Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and HIPAA for FREE!!

Nurses Still Unhappy With EHRs

Posted on August 21, 2017 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.

A new research report looking at nurses’ perceptions of EHRs suggests that despite countless iterations, many still don’t meet the needs of one of their key user groups. While the statistics included in the report are of some value, the open text responses nurses shared tell a particularly important story of what they’re facing of late.

The study, which was conducted by Reaction Data, draws on responses from 245 nurses and nurse leaders, 85% of whom work for a hospital and 15% a medical practice. Categories in which the participants fell broke out as follows:

* Nurses                                          49%
* CNOs                                            18%
* Nurse Managers                           14%
* Directors of Nursing                     12%
* Nurse Practitioners                       2%
* Informatics Nurse                         2%
* VP of Nursing                               2%
* Director, Clinical Informatics        1%

As with most other research houses, Reaction gets the party started by offering a list of vendors’ market share. I take all of these assessments with a grain of salt, but for what it’s worth their data ranks Epic and Meditech at the top, with a 20% market share each, followed by Cerner at 18%, Allscripts with 8% and McKesson with 6%.

The report summary I’ve used to write this item doesn’t share its stats on how the nurses’ ranked specific platforms and how likely they were to recommend those platforms. However, it does note that 63% of respondents said their organization wasn’t actively looking at replacing their EHR, while just 17% said that their employer was actively looking. (Twenty percent said they didn’t know.)

Where the rubber really hit the road, though, was in the comments section. When asked what the EHR needed to improve to support them, nurses had some serious complaints to air:

  • “Many aspects, too many to list. Unfortunately we ‘customized’ many programs, so they don’t necessarily speak to each other…” —Nurse Manager
  • “When we purchased this system 4 years ago, we were told that everything would be unified on one platform within 2 years, but this did not happen and will not happen.” –CNO
  • “Horrible and is a patient safety risk!” –RN
  • “Coordination of care. Very fragmented documentation.” –CNO

So let’s see: We’ve got incompatible modules, questionable execution, safety risks and basic patient care support problems. While the vendors aren’t responsible for customers’ integration problems, I’d find this report disheartening if I were on their team. It seems to me that they ought to step up and address issues like these. I wonder if they see these things as their responsibility?

In the meantime, I’d like to offer a quick postscript. The report’s introduction makes a point of noting – rightly, I think – that the inclusion of a high percentage of non-manager nurses makes the study results far more valuable. Apparently, not everyone agrees.

In fact, some of the vendors the firm met with said flat out that they only want to know what executives have to say – and that other users’ views didn’t matter to them.

Wow. I won’t respond any further than to promise that I’ll stomp all over that premise in a separate column. Stay tuned.

One Hospital Faces Rebuild After Brutal Cyberattack

Posted on July 20, 2017 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.

Countless businesses were hit hard by the recent Petya ransomware attack, but few as hard as Princeton, West Virginia-based Princeton Community Hospital. After struggling with the aftermath of the Petya attack, the hospital had to rebuild its entire network and reinstall its core systems.

The Petya assault, which hit in late June, pounded large firms across the globe, including Nuance, Merck, advertiser WPP, Danish shipping and transport firm Maersk and legal firm DLA Piper.  The list of Petya victims also includes PCH, a 267-bed facility based in the southern part of the state.

After the attack, IT staffers first concluded that the hospital had emerged from the attack relatively unscathed. Hospital leaders noted that they are continuing to provide all inpatient care and services, as well as all other patient care services such as surgeries, therapeutics, diagnostics, lab and radiology, but was experiencing some delays in processing radiology information for non-emergent patients. Also, for a while the hospital diverted all non-emergency ambulance visits away from its emergency department.

However, within a few days executives found that its IT troubles weren’t over. “Our data appears secure, intact, and not hacked into; yet we are unable to access the data from the old devices in the network,” said the hospital in a post on Facebook.

To recover from the Petya attack, PCH decided that it had to install 53 new computers throughout the hospital offering clean access to its Meditech EMR system, as well as installing new hard drives on all devices throughout the system and building out an entirely new network.

When you consider how much time its IT staff must’ve logged bringing basic systems online, rebuilding computers and network infrastructure, it seems clear that the hospital took a major financial blow when Petya hit.

Not only that, I have little doubt that PCH faces doubts in the community about its security.  Few patients understand much, if anything, about cyberattacks, but they do want to feel that their hospital has things under control. Having to admit that your network has been compromised isn’t good for business, even if much bigger companies in and outside the healthcare business were brought to the knees by the same attack. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it is.

That being said, PCH seems to have done a good job keeping the community it serves aware what was going on after the Petya dust settled. It also made the almost certainly painful decision to rebuild key IT assets relatively quickly, which might not have been feasible for a bigger organization.

All told, it seems that PCH survived Petya successfully as any other business might have, and better than some. Let’s hope the pace of global cyberattacks doesn’t speed up further. While PCH might have rebounded successfully after Petya, there’s only so much any hospital can take.

MUMPS and Healthcare

Posted on May 11, 2017 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.

Leave it to David Chou to point out how odd it is to work in healthcare IT. What’s shocking about the image David Chou shared above is that there are so many languages listed. However, despite the vast number of languages listed, MUMPS is so far off the radar of most tech people that they literally didn’t care about it enough to add it to the chart. That’s pretty sad for those of us who care about healthcare.

If you want to get another view about the challenge of so much of healthcare being run on MUMPS, check out this MUMPS thread on Hacker News. For those not familiar with Hacker News, it’s a site that was started by YCombinator and has grown into a community of some of the most progressive tech startup people in the world. The Hacker News thread is really long, so for those who don’t want to read it all the message is simple: MUMPS? What’s that? That’s awful!

To be fair, there were a few dissenting voices who commented on the great features of MUMPS. However, I have to admit that these people sound a little bit like those who espouse the benefits of the fax machine. Sure, it has some extremely beneficial features, but it’s downsides far outweigh the benefits described.

The reality is that we’re not going to get away from MUMPS in healthcare. When you realize that Epic, MEDITECH, Vista (VA), and Intersystems all use some form of MUMPS (or M as they prefer to call it now), you can see why MUMPS will be part of healthcare for a long time to come.

What’s more disappointing to me after reading the Hacker News thread was how people described the culture of the EHR vendors that use MUMPS. They really described it as uninterested in even exploring other more modern options that could help them better able to innovate their products and serve their customers.

Plus, it also hurts to hear so many programmers in the thread talk about how they shunned healthcare because they saw working on something like MUMPS as a career killer. I’m sure this is a common refrain for most developers out there. It’s disheartening to think that many EHR vendors will never benefit from the best developers as long as we’re on MUMPS.

I’m sure MUMPS was great in its day. It seems to have been a wise choice by Epic to start using it when I was born back in 1979. However, can you imagine the technical debt that’s accumulated all these years? Is it any wonder that innovation in healthcare works so slow?

HL7 Releases New FHIR Update

Posted on April 3, 2017 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.

HL7 has announced the release of a new version of FHIR designed to link it with real-world concepts and players in healthcare, marking the third of five planned updates. It’s also issuing the first release of the US Core Implementation Guide.

FHIR release 3 was produced with the cooperation of hundreds of contributors, and the final product incorporates the input of more than 2,400 suggested changes, according to project director Grahame Grieve. The release is known as STU3 (Standard for Trial Use, release 3).

Key changes to the standard include additional support for clinical quality measures and clinical decision support, as well as broader functionality to cover key clinical workflows.

In addition, the new FHIR version includes incremental improvements and increased maturity of the RESTful API, further development of terminology services and new support for financial management. It also defined an RDF format, as well as how FHIR relates to linked data.

HL7 is already gearing up for the release of FHIR’s next version. It plans to publish the first draft of version 4 for comment in December 2017 and review comments on the draft. It will then have a ballot on the version, in April 2018, and publish the new standard by October 2018.

Among those contributing to the development of FHIR is the Argonaut project, which brings together major US EHR vendors to drive industry adoption of FHIR forward. Grieve calls the project a “particularly important” part of the FHIR community, though it’s hard to tell how far along its vendor members have come with the standard so far.

To date, few EHR vendors have offered concrete support for FHIR, but that’s changing gradually. For example, in early 2016 Cerner released an online sandbox for developers designed to help them interact with its platform. And earlier this month, Epic announced the launch of a new program, helping physician practices to build customized apps using FHIR.

In addition to the vendors, which include athenahealth, Cerner, Epic, MEDITECH and McKesson, several large providers are participating. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Intermountain Healthcare, the Mayo Clinic and Partners HealthCare System are on board, as well as the SMART team at the Boston Children’s Hospital Informatics Program.

Meanwhile, the progress of developing and improving FHIR will continue.  For release 4 of FHIR, the participants will focus on record-keeping and data exchange for the healthcare process. This will encompass clinical data such as allergies, problems and care plans; diagnostic data such observations, reports and imaging studies; medication functions such as order, dispense and administration; workflow features like task, appointment schedule and referral; and financial data such as claims, accounts and coverage.

Eventually, when release 5 of FHIR becomes available, developers should be able to help clinicians reason about the healthcare process, the organization says.

Has Electronic Health Record Replacement Failed?

Posted on June 23, 2016 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Justin Campbell, Vice President, Galen Healthcare.
Justin Campbell
A recent Black Book survey of hospital executives and IT employees who have replaced their Electronic Health Record system in the past three years paints a grim picture. Respondents report higher than expected costs, layoffs, declining revenues, disenfranchised clinicians and serious misgivings about the benefits of switching systems. Specifically:

  • 14% of all hospitals that replaced their original EHR since 2011 were losing inpatient revenue at a pace that wouldn’t support the total cost of their replacement EHR
  • 87% of hospitals facing financial challenges now regret the decision to change systems
  • 63% of executive level respondents admitted they feared losing their jobs as a result of the EHR replacement process
  • 66% of system users believe that interoperability and patient data exchange functionality have declined

Surely, this was not the outcome expected when hospitals rushed to replace paper records in response to Congressional incentives (and penalties) included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

But the disappointment reflected in this survey only sheds light on part of the story. The majority of hospitals depicted here were already in financial difficulty. It is understandable that they felt impelled to make a significant change and to do so as quickly as possible. But installing an electronic record system, or replacing one that is antiquated, requires much more than a decision to do so. We should not be surprised that a complex undertaking like this would be burdened by complicated and confusing challenges, chief among which turned out to be “usability” and acceptance.

Another Black Book report, this one from 2013, revealed:

  • 66% of doctors using EHR systems did not do so willingly
  • 87% of those unwilling to use the system claimed usability as their primary complaint
  • 84% of physician groups chose their EHR to reach meaningful use incentives
  • 92% of practices described their EHR as “clunky” and/or difficult to use

None of this should surprise us but we need to ask: was usability really the key driver for EHR replacement? Is usability alone accountable for lost revenue, employment anxiety and buyers’ remorse? Surely organizations would not have dumped millions into failed EHR implementations only to rip-and-replace them due to usability problems and provider dissatisfaction. Indeed, despite the persistence of functional obstacles such as outdated technology, hospitals continue to make new EMR purchases. Maybe the “reason for the rip-and-replace approach by some hospitals is to reach interoperability between inpatient and outpatient data,” wrote Dr. Donald Voltz, MD in EMR and EHR.

Interoperability is linked to another one of the main drivers of EHR replacement: the mission to support value-based care, that is, to improve the delivery of care by streamlining operations and facilitating the exchange of health information between a hospital’s own providers and the caregivers at other hospitals or health facilities. This can be almost impossible to achieve if hospitals have legacy systems that include multiple and non-communicative EHRs.

As explained by Chief Nurse Executive Gail Carlson, in an article for Modern Healthcare, “Interoperability between EHRs has become crucial for their successful integration of operations – and sometimes requires dumping legacy systems that can’t talk to each other.

Many hospitals have numerous ancillary services, each with their own programs. The EHRs are often “best of breed.” That means they employ highly specialized software that provides excellent service in specific areas such as emergency departments, obstetrics or lab work. But communication between these departments is compromised because they display data differently.

In order to judge EHR replacement outcomes objectively, one needs to not just examine the near-term financials and sentiment (admittedly, replacement causes disruption and is not easy), but to also take a holistic view of the impact to the system’s portfolio by way of simplification and future positioning for value-based care. The majority of the negative sentiment and disappointing outcomes may actually stem from the migration and new system implementation process in and of itself. Many groups likely underestimated the scope of the undertaking and compromised new system adoption through a lackluster migration.

Not everyone plunged into the replacement frenzy. Some pursued a solution such as dBMotion to foster care for patients via intercommunications across all care venues. In fact, Allscripts acquired dBMotion to solve for interoperability between its inpatient solution (Eclipsys SCM) and its outpatient EMR offering (Touchworks). dBMotion provides a solution for those organizations with different inpatient and outpatient vendors, offering semantic interoperability, vocabulary management, EMPI and ultimately facilitating a true community-based record.

Yet others chose to optimize what they had, driven by financial constraints. There is a thin line separating EHR replacement from EHR optimization. This is especially true for those HCOs that are neither large enough nor sufficiently funded to be able to afford a replacement; they are instead forced to squeeze out the most value they can from their current investment.

The optimization path is much more pronounced with MEDITECH clients, where a large percentage of their base remains on the legacy MAGIC and C/S platforms.

Denni McColm, a hospital CIO, told healthsystemCIO why many MEDITECH clients are watching and waiting before they commit to a more advanced platform:

“We’re on MEDITECH’s Client/Server version, which is not their older version and not their newest version, and we have it implemented really everywhere that MEDITECH serves. So we have the hospital systems, home care, long-term care, emergency services, surgical center — all the way across the continuum. We plan to go to their latest version sometime in the next few years to get the ambulatory interface for the providers. It should be very efficient — reduced clicks, it’s mobile friendly, and our docs are anxious to move to it,” but we’ll decide when the time is right, she says.

What can we discern from these different approaches and studies?  It’s too early to be sure of the final score. One thing is certain though: the migrations and archival underpinnings of system replacement are essential. They allow the replacement to deliver on the promise of improved usability, enhanced interoperability and take us closer to the goal of value-based care.

About Justin Campbell
Justin is Vice President, Strategy, at Galen Healthcare Solutions. He is responsible for market intelligence, segmentation, business and market development and competitive strategy. Justin has been consulting in Health IT for over 10 years, guiding clients in the implementation, integration and optimization of clinical systems. He has been on the front lines of system replacement and data migration and is passionate about advancing interoperability in healthcare and harnessing analytical insights to realize improvements in patient care. Justin can be found on Twitter at @TJustinCampbell

What’s Happening at MEDITECH w/ Helen Waters, VP @MEDITECH

Posted on January 25, 2016 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: Here’s the video recording of my interview with Helen Waters from MEDITECH

MEDITECH - Helen Waters

Many in the large hospital EHR space have argued that it’s a two horse race between Cerner and Epic. However, many forget how many users MEDITEH still has using its healthcare IT products. Not to mention MEDITECH was originally founded in 1969 and has a rich history working in the space. On Friday, January 29, 2016 at 1 PM ET (10 AM PT), I’ll be sitting down with Helen Waters, VP at MEDITECH to talk about the what’s happening with MEDITECH and where MEDITECH fits into the healthcare IT ecosystem.

You can join my live conversation with Helen Waters and even add your own comments to the discussion or ask Helen questions. All you need to do to watch live is visit this blog post on Friday, January 29, 2016 at 1 PM ET (10 AM PT) and watch the video embed at the bottom of the post or you can subscribe to the blab directly. We’ll be doing a more formal interview for the first 30 minutes and then open up the Blab to others who want to add to the conversation or ask us questions. The conversation will be recorded as well and available on this post after the interview.

We’re interested to hear Helen’s comments about the culture and history of MEDITECH along with what MEDITECH’s doing with its products to change perceptions and misconceptions around the MEDITECH product. We’ll also be sure to ask Helen about important topics like interoperability and physician dissatisfaction (“Too Many Clicks!”). We hope you’ll join us to learn more about what’s happening with MEDITECH.

If you’d like to see the archives of Healthcare Scene’s past interviews, you can find and subscribe to all of Healthcare Scene’s interviews on YouTube.

Meaningful Use EHR Adoption Charts – EHR Market Analysis

Posted on June 12, 2015 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.

ONC continues to push out more data when it comes to meaningful use, EHR adoption, RECs, and related areas. As a data addict, I could spend forever looking through and analyzing this data. So, I’ll probably do a series of posts across Healthcare Scene over the next couple weeks looking at the charts and data that ONC has made public about meaningful use and EHR adoption. I know some of the charts have been out for a while, but the analysis should still prove useful.

If you want to join in on the analysis of this data, I welcome you in the comments of each post. Plus, if you want to find your own nuggets to share, I’d suggest starting with their quick stats and dashboards pages.

First up in our look at the ONC EHR data is a look at the meaningful use participation chart for ambulatory EHR vendors (eligible providers if you prefer):
Ambulatory Practice EHR Adoption - Meaningful Use Participation
The most important part of this chart to me is that the two largest bars on the chart. The largest bar is the 749 “Other EHR Vendors” category at the bottom of the chart. It’s easy to miss this bar, but I believe it’s extremely important to note how big the long tail is when it comes to ambulatory EHR adoption. I’ve often said that it doesn’t take that many doctors to make yourself a decent EHR business. This chart illustrates how many EHR vendors are still in the game. There are only 3 EHR vendors that have over 40,000 providers. I know that many think that EHR vendor consolidation is bound to happen. Some certainly will, but I don’t see it happening at a massive scale in the ambulatory EHR world.

The second largest bar on the chart is the Epic EHR adoption. What’s important about this bar is that this totally represents that hospital owned ambulatory EHR adoption. Epic does not and will not sell Epic directly to a small ambulatory provider. All of these “eligible providers” for Epic are in hospital systems. I take away two important things from this. First, we see in plain sight how big the roll up of ambulatory practices is by hospitals. Second, this chart illustrates the opportunity that Cerner and Meditech have available to them. As you’ll see in the next chart, Cerner and Meditech have more hospital installs than Epic, but they’re much farther down on the ambulatory side. A look at history explains why they’ve had trouble penetrating the ambulatory market, but I believe it’s a huge opportunity for them going forward.

I’ll be interested to see how this chart continues to evolve over time. Will we doctors leaving hospitals to go back on their own shift the balance of power? Will we see massive EHR consolidation? I also can’t help but note that Mitochon Systems Inc shows up on the list and they don’t even sell an EHR to doctors directly any more. I assume this must be their white label business? I’ll have to follow up with them to get an update on their business.

Now let’s take a look at the chart for Hospital EHR vendors participating in the EHR incentive programs:
Hospital EHR Adoption - Meaningful Use Participation
This chart illustrates really well the 3 horse hospital EHR race which we’ve all known for a while. Although, given healthcare IT’s love affair with Epic (kind of like Apple in the IT world), I think some will be a bit surprised that Cerner and MEDITECH are both listed ahead of Epic. If you looked only at large hospital systems, I think the chart would look very different though.

It’s worth also mentioning the other horses in the race: McKesson, CPSI, MEDHOST, Healthland and Allscripts. They’ve all carved out their niche in the hospital space. We’ll see if they can continue to defend their territory. Hospital EHR switching is not easy.

My favorite observation from this chart versus the ambulatory chart is how well it illustrates the importance of secondary EHR vendors (the brownish gold color) in hospitals. I’ll never forget when Alan Portela of Airstrip told me that the EHR world will be a heterogenous environment. That absolutely resonated with me and this chart proves out what he said. Health systems are going to have multiple EHR vendors even if some EHR vendors would like it to be otherwise.

If you want to look at the potential disruptors in the world of EHR, I’d take a look at these secondary EHR vendors. Their foothold in hospitals provides them a really great opportunity to disrupt the status quo as we know it. Most of them won’t, but they’re all sitting on an opportunity. I’d start with the companies that make up the “Other Vendors” brownish gold bar. I bet there are some really interesting ones in that list.

I’d love to hear your observations from these charts in the comments. Anything I missed? Do you disagree with my observations? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Speeding Sepsis Response by Integrating Key Technology

Posted on January 26, 2015 I Written By

Stephen Claypool, M.D., is Vice President of Clinical Development & Informatics, Clinical Solutions, with Wolters Kluwer Health and Medical Director of its Innovation Lab. He can be reached at steve.claypool@wolterskluwer.com.
Stephen Claypool - WKH
Three-week-old Jose Carlos Romero-Herrera was rushed to the ER, lethargic and unresponsive with a fever of 102.3. His mother watched helplessly as doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and assorted other clinicians frantically worked to determine what was wrong with an infant who just 24 hours earlier had been healthy and happy.

Hours later, Jose was transferred to the PICU where his heart rate remained extremely high and his blood pressure dangerously low. He was intubated and on a ventilator. Seizures started. Blood, platelets, plasma, IVs, and multiple antibiotics were given. Still, Jose hovered near death.

CT scans, hourly blood draws and EEGs brought no answers. Despite all the data and knowledge available to the clinical team fighting for Jose’s life, it was two days before the word “sepsis” was uttered. By then, his tiny body was in septic shock. It had swelled to four times the normal size. The baby was switched from a ventilator to an oscillator. He received approximately 16 different IV antibiotics, along with platelets, blood, plasma, seizure medications and diuretics.

“My husband and I were overwhelmed at the equipment in the room for such a tiny little person. We were still in shock about how we’d just sat there and enjoyed him a few hours ago and now were being told that we may not be bringing him back home with us,” writes Jose’s mother, Edna, who shared the story of her baby’s 30-day ordeal as part of the Sepsis Alliance’s “Faces of Sepsis” series.

Jose ultimately survived. Many do not. Three-year-old Ivy Hayes went into septic shock and died after being sent home from the ER with antibiotics for a UTI. Larry Przybylski’s mother died just days after complaining of a “chill” that she suspected was nothing more than a 24-hour bug.

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming, often-fatal immune response to infection. Worldwide, there are an estimated 8 million deaths from sepsis, including 750,000 in the U.S. At $20 billion annually, sepsis is the single most expensive condition treated in U.S. hospitals.

Hampering Efforts to Fight Sepsis

Two overarching issues hamper efforts to drive down sepsis mortality and severity rates.

First, awareness among the general population is surprisingly low. A recent study conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Sepsis Alliance found that just 44% of Americans had ever even heard of sepsis.

Second, the initial presentation of sepsis can be subtle and its common signs and symptoms are shared by multiple other illnesses. Therefore, along with clinical acumen, early detection requires the ability to integrate and track multiple data points from multiple sources—something many hospitals cannot deliver due to disparate systems and siloed data.

While the Sepsis Alliance focuses on awareness through campaigns including Faces of Sepsis and Sepsis Awareness Month, hospitals and health IT firms are focused on reducing rates by arming clinicians with the tools necessary to rapidly diagnose and treat sepsis at its earliest stages.

A primary clinical challenge is that sepsis escalates rapidly, leading to organ failure and septic shock, resulting in death in nearly 30 percent of patients. Every hour without treatment significantly raises the risk of death, yet early screening is problematic. Though much of the data needed to diagnose sepsis already reside within EHRs, most systems don’t have the necessary clinical decision support content or informatics functionality.

There are also workflow issues. Inadequate cross-shift communication, challenges in diagnosing sepsis in lower-acuity areas, limited financial resources and a lack of sepsis protocols and sepsis-specific quality metrics all contribute to this intractable issue.

Multiple Attack Points

Recognizing the need to attack sepsis from multiple angles, our company is testing a promising breakthrough in the form of POC Advisor™. The program is a holistic approach that integrates advanced technology with clinical change management to prevent the cascade of adverse events that occur when sepsis treatment is delayed.

This comprehensive platform is currently being piloted at Huntsville Hospital in Alabama and John Muir Medical Center in California. It works by leveraging EHR data and automated surveillance, clinical content and a rules engine driven by proprietary algorithms to begin the sepsis evaluation process. Mobile technology alerts clinical staff to evaluate potentially septic patients and determine a course of treatment based on their best clinical judgment.

For a truly comprehensive solution, it is necessary to evaluate specific needs at each hospital. That information is used to expand sepsis protocols and add rules, often hundreds of them, to improve sensitivity and specificity and reduce alert fatigue by assessing sepsis in complex clinical settings. These additional rules take into account comorbid medical conditions and medications that can cause lab abnormalities that may mimic sepsis. This helps to ensure alerts truly represent sepsis.

The quality of these alerts is crucial to clinical adoption. They must be both highly specific and highly sensitive in order to minimize alert fatigue. In the case of this specific system, a 95% specificity and sensitivity rating has been achieved by constructing hundreds of variations of sepsis rules. For example, completely different rules are run for patients with liver disease versus those with end-stage renal disease. Doing so ensures clinicians only get alerts that are helpful.

Alerts are also coupled with the best evidence-based recommendations so the clinical staff can decide which treatment path is most appropriate for a specific patient.

The Human Element

To address the human elements impacting sepsis rates, the system in place includes clinical change management to develop best practices, including provider education and screening tools and protocols for early sepsis detection. Enhanced data analytics further manage protocol compliance, public reporting requirements and real-time data reporting, which supports system-wide best practices and performance improvement.

At John Muir, the staff implemented POC Advisor within two medical/surgical units for patients with chronic kidney disease and for oncology patient populations. Four MEDITECH interfaces sent data to the platform, including lab results, pharmacy orders, Admit Discharge Transfer (ADT) and vitals/nursing documentation. A clinical database was created from these feeds, and rules were applied to create the appropriate alerts.

Nurses received alerts on a VoIP phone and then logged into the solution to review the specifics and determine whether they agree with the alerts based on their clinical training. The system prompted the nursing staff to respond to each one, either through acknowledgement or override. If acknowledged, suggested guidance regarding the appropriate next steps was provided, such as alerting the physician or ordering diagnostic lactate tests, based on the facility’s specific protocols. If alerts were overridden, a reason had to be entered, all of which were logged, monitored and reported. If action was not taken, repeat alerts were fired, typically within 10 minutes. If repeat alerts were not acted upon, they were escalated to supervising personnel.

Over the course of the pilot, the entire John Muir organization benefited from significant improvements on several fronts:

  • Nurses were able to see how data entered into the EHR was used to generate alerts
  • Data could be tracked to identify clinical process problems
  • Access to clinical data empowered the quality review team
  • Nurses reported being more comfortable communicating quickly with physicians based on guidance from the system and from John Muir’s standing policies

Finally, physicians reported higher confidence in the validity of information relayed to them by the nursing staff because they knew it was being communicated based on agreed upon protocols.

Within three months, John Muir experienced significant improvements related to key sepsis compliance rate metrics. These included an 80% compliance with patient screening protocols, 90% lactate tests ordered for patients who met screening criteria and 75% initiation of early, goal-directed therapy for patients with severe sepsis.

Early data from Huntsville Hospital is equally promising, including a 37% decline in mortality on patient floors where POC Advisor was implemented. Thirty-day readmissions have declined by 22% on screening floors, and data suggest documentation improvements resulting from the program may positively impact reimbursement levels.

This kind of immediate outcome is generating excitement at the pilot hospitals. Though greater data analysis is still necessary, early indications are that a multi-faceted approach to sepsis holds great promise for reducing deaths and severity.

HL7 Backs Effort To Boost Patient Data Exchange

Posted on December 8, 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.

Standards group Health Level Seven has kicked off a new project intended to increase the adoption of tech standards designed to improve electronic patient data exchange. The initiative, the Argonaut Project, includes just five EMR vendors and four provider organizations, but it seems to have some interesting and substantial goals.

Participating vendors include Athenahealth, Cerner, Epic, McKesson and MEDITECH, while providers include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Intermoutain  Healthcare, Mayo Clinic and Partners HealthCare. In an interesting twist, the group also includes SMART, Boston Children’s Hospital Informatics Program’s federally-funded mobile app development project. (How often does mobile get a seat at the table when interoperability is being discussed?) And consulting firm the Advisory Board Company is also involved.

Unlike the activity around the much-bruited CommonWell Alliance, which still feels like vaporware to industry watchers like myself, this project seems to have a solid technical footing. On the recommendation of a group of science advisors known as JASON, the group is working at creating a public API to advance EMR interoperability.

The springboard for its efforts is HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources. HL7’s FHir is a RESTful API, an approach which, the standards group notes, makes it easier to share data not only across traditional networks and EMR-sharing modular components, but also to mobile devices, web-based applications and cloud communications.

According to JASON’s David McCallie, Cerner’s president of medical informatics, the group has an intriguing goal. Members’ intent is to develop a health IT operating system such as those used by Apple and Android mobile devices. Once that was created, providers could then use both built-in apps resident in the OS and others created by independent developers. While the devices a “health IT OS” would have to embrace would be far more diverse than those run by Android or iOS, the concept is still a fascinating one.

It’s also neat to hear that the collective has committed itself to a fairly aggressive timeline, promising to accelerate current FHIT development to provide hands-on FHIR profiles and implementation guides to the healthcare world by spring of next year.

Lest I seem too critical of CommonWell, which has been soldiering along for quite some time now, it’s onlyt fair to note that its goals are, if anything, even more ambitious than the Argonauts’. CommonWell hopes to accomplish nothing less than managing a single identity for every person/patient, locating the person’s records in the network and managing consent. And CommonWell member Cerner recently announced that it would provide CommonWell services to its clients for free until Jan. 1, 2018.

But as things stand, I’d wager that the Argonauts (I love that name!) will get more done, more quickly. I’m truly eager to see what emerges from their efforts.

Is Healthcare Missing Out on 21st Century Technology?

Posted on July 31, 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.

This tweet struck me as I consider some of the technologies at the core of healthcare. As a patient, many of the healthcare technologies in use are extremely disappointing. As an entrepreneur I’m excited by the possibilities that newer technologies can and will provide healthcare.

I understand the history of healthcare technology and so I understand much of why healthcare organizations are using some of the technologies they do. In many cases, there’s just too much embedded knowledge in the older technology. In other cases, many believe that the older technologies are “more reliable” and trusted than newer technologies. They argue that healthcare needs to have extremely reliable technologies. The reality of many of these old technologies is that they don’t stop someone from purchasing the software (yet?). So, why should these organizations change?

I’m excited to see how the next 5-10 years play out. I see an opportunity for a company to leverage newer technologies to disrupt some of the dominant companies we see today. I reminded of this post on my favorite VC blog. The reality is that software is a commodity and so it can be replaced by newer and better technology and displace the incumbent software.

I think we’ve seen this already. Think about MEDITECH’s dominance and how Epic is having its hey day now. It does feel like software displacement in healthcare is a little slower than other industries, but it still happens. I’m interested to see who replaces Epic on the top of the heap.

I do offer one word of caution. As Fred says in the blog post above, one way to create software lock in is to create a network of users that’s hard to replicate. Although, he also suggested that data could be another way to make your software defensible. I’d describe it as data lock-in and not just data. We see this happening all over the EHR industry. Many EHR vendors absolutely lock in the EHR data in a way that makes it really challenging to switch EHR software. If exchange of EHR data becomes wide spread, that’s a real business risk to these EHR software companies.

While it’s sometimes disappointing to look at the old technology that powers healthcare, it also presents a fantastic opportunity to improve our system. It is certainly not easy to sell a new piece of software to healthcare. In fact, you’ll likely see the next disruptive software come from someone with deep connections inside healthcare partnered with a progressive IT expert.