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ONC Announces Winners Of FHIR App Challenge

Posted on August 3, 2016 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.

The ONC has announced the first wave of winners of two app challenges, both of which called for competitors to use FHIR standards and open APIs.

As I’ve noted previously, I’m skeptical that market forces can solve our industry’s broad interoperability problems, even if they’re supported and channeled by a neutral intermediary like ONC. But there’s little doubt that FHIR has the potential to provide some of the benefits of interoperability, as we’ll see below.

Winners of Phase 1 of the agency’s Consumer Health Data Aggregator Challenge, each of whom will receive a $15,000 award, included the following:

  • Green Circle Health’s platform is designed to provide a comprehensive family health dashboard covering the Common Clinical Data Set, using FHIR to transfer patient information. This app will also integrate patient-generated health data from connected devices such as wearables and sensors.
  • The Prevvy Family Health Assistant by HealthCentrix offers tools for managing a family’s health and wellness, as well as targeted data exchange. Prevvy uses both FHIR and Direct messaging with EMRs certified for Meaningful Use Stage 2.
  • Medyear’s mobile app uses FHIR to merge patient records from multiple sources, making them accessible through a single interface. It displays real-time EMR updates via a social media-style feed, as well as functions intended to make it simple to message or call clinicians.
  • The Locket app by MetroStar Systems pulls patient data from different EMRs together onto a single mobile device. Other Locket capabilities include paper-free check in and appointment scheduling and reminders.

ONC also announced winners of the Provider User Experience Challenge, each of whom will also get a $15,000 award. This part of the contest was dedicated to promoting the use of FHIR as well, but participants were asked to show how they could enhance providers’ EMR experience, specifically by making clinical workflows more intuitive, specific to clinical specialty and actionable, by making data accessible to apps through APIs. Winners include the following:

  • The Herald platform by Herald Health uses FHIR to highlight patient information most needed by clinicians. By integrating FHIT, Herald will offer alerts based on real-time EMR data.
  • PHRASE (Population Health Risk Assessment Support Engine) Health is creating a clinical decision support platform designed to better manage emerging illnesses, integrating more external data sources into the process of identifying at-risk patients and enabling the two-way exchange of information between providers and public health entities.
  • A partnership between the University of Utah Health Care, Intermountain Healthcare and Duke Health System is providing clinical decision support for timely diagnosis and management of newborn bilirubin according to evidence-based practice. The partners will integrate the app across each member’s EMR.
  • WellSheet has created a web application using machine learning and natural language processing to prioritize important information during a patient visit. Its algorithm simplifies workflows incorporating multiple data sources, including those enabled by FHIR. It then presents information in a single screen.

As I see it, the two contests don’t necessarily need to be run on separate tracks. After all, providers need aggregate data and consumers need prioritized, easy-to-navigate platforms. But either way, this effort seems to have been productive. I’m eager to see the winners of the next phase.

ONC Offers Two Interoperability Measures

Posted on July 14, 2016 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.

For a while now, it’s been unclear how federal regulators would measure whether the U.S. healthcare system was moving toward the “widespread interoperability” MACRA requires. But the wait is over, and after reviewing a bunch of comments, ONC has come through with some proposals that seem fairly reasonable at first glance.

According to a new blog entry from ONC, the agency has gotten almost 100 comments on how to address interoperability. These recommendations, the agency concluded, fell into four broad categories:

  • Don’t create any significant new reporting burdens for providers
  • Broaden the scope of interoperability measurements to include providers and individuals that are not eligible for Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentives
  • Create measures that examine usage and usefulness of exchanged information, as well as the impact on health outcomes, in addition to measuring the exchange itself
  • Recognize that given the complexity of measuring interoperability, it will take multiple data sources, and that more discussions will be necessary to create an effective model for such measurements

In response, ONC has come up with two core measures which address not only the comments, but also its own analysis and MACRA’s specific definitions of “widespread interoperability.”

  • Measure #1: Proportion of healthcare providers electronically engaging in the following core domains of interoperable exchange of health information: sending; receiving; finding (querying); and integrating information received outside sources.
  • Measure #2: Proportion of healthcare providers who report using information electronically received through outside providers and sources for clinical decision-making.

To measure these activities, ONC expects to be able to draw on existing national surveys of hospitals and office-based physicians. These include the American Hospital Association’s AHA Information Technology Supplement Survey and the CDC National Center for Health Statistics’ annual National Electronic Health Record Survey of office-based physicians.

The reasons ONC would like to use these data sources include that they are not limited to Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive program participants, and that both surveys have relatively high response rates.

I don’t know about you, but I was afraid things would be much worse. Measuring interoperability is quite difficult, given that just about everyone in the healthcare industry seems to have a slightly different take on what true interoperability actually is.

For example, there’s a fairly big gulf between those who feel interoperability only happens when all data flows from provider to provider, and those who feel that sharing a well-defined subset (such as that found in the Continuity of Care Document) would do the trick just fine. There is no way to address both of these models at the same time, much less the thousand shades of gray between the two extremes.

While its measures may not provide the final word on the subject, ONC has done a good job with the problem it was given, creating a model which is likely to be palatable to most of the parties involved. And that’s pretty unusual in the contentious world of health data interoperability. I hope the rollout goes equally well.

ONC Kicks Off Blockchain Whitepaper Contest

Posted on July 11, 2016 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.

Hold onto your hats, folks. The ONC has taken an official interest in blockchain technology, a move which suggests that it’s becoming a more mainstream technology in healthcare.

As you may know, blockchain is the backbone for the somewhat shadowy world of bitcoin, a “cryptocurrency” whose users can’t be traced. (For some of you, your first introduction to cryptocurrency may have been when a Hollywood, CA hospitals was forced to pay off ransomware demands with $17K in bitcoins.)

But despite its use by criminals, blockchain still has great potential for creating breakthroughs for legitimate businesses, notably banking and healthcare. Look at dispassionately, a blockchain is just a distributed database, one which maintains a continuously growing list with data records hardened against tampering and revision.

Right now, the most common use the blockchain is to serve as a public ledger of bitcoin transactions. But the concept is bubbling up in the healthcare world, with some even suggesting that blockchain should be used to tackle health data security problems.

And now, the ONC has shown interest in this technology, soliciting white papers that offer thoughtful take on how blockchain can help meet important healthcare industry objectives.

The whitepaper, which may not be no longer than 10 pages, must be submitted by July 29. (Want to participate, but don’t have time to write the paper yourself? Click here.Papers must discuss the cryptography and underlying fundamentals of blockchain technology, explain how the use of blockchain can meet industry interoperability needs, patient centered outcomes research, precision medicine and other healthcare delivery needs, as well as offering recommendations for blockchain’s implementation.

The ONC will choose eight winning papers from among the submissions. Winning authors will have an opportunity to present the paper at a Blockchain & Healthcare Workshop held at NIST headquarters in Gaithersburg, MD on September 26th and 27th.

In hosting this contest, ONC is lending blockchain approaches in healthcare a level of credibility they might not have had in the past. But there’s already a lot of discussion going on about blockchain applications for health IT.

So what are people talking about where blockchain IT is concerned? In one LinkedIn piece, consultant Peter Nichol argues that blockchain can address concerns around scalability and privacy electronic medical records. He also suggests that blockchain technology can provide patients with more sophisticated privacy control of their personal health information, for example, providers can enhance health data security by letting patients combine their own blockchain signature with a hospital’s signature.

But obviously, ONC leaders think there’s a lot more that can be done here. And I’m pretty confident that they’re right. While I’m no security or cryptocurrency expert, I know that when a technology has been kicked around for several years, and used for a sensitive function like financial exchange without racking up any major failures, it’s got to be pretty solid. I’m eager to see what people come up with!

The Real HIPAA Blog Series on Health IT Buzz

Posted on April 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.

If you’re not familiar with the Health IT Buzz blog, it’s the Health IT blog that’s done by ONC (Office of the National Coordinator). I always love to see the government organizations blogging. No doubt they’re careful about what they post on their blog, but it still provides some great insights into ONC’s perspective on health IT and where they might take future regulations and government rules.

A great example of this is the Real HIPAA series of blog posts that they posted back in February. Yes, I realize I’m behind, but I’ll blame it on HIMSS.

Here’s an overview of the series:

It’s a common misconception that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) makes it difficult, if not impossible, to move electronic health data when and where it is needed for patient care and health. This blog series and accompanying fact sheets aim to correct this misunderstanding so that health information is available when and where it is needed.

The blog series dives into the weeds a bit and so it won’t likely be read by the average doctor or nurse. However, it’s a great resource for HIPAA privacy officers, CIOs, CSOs, and others interested in healthcare interoperability. I can already see these blog posts being past around management teams as they discuss what data they’re allowed to share, with whom, and when.

What’s clear in the series is that ONC wants to communicate that HIPAA is meant to enable health data sharing and not discourage it. We all know people who have used HIPAA to stop sharing. We’ll see if we start seeing more people use it as a reason to share it with the right people at the right time and the right place.

Workflow Redesign Is Crucial to Adopting a New Health IT System – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on January 20, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Todd Stansfield, Instructional Writer from The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Todd Stansfield
Workflow analysis and redesign have long been touted as essential to health IT adoption. Most organizations recognize the importance of modifying current workflows to capitalize on efficiencies created by a new application and identify areas where the system must be customized to support existing workflows. Despite this recognition, there remains room for improvement. In fact, last month the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) identified the impact of new IT systems on clinical workflows as one of the biggest barriers to interoperability (ouch).

A successful redesign includes both an analysis of current workflows and desired future workflows.

Key stakeholders – direct and indirect – should take part in analyzing existing workflows. An objective third party should also be present to ask the right questions and facilitate the discussion. This team can collaborate to model important workflows, ideally in visual form to stimulate thorough analysis. To ensure an efficient and productive meeting, you should model workflows that are the most common, result in productivity losses, have both upstream and downstream consequences and involve multiple parties. The National Learning Consortium recommends focusing only on what occurs 80 percent of the time.

Once you document current workflows, you can set your sights on the future. Workflow redesign meetings are the next step; you need them to build a roadmap of activities leading up to a go-live event and beyond – from building the application to engaging and educating end users. Individuals from the original workflow analysis sessions should be included, and they should be joined by representatives from your health IT vendor (who can define the system’s capabilities) and members of your leadership team (who can answer questions and provide support).

After the initial go-live, you need to periodically perform workflow analysis and continue adjusting the roadmap to address changes to the application and processes.

Why should you spend all the time and effort to analyze and redesign workflows? Three reasons:

  1. It makes your organization proactive in your upcoming implementation and road to adoption. You’ll anticipate and avoid problems that will otherwise become bigger headaches.
  2. It’s the perfect opportunity to request customizations to adapt your application to desired workflows.
  3. It gives your staff a chance to mentally and emotionally prepare for a change to their daily habits, increasing buy-in and decreasing resistance to the switch.

Thorough and disciplined workflow redesign is an important step to adopting a new health IT application, but of course it’s not the only one. You’ll still need leadership to engage end users in the project, education that teaches learners how to use the new application to perform their workflow, performance metrics to evaluate adoption, and continual reinforcement of adoption initiatives as the application and workflows change over time.

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.

Insightful Tweets from Farzad Mostashari’s Session at #MGMA15

Posted on October 13, 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.

Today, Farzad Mostashari took the stage at the MGMA Annual Conference. As a man that I respect and someone that has deep connections and insights into what’s happening in Washington and how that plays out in actual practice (thanks to his ACO company), I was interested in the insights he’d share.

Here’s a quick Twitter roundup of some of the insights he shared:

The ONC Health IT Complaint Form That Has No Teeth

Posted on September 14, 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.

Neil Versel over on MedCityNews just reported that the ONC Healthcare IT Complain form that was announced on Friday is not working. If you go and visit the health IT complaint form, it just says “You are not authorized to access this page.”

While it’s quite ironic that the complaint form is down, I’m pretty sure it’s a simple fix. I’ve seen that error before on many websites and I’m guessing the ONC/HHS web people just need to make the form go live and then the page will load properly with the form.

I was discussing the irony of the form being down with Neil Versel on Facebook and I told him that I was more interested in what ONC is going to do with the complaints than whether the form was working or not. If ONC isn’t going to do anything with the complaints they receive, then the form might as well be down. Submitting a healthcare IT complaint to an organization that can do nothing about it might be a little cathartic, but not very much. In fact, over time it just leads to more anger that people have complained and nothing’s been done.

I asked Neil, “Do they [ONC] have any power to do anything?” He answered, “No. The HIT Safety Center they are working on is basically toothless.”

That’s been my impression as well. ONC would love to do something about it, but they don’t have many levers they can pull. The worst they could do is terminate an EHR’s certification, but they’ve been doing that already.

Neil and I did discuss that maybe all of the data they receive from their healthcare IT complaint form could be used to make a case for why they need more options available for them to punish bad actors in healthcare IT. As it is it seems the only thing they can offer healthcare IT complainers is some empathy. Of course, they can’t do that until they get their form working. Where’s the form I can fill out to let ONC know that their complaint form isn’t working?

Flow – A Spoken Word HIE Piece by Ross Martin

Posted on August 27, 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.

Want to see brilliance in action? Check out this spoken word piece about HIEs by Ross Martin.

Here’s the background Ross Martin shares about the piece:

On Monday, August 17th, 2015 I begin a new chapter as Program Director for the new Integrated Care Network initiative at CRISP, Maryland’s health information exchange. We will be providing data to healthcare providers to enhance their care coordination efforts and providing additional care coordination tools to some of those providers who don’t already have these capabilities in place.

To mark the transition, I decided to make a video of this spoken word piece I wrote in 2012 (originally entitled “A Man among Millions”) for my last day consulting for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT while I was working at Deloitte Consulting. This piece explains why I am so passionate about making health information exchange work for all of us.

I am grateful for the opportunity to make a difference with an amazing team of collaborators and look forward to providing updates on our progress over the coming months and years.

Words: http://rossmartinmd.blogspot.com/2015/08/flow.html

Great Meaningful Use and Eligible Providers Chat

Posted on April 29, 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.

I recently received an email from a regular reader, Dr. Mike, who owns a single specialty ortho group. In the email Dr. Mike talks about the challenges that Eligible Providers (EPs) are facing with meaningful use stage 2. He describes the story as falling on “deaf ears” at CMS and ONC. He also offered these stats on meaningful use to illustrate his case that meaningful use is a failure:

Only 38,472 have attested to Stage 2, My guess is that only about half actually did Stage 2 as there was the Stage 1 reprieve. Even so, that is only 18% of EPs have successfully attested which is an complete failure of MU.

Then, he asked me an important question:

Someone ask CMS and ONC the tough questions please…Now what are they going to do?

In response to him, I told him that I’d been talking about the challenge that meaningful use is for doctors for quite a while. However, I also told him that most hospitals are participating in meaningful use, so “we’ll see how that plays out.” What I meant is that in the meaningful use program we now have one group (EPs) that are not doing so well with meaningful use and their hospital counterparts that are relying on the millions in EHR incentive money (not to mention avoiding the penalties).

Then I answered his important question, “I can tell you what ONC and CMS are going to do. Spin It!”

Of course, Dr. Mike is great at engaging in conversation so he offered this reply:

1. Elizabeth Myers and the rest of CMS and ONC really did try to spin every bad number and “we cannot assess the numbers yet” was a constant theme.
2. I totally agree they will continue to try to spin the numbers or ignore them as long as possible. I’m not sure why they cannot face the truth about MU.
3. The 36K that did MU 2 are the cream of the crop. I would even argue that the other 82% are the cream also as they were the early adopters and gung ho about MU. The fact that 82% of the over achieving EPs have skipped out on MU 2 is a travesty. There is NO chance ONC and CMS is going to pull in the lagging EPs.
4. If you don’t know already, I own a single specialty Ortho group and we skipped MU completely after we saw the MU 2 rules. Proposed MU 3 just help us box it up and bury it.

I have no idea why ONC and CMS cannot let go of the program, let EHR vendors actually work with EPs for all the thing we are missing from our IT (usability, safety, security, efficiency). Right now we cannot do anything to customize our workflow or improve our experience as it will potentially decertify the EHR for MU. MU sucks all the air out of the room. EHRs right now are a billing and click box for MU system with a marginal clinical system slapped on…

Its about time ONC lets the market do its thing, instead of this constant objective, measures, menu, core, numerators, denominators, attesting, auditing disaster they created.

Once EPs leave the program, they are not coming back. So this should be a big deal for ONC and CMS.

I haven’t gone in and fact checked his numbers (I’d love to hear if you have different numbers), but the emotion in his comments is something I’ve heard from many providers. In fact, I’ve heard it from many EHR vendors. They’re tired of coding their EHR software to the test and the government regulations as well. They want to do more innovative things, but the government regulations are stifling their ability to do it. Resources only go so far.

I think we’re in the early days of provider discontent with meaningful use. However, it’s starting to boil. I’ll be interested to see what happens when it boils over. I’m predicting that will happen once many of these doctors start seeing the penalties hit their pocketbooks.

Are Changes to Meaningful Use Certification Coming?

Posted on February 10, 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.

I’d been meaning to write about the now infamous letter from the AMA and 20 other associations and organizations to Karen DeSalvo (ONC Chair and Assistant HHS Secretary). I’ve put a list of the organizations and associations that co-signed the letter at the bottom of this post. It’s quite the list.

In the letter they make these recommended changes to the EHR certification program:

1. Decouple EHR certification from the Meaningful Use program;
2. Re-consider alternative software testing methods;
3. Establish greater transparency and uniformity on UCD testing and process results;
4. Incorporate exception handling into EHR certification;
5. Develop C-CDA guidance and tests to support exchange;
6. Seek further stakeholder feedback; and
7. Increase education on EHR implementation.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that many of these suggestions can be done by Karen and ONC. For example, I believe it will take an act of Congress in order to decouple EHR certification from the meaningful use program. I don’t think ONC has the authority to just change that since they’re bound by legislation.

What I do think they could do is dramatically simplify the EHR certification requirements. Some might try to spin it as making the EHR certification irrelevant, but it would actually make the EHR certification more relevant. If it was focused on just a few important things that actually tested the EHR properly for those things, then people would be much more interested in the EHR certification and it’s success. As it is now, most people just see EHR certification as a way to get EHR incentive money.

I’ll be interested to see if we see any changes in EHR certification. Unfortunately, the government rarely does things to decrease regulation. In some ways, if ONC decreases what EHR certification means, then they’re putting their colleagues out of a job. My only glimmer of hope is that meaningful use stage 3 will become much more simpler and because of that, EHR certification that matches MU stage 3 will be simpler as well. Although, I’m not holding my breathe.

What do you think will happen to EHR certification going forward?

Organizations and Associations that Signed the Letter:
American Medical Association
AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
American Academy of Dermatology Association
American Academy of Facial Plastic
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Home Care Medicine
American Academy of Neurology
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
American College of Emergency Physicians
American College of Osteopathic Surgeons
American College of Physicians
American College of Surgeons
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Osteopathic Association
American Society for Radiology and Oncology
American Society of Anesthesiologists
American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and Reconstructive Surgery
American Society of Clinical Oncology
American Society of Nephrology
College of Healthcare Information Management Executives
Congress of Neurological Surgeons
Heart Rhythm Society
Joint Council on Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Medical Group Management Association
National Association of Spine Specialists
Renal Physicians Association
Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions
Society for Vascular Surgery