECH act. There was a definite shift towards EHR adoption as organizations realized they needed to head that direction. Then, once the HITECH act hit it threw every EHR organizations plans out the door and created an irrational hysteria around EHR. This has led to irrational selection of EHR vendors, rushed EHR implementations, and cemented in many Jabba the Hutt EHR vendors that the relatively free EHR market wouldn’t have adopted pre-HITECH. To be honest, I’m ready for a return to a more rational EHR market based on value created. That’s when we’ll truly start realizing the value of health IT.

Beyond EHR, we need more brave leaders in healthcare IT that aren’t afraid to move beyond the fax machine. Leaders who don’t need a business model to realize that we can do better than the fax machine and other 80’s technology. It shouldn’t take five committees, two research studies, a certification, and outside money for an organization to do what’s right for patients. In fact, doing so is the very best business model in the world.

What scares me is that we’re going to miss out on the value of healthcare IT because our healthcare leaders are too busy fighting the proverbial meaningful use, ICD-10, and ACO fires.

Meaningful Use Stage 2 and HIE Transport – Meaningful Use Monday

Posted on March 19, 2012 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.

I’ll admit that I’m far from an expert on all the various HIE transport standards and movement happening in making health information exchange a reality in healthcare. However, meaningful use stage 2 is a big step towards getting doctors to exchange information. So, I’ll leverage some experts comments on HIE in meaningful use stage 2 to hopefully get the conversation started. Then, I’m sure some other HIE standards geeks will join in the comments to help us all further understand what’s happening.

John Moehrke has some of the best information I’ve seen for those interested in HIE and meaningful use stage 2. In one post he described his initial “fantastic” impressions of meaningful use stage 2 in regards to security privacy and HIE transport. Here’s the section on HIE transport:

HIE Transport:They have given us one or two Push style transports, and recognized that they interoperate by way of a proxy service that can convert forward and backward. There is no real surprises here as ONC has spent much time developing the Direct Project. Healthcare Providers and EHR developers should really be focusing beyond Direct, but supporting minimal Direct is a good thing to do. It allows us as an industry to move away from the FAX, and start universally communicating and manipulating Documents. I will note that these more Exchange like HIE models would still be considered compliant under the optional third transport.

I think he’s dead on that the majority of providers are going to get to know Direct really well in order to meet the meaningful use stage 2 requirements. In another more detailed post on the various HIE transport options including 3 options within the Direct Project: Full Service HISP, email integration, and integrated into the EHR.

John Moehrke has 3 great images I’ve embedded below which illustrate the above 3 models:

In the Full Service HISP, the user uploads the health information to a web portal or possibly emails the information to the HISP. This model reminds me of the various physician portals I’ve seen out there. They’ve worked really well for doctors who do a lot of referrals and need to exchange data. Although, logging into a portal isn’t the most seamless way of sharing data.

The email integration option requires you to have some good IT experience to be able to configure your email properly to support the identity and security configuration that will be required on your email system. Considering the number of doctors I know that still use aol.com, yahoo.com and gmail.com accounts, this won’t be a good solution for them. I bet even Google Apps accounts won’t support this, but it would be really cool if they did. Would be a really smart move by Google to have gmail support it if they could. The nice part is that once it’s configured you can sign and encrypt the email in a pretty seamless fashion.

Integrating the direct project specification directly into the EHR is the best option since it provides the user a seamless experience. The challenge will be on the EHR vendors to be able to integrate it into their EHR software, but I expect many will see this as the best way to service their customers. It will be harder on the EHR vendor, but the EHR vendors that do this extra effort will have much happier users.

Hopefully this gives a decent overview of the Direct Project options. John Moehrke has a lot more technical details on the subject if you want to read more about those. I know he’s pretty active on Twitter, so I’ll ping him now to have him take a look at this post so I can add any clarifications if needed as well.

I’m excited to see the Direct Project in widespread use. I think the Direct Project vision has best been described as replacing the fax machine. The move to exchanging documents using direct will be a good step forward. Sure, it’s just the first step, but it’s an important and useful one.