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Eyes Wide Shut – Patient Engagement Pitfalls Prior to Meaningful Use Reporting Period

Posted on June 30, 2014 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.

July 1, 2015 – the start of the Meaningful Use Stage 1 Year 2 reporting period for the hospital facilities within this provider integrated delivery network (IDN). The day the 50% online access measure gets real. The day the inpatient summary CCDA MUST be made available online within 36 hours of discharge. The day we must overcome a steady 65% patient portal decline rate.

A quick recap for those who haven’t followed this series (and refresher for those who have): this IDN has multiple hospital facilities, primary care, and specialty practices, on disparate EMRs, all connecting to an HIE and one enterprise patient portal. There are 8 primary EMRs and more than 20 distinct patient identification (MRN) pools. And many entities within this IDN are attempting to attest to Meaningful Use Stage 2 this year.

For the purposes of this post, I’m ignoring CMS and the ONC’s new proposed rule that would, if adopted, allow entities to attest to Meaningful Use Stage 1 OR 2 measures, using 2011 OR 2014 CEHRT (or some combination thereof). Even if the proposed rule were sensible, it came too late for the hospitals which must start their reporting period in the third calendar quarter of 2014 in order to complete before the start of the fiscal year on October 1. For this IDN, the proposed rule isn’t changing anything.

Believe me, I would have welcomed change.

The purpose of the so-called “patient engagement” core measures is just that: engage patients in their healthcare, and liberate the data so that patients are empowered to have meaningful conversations with their providers, and to make informed health decisions. The intent is a good one. The result of releasing the EMR’s compilation of chart data to recently-discharged patients may not be.

I answered the phone on a Saturday, while standing in the middle of a shopping mall with my 12 year-old daughter, to discover a distraught man and one of my help desk representatives on the line. The man’s wife had been recently released from the hospital; they had been provided patient portal access to receive and review her records, and they were bewildered by the information given. The medications listed on the document were not the same as those his wife regularly takes, the lab section did not have any context provided for why the tests were ordered or what the results mean, there were a number of lab results missing that he knew had been performed, and the problems list did not seem to have any correlation to the diagnoses provided for the encounter.

Just the kind of call an IT geek wants to receive.

How do you explain to an 84 year-old man that his wife’s inpatient summary record contains only a snapshot of the information that was captured during that specific hospital encounter, by resources at each point in the patient experience, with widely-varied roles and educational backgrounds, with varied attention to detail, and only a vague awareness of how that information would then be pulled together and presented by technology that was built to meet the bare minimum standards for perfect-world test scenarios required by government mandates?

How do you tell him that the lab results are only what was available at time of discharge, not the pathology reports that had to be sent out for analysis and would not come back in time to meet the 36-hour deadline?

How do you tell him that the reasons there are so many discrepancies between what he sees on the document and what is available on the full chart are data entry errors, new workflow processes that have not yet been widely adopted by each member of the care team, and technical differences between EMRs in the interpretation of the IHE’s XML standards for how these CCDA documents were to be created?

EMR vendors have responded to that last question with, “If you use our tethered portal, you won’t have that problem. Our portal can present the data from our CCDA just fine.” But this doesn’t take into account the patient experience. As a consumer, I ask you: would you use online banking if you had to sign on to a different website, with a different username and password, for each account within the same bank? Why should it be acceptable for managing health information online to be less convenient than managing financial information?

How do hospital clinical and IT staff navigate this increasingly-frequent scenario that is occurring: explaining the data that patients now see?

I’m working hard to establish a clear delineation between answering technical and clinical questions, because I am not – by any stretch of the imagination – a clinician. I can explain deviations in the records presentation, I can explain the data that is and is not available – and why (which is NOT generally well-received), and I can explain the logical processes for patients to get their clinical questions answered.

Solving the other half of this equation – clinicians who understand the technical nuances which have become patient-facing, and who incorporate that knowledge into regular patient engagement to insure patients understand the limitations of their newly-liberated data – proves more challenging. In order to engage patients in the way the CMS Meaningful Use program mandates, have we effectively created a new hybrid role requirement for our healthcare providers?

And what fresh new hell have we created for some patients who seek wisdom from all this information they’ve been given?

Caveat – if you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re not the kind of patient who needs much explaining. You’re likely to do your own research on the data that’s presented on your CCDA outputs, and you have the context of the entire Meaningful Use initiative to understand why information is presented the way it is. But think – can your grandma read it and understand it on HER own?

Crowdsourcing in Healthcare, Scribes, and Mandated Inefficiencies

Posted on June 29, 2014 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’m a HUGE fan of crowdsourcing. I do it for so many things in my life and it’s incredibly effective. Although, I haven’t seen much of it done in healthcare. I’d love to hear examples where you’ve seen it done. I guess you could say I’d like to crowdsource a list of where it’s being used for a future post (see what I did there?).


I’ve heard more and more good things about Scribes. I talked to one at ANI whose a Scribe and Med Student. You can see why so many people like them. I think they’re a bandaid for the real problems we have in healthcare, but they’re an effective one that’s not going anywhere (since our problems aren’t going anywhere).


It’s not the first time that I’ve found a tweet from Dr. Pourmassina that perfectly articulates the challenge. “Built-in and mandated inefficiencies” has got to be one of the simplest descriptions of the current state of EHR.

NY Med Social Media Firing

Posted on June 27, 2014 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.

Update: Katie Duke stopped by and left the following comment that’s worth noting:

Thank you for this article and review. I did not violate any aspect of the social media policy or HIPPAA and was technically fired for what my manager calls “we just don’t want you working here anymore and you’re insensitive” (as referring to the post)

I have been in the spotlight for several years and thoroughly respect the rules and regulations of our profession and it’s presence on social media. My goal is to change the portrayal of nursing in the media. We all make mistakes and we must learn from them. Do I feel it was a terminable offense? No- I feel I should have been counseled or even given some constructive criticism. After all- I am a great nurse and was with NYP for 7 years and of their motto is to put patients first then they should advocate more for the retention and growth of the nurses they have. Nurses are NOT disposable. Thank you for this venue to get the dialogue going about this rather controversial and taboo topic.

I applaud Katie’s efforts since I’ve often commented how nurses are an afterthought during an EHR selection and implementation process and that’s a pity since they’re such an important part of the organization. I imagine this same thing applies to other hospital policies. Thanks for your added comments Katie.

Last night was the premiere of the second season of NY Med on ABC. I saw the previous season and enjoyed it and so I was interested to see the new season. I like all of the show except for Dr. Oz who is obviously there because he has a big name and not because he’s actually practicing medicine. I love the quote I read online “Dr. Oz is a fake even when he’s scrubbing in. His mask isn’t on while he’s fake scrubbing.” All of the Dr. Oz parts felt very contrived so they could get him involved in the show. When real cardiology was being practiced, he called in the leading expert, or at least someone who actually could help the patient.

Dr. Oz part aside, the 3 ER nurses are my favorite part of the show. I remembered 2 of the 3 from last season and so I was really glad to see that they were back. Those are some firecracker nurses that always face interesting situations in the ER.

While the show isn’t perfect since as soon as you turn a camera on, people change, it’s still an interesting look into the challenges that many doctors and nurses face on the front lines of healthcare. While Grey’s Anatomy is a well written, entertaining drama and sometimes taps trending topics for its story, it’s not a good depiction of reality.

With the above review, I was particularly intrigued last night when Katie Duke, one of the ER nurses, got Fired from the hospital for posting a picture on Instagram. It was pretty interesting to see both the other ER nurses and Katie’s first hand response to her being fired and escorted from the building.

Since this is EMR and HIPAA, let’s talk about the HIPAA implications of what Katie did. They didn’t show the picture she posted for very long, but there were no people in the picture. Just a room after they’d had a trauma case in the ER. Basically, at quick glance I can’t imagine there’s any HIPAA violation with the picture. She did tag the picture with a number of hashtags. The only one that seemed in question was the “#Man vs 6 train” one, but that’s not a HIPAA violation either or would be an enormous stretch to make the case that it is a violation.

I think it’s fair to say she didn’t violate HIPAA with her instagram post. However, that doesn’t mean she didn’t violate a hospital social media policy. I’d be interested to see New York Presbyterian’s (the hospital who fired her) social media policy. It’s hard to guess at what the policy might include. I’ve seen really strict social media policies, really open social media policies and organizations with no policy (that’s scary). Given their policy, it might very well have been appropriate to fire her. In fact, if it wasn’t, Katie Duke seems like someone who would fight back in court if it wasn’t appropriate.

While Katie Duke was fired from New York Presbyterian, she was hired at Roosevelt on the West Side. I wonder what they said to Katie about social media when they hired her. In the NY Med episode they show her doing well. Although, they noted that she was great with patients, but was having a challenge getting up to speed on their computer system. Makes me wonder what EHR they use in their ED. Although, I think it’s safe to say that this could be said about any ER nurse in any ER regardless of the computer system they use. It just takes some time to get up to speed on an EHR.

In case you’re wondering, Katie Duke has launched a website and on July 1st she’s launching a YouTube show, she has an endorsement deal with Dickies and Cherokee scrubs, has speaking engagements around the country, and a line of merchandise around the phrase “Deal With It.” I guess that’s how she’s chosen to deal with the firing. If you look at her Twitter account, you can see a lot of nurses who really look up to her and appreciate her.

The discussion of social media in the workplace is an important one and it’s really important that you understand your employer’s views on the subject if you’re going to take part in it. Although, I think we all have to appreciate the irony of a hospital firing someone for posting a picture to instagram while that same hospital has a bunch of cameras video recording in their hospital for a TV show on ABC. Feels pretty hypocritical, do as I say, not as I do.

What do you think? Did you see the show? Where will social media sharing take us in healthcare and what will be the good and bad consequences of it?

Criminals Have Their Eyes on Your Patients’ Records

Posted on June 26, 2014 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 blog post by Art Gross, Founder of HIPAA Secure Now!
Art Gross Headshot
It’s one thing to have a laptop stolen with 8,000 patient records or for a disgruntled doctor to grab his patients’ records and start his own practice.  It’s another when the Cosa Nostra steals that information, siphons money from the patient’s bank account and turns it into a patient trafficking crime ring.  Welcome to organized crime in the age of big data.

Organized crime syndicates and gangs targeting medical practices and stealing patient information are on the rise. They’re grabbing patient names, addresses, insurance details, social security numbers, birth dates, etc., and using it to steal patients’ identities and their assets.

It’s not uncommon for the girlfriend of a gang member to infiltrate a medical practice or hospital, gain access to electronic health records, download patient information and hand it over to the offender who uses it to file false tax returns. In fact gang members often rent a hotel room and file the returns together, netting $40,000-$50,000 in one night!

Florida is hotbed for this activity and it’s spreading across the country.  In California, narcotics investigators took down a methamphetamine ring and confiscated patient information on 4,500 patients. Investigators believe the stolen information was being used to obtain prescription drugs to make the illicit drug.

Value of patient records

Stolen patient information comes with a high price tag if the medical practice is fined by HIPAA. One lost or stolen patient record is estimated at $50, compared to the price of a credit card record which fetches a dollar.  Patient records are highly lucrative. The below charts shows the value of patient information that might be sitting in an EHR system:

Amount of Patient Records Value of Patient Records
1,000 $50,000
5,000 $250,000
10,000 $500,000
100,000 $5,000,000

 
Protect your practice

Medical practices need to realize they are vulnerable to patient record theft and should take steps to reduce their risk by implementing additional security.  Here are seven steps that organizations can take to protect electronic patient information:

  1. Perform a security risk assessment – a security risk assessment is not only required for HIPAA Compliance and EHR Meaningful Use but it can identify security risks that may allow criminals to steal patient information.
  2. Screen job applicants – all job applicants should be properly screened prior to hiring and providing access to patient information. Look for criminal records, frequent job switches or anything else that might be a warning sign.
  3. Limit access to patient information – employees should have minimal access necessary to perform their jobs rather than full access to electronic health records.
  4. Audit access to patient information – every employee should use their own user ID and password; login information should not be shared. And access to patient information should be recorded, including who accessed, when, and which records they accessed.
  5. Review audit logs – organizations must keep an eye on audit logs. Criminal activity can be happening during a normal business day. Reviewing audit logs can uncover strange or unexpected activity. Let’s say an employee accesses, on average 10 patient records per day and on one particular day they retrieve 50 to 100 records.  Or records are being accessed after business hours. Both activities could be a sign of criminal activity. The key is to review audit logs regularly and look for unusual access.
  6. Security training – all employees should receive security training on how to protect patient information, and make sure they know any patient information activity is being logged and reviewed.  Knowing that employee actions are being observed should dissuade them from using patient information illegally.
  7. Limit the use of USB drives – in the past it would take a truck to steal 10,000 patient charts. Now they can easily be copied onto a small thumb/USB drive and slipped into a  doctor’s lab coat.  Organizations should limit the use of USB drives to prevent illegal activity.

The high resale value of patient information and the ability to use it to file false tax returns or acquire illegal prescriptions make it a prime target for criminals.  Medical practices need to recognize the risk and put proper IT security measures in place to keep their patient information from “securing” hefty tax refunds

About Art Gross

Art Gross co-founded Entegration, Inc. in 2000 and serves as President and CEO. As Entegration’s medical clients adopted EHR technology Gross recognized the need to help them protect patient data and comply with complex HIPAA security regulations. Leveraging his experience supporting medical practices, in-depth knowledge of HIPAA compliance and security, and IT technology, Gross started his second company HIPAA Secure Now! to focus on the unique IT requirements of medical practices.  Email Art at artg@hipaasecurenow.com.

Another View of Privacy by Dr. Deborah C. Peel, MD

Posted on June 25, 2014 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 thought the following TEDx video from Deborah C. Peel, MD, Founder and Chair of Patient Privacy Rights, would be an interesting contrast with some of the things that Andy Oram wrote in yesterday’s post titled “Not So Open: Redefining Goals for Sharing Health Data in Research“. Dr. Peel is incredibly passionate about protecting patient’s privacy and is working hard on that goal.

Dr. Peel is also trying to kick off a hashtag called #MyHealthDataIsMine. What do you think of the “hidden privacy and data breaches” that Dr. Peel talks about in the video? I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

Not So Open: Redefining Goals for Sharing Health Data in Research

Posted on June 24, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Andy Oram, writer and editor at O’Reilly Media.

One couldn’t come away with more enthusiasm for open data than at this month’s Health Datapalooza, the largest conference focused on using data in health care. The whole 2000-strong conference unfolds from the simple concept that releasing data publicly can lead to wonderful things, like discovering new cancer drugs or intervening with patients before they have to go to the emergency room.

But look more closely at the health care field, and open data is far from the norm. The demonstrated benefits of open data sets in other fields–they permit innovation from any corner and are easy to combine or “mash up” to uncover new relationships–may turn into risks in health care. There may be better ways to share data.

Let’s momentarily leave the heady atmosphere of the Datapalooza and take a subway a few stops downtown to the Health Privacy Summit, where fine points of patient consent, deidentification, and the data map of health information exchange were discussed the following day. Participants here agree that highly sensitive information is traveling far and wide for marketing purposes, and perhaps even for more nefarious uses to uncover patient secrets and discriminate against them.

In addition to outright breaches–which seem to be reported at least once a week now, and can involve thousands of patients in one fell swoop–data is shared in many ways that arguably should be up to patients to decide. It flows from hospitals, doctors, and pharmacies to health information exchanges, researchers in both academia and business, marketers, and others.

Debate has raged for years between those who trust deidentification and those who claim that reidentification is too easy. This is not an arcane technicality–the whole industry of analytics represented at the Datapalooza rests on the result. Those who defend deidentification tend to be researchers in health care and the institutions who use their results. In contrast, many computer scientists outside the health care field cite instances where people have been reidentified, usually by combining data from various public sources.

Latanya Sweeney of Harvard and MIT, who won a privacy award this year at the summit, can be credited both with a historic reidentification of the records of Massachusetts Governor William Weld in 1997 and a more recent exposé of state practices. The first research led to the current HIPAA regime for deidentification, while the second showed that states had not learned the lessons of anonymization. No successful reidentifications have been reported against data sets that use recommended deidentification techniques.

I am somewhat perplexed by the disagreement, but have concluded that it cannot be resolved on technical grounds. Those who look at the current state of reidentification are satisfied that health data can be secured. Those who look toward an unspecified future with improved algorithms find reasons to worry. In a summit lunchtime keynote, Adam Tanner reported his own efforts as a non-expert to identify people online–a fascinating and sometimes amusing tale he has written up in a new book, What Stays in Vegas. So deidentification is like encryption–we all use encryption even though we expect that future computers will be able to break current techniques.

But another approach has flown up from the ashes of the “privacy is dead” nay-sayers: regulating the use of data instead of its collection and dissemination. This has been around for years, most recently in a federal PCAST report on big data privacy. One of the authors of that report, Craig Mundie of Microsoft, also published an article with that argument in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs.

A simple application of this doctrine in health care is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. A more nuanced interpretation of the doctrine could let each individual determine who gets to use his or her data, and for what purpose.

Several proposals have been aired to make it easier for patients to grant blanket permission for certain data uses, one proposal being “patient privacy bundles” in a recent report commissioned by AHRQ. Many people look forward to economies of data, where patients can make money by selling data (how much is my blood pressure reading worth to you)?

Medyear treats personal health data like Twitter feeds, letting you control the dissemination of individual data fields through hash tags. You could choose to share certain data with your family, some with your professional care team, and some with members of your patient advocacy network. This offers an alternative to using services such as PatientsLikeMe, which use participants’ data behind the scenes.

Open data can be simulated by semi-open data sets that researchers can use under license, as with the Genetic Association Information Network that controls the Database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP). Many CMS data sets are actually not totally open, but require a license to use.

And many data owners create relationships with third-party developers that allow them access to data. Thus, the More Disruption Please program run by athenahealth allows third-party developers to write apps accessing patient data through an API, once the developers sign a nondisclosure agreement and a Code of Conduct promising to use the data for legitimate purposes and respect privacy. These apps can then be offered to athenahealth’s clinician clients to extend the system’s capabilities.

Some speakers went even farther at the Datapalooza, asking whether raw data needs to be shared at all. Adriana Lukas of London Quantified Self and Stephen Friend of Sage Bionetworks suggested that patients hold on to all their data and share just “meanings” or “methods” they’ve found useful. The future of health analytics, it seems to me, will use relatively few open data sets, and lots of data obtained through patient consent or under license.

You Better Stay Healthy, or Else…

Posted on June 23, 2014 I Written By

Kyle is CoFounder and CEO of Pristine, a VC backed company based in Austin, TX that builds software for Google Glass for healthcare, life sciences, and industrial environments. Pristine has over 30 healthcare customers. Kyle blogs regularly about business, entrepreneurship, technology, and healthcare at kylesamani.com.

As I read Jonathan Bush’s new book, Where Does It Hurt? the most salient problem that Bush discusses is that hospitals can’t effectively measure or attribute their costs. As a result, they can’t make good decisions since they don’t know how to attribute costs and revenues.

Although this has been widely known for sometime, the implications of this are particularly interesting. Since hospitals don’t know how much it costs to actually deliver care (especially multi-faceted, complicated care), their various revenue streams are effectively subsidizing their expenses in an almost random manner. Accounting for costs and attributing revenue is nearly impossible.

Bush notes that more focused care centers – such as standalone labs, imaging centers, and minute clinics – can afford to offer many of the same services as hospitals with equal or greater quality at a lower cost. They can achieve this because they have dramatically less operational overhead than hospitals and have staff performing the same core basic functions repetitively. Indeed, practice makes perfect.

There are hundreds of companies all over the country building healthcare practices based on this very premise: labs, imaging, procedures, home health agencies, ASCs, birthing centers, cath labs, urgent care, retail clinics, and more. Focused-centers are slowly eating away at hospitals by providing better services at lower costs.

Today, hospitals make enormous profits by dramatically marking up routine procedures and services. But that won’t continue forever. As the ACA pushes patients towards high-deductible plans so that patients act more cost consciously, they will seek the more affordable alternatives. Patients will not agree to pay a $300 ER copay and $2000 MRI when the urgent care center down the street offers a $99 copay and $400 MRI. As patients make better decisions, hospitals will lose some of their easiest, most profitable revenues: extremely marked up lab tests, images, procedures, etc.

What will hospitals be left to do when their easiest, most profitable revenue vanishes? They will shift focus to what they do best: performing miracles. Hospitals will compete for high-end services such as-complex surgeries and intensive care. However, because routine services subsidize the hospital’s overhead, they currently offer surgeries and intensive care at a “discount.” When hospitals can no longer subsidize their complex care with routine care, hospitals will raise prices for the highest acuity services that can’t be performed elsewhere. If you thought acute sickcare was unaffordable, think again. The cost of complex care is going to grow dramatically in the coming years.

Vendor Creates EMR For Google Glass

Posted on June 20, 2014 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.

Well, here’s an interesting development. An EMR company has created an app allowing doctors using Google Glass to store patient data on a cloud-based storage and collaboration site.

The vendor, California-based Drchrono, is claiming that the application is the first “wearable health record.”  Whether or not that’s the case, this is clearly a step forward in the development of Google Glass as a practical tool for doctors.

According to a Reuters report, Drchrono worked closely with cloud-based storage and collaboration service Box along with Google Glass to create the app.

The new Google Glass at allows doctors — with the patient’s permission — to use Google Glass to record a consultation or surgery. Once the work is done, physician can store the video, as well as photographs and notes, and the patient’s EMR or in Box. The app also allows the data to  be shared with the patient.

The app is still in its infancy — so far, just 300 of the 60,000 doctors using Drchrono’s EMR platform have opted to use the Google Glass app, which is currently available at no cost to users.

But Google Glass apps and options are clearly on the rise, and not just among providers. A recent study by Accenture found that consumers are are very interested in wearable technology; they’re particularly interested in wearable smart glasses like Google Glass as well as smart watches.

As things stand, devices like Google Glass are in the very early adoption stage, so it’s not surprising that few of Drchrono’s physician users have opted to try out the new app. But things are likely to change over the next year or two.

I believe Google Glass will follow the same trajectory the iPad did in medicine. First it was a toy for the well-financed, curious and tech savvy, then an option for early adopters in medicine, then eventually a tool that made sense for nearly every provider.

For the next year or two, most Google Glass announcements will be like this one, reports of experiments whose only uptake will come from leading-edge experimenters in medical technology. But within the next two years or so, Google Glass uses will proliferate, as will the apps that make them a worthwhile investment.

This level of success isn’t inevitable, but it is likely. I’d bet good money that two years from now, you may be reading this blog on a Google Glass app and managing your EMR through one as well.  It’s just a matter of time.

Make the Most of the RACs Summer Recess: Three Areas to Assess, Improve and Level-Up

Posted on June 19, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Dawn Crump, VP of Audit Management Solutions at HealthPort.
Dawn Crump - HealthPort
2014 brings the first significant break in RAC activity for healthcare providers. Hospitals have been taking advantage of the RAC break to assess current programs, review historical data and centralize their audit management processes.

Steps taken now to improve RAC processing will drive significant returns when the RACs reconvene. This article highlights recent RAC announcements and three process improvement steps to take now…while you have the time.

What’s New with RACs?

There are no new record requests sent by RACs to hospitals (pre-payment requests stopped on February 28) and no additional documentation requests (ADRs) for now (post-payment requests stopped on February 21). While programs were initially expected to revamp this month, there has been no announcement from CMS (I don’t anticipate one until later this summer).

Secondly, CMS announced that administrative law judge (ALJ) delays may extend upwards of twenty-six months, leaving providers holding the bag for cases already in appeal. And finally, the passage of H.R. 4302 (the infamous SGR patch) in April 2014 delayed implementation of ICD-10 and extended the timeframe prohibiting review of two-midnight rule by RACs.

Three Areas to Focus

Perhaps 2014 is the year for delays. If so, providers are the benefactor. Here are three important areas to assess during the delay.

Top 10 Lists

Healthcare is riddled with lists. Medicare’s recent list of highest-priced surgeries and DRGs is a good place to identify future RAC targets. . Take a good look at this report and any others relevant to your organization. They point the way to future RAC reviews.

Short stay admissions

Medical necessity rules surrounding short stays are changing due to the Two Midnight Rule. Include short stays in your internal documentation audits and be aware that other third party payers are following the RACs’ lead.

National reports

Analyze most recent RACTrac and PEPPER reports and see how you compare. These reports are great places to find clinical documentation and coding improvement targets in ICD-9 while you wait for the RAC program to restart.

RAC Data: Take a Closer Look

Your historical RAC data is another goldmine of improvement opportunities and steps to mitigate future risk. Take a hard look at your data and ask yourself these questions:

  • How many cases and dollars are awaiting appeal? Where are these cases in the appeal process?
  • Are any cases eligible for rebilling? If so, should they be rebilled?
  • What are our most common denials and can we improve documentation, coding and billing for these cases?
  • Is a deeper level of data analysis needed? Can our audit tracking software drill down further for better business intelligence?

Centralize Your Audit Management Efforts

Finally, there’s no way around it. Audit management is expensive.

When employees repeat the same audit processing steps across multiple locations and departments, your costs skyrocket. Now is a great time to centralize your audit management process to:

  • Reduce administrative costs associated with RAC audit processing.
  • Eliminate duplicate audits and redundancies.
  • Establish consistent policies, procedures and workflows.
  • Bolster internal audit knowledge and expertise.

Most hospitals have already centralized their business offices (CBOs). Centralizing the audit management function, including RACs, is a natural next step. Take a close look at audit processing across your entire organization looking for these costly inefficiencies.

  • Each HIM department may be processing and tracking RAC requests differently.
  • Each case management department may be reviewing RAC denials differently.
  • Staff spending up to 25% of their time on audits, but no one making RAC a priority.
  • Multiple locations received RAC (auditor) requests for records and appeal correspondence.

By creating a centralized team, you establish lean processes and reduce overall costs associated with audit management. RAC is the best place to start since there are already established guidelines and rules. Once established, expand your centralized department to other audits (e.g. OIG, MACS pre and post payment, Medicaid, ZPICS, etc.)

The Summer Ahead

Beyond the steps mentioned above, I encourage you to remain vigilant with regard to other forms of audits, including commercial plans, MACs (Medicare administrative contractors) and Medicaid audits . We all have some breathing room with regard to RAC, but preparation is key.

About Dawn Crump

Dawn Crump, MA, SSBB, CHC, has been in the healthcare compliance industry for more than 18 years and joined HealthPort in 2013 as Vice President of Audit Management Solutions. Prior to joining HealthPort, Ms. Crump was the Network Director of Compliance for SSM. She has healthcare experience in education, organization development, quality improvement and corporate compliance.

Trained as a six sigma black belt, Ms. Crump used this holistic, fact-based approach to establish audit tracking (RAC) programs. Her expertise includes coding and billing compliance as well as HIPAA compliance and government audit programs for acute care facilities. She is a former board director of the Greater St. Louis Healthcare Finance Management Association chapter and currently serves as the networking chair. Ms. Crump is also a member of the Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA).

EHR Adoption: Step One to Successful Population Health Management – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on June 18, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Todd Stansfield from The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Todd Stansfield

The Managed Care movement dramatically transformed healthcare in the 1990s. For the first time, our industry discovered increased margins by conserving the services we provided. Now, Population Health Management (PHM) is on the brink of transforming healthcare yet again—and perhaps in a more dramatic fashion. The transformation is already underway, with industry-wide consolidations between hospital networks, physician practices, and even insurance companies; government reforms targeting cost and quality controls; and new breeds of health organizations, professionals, and technologies.

Today’s PHM movement presents the same cost benefit as healthcare’s traditional models with a greater focus on health outcomes. The philosophy behind PHM is that healthcare providers and organizations will save money and improve care by identifying and stratifying patients with high, medium, and low risk for developing chronic conditions. Once patients are assigned a level of risk, care plans are then developed and deployed to treat them appropriately. For high-risk patients, strategic interventions are provided that reduce hospital admissions, readmissions, and complications. For low-risk patients, preventative care is offered to maintain health and avoid costly conditions. The PHM model requires broad-scale data collection, analysis, and transmission between healthcare entities—the latter not yet possible with the lack of integration between electronic health record (EHR) systems. PHM also calls for redesigning processes, discovering gaps in care, and extending patient-provider interactions beyond clinical events to encourage healthy life behaviors.

In order to reach the level of data collection needed for successful PHM, healthcare organizations must first adopt their EHR. Doing so makes it possible to intercept data, analyze it, and transform it into useful clinical information delivered to the point of care. Without EHR adoption, the most foundational elements of PHM cannot be supported: We cannot efficiently discover gaps in our current care, identify and stratify at-risk patients treated by an organization, or improve our processes to lessen the new financial risks of value-based care. EHRs are so central to PHM that overlapping incentives for both initiatives were proposed in November 2011 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The technology is also a necessary tool for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which are a form of PHM. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) published an interview with Dr. Stephen Shortell, a Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management at the University of California, who outlined aspects of EHR adoption as being essential to the success of ACOs.[“The State of Accountable Care Organizations.”The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. http://www.innovations.ahrq.gov/]

Our research at The Breakaway Group (TBG) points to four crucial components needed to adopt an EHR for PHM. Strong leadership must inspire continual engagement from users to embrace the EHR as a tool for positive change. Targeted and effective education—creating system proficiency in role-based tasks—must also be established before and after the EHR go-live event. Performance must be gauged, measured, and analyzed to enhance EHR use and establish governance measures. And with the evolutionary nature of the EHR, all optimization efforts must be sustained and refreshed to meet new challenges, such as application upgrades and process changes.

Although the PHM movement is relatively new, there are numerous examples of the model’s success. ACOs enrolled in CMS’s Shared Savings and Pioneer ACO programs have generated $380 million in savings.[“Medicare’s delivery system reform initiatives achieve significant savings and quality improvements – off to a strong start.” US Department of Health and Human Services. www.hhs.gov.] One Pioneer ACO, Partners HealthCare, has established patient-centered medical homes that employ Care Managers specializing in customizing patient care plans.[“Patient-centered Medical Home: Role of the Care Manager.” Partners HealthCare. www.partners.org.] While Partners HealthCare is not employing true PHM in the sense of sharing information with other healthcare entities, it is large enough in size to perform broad-scale data collection that can help better manage health populations. This example demonstrates the potential effect of PHM on our industry when data becomes transferrable.

EHR adoption is an essential feat we are capable of achieving now. Doing so is the first step toward learning more about the populations we serve, how we’re not serving them, and how we can adjust our processes to succeed in a value-based model. Yet to manage populations effectively, more is required from us, including being willing to work together in our pursuit of a better, brighter healthcare system. If we can overcome these hurdles now, then we will arrive ready for when our industry is capable of embracing true care coordination.

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