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Eyes Wide Shut – Managing Multi-EMR Meaningful Use Stage 2 Is Hard

Posted on October 2, 2013 I Written By

Mandi Bishop is a hardcore health data geek with a Master's in English and a passion for big data analytics, which she brings to her role as Dell Health’s Analytics Solutions Lead. She 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.

Most discussions on Meaningful Use (MU) seem to focus on a single healthcare provider organization (acute or ambulatory), with a single EMR, and a single Medical Record Number (MRN) pool generating unique patient identifiers. Even in that context, the complaints of the difficulties of successfully implementing the technology and obtaining the objectives are deafening. How daunting might those challenges seem, multiplied across a large integrated delivery network (IDN), attempting to make enterprise-wide technology and operational process decisions, in alignment with MU incentive objectives?

Imagine you are an IDN with 9 hospital facilities, sharing a single EMR. You also have 67 ambulatory practices, with 7 additional EMRs. You’ve made the progressive choice to implement a private health information exchange (HIE) to make clinical summary data available throughout the IDN, creating a patient-centric environment conducive to improved care coordination. To properly engage patients across the IDN and give them the best user experience possible, you’ve purchased an enterprise portal product that is not tethered to an EMR, and instead sources from the HIE. And because you’ve factored the MU incentive dollars into the budget which enabled these purchasing decisions, there is no choice but to achieve the core and select menu measures for 2014.

It is now October 2013. The first quarter you’ve chosen to gather Stage 2 attestation data starts on April 1, 2014. All your technology and process changes must be ready by the data capture start date, in order to have the best opportunity to achieve the objectives. Once data capture begins, you have 90 days to “check the box” for each MU measure.

Tech check: are all the EMRs in your IDN considered Certified Electronic Health Records Technology (CEHRT) for the 2014 measures?

Your acute EMR is currently 2 versions behind the newly-released MU 2014-certified version; it is scheduled to complete the upgrade in November 2013. Your highest-volume ambulatory EMR is also 2 versions behind the 2014-certified version, and it cannot be upgraded until March 2014 due to vendor resource constraints. Your cardiology EMR cannot be upgraded until June due to significant workflow differences between versions, impacting those providers still completing Stage 1 attestation. One of your EMRs cannot give you a certification date for its 2014 edition, and cannot provide an implementation date for the certified version. The enterprise portal product has been 2014-certified as a modular EMR, but the upgrade to the certified version is not available until February 2014.

Clearly, your timeline to successfully test and implement the multitude of EMR upgrades required prior to your attestation date is at risk.

Each EMR might be certified, but will it be able to meet the measures out of the box?

Once upgraded to the 2014 version, your acute EMR must generate Summary of Care C-CDA documents and transmit them to an external provider, via the Direct transfer protocol. Your ambulatory EMRs must generate Transition of Care C-CDA documents and use the same Direct protocol to transmit. But did you purchase the Direct module when you signed your EMR contract, or maintenance agreement?

Did you check to see whether the Direct module that has been certified with the EMR is also an accredited member of DirectTrust?

Did you know that some EMRs have Direct modules that can ONLY transmit data to DirectTrust-accredited modules?

You determine your acute EMR will only send to EMRs with DirectTrust-accredited modules, and that you only have a single ambulatory EMR meeting this criteria. That ambulatory EMR is not the primary target for post-acute care referral.

You have no control over the EMRs of providers outside the IDN, who represent more than 20% of your specialist referrals.

Your 10% electronic submission of Summary of Care C-CDA documents via Direct protocol measure is at risk.

Is your organization prepared to manage the changes required to support the 2014 measures?

This is a triple-legged stool consideration: people, process, and technology must all align for change to be effective. To identify the process changes required, and the people needed to support those processes, you must understand the technology that will be driving this change. Of all the EMRs in your organization, only 2 have provided product specifications, release notes, and user guides for their 2014-certified editions.

Requests for documentation about UI, data, or workflow changes in the 2014 versions are met with vague responses, “We will ask product management and get back to you on that.” Without information on the workflow changes, you cannot identify process changes. Without process change recognition, you cannot properly identify people required to execute the processes. You are left completely in the dark until such time as the vendors see fit to release not only the product, but the documentation supporting the product.

Clearly, your enterprise program for Meaningful Use Stage 2 health IT implementation and adoption is at risk.

What is the likelihood that your Meaningful Use Stage 2 attestation will be a successful endeavor for the enterprise?

As a program manager, I would put this effort in flaming red status, due to the multitude of risks and external dependencies over which the IDN organization has zero control. I’d apply that same stoplight scorecard rating to the MU Stage 2 initiative. There is simply too much risk and too many variables outside the provider’s control to execute this plan effectively, without incurring negative impacts to patient care.

The ONC never said Meaningful Use would be easy, but does it have to be this hard?

CIO Reveals Secrets to HIE

Posted on July 3, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Inspira Health Network is a community health system comprising three hospitals in southern New Jersey, with more than 5,000 employees and 800 affiliated physicians. It is an early adopter of health information exchange technology. In this Q&A-style paper their CIO and Director of Ambulatory Informatics share secrets to their successful Health Information Exchange implementation.

One of the most impressive numbers from their HIE implementation is that they were able to get 600 providers using the portal and 36 EMRs connected. Plus, they were able to get their HIE up and running in 4 months while many of the public HIEs were still working on their implementations. As I’ve written about previously, I see a lot of potential in the Private HIE. So, it’s great to see a first hand account from a CIO about their private HIE implementation.

Here are some of the other benefits the CIO identifies in the paper:

  • Ties the Physician Community to the Organization
  • Helps Meet the Meaningful Use Patient Engagement Requirements
  • Helps Address Care Coordination Requirements
  • Paper, Postage, and Staff Resource Savings
  • Improve Patient Length of Stay

Check out the full Q&A for a lot of other insights including rolling out the HIE to doctors who have an EMR and those who don’t. I also love that the CIO confirmed that the biggest technical challenge is that every EHR vendor has interpreted the HL7 standard differently based on the technical limitations of the application. This is why I’m so impressed that they were able to get 36 EMRs connected.

I hope more CIOs will share their stories of success. We’ve heard enough bad news in healthcare IT. I want to cover more health IT success stories.

Private HIE’s Will Make Nationwide HIE Possible

Posted on June 14, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’ve been working for a long time on creating a nationwide HIE. I still remember when I first started blogging about EMR 7.5 years ago we were talking about implementing RHIO’s. I’m sure someone reading this blog can talk about what the exchange of health data was before RHIO’s. The irony is that we keep talking about creating this beautiful exchange of information, but it never really becomes a reality.

As I look at the landscape, there are very few HIEs that are showing a viable business model. The two leaders I think are probably the Indiana HIE and the Maine HIE. They seem to be the two making the most progress. I think there’s also something going on in Massachusetts, but it’s so complicated of a healthcare environment that I’m not sure how much is reality and hyperbole.

With those exceptions, I’m mostly seeing a lot of talk about some sort of community HIE and not very much action. However, I am seeing quite a few organizations starting to take the idea of a private HIE quite seriously. I’m not sure if this is driven by ACOs, by hospital consolidation, or some other force, but the move to implement a private HIE is happening in many health systems.

For a lot of reasons this makes sense. There is a business reason to create a private HIE and you own all the endpoints, so it’s easier to create consensus.

As I look across the landscape, I think these private HIEs could be what makes the nationwide HIE possible. Once a whole series of large private HIEs are in place, then it’s much easier to just connect the private HIEs than it is to try and connect each of the individual healthcare organizations.

Watch for the major hospital CIOs to meet at events like CHIME or HIMSS and discuss connecting their private HIEs. It will create some unlikely relationships, but it could be our greatest hope for a nationwide HIE.

Good Luck With That HIE Tech Purchase

Posted on June 21, 2012 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.

Want to buy HIE technology?  It’ll cost you. But more importantly, you’ll still be dealing with a bewildering array of choices, if a new report from KLAS has it right.

According to KLAS, which asked 95 providers about their HIE buying plans, there were a few clear leaders in the field.  Providers surveyed by KLAS reviewed 38 HIE vendor offerings.  Of those, five HIE vendors were considered in more than 10 percent of the providers’ buying plans, researchers found.

If there was a clear leader, it was Medicity, which was considered in 23 percent of HIE buying decisions, according to a report from Healthcare IT News.  Next was Axolotl, with 22 percent; RelayHealth, with 16  percent; ICA, with 11 percent, and Epic, also with 11 percent. (Note: Epic was only being considered seriously when providers want to tie together multiple Epic installations.)

Looked at another way — by vendors mentioned most frequently by providers — the leaders were Axolotl, Cerner, dbMotion (part owned by the University of Pittburgh Medical Center), Epic, GE, ICA, InterSystems, Medicity, Orion and RelayHealth.

If you want to really fit the HIE to your situation, consider the following criteria, the HIN story suggests:

  • Public HIEs – A public exchange may belong to official state agencies or may be semi-independent with direct and typically temporary government backing. Public HIEs demand solutions with strong potential scalability and need standards-based technology.
  • Cooperative HIEs – In this model, otherwise-competitive hospitals work together to form independent HIE organizations, generally with an open invitation to other hospitals, clinics and physician practices. These HIEs often struggle to establish long-term funding and look for vendor solutions that offer flexible and affordable cost alternatives while best adapting diverse EMR technologies.
  • Private HIEs – In some respects, private HIEs are designed to enhance relationships as well as exchange data. Often, a single hospital or IDN creates an HIE hoping to draw in community physicians while protecting or increasing revenues. Funding is less complicated and these HIEs are more likely to be satisfied with solutions that best work with their existing technology.

The truth is, though, that whatever model best fits your HIE purchase, narrowing things down to your short-list isn’t as easy as just picking from KLAS’s top contenders.  Even these leaders have a moderate to tenuous grip on the market, and may or may not have the solution that fits your model. (Note: I’m familiar with Axolotl and Orion, both of which have what may be some of the longest-deployed tech out there, but I can’t vouch that they’re exactly better than anyone else.)

If it were me, I’d look at lesser-known, strongly-backed folks focused directly on the problem. Then, I’d do a co-development program with them so both win.  Got other ideas to share readers?