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What Happened with EMR and Health IT in 2013?

Posted on December 31, 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.

As we wrap up 2013, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the major things that happened in 2013. They will be topics you’re very familiar with, but hopefully this will tie a nice bow on the top of 2013 as we look towards 2014.

ICD-10 Got Real – There are still many organizations that aren’t focusing on ICD-10 or that are underestimating it, but for the most part I’m seeing a lot of concern around ICD-10. I’ve started a whole series on ICD-10 and as I’ve been preparing posts the impact of ICD-10 is going to be huge. I think people are just starting to realize it and 7-8 months from now there’s going to be a lot of organizations that are going to go into panic mode. Some of the panic they could solve if they started working on ICD-10 today. Some of the panic will likely come from outside vendors who end up not delivering ICD-10 the way they should.

ACO’s Are Still a Mystery – Some of the ACO work from the government is coming into some focus, but that barely feels like an ACO to me. Of course, it’s all how you define an ACO. I mostly see defensive efforts by organizations trying to group and align themselves with other organizations for whatever reimbursement changes come down the pipe. However, I don’t think any of them really know what’s coming (and I don’t claim to know either).

Meaningful Use Stage 2 Hit Us – We got a meaningful use stage 2 extension and a meaningful use stage 3 delay, but we didn’t get what many were hoping would be a meaningful use stage 2 delay. That means organizations have little choice but to proceed with meaningful use stage 2. As I’ve seen more and more organizations get into MU stage 2, I’ve seen two main actions: workarounds and complaints.

I believe the inverse relationship between incentives and requirements is starting to become an issue. It will certainly blow up when the even more challenging meaningful use stage 3 requirements hit and the EHR incentives are gone.

Consolidation (Hospital and Physician Practice) – Everyone tells me private practice acquisition is cyclical and at some point we’ll see a return to independent doctors. However, I haven’t seen that cycle happen yet. All I see our hospitals acquiring practices like crazy. Not to mention hospitals joining together as well. I wonder if the prediction I heard of only 5-10 major health systems will play out.

HIPAA Omnibus Landed (and is mostly forgotten) – HIPAA Omnibus is in place whether a practice likes it or not. Most never realized it went into affect or have forgotten it already. Watch for 2014 to be the year that it starts biting organizations in the backside. Give us 4-5 stories about HIPAA Omnibus making a physician’s life miserable and then we’ll see more people getting HIPAA training, fixing their business associate agreements, and maybe even implementing encryption on their devices. Maybe I should have added this to my 2014 wish list I’ll post tomorrow.

Did I miss anything? Probably. So, let’s hear what I missed in the comments. Also, I made some similar comments with a hospital focus over on Hospital EMR and EHR.

EHR Vendor Says Good Bye to Meaningful Use

Posted on December 30, 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.

ComChart Medical Software, LLC president, Hayward K. Zwerling, MD, earlier this month posted a letter on The Health Care Blog saying that the ComChart EMR would no longer be meaningful use certified. Here’s a portion of the letter that describes the reasoning:

ComChart EMR will continued to be certified as a Complete EMR for Stage I Meaningful Use. Unfortunately, we will not be able to meet the Stage 2 (or greater) Meaningful Use certification requirements as these requirements are technically extremely difficult to implement.

In addition to the Meaningful Use mandates, there continues to be a never ending stream of new mandates such as ICD-10, PQRI, Meaningful Use 2, Meaningful Use 3, SNOMED, ePrescribing, LOINC, Direct Project, health information exchanges etc. As a result of the mountain of mandates, ComChart EMR and the other small EMR companies will have to choose to implement the mandates or use their resources to add “innovative” features to their EMR. Unfortunately, the small EMR companies do not have the resources to do both.

(I suspect this is also true, to some extent, for all EMR companies.)

While the individual people involved in promulgating these EMR mandates (mostly) have the best of intentions, they clearly do not understand what transpires in the exam room, as many of the mandated features confer little or no benefit to either the patient or the healthcare provider.

In addition to a lack of understanding of what is important during the process of providing healthcare, it has also become apparent to me that the Federal and State health information technology agenda is now largely driven by the strongest HIT companies and health institutions; the individual physician is only an afterthought in the entire process.

This choice basically means that anyone interested in meaningful use and EHR incentive money won’t be doing so with ComChart EMR. The regulations say that even someone attesting to meaningful use stage 1 in 2014 has to use a 2014 certified EHR. ComChart won’t be able to meet that requirement.

I knew that this was going to happen with a number of EMR vendors, but ComChart really missed a huge opportunity with this announcement. The most damning part of the letter is when Dr. Zwerling says “we will not be able to meet the Stage 2 (or greater) Meaningful Use certification requirements as these requirements are technically extremely difficult to implement.” I was aghast by this statement. So much so that I had a brief email exchange with Dr. Zwerling to see if he really meant what he said. Was it that they weren’t able to meet the requirements or that they chose not to meet them?

He responded, “Anything can be done, it is just a question of how much resources are going to be thrown at the problem and what is not going to get done return.”

It seems that Dr. Zwerling didn’t consult a PR or marketing person on how to make the most of this decision. Any of them would have told him that this decision could be a huge opportunity to differentiate the ComChart EHR from all the hundreds of certified carrot chasing EHR companies out there.

If Dr. Zwerling had asked me, I’d have told him that he should have said, “ComChart EHR has talked with our hundreds of physician end users about meaningful use and EHR certification and we’ve found that they don’t value any of the meaningful use criteria. Because of doctors desire to not be bogged down by meaningful use requirements, we’ve chosen to listen to our doctors and focus on what makes doctors lives easier. We’ll continue innovating our product to the needs of doctors, but we’ll be letting doctors drive that innovation versus some committee in Washington.”

I could keep going, but you get the idea. ComChart could have told every doctor out there that they were the ULTIMATE PHYSICIAN EHR that cares so much about the physicians who use their EHR that they’re shunning meaningful use because it’s detrimental to the way physicians should be practicing medicine. Making this case would not be hard and the message would resonate with the majority of physicians.

I’m not sure if this strategy would work or not. Government money that’s perceived as “free” is a hard opponent. However, government bureaucracy and headaches are an easy target that everyone understands and hates. In ComChart’s case, saying that they essentially aren’t capable of the complex meaningful use requirements is sending the wrong message. All doctors hear when they read this is that your EMR development team isn’t sophisticated or strong enough to keep up. What a missed opportunity and likely the nail in ComChart’s coffin!

Hopefully this is a warning message to any other EHR vendors who choose to go the route of shunning meaningful use and EHR certification. I’m not sure that shunning MU is a winning strategy for an EHR vendor, but being the physician advocate at least gives them a fighting chance.

Open EMR’s Death, Collaborative Health Record, and Improving EMR

Posted on December 29, 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.


It seems a little ironic that an EMR vendor would write about wanting an open source EMR to die. Although, I couldn’t help but read the irony that this person chose not to be involved in the open EMR community because people weren’t getting involved in the community. A good old chicken and egg problem. Instead of contributing to the community so that it would be more vibrant, they chose to go out and develop EVERYTHING. The reality is that this person just wanted to build an EMR business. They didn’t want a real open source EMR community. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to build an EMR business, but it’s very different than contributing to a great open source EMR community and build a business.

As the author mentions, the Open EMR community isn’t going anywhere. In the hospital space, the Vista community isn’t going anywhere either. I will be interested to see how Open EMR handles MU. They did stage 1, but future stages are still a question mark from what I’ve seen. Of course, they could go radical and not worry about meaningful use. It will be interesting to see.


I’ve always loved the idea of the collaborative care record. Unfortunately, I don’t see much movement by the healthcare industry to make it a reality.


A lot of people are going to start asking this question. I believe it will be a couple years before this discussion really goes mainstream in hospitals (possibly post-MU), but it will be an important discussion. Of course, this isn’t a new discussion. It’s always a question of whether it’s best to improve the software you have or rip and replace. In the ambulatory side I predict we’re going to start seeing a lot of ripping and replacing of EHR software.

Healthcare Data Center Rap

Posted on December 27, 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.

Nothing like the holidays to take a few minutes to let loose while still sharing a healthcare IT message. In case you need a little humor in your health IT, then check out the playlist I’ve been creating of Funny, Entertaining, and Unique Health IT videos. Many of the videos will be familiar to you, but are worth a second watch.

The following video is the latest addition to the list. It’s a Healthcare Data Center Rap by Susan Biddle. As it says in the YouTube description:

Last month my employer, Juniper Networks, launched the Data Center Rap Battle marketing campaign: http://www.datacenterrapbattle.com — In the spirit of supporting the effort, it was time to put the Healthcare Biz in a rap…

Enjoy the video embedded below.

Who wouldn’t love Susan working at your company? Great stuff! Plus, she has the YouTube recipe down. Kids. Check. A beautiful woman. Check. Music. Check. Nice message. Check.

Nicely done!

A Look Back on My 2012 Christmas Wish List

Posted on December 26, 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.

Last year, I posted a healthcare IT Christmas Wish list. A year later, I thought it would be fun if I got what I wanted for Christmas last year or not (yes, it takes healthcare at least a year to grant wishes).

Here’s the list and my thoughts on how far we’ve come on each wish:

1. Open EHR Systems – We’re certainly not there yet, but I think there has been a sea change when it comes to opening up EHR software. I’m sure some could appropriately argue that we still have a long way to go, but let me give you some examples from Epic that give me cause for hope. First, this Epic Interoperability chart that Judy shared. Second, Kaiser joined the Epic network. Third, the Epic API.

It’s fun to use Epic as a proxy for openness because they’ve been so closed for so long. Judy Faulkner was after all the one that suggested that open EHR was an issue for patients. I’d love to see EHR more open, but I’m excited by the possibilities of open EHR. I believe this will have to happen and vendors who fight against it will be left behind.

2. Remove Healthcare’s Perverse Incentives – Sadly, I’ve seen almost no change to this yet. One area where I think this could be starting to change is around price transparency. There’s been a strong push to make healthcare pricing more transparent. As more and more patients have high deductible plans (like me), we start to shop around a lot more and be more interested in price. When we’re footing the bill, that price translates to our cost. This will cause companies to change how they do business.

3. Beautiful EHR User Interfaces – I’ve seen very little change in this regard. Sure, a few have rolled out an iPad interface, but I think they’ve missed out on the iPad Opportunity. Although, I recently saw the Modernizing Medicine iPad interface again in person. It’s so fundamentally different than every other EHR interface I’ve seen. While it demonstrates well the opportunity, it’s so fundamentally different that I’m not sure any existing EHR vendors can replicate it. I ask myself if we’ve spent billions of dollars on EHR user interfaces that can’t be what they should become.

4. More Empowered and Trusted Patients – I’m sure we’ll be battling this one for a long time to come. Although, the empowered patient is happening. Health information is available to everyone at the click of the mouse or a swipe of the finger. This shift is going to happen. There is nothing anyone can do to stop it. It’s more a question of whether people will embrace it or “kick against the pricks.”

Overall I’d say that we’re generally trending towards my wish list, but as is usually the case there is plenty more to do. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above items.

Merry Christmas!

Posted on December 25, 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.

In case you missed it, you can read my post on Holiday Greetings and Merry Christmas. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few pictures from my Christmas. If you don’t care for family pictures, then you’re welcome to delete this email, close your browser, etc and we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled EMR and HIPAA programming tomorrow.

I thought this captured our Christmas the best. It’s kind of become a tradition for us on Christmas Eve to take a crazy picture. The best part is that we didn’t event coordinate it. We just said go crazy and this was what came out. Love it!
IMG_2862

We also went to ride the Polar Express train in Williams, AZ, about an hour from the Grand Canyon. It was my first time going to the Grand Canyon. How spectacular! The polar express was awesome too. The highlight for me was dancing to Jingle Bell Rock on the train with my daughter.
IMG_2769

Then, here’s our official Christmas picture. Yeah, now I’m just showing off my cute kids and wife. Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.

Back to the grind tomorrow. Lots to think about as we end this year. More on that to come.

‘Twas the Night Before ICD-10

Posted on December 24, 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.

HIStalk posted a great little twist on a Christmas favorite entitled ‘Twas the Night Before ICD-10 by Luke O’Cyte.

Here’s the first part:

‘Twas the night before ICD-10, when all through the payer
Not a claims engine was stirring, not even a benefits layer;
The mappings were hung in the systems with care,
In hopes that St. Remediolas soon would be there.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate. My wife outdid herself tonight and I’m going to bed grateful for so many things. Plus, I love the excitement of my children’s anticipation of Santa.

Vendors Way (Seriously, Way) Behind In ICD-10 Readiness

Posted on December 23, 2013 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.

While providers are well aware that the consequences of failing to be ready for ICD-10 in time can be dire, that hasn’t kept them on track. In fact, according to a new report, providers have fallen further behind with ICD-10 milestones that they did back in February, reports Healthcare IT News.

But as you will see, it’s not necessarily the providers’ fault. In fact, if I were a provider, and my vendor was as behind as some apparently are right now, I would be beside myself.

Research from the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange found that some 50 percent of providers have completed the ICD-10 impact assessments. And about 50 percent of providers expect to begin external testing in the first half of 2014, Healthcare IT News notes.

But the study concludes that about 80 percent of healthcare providers will fail to complete their business changes and testing ICD-10 before 2014.

This may not be their fault. According to WEDI, 20 percent of vendors surveyed said they were halfway there or less developing products to support ICD-10. Even worse, 40 percent indicated they wouldn’t even have a finished product available until sometime in mid-2014, a situation which could create enormous problems for providers. (Wondering vendors are addressing the changeover? Here’s how one vendor has been handling the  problem.)

According to WEDI, the top three barriers to vendors completing their ICD-10 upgrades were customer readiness, competing priorities and other regulatory mandates. Personally, I’d argue that vendors have had plenty of time to get the ICD-10 act together. And I wouldn’t find any of those excuses compelling given the impact these delays are likely to have on my operations – – specifically, that special part of operations known as getting paid.  (But hey, maybe you’re a more forgiving type than me.)

With vendors falling behind on ICD-10 software updates and patches, providers are left having to wait — way too long — to begin tests of the downstream functions to come after testing, Judy Comitto, CIO at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in New Jersey, told Healthcare IT News: “I’m a bit disappointed, having reached out to these vendors that they are certainly not there yet.”  Sadly, I think more disappointment is yet to come.

Healthcare IT Central Holiday Video

Posted on December 22, 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.

I hope everyone’s enjoying the holidays. Having Christmas on a Wednesday is a little odd. It basically makes you not want to work all week. We’ll see how that plays out. I know I’m going to have a hard time staying motivated to work this week.

As we usually do, we wanted to highlight some of the various health IT jobs from Healthcare IT Central. However, first I thought I’d share this fun Healthcare IT Central Holiday video that Gwen made:

Now, if you’re at home from work this holiday season and looking for a new or improved job, check out some of these popular ones:
Epic EHR Jobs
Cerner EHR Jobs
Sorian Jobs
MEDITECH Jobs
Medical Coder Jobs

ROI for EMR: Does It Even Make Sense Now?

Posted on December 20, 2013 I Written By

James Ritchie is a freelance writer with a focus on health care. His experience includes eight years as a staff writer with the Cincinnati Business Courier, part of the American City Business Journals network. Twitter @HCwriterJames.

There’s a new data point to add to the debate over EMR return on investment.

Norton Healthcare Inc. in Louisville, Ky., has experienced a $12 million increase in federal reimbursement since it started using Epic, Louisville Business First reported. The health system, which operates five hospitals and a network of outpatient sites, is three years into a five-year, $200 million implementation.

Sounds like the beginning of some pretty good ROI. Or does it?

It’s hard to say.

ROI for records systems is notoriously hard to pin down. The word is that many hospitals don’t even try. And they might be onto something.

A revenue boost is a good sign. It’s often a result of improved coding and lower claims denial rates, as Colin Konschak of health care consulting firm Divurgent and Garrett Blair of Norfolk, Va.-based health system Sentara Healthcare recently wrote. And of course, there are the federal incentives for using an EMR — for hospitals, as much as $11 million over four years.

There’s also the rise in productivity that EMRs are expected to cause. At first, an EMR can slow down clinicians’ workflow and cost them and their organization money. But in time, the system could increase productivity.

But revenue is only part of the equation. Cost savings are the more important — and harder to calculate — factor.

Here are a few ways, as described by Konschak and Blair, that EMRs can help hospitals to save:

  • Less need for transcription.

  • Reduced use of staff time for copying and filing.

  • Reduced — often by 50-70 percent — use of preprinted forms.

  • Potentially lower malpractice premiums because of more complete documentation.

Many other potential benefits are probably real but are even less straightforward to measure. Features such as clinical decision support and electronic medical administration records, for example, could lead to reductions in medical errors — the types of mistakes the federal government no longer pays for. But measuring the money you saved from the errors you didn’t make is fairly abstract.

Many hospitals do little if anything to measure the return on their EMR investment, according to a study released by Beacon Partners last year. Healthcare Scene’s John Lynn wrote a few months ago that CIOs likely view the systems as a “necessary requirement of being a hospital today,” somewhat like cleaning supplies. So they don’t see the need to measure ROI.

To me, the “investment” part of ROI suggests that you have a choice. You put money into something now with the hope — but no guarantee — of a payoff later.

Building an imaging center on the edge of town or buying a surgical robot would probably be considered investments. Maintaining your buildings or upgrading your phones would not.

Doing something the government is making you do is not an investment. Given the reimbursement penalties that will eventually kick in for organizations that stick with paper, it’s hard to imagine that many hospital executives see EMR adoption as a matter choice.

The idea of ROI for EMR is probably outdated, a holdover from the days when having a system was optional. Hospital leaders are shopping for EMRs with an eye toward getting the best value for their money — just the way they shop for cleaning supplies, furniture or legal services.

You could say that as a society we’ve invested in the idea of EMRs and that we’re hoping for a payoff in terms of better outcomes and lower costs. But that doesn’t predict much about whether any particular hospital or doctor will see a dollar-and-cents ROI.

At Norton in Louisville, it sounds like they’re happy just to be recovering some of what they’re spending.

“It really does improve the continuity of care,” Norton’s chief medical officer, Dr. Steve Heilman, told Business First.

For now, it sounds like Norton is on track.

(Note: I work for Business First as a freelancer but didn’t write the story linked here.)