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Can the Benefits of Hospitals Acquiring Practices Be Achieved By Other Means?

Posted on February 13, 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.

I’ve regularly talked about the current healthcare environment of hospitals acquiring physician practices. This trend is occurring at a really rapid rate, but in an email exchange I had recently with Dave Chase from Avado I started asking myself if the benefits of a consolidated group of providers could be achieved by other means.

At the core of the current trend is a little reimbursement loophole that many hospitals have been exploiting. I wrote about this loophole in a post on Hospital EMR and EHR called Reasons Hospitals Acquire Medical Practices. Considering this reimbursement loophole, I think there is a little that can be done to discourage hospitals that want to try and increase revenue through this loophole.

At some point Medicare is going to catch up with this and close the loophole. Once that happens, it’s worth considering the other benefits of being part of a large organization as opposed to being a solo practice. Plus, can those benefits be achieved through other means than fully acquiring a practice? This is particularly important as doctors that are currently working for hospitals choose to go back out on their own and for those organizations who haven’t already gotten on the practice acquiring bandwagon.

I think the most pressing reason that practices are interested in relationships with hospitals is based on the changing reimbursement models. It will be impossible to access the ACO money that’s coming without tight ties to a large number of organizations. One way to achieve this is for a healthcare organization to acquire all of the various healthcare organizations that will make up an ACO. I think that’s part of what we’re seeing now and I’ve discussed before how this might be the way hospitals avoid the cycle of doctors leaving. Although, we’re already seeing signs of doctors leaving for new medical models.

This seems like a pretty expensive proposition for hospitals to acquire practices just for the doctors to go back to private practice. Which makes me wonder if the benefits of an acquired practice can be achieved through software and relationships? As we’ve discussed before, interfaces in healthcare are quite hard to do. So, once you’ve been able to create that interface with a clinic or hospital, then you have some pretty solid lock in with that organization.

Although, I’m pretty sure that Dave Chase (which inspired this idea) would take this idea one step further. Imagine that most of the patients used one portal to interact with your local healthcare community. Could that portal facilitate your ACO efforts? Once the majority of patients are in that portal, will anyone in the community want to be somewhere else? There’s real lock in that can occur once patients are engaged with healthcare institutions. This occurs with the patients and with the healthcare organizations that are engaging with those patients.

I think it will be interesting to see if software can facilitate some of the same benefits to hospitals that they get from acquiring physician practices.

Health IT Positively Affects Childhood Obesity

Posted on 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.

According to a study done by Pediatrics recently, more than one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. That’s a very scare figure, because that definitely increases the child’s chance of diseases like type-2 diabetes, and adult obesity. The authors of the study also noted that childhood obesity is often times undertreated and goes undiagnosed. As sad as it is, I have seen this

The study set out to see if Health IT may improve the “quality, efficiency and reach of chronic disease management,” according to this article. According to another article about this study, some of the parts of the study that are most relevant towards health IT included that “telemedicine was as effective as in-person counseling at reducing BMI and that text messaging and phone support were associated with weight loss maintenance.”

Combating childhood obesity is something I am very passionate about. As a child, and into my teenage years, I could have been classified as extremely overweight — probably even obese. While I’ve worked very hard to beat the statistics, and get my weight down to a now healthy weight, it is something that truly has affected my entire life to this day. And the thing is, when I was at the unhealthy weight that I was, no one said anything. No doctor, my parents, or anyone. Sure, I was encouraged to take a PE class here and there, and perhaps not take seconds — but no one saw that problem for what it was. Because of the things I went through, I want more than anything to prevent my own children from becoming overweight themselves. Reading this study, and seeing how health IT can positively affect childhood obesity was neat. While I think too much screen time can really contribute to the problem, I’m glad that there efforts out there to try and get kids involved in their own health, particularly by using electronics — something that most kids love. I hope that more Health IT developers will see the importance of creating apps, programs, and devices geared toward children. I couldn’t find any, but it would be cool if there were exercise apps that kids could put on their iPods that are similar to ones that adults have, but that are geared toward exercises more children participate in.  In my research, I found a few health IT apps and websites aimed toward kids that I think could be helpful:

Food Hero:
This is a game that was created by HealthSocial, a non-profit project based at the Children’s Hospital in Boston. To win the game, the child must “become” a food hero. To do this, the child must make their character make healthy choices, like eating healthy food and exercising, and earning gold along the way. If the character eats too much, physical challenges become more difficult. However, if too little is eaten, the character has difficult participating as well. The goal is to ultimately eat healthy meals. It seems like this game would be a great visual for children to see what happens when you don’t have balanced meals.

Food ‘N Me:
This website was created to promote healthy living in children. It has interactive games, quizzes like “What Food Am I.” This quiz has the child choose the foods they have eaten throughout the day, and it gives a rating at the bottom of the screen, telling the child how balanced it was. At the end of the quiz, it tells you what kind of food you are, based on your choices. For instance, if you eat primarily grains, it will say you are a bagel. The website also features the game Smash Your Food, which is also available on mobile devices, and I’ll talk about next.

Smash Your Food:
This app was on Michelle Obama’s “Apps for Health Kids” contest. Whether the person is using it online or on a mobile device, it works about the same. You get to “smash” foods — from milkshakes, hamburgers, to healthy, homemade meals. — and it tells you what it is made of.  The goal of it is to encourage children (and their parents) to understand what is in their meals, and to make healthy choices at home and on the go. It can be accessed at the Food ‘N Me website, or downloaded for the iPhone or iPad here for 2.99.