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Why PaaS is the Future of Healthcare

Posted on July 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.

The following is a guest post by Anil Kottoor, president and CEO of MedHOK.

The need for improved data management and quality reporting is increasing exponentially as various healthcare reform measures take effect. From hospitals and physicians participating in Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans looking to improve their Star ratings, it seems that no healthcare sector is exempt from this litany of change.

Take for instance ACO participants. While the newly formed care model promises to improve care coordination and cut costs, doing so requires that providers invest in patient population management platforms capable of collecting and sharing patient information across the continuum of care.

Similarly, Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans are seeking out platforms capable of monitoring and tracking quality metrics. That is because under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS’) continually evolving Five Star Rating System, the pressure is on to improve quality or miss out on incentives such as year-round enrollment under a newly created special election period.

Despite the system-wide need for these advanced technology tools, few organizations have the resources necessary to invest in the hardware and software required to manage and track patient information and quality metrics. Small- to medium-sized businesses in particular are finding that they simply do not have the space or technical expertise to house and manage additional servers in-house.

As a result, many providers are seeking alternative solutions to their data management needs.

Software-as-a-Service Model

Perhaps the most well-known alternative to purchasing costly hardware and software is the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, which provides organizations with the software they need via intuitive web interfaces. By eliminating the need for upfront hardware investments and ongoing maintenance costs, cloud-based software eliminates the hefty cost barrier that many providers face with their IT infrastructure investments.

Further, unlike traditional software, SaaS-based solutions do not require the purchase of multiple licenses across the organization. Most subscriptions can be tailored to the organization’s user needs and customized as staff size fluctuates. In addition, because software is hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available over the Internet, users can access information anywhere with Internet access.

However, while the SaaS model has experienced a rise in popularity over the last several years, the reality is that it does not provide the holistic approach to care and quality management that healthcare organizations desire. That is because many organizations must subscribe to a number of SaaS-based solutions to meet their data management needs. As a result, information is stored in multiple silos across their various vendor networks.

Platform-as-a-Service Model

This has given rise to the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) model. In essence, PaaS provides users with both the SaaS-based solution and industry-specific application platform or operating system they need to manage data needs. For healthcare organizations that utilize various software solutions, this means that all of their solutions and the accompanying information can be found within the same user-friendly interface, thus removing the silos inherent in the SaaS model and streamlining information management and sharing.

In other words, PaaS provides all the benefits of SaaS with the added convenience of having all products within the same platform. Because these solutions are compatible with most existing software solutions, including electronic medical records (EMRs), they also eliminate the need to “rip and replace” systems that providers have grown comfortable using.

Unlike traditional IT infrastructures, PaaS solutions can be rapidly deployed to meet healthcare organizations’ comprehensive patient population management and data tracking needs. In fact, where traditional software solutions may take up to two years to implement, PaaS-based solutions can take as little as 90 days. Further, because PaaS providers manage both the software and the infrastructure, organizations can easily scale offerings to manage an increase – or decrease – in patient population.

Finally, because the PaaS models allows software to be deployed as individual modules or comprehensive end-to-end solutions, providers can easily add or remove products as the customer’s needs change. This also eliminates the need for investment in long-term technology strategy that may be outdated before the phase ever goes live.

The Future of Healthcare

The reality is that healthcare reform is rapidly changing the business of healthcare as new regulations and requirements continually roll out. To remain competitive in today’s market, health plans must remain extremely agile, and be willing to upgrade their software and reporting solutions before requirements are fully defined. However, doing so often requires a hefty upfront investment and a great deal of risk for those organizations that do not have the internal resources to manage the evolution of the required technology.

PaaS removes both of these obstacles and provides organizations with the agility and flexibility needed to rapidly respond to regulatory and market changes. Further, by leaving all of the heavy lifting up to a software vendor who specializes in holistic healthcare data management on a single platform, providers can focus their time and efforts on what matters most – the patient, who at the end of the day is the true consumer of healthcare.

Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman Interviewed at HIMSS

Posted on April 14, 2009 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 finally had a few moments to watch the Matthew Holt interview of Glen Tullman, Allscripts CEO at HIMSS. Allscripts is no doubt a large player in the EHR industry (like it or not). This is especially true after Allscripts acquisition of Misys. So, Glen Tullman will have a large effect on the EHR industry so it’s worth listening to hear what he has to say. I’ll include a few quick comments of my own below the video.

Overall a pretty low key video. There were a few things that are worth commenting on.

The first thing that hit me was that Glen Tullman thought that the controversy over CCHIT was that CCHIT certified over 300 EHR vendors. Glen makes the argument that government wants a smaller footprint of EHR vendors and that 300 was too many. I guess I can kind of see why government might not want to certify 300 EHR providers since doctors just don’t have time to look through that many. However, it was the first I’d heard of that CCHIT controversy.

What does make a lot of sense is why the CEO of one of the largest EHR vendors would want the certified EHR vendor list to be a really small list that includes them. So, it would make sense for him to lobby the government to keep the list small.

I’m glad that Matthew Holt brought up at least another reason that CCHIT as the EHR certification is a problem. How about you just start with the controversy that CCHIT certification doesn’t provide benefit to doctors. Solve that one and we can find a way to deal with any other CCHIT controversies.

Of course, at the end Glen Tullman also said “CCHIT has done it [EHR certification] very effectively.” Effectively? Seriously? Can he provide me some data on how effective it is? It might be effective for his organization’s interests. So, maybe that’s what he meant.

Glen Tullman did make a great comment about SAAS EHR versus client server EHR. He basically said that most users don’t know the technology behind SAAS EHR and client server EHR. Glen suggested that most users just know the financing model of the two EHR options. A very fine point. I’d just add that they know the financing part AND the IT support part of the equation (ie. SAAS EHR means you [the EHR vendor] do the IT. Great!) Glen does seem to understand how to sell an EHR product to his customers.

There you go, there’s my quick comments. What can I say? I type fast.

When a SAAS EHR Software Goes Belly Up

Posted on February 13, 2009 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 posted my belief that the EMR and EHR industry is about to shrink. This can happen in a number of ways, but will most often happen through either a merger or a company just closing its doors.

There are definite challenges associated when your EMR or EHR company gets merged into another company. I’ll save those discussions for a future post (or would welcome a guest blogger to write about their experience with it), but in this post I just wanted to raise awareness about what could happen if the company hosting your SAAS EHR goes belly up.

When selecting an SAAS EHR, it is important to learn how the EHR company is funded. Depending on how your company is funded will give you a good idea of how long they’ll be around. A company that is running off of venture capital funding or new sales could run into real troubles in this current economic crisis. Once an EHR company runs out of money they’ll generally have the choices listed above: sale/merge the company and assets or shut down the company. Of course, an EHR company that is structured to survive on reoccurring revenue is in a much stronger position financially and will weather the economic crisis better.  In a future post I’ll discuss some warning flags that might indicate that your EHR company is in trouble.

Imagine what effect it would have on your clinic if your hosted SAAS EHR were to close their doors.  An EHR becomes as integral to a practice as breathing.  You can only hold your breathe so long before you start experiencing some major consequences.  Have you thought about a plan in case this happens to your EHR company?  Do you even have the rights to the data in your SAAS EHR company?  What would you do with that data if God forbid, the company was going to shut down?

The good news is that I believe most SAAS EHR companies will try to give you at least some notice before shutting down the company.  However, you shouldn’t expect more than a month’s notice.  If a company is shutting its doors, then every month their in business their losing more and more money.  So, you better be prepared with a plan of what you’ll do in the event this happens.

Unfortunately, mergers or sales aren’t that much better than a company shutting down.  Depends on the merger or sale, but often the software from the company being purchased goes from being highly developed to mostly maintained.  Help requests will often go unanswered or at least a delayed response while the companies figure out the best way to merge the two companies.

Planning for this even is even more serious when using a SAAS EHR software.  In a hosted EHR situation, even if the company goes under you can still use the EHR for as long as you want.  You just won’t get support if something goes wrong with the software.  This gives you a longer runway to be able to plan the move to another EHR system.  An SAAS EHR software has a much shorter runway to make a change.

I wish these things weren’t a reality.  It would be nice to think that every EHR company is going to do great and be around forever.  However, it’s just not the case.  EHR companies of any sort are still a software company.  In fact, many are startup software companies and the statistics don’t lie that the majority of software startup companies fail.  Are you prepared in case your EHR company fails?

Making the Switch to Web-based Medical Practice Management

Posted on January 22, 2009 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 invited the President and Owner of Great Acclaim LLC to do a guest post for this blog talking about the benefits of switching to a web based medical practice management. The hope was to illustrate the increased reimbursement that can be achieved by using a well managed practice management software (or SAAS – Software as a Service).

This blog has focused a lot on EMR and EHR, but hasn’t focused enough on the benefits of an electronic practice management service. The following guest post from Dan Williams will hopefully shed some more light on the benefits of a web based medical practice management implementation.

Guest Post by Dan Williams
Physicians face an array of options linked with the decision to switch to Web-based practice management solutions. Like EMR implementation, some doctors are reluctant to make the switch, citing reasons such as fear of change, fear of commitment to a provider, or fear of investment (“it’s just too costly”). However, once practice managers understand the value of a Web-based solution, and how that solution can easily and immediately lower claim rejection percentages, the fears will be seen as unwarranted.

With an industry average of nearly 30% in third party claims rejection, a client-server model cannot keep up with the constant process and coding changes the insurance companies are introducing into the reimbursement system. There are millions of coding combinations and they change regularly. Many doctors hire out to manage the business aspects of their practices, and may not even realize how much money they are losing through poor management, security threats, or simple ignorance of the solutions available. Medical professionals are accustomed to trusting in the newest proven advances to solve medical problems for their patients. It’s time they trust proven technological advances to solve business problems as well.

After firing their previous outsourced billing providers, several Seattle-area physicians’ practices recently hired Great Acclaim, a specialized outsourced medical billing firm, to handle billing functions. The firm had selected AdvancedMD practice management software based on its Web-based model and customer average of fewer than 5% rejected reimbursement claims. Using this Web-based practice management software, client monthly deposits and reimbursements increased by 50%, as fewer claims were denied and electronic financial transfers (EFTs) now account for 75% of insurance company payments.

Practice management software simplifies staff workflow by combining billing, scheduling and EMR functions. With no need to purchase additional hardware, install server-based software or perform manual data back-ups, initial investment is low, while ROI is maximized. Many practices and billing services find that the need for human review of claims and therefore, the number of man hours required to perform office functions is reduced, leading to greater efficiency and higher profits.

After initial setup and training all of its clients’ staff with the same software, Great Acclaim has eliminated integration obstacles. Nothing gets lost in paper transfers. From a new patient’s first appointment, physicians and their staff have access to the same information as Great Acclaim does through the Web-based model – anytime and anywhere.

Not only have client practices’ workflows improved since making the switch, but they no longer face a high financial security risk, as those receiving payments aren’t the same individuals who manage the billing. The software is designed to inhibit fraud. All of this equals less risk and more rewards for physicians. Or, as Great Acclaim’s clients have concluded: 50% higher returns for the same effort on the part of doctors—a great deal.

Dan Williams, a former software industry expert, is the President and Owner of Seattle-area outsourced medical billing firm Great Acclaim LLC.