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Communication With Providers, Patient Alert Fatigue, and #HealthIT — #HITsm Chat Highlights

Posted on April 6, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

#HITsm T1: How do you WANT to communicate with your healthcare provider? How does it differ from what’s available?

 

#HITsm T2: How can we avoid patient alert fatigue as we move toward engaged care and #mHealth acceptance?

 

#HITsm T3: Will the shortage of qualified #healthIT professionals to fill openings force a delay in meeting Meaningful Use requirements?

 

#HITsm T4: Open Forum> What #healthIT topic has interested you most this week?

Patient Safety, Interoperability, and Resolutions: #HITsm Chat Highlights

Posted on January 12, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Topic One: The ONC wants public comment on its #healthIT patient safety action plan. What oversight is needed to improve patient safety?

Topic Two: Why don’t we share our clinical info/data? Are you your own #HIE?

Topic Three: What is your definition of healthcare interoperability? How will you know when it becomes reality? 

Topic Four: Resolution check: If you are working at making changes to start 2013, what technology is helping the most?

Topic Five: Free for all: What #healthIT issue captured your interest this week?

Yes, Healthcare IT Adoption Is Expensive AND Painful!

Posted on December 4, 2012 I Written By

Mandi Bishop is a healthcare IT consultant and a hardcore data geek with a Master's in English and a passion for big data analytics, who fell in love with her PCjr at 9 when she learned to program in BASIC. Individual accountability zealot, patient engagement advocate, innovation lover and ceaseless dreamer. Relentless in pursuit of answers to the question: "How do we GET there from here?" More byte-sized commentary on Twitter: @MandiBPro.

<Mandi’s Rant>

Few topics infuriate me as much as the notion that national standards-based implementation and adoption of healthcare IT should be cheap and easy. Haven’t we all heard the adage, “You can only have things done two of three ways: fast, cheap, or well”? Considering that the “thing” we’re trying to do is revolutionize the healthcare industry, the effects of which may be felt in each and every one of our lives at some point, don’t you want to include “well” as the bare minimum of what is required? After all, this is YOUR electronic health record, YOUR data, YOUR treatment plan and effectiveness measurements. So, what’s the other way we want this “thing” done: fast or cheap?

We’re talking about an industry that takes an average of 17 YEARS to put significant medical discoveries into routine patient care practice. (Numerous sources confirm this: The Healthcare Singularity and the Age of Semantic Medicine Translating Research into Public Health Action, etc.)

17 years is an entire generation of doctors. Doogie Howser could have been born, graduated med school, and begun to practice medicince by the time any insights from his birth were applied to practice. Suffice it to say, “fast” is not a way that healthcare is used to doing a “thing”.

Let’s contrast that with the information technology industry’s acceptance of iterative development releases and planned obsolescence for enterprise AND consumer assets. The big boys (Oracle, IBM, etc.) generally cease support of older products between 7-10 years after their introduction. Your company’s AS/400 server hardware may be 15 years old, but the O/S is the latest release, and all the data on the legacy server is preserved with the latest in backup packages over a wire-speed network connection. How long have you had your laptop? How frequently have you updated your Facebook app this year?

If someone tried to sell you a 17 year-old 480DX PC with a 9600 baud modem, 5″ floppy disk, 64MB RAM, running Windows 3.11 using the argument that, although much newer, faster, cheaper, more effective technology is available it is not yet PROVEN, would you buy it?

So, healthcare – an industry which moves at the speed of 17 years of Doogie Howser medical student maturity, and technology – an industry reinvented with the introduction of the iPhone in June of 2007, are at a crossroads for how to accomplish this “thing”: developing, implementing, and widely adopting national standards-based healthcare IT within mandated timelines that fall well within the next 10 years.

It must be done “fast”, relative to the usual pace of healthcare change.

And it must be done “well”, because it is OUR health at stake.

Suffice it to say, it will not be “cheap”. And my momma always told me that nothing worth doing is easy.

We have to stop whining about how costly and hard it is to turn this ship, and start working with the ONC on how to make healthcare IT better, faster, and ultimately more meaningful to all stakeholders involved in its use.

</Mandi’s Rant>

Will EMR Adoption Bankrupt Medicare?

Posted on November 27, 2012 I Written By

Mandi Bishop is a healthcare IT consultant and a hardcore data geek with a Master's in English and a passion for big data analytics, who fell in love with her PCjr at 9 when she learned to program in BASIC. Individual accountability zealot, patient engagement advocate, innovation lover and ceaseless dreamer. Relentless in pursuit of answers to the question: "How do we GET there from here?" More byte-sized commentary on Twitter: @MandiBPro.

Much hullaballoo is made over the 47% increase in Medicare payments from 2006-2010, which some seem eager to attribute to the adoption of EMR. The outcry is understandable; a 47% increase is a big dang deal, and taxpayers should be concerned. But haven’t we all heard that statistics lie?

“Hospitals received $1 billion more in Medicare reimbursements in 2010 than they did five years earlier, at least in part by changing the billing codes they assign to patients in emergency rooms,” cited the New York Times based on analysis of Medicare data from American Hospital Directory. Indeed, billing codes have changed from 2006-2010, in accordance with the HCPCS (Health Care Procedure Coding System) reform of CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) application and inclusion guidelines, cited here: HCPCS Reform from CMS. Healthcare industry growth and care advances drove an increase from 50 – 300 new CPT code annual applications between 1994-2004, leading to sweeping change in the review and adoption process starting in 2005 – including elimination of market data requirements for drugs.

Think about that for a second. If Pharma no longer has to submit 6 months of marketing data prior to applying for an official billing code, how many new CPT codes – and resultant billing opportunities – do you think have been generated by drugs alone since that HCPCS process change adoption in 2005? Which leads me to my next correlating fact: the most significant Medicare Part D prescription drug provisions did not start until 2006.

Let’s put two and two together: Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage (2006) + change in HCPCS billing code request process to speed drugs to market adoption (2005) = significant increase in Medicare reimbursements. To use the NYT analyst language, “in part”, administration of those drugs occurs in an emergency room. And who might be in the ER on a regular basis? I’ll give you a hint: “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”

Perhaps the most profound contributor to this Medicare reimbursement increase is a recent dramatic rise in the Medicare-eligible population. Per the National Institute on Aging’s 65+ in the United States: 2005, the 65+ population is expected to double in size between 2005 and 2030 – by which point, 20% of the US will be of eligible age. The over-85 age group, as of 2005, was the fastest-growing population segment. Elderly people who are prone to chronic conditions as well as acute care events just might lead to higher Medicare reimbursements.

Of course, there are myriad contributing factors. Some industry analysts attribute the rise in Medicare claims cost to fraud, citing that the workflow efficiencies that the EMR technology provide allow for easy skimming. Activities such as “cloning”, or copying and pasting procedures from one patient to the next with minimal keystrokes within the EMR software, might contribute to false claim filing for procedures that were never performed. While the nefarious practice of Medicare fraud long predates EMR, the opportunity to scale one’s fraudulent operations to statistically relevant proportions increases significantly with automation. And as my mother always told me, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bushel.

But how many bad apples would it take to spoil a multi-billion dollar bushel to the tune of a 47% cost increase? According to the NYT article, “The most aggressive billing — by just 1,700 of the more than 440,000 doctors in the country — cost Medicare as much as $100 million in 2010 alone,” and the increase in billing activity for each of those 1700 occurred post-EMR adoption. After all, “hospitals that received government incentives to adopt electronic records showed a 47 percent rise in Medicare payments…compared with a 32 percent rise in hospitals that have not received any government incentives.”

Wait, did that statistic just indicate a significant increase in Medicare reimbursements, across the board? So the differential between those providers who have received government incentives for EMR adoption, and those who have not, is 15%. The representative facilities and providers responded to the “aggressive billing” accusation by indicating that they had 1) more accurate billing mechanisms, 2) higher patient need for billable services. I’ll buy that. Sure, it’s likely that there is Medicare fraud happening, but that’s not new – it’s unfortunate that there will always be ways to game the system, whether manual or electronic. But is the increase in “fraud” pre and post-EMR adoption statistically relevant?

Considering the complex variables involved, I’ll chalk up the 15% increase to the combination of more specific billing practices, Medicare Part D drug provisions, an aging population and the health issues which accompany it, and not vilify the technology which facilitates further advances. Let the EMR adoption expansion continue!