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New Ways Of Leveraging EMRs For Quality Measurement

Posted on June 7, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

Helping to measure care quality is supposed to be one of the best tricks EMRs can do. After all, EMRs can round up data in seconds that would take weeks or months to abstract from a paper chart. More importantly, they can pick up patterns that paper charts don’t contain, such as the speed at which some behaviors take place.

The thing is, most providers are still taking little advantage of EMRs’ quality research functions, according to a new study published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care.  Researchers point out that while EMRs can capture many classes information, most of the time users are limiting themselves to measures lifted from paper-based research studies. They propose creating a new set of measurements known as electronic quality measures, or e-QMs.  Here’s how Information Week summarizes the measures:

Translated e-QMs. Measures designed for use with paper records, such as whether patients with diabetes have received HbA1c tests. These measures can use claims data or information from chart abstraction, as well as EHRs.

–Health IT-assisted. Measures that could be derived from non-EHR data sources, such as blood pressure or body mass index information, but that require EHRs for reporting on 100% of a patient population.

–Health IT-enabled. Metrics that take advantage of an EHR’s features, such as the percentage of abnormal test results read and acted upon by a clinician within 24 hours of receipt, or the percentage of relevant clinical alerts that are acted upon.

–Health IT system management. Measures of how providers use health IT systems, such as the percentage of all prescriptions ordered via electronic prescribing.

–E-iatrogenesis. Measures of patient harm caused at least in part by the health IT system, such as the percentage of patients for whom the wrong drug was ordered because of an error in an e-prescribing system, or the percentage of critical lab findings that did not lead to patient notification.

This sounds pretty neat, and with any luck, most providers will end up using their EMRs to conduct more-thorough measurements of this type.  At the moment, though, less than a quarter of all care is “substantially documented,” and only half of U.S. doctors have some form of EHR, according to the researchers.

In the mean time, let’s hope providers who do have advanced EMR installations are taking steps like these. They make a lot of sense.

EMRs, ICD-10 Pave the Way to Business Intelligence

Posted on June 16, 2011 I Written By

Two articles I’ve written in the last 24 hours have gotten me thinking that we’ve already entered the post-implementation era of EMRs, even as implementation remains in progress at so many healthcare organizations. While the vast majority of hospitals and physician practices in the U.S. still don’t have full-featured EMRs in place, many are already looking well into the future.

As you may already know, HIMSS on Tuesday released its first-ever survey on “clinical transformation.” According to HIMSS and survey sponsor McKesson, “Clinical transformation involves assessing and continually improving the way patient care is delivered at all levels in a care delivery organization. It occurs when an organization rejects existing practice patterns that deliver inefficient or less effective results and embraces a common goal of patient safety, clinical outcomes and quality care through process redesign and IT implementation. By effectively blending people, processes and technology, clinical transformation occurs across facilities, departments and clinical fields of expertise”

As I reported for InformationWeek, 86 percent of organizations surveyed had a plan for clinical transformation in place or at least under development, and just 12 percent of respondents called organizational commitment a barrier to reporting on quality measures. And though nearly 8o percent indicated that they still gather quality data by hand and 60 said they don’t capture data in discrete format, more than half already had software specifically for business intelligence. This tells me that analytics is here to stay.

I kind of knew that anyway, since the bulk of the program at last week’s Wisconsin Technology Network Digital Healthcare Conference was devoted to BI, data governance and advanced analytics tools, even in the context of Accountable Care Organizations. (My story about this for WTN News appeared this morning.)

“I’m ready to declare the era of business intelligence,” said Galen Metz, CIO and IS director for Madison-based Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin. Though he criticized the proposed ACO rules for being too “daunting” for the average provider, Galen and other speakers said that it’s time to harness all the new, granular data being generated by EMRs and, soon, ICD-10 coding.

It may seem “daunting” now in the midst of all the preparations for ICD-10 and meaningful use, but it’s good to know that many healthcare organizations see a light at the end of the tunnel and know that the future bring better healthcare information in exchange for all the hard work and investment today.


The Meaningful Use Sky is Falling

Posted on January 28, 2011 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.

The always opinionated Anthony Guerra has an article up on Information Week that describes why he thinks the Meaningful Use sky is falling. Add that to a recent comment I got on a previous post that links to a Healthcare Data Management article talking about the potential repeal of the HITECH act and it seems worthwhile to assess the state of meaningful use.

I’ll start with the potential repeal of meaningful use first. We’ve known for a long time that the house was going to be going after healthcare reform once the republicans took over control of the house. In fact, we posted about the potential impacts to HITECH from the new Congress before.

I personally get the feeling that not much has changed on this front. I’m going to reach out to some of the government liasons for EHR vendors that I know that follow this even closer than I do. However, I still believe that:
1. The HITECH funding or at least the Medicare and Medicaid stimulus funding is safe from Congress. I’ve read this a couple of places and so I believe it to be true.
2. Any legislation that is passed by the house still has to pass through the democratic controlled Congress and avoid the Presidential veto. These two seem unlikely.

Of course, when it’s government work you could always be surprised by some loophole in the process that impacts funding or legislation. I won’t be surprised if one of these loop holes appears and affects the HITECH act. However, I still argue that if something does happen to HITECH, it will likely be a casualty of some other political agenda (ie. cutting whatever costs they can find) and not actually because they were specifically targeting HITECH.

Long story short: I still feel like the EHR incentive portion of HITECH is likely safe. Maybe some of the other funding will be cut short. We’ll see.

Now to the points that Anthony Guerra makes in his article. He describes the challenges that many hospitals are facing in regards to meaningful use. Plus he highlights the potential difference in the number of people who “think they qualify for the money” and those who “plan to apply.”

I might argue that if EHR adoption is the goal, then this might not be such a bad result. The idea of “forcing” meaningful use on people has always bothered me a little bit. Encouraging people to show meaningful use is only as good as the meaningful use criteria. If the meaningful use criteria is not very good, then do we really want everyone showing meaningful use?

For example, imagine that a doctor or hospital decides to use an EHR based on the EHR software’s ability to improve the efficiency of their office and the quality of the services they provide to the patient, but deems meaningful use as contrary to those goals. This seems like a great outcome to me. In fact, it seems like a better outcome than a doctor trying to force themselves into the meaningful use hole.

Obviously there are parts of meaningful use that can be very beneficial. For example, having an EMR that can communicate using a standard format (CCD for example) is important and valuable. If it is beneficial, then I see most doctors implementing these features regardless of whether they showed meaningful use or not.

One thing definitely seems clear from all the surveys and other stats I have: interest in EMR has never been higher. Whether that translates to “meaningful use” of a “certified EHR” or physicians meaningfully using an EHR of their choice, is fine with me.

You know my mantra: Select and implement an EMR based on the benefits that you and your clinic want to receive from the EMR. Don’t select and implement it based on a government handout. Those hand outs will be gone after a few years, but your EMR will be with you long after.

Physicians Don’t Want to Be Told What to Do

Posted on July 21, 2010 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.

It seems like a theme is cropping up around meaningful use. It has little to do with the regulations themselves. Instead it has to do with the fundamental concept of meaningful use essentially “Telling Physicians How They Should Practice.”

A comment on a previous post described it well when they said, “I am willing to bet that no matter what the final rule was, the majority of those involved in this industry would be upset with them.” It’s an enlightening point since I think it’s right on point.

It also illustrates that it’s not the meaningful use regulations that really bother people. Most physicians want to provide great care to their patients and many of the meaningful use requirements are no brainers. Physicians just don’t want to be told what someone else defines as great care. Physicians aren’t alone in this either. Just take a look at children’s reactions to their parents and you’ll see that for the most part humans don’t want to be told what to do and they kick against anything or anyone that tries to tell them what to do.

Anthony Guerra, founder and editor of Health System CIO, in an Information Week article highlights some similar points. He aptly points out that optimal performance is achieved not by issuing “prescriptive directives,” but by creating high level goals and let ownership of those goals take effect.

Anthony even suggests that the HITECH act money should have been spent to create a “set of best practices around EMR readiness assessment (think gap analysis), vendor selection, workflow redesign and system maintenance (think ASP/SaaS) for the providers that do care” While a certainly noble and worthy goal, I think there’s little evidence that this would have much impact. Why would doctors look to a government process to provide a best practice any better than they now look on meaningful use guidelines?

Meaningful use and the pile of EHR stimulus money reminds me a lot of a parent child relationship. The parents think they know what’s best and so they tell the child what they should do. The child kicks against those things regardless of whether it’s a good or a bad thing that the parent’s asking them to do. The parent then dangles the money in front of the child and says that if they want the money, then the child better do what the parent told them to do.

This is where we’re at with meaningful use. The parents (the government) have required something (meaningful use) of the children (the physicians) if they want the benefit (Stimulus Money). Now we’re waiting to see if the children will rebel or listen to their parents. I’m predicting physicians to be a little more rebellious than the average child. It’s not like the parents in this situation have a great history of past responsibility.