EHR

It’s always interesting to talk with John Halamka, and last week–after athenahealth bought the IP but apparently not the actual code of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) web-based EHR he’s been shepherding for the past 18 years–I got him on the record for a few minutes. We started on the new deal but given that had already been covered pretty well elsewhere we didn’t really stay there. More fun that way–Matthew Holt

Matthew Holt: The guys across town (Partners) ripped out all the stuff they’ve been building and integrating for the last 30 years and they decided to pay Judy Faulkner over a billion dollars. And you took all the stuff that you’ve been building for the past 15 to 20 years and sold it to Jonathan Bush for money.  Does that make you a better businessman than they are?

 (Update Note 2/11/15: While I’ve heard from public & private sources that the cost of the Partners project will be between $700m and $1.4 billion, Carl Dvorak at Epic asked me to point out less than 10% of the cost goes to Epic for their fees/license. The rest I assume is external and internal salaries for implementation costs, and of course it’s possible that many of those costs would exist even if Partners kept its previous IT systems).

John Halamka:  Well, that is hard to say, but I can tell you that smart people in Boston created all these very early systems back in the 1980s. On one hand, the John Glaser group created a client server front end. I joined Beth Israel Deaconess in 1996 and we created an entirely web-based front end. We have common roots but a different path.

It wasn’t so much that I did this because of a business deal. As I wrote in my blog, there is no benefit to me or to my staff. There are no royalty streams or anything like that.  But sure, Beth Israel Deaconess receives a cash payment from Athena. But important to me is that the idea of a cloud-hosted service which is what we’ve been running at Beth Israel Deaconess since the late ’90s hopefully will now spread to more organizations across the country. And what better honor for a Harvard faculty member than to see the work of the team go to more people across the country?

MH: There’s been a lot of debate about the concept of developing for the new world of healthcare using client server technology that has been changed to “sort of” fit the integrated delivery systems over the last 10 years, primarily by Epic but also Cerner and others. In particular how open those systems are and how able they are to migrate to new technology. You’ve obviously seen both sides, you’re obviously been building a different version than that.  And a lot of this is obviously about plugging in other tools, other technologies to do things that were never really envisaged back in 1998. You’ve come down pretty strongly on the web-based side of this, but what’s your sense for how likely it is that what has happened over the last five or ten years in most other systems including the one across the street we just mentioned is going to change to something more that looks more like what you had at Beth Israel Deaconess? Continue reading “Halamka Speaks: athenahealth & the Future of AMCs as Tech Innovators”

flying cadeuciiBy MICHELLE RONAN NOTEBOOM

Accenture Tapped to Continue Work on HealthCare.gov

Accenture, the consulting firm that was hired a year ago to fix the troubled HealthCare.Gov insurance exchange, is awarded a five-year, $563 million to continue its work on the federal site. The government hired Accenture Federal Services to repair the online marketplace after dropping its original contractor, CGI Federal.

The long-term contract with Accenture also signals CMS’s acknowledgement that a task as large as HealthCare.Gov is best run with leadership from an experienced, private-sector vendor.

Connecticut HIE Dissolves After Wasting Millions

A former board member for The Health Information Technology Exchange of Connecticut blames management for the failure of the entity, which was tasked to create statewide HIE but dissolved by the legislature last summer. The HITE-CT “wasted” $4.3 million in federal grants over four years “without accomplishing anything,” according to Ellen Andrews, who served as the board’s consumer advocate.  State auditors also found deficiencies in state controls, legal problems, and a “need for improvement in management practices and procedures.” The state’s legislature is now developing a new exchange strategy.

Prediction: look for more HIEs to falter this year due to mismanagement and lack of sustainability.

Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances on the Rise

Electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) increased from 1,535 to 52,423 between July 2012 and December 2013, according to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care. The percentage of pharmacies enabled for EPCS jumped from 13% to 30% during the same period.

The next task: figuring out how to get more than the current one percent of physicians to participate.

ONC Shares Lessons Learned from State HIEs

An ONC report on state HIEs finds that many exchanges lack a critical mass of data and are struggling with data sharing. The case study also found that the technical approaches, services enabled, and use of policy and legislation varied across states; collaboration among HIE participants is critical for success; and states are leveraging a variety of policy and regulatory levers to advance interoperability and data exchange.

CMS Seeks ICD-10 Testers

CMS is seeking approximately 850 volunteers for ICD-10 end-to-end testing in April, according to a CMS bulletin. Volunteers have until January 9to submit applications to participate in the April 26-May 1, 2015 testing week.

Pediatrics Report Increased EHR Use

Seventy-nine percent of pediatricians reported using an EHR in 2012, compared to 58% in 2009, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.  Only eight percent of physicians say their EHRs include pediatric-specific functionality.

Modernizing Medicine Buys RCM Vendor Aesyntix

EMR developer Modernizing Medicine acquires Aesyntix, a provider of RCM, inventory management, and group purchasing services.

Presumably Modernizing Medicine was most interested in Aesyntix’s RCM component, which may create some concern among Modernizing Medicine’s current RCM partners, which include ADP/AdvancedMD, CareCloud, and Kareo.

flying cadeuciiThe last day of October was the deadline for proposals in response to the U.S. Department of Defense’s call to overhaul its electronic health record software, also known as the Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization (DHMSM). PwC’s proposed solution, called the Defense Operational Readiness Health System (DORHS), seeks to bring innovations from the commercial marketplace to the military health system by using technology that is seamless, proven and reliable.

With team members DSS, Inc., Medsphere Systems Corporation, MedicaSoft and General Dynamics Information Technology, PwC’s goal is to enable every healthcare professional to provide the finest medical care possible to members of the military and their families during every phase of service, through retirement, and assist the Defense Health Agency in its continued business transformation to help implement and manage effectively the world’s largest healthcare delivery system.

Continue reading “A New Era for our Military Health System”

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It’s time to think carefully and look at the large systems (human and technical), institutions, and individuals that contributed to Mr. Duncan’s death. Systems should be designed to protect people and prevent human errors. Certainly we rely on the healthcare system to improve our health and to protect our privacy, especially our rights to health information privacy.

Looking at the death of Mr. Duncan, the poorly designed Epic EHR was a critical part of the problem: the lack of clarity, poor usability, hard to find critical information, and no meaningful quality testing to ensure the system prevents critical errors contributed to his death and endangered many others. Why wasn’t the discharge of a patient with a temperature of 103 from the ER flagged?

EHRs are one of several critical systemic problems.

Current US EHRs were not designed or tested to ensure patient safety or privacy (patient control over the use of PHI for TPO).  The Meaningful Use requirements for EHRs don’t address patient safety or ensure patients’ legal rights to control use of PHI. Let’s face it, the MU requirements were set up by the Health IT industry, not by a federal agency charged with protecting the public, such as NIST or the FDA. Industry lobbying resulted in industry ‘self-regulation’, which has failed to protect the public in every other sector of industry. Industry lobbying is another critical systemic problem.

Our public discourse also is a critical systemic problem.  The 24/7 US media drives us to play the ‘blame game’—and look at what happens: it’s a sham. A massive public and social media exercise substitutes for a crucial scientific and ethical oversight process by government and industry to face or examine the systemic causes and key actors—both people and institutions.  We end up with no responsibility being assigned or addressed.  Or the media hoopla and confused thinking leads to the opposite conclusion: everyone and everything is responsible and blamed, which has the same effect: it lets everyone and everything off the hook. Either way, no one and no institutions are to blame.

Continue reading “Ebola, EHRs, and the Blame Game”

John Mandrola MDIt was a mistake to send the Liberian national Thomas Eric Duncan home from a Dallas emergency room after he presented with fever and pain, which were early signs of Ebola infection.

It would be a larger mistake to miss an important learning opportunity. This case demonstrates what I believe to be a major threat to patient safety—caregiver distraction.

Doctors and nurses are increasingly prevented from giving full attention to the important things in patient care. The degree of value-added nonsense has reached the point where delivering basic care has gown dangerous. This morning, in Canada, news of a case of deadly drug interaction occurred because of alert fatigue—or distraction.

I am a cardiologist; I am also a patient. I want the Duncan case to be a turning point, a wake up call, a never event that serves as a spark to improve the delivery of medical care. Right now, all that this case has changed are tweaks to EHR protocols and checklists. We need more than tweaks; we need big changes.

An uncomfortable truth is that medical mistakes are normal. Errors, like this one in Texas, have occurred since doctors started treating patients. The good news is that technology has made medical care better. No credible person suggests a return to the paper-chart era. Yet, it is still our duty to face mistakes, learn from them, and in so doing, improve future care. Being honest about root causes is necessary.

Another truth about medical mistakes is the ensuing rush to inoculate against blame–which always comes. In the Duncan case, initial blame was assigned to the electronic health record. The computer software failed to flag the travel history in the physician “workflow.” (Just using the word, workflow, hints of the bureaucracy problem.) And you know there is trouble when hospital administrators use the passive voice. “Protocols were followed by both the physician and the nurse…”

Continue reading “An Extremely Teachable Moment”

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As reported last year at HIMSS and by many online news and opinion sources since, physician dissatisfaction with EHRs is growing. Indeed, while this blog post doesn’t focus on the broader picture, general physician career dissatisfaction is disconcertingly high.

The breakneck push for more and better EHR use as a component of regular medical care is a significant part of that malaise, but it is insufficient as an explanation. For the most part, doctors really don’t like what the health IT industry is giving them to work with. The HIMSS survey proves it, showing that around 40 percent of physicians would not recommend their EHR to a colleague.

One would expect an industry to develop better products and improve usability, acceptance and satisfaction over time. In health IT, the opposite has occurred, with most pointing fingers at Meaningful Use as the culprit for awkward workflows and Rube Goldberg solutions cobbled together so everyone can get paid in a timely manner.

It seems EHRs are taking more time to use rather than less, which was the original goal.

Continue reading “EHR Design: It’s a Matter of Time”

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 7.53.02 PMCMS recently announced another change to health IT policy in order to offer healthcare providers greater flexibility. But what will the unintended consequences of this latest change be?

Over the Labor Day weekend, CMS announced that the Meaningful Use Stage 2 deadline will be extended through 2016 in order to offer more options and greater flexibility to providers for the certified use of EHRs.  In the interest of full disclosure, I found the timing to be strange— a rule published over a holiday weekend seems an odd choice, particularly when it is being touted as a benefit to the industry and the impact on healthcare provider organizations and clinicians, alike, is monumental.

Unfortunately, I think the additional flexibility allotted by this rule is the latest example of the unintended consequences of health IT regulations.  In an effort to make things easier and give healthcare providers more leeway, they have, in fact, made the situation unnecessarily more complex.

Agility is not healthcare’s strong suit

It seems at this point, too many options, or waffling between them (for instance the new ICD-10 transition deadline), can be more crippling than stringent regulations, particularly when there is so much on the line.  Healthcare organizations don’t have the wherewithal to vacillate with implementations; they are wrestling with string-tight budgets and constantly shifting rules require large cultural and behavioral changes.  As a result, as Dr. John Halamka noted, health IT agendas are being constantly hijacked by regulatory changes, such as Meaningful Use and ICD-10.

It now seems that hospital administrative teams and physicians again must endure constantly shifting rules that they’ve been coping with for years under Meaningful Use.  As Dr. Ben Kanter, former CMIO of Palomar Health, so astutely noted “A computer system is a tool, just as a scalpel is a tool.  What if a surgeon’s scalpel changed every few weeks?  How is it possible to deliver good care if the primary tool you are using keeps changing on an irregular basis?” Continue reading “Sometimes the Best Choice is the Simplest One”

flying cadeuciiEverywhere we turn these days it seems “Big Data” is being touted as a solution for physicians and physician groups who want to participate in Accountable Care Organizations, (ACOs) and/or accountable care-like contracts with payers.

We disagree, and think the accumulated experience about what works and what doesn’t work for care management suggests that a “Small Data” approach might be good enough for many medical groups, while being more immediately implementable and a lot less costly. We’re not convinced, in other words, that the problem for ACOs is a scarcity of data or second rate analytics. Rather, the problem is that we are not taking advantage of, and using more intelligently, the data and analytics already in place, or nearly in place.

For those of you who are interested in the concept of Big Data, Steve Lohr recently wrote a good overview in his column in the New York Times, in which he said:

“Big Data is a shorthand label that typically means applying the tools of artificial intelligence, like machine learning, to vast new troves of data beyond that captured in standard databases. The new data sources include Web-browsing data trails, social network communications, sensor data and surveillance data.”

Applied to health care and ACOs, the proponents of Big Data suggest that some version of IBM’s now-famous Watson, teamed up with arrays of sensors and a very large clinical data repository containing virtually every known fact about all of the patients seen by the medical group, is a needed investment. Of course, many of these data are not currently available in structured, that is computable, format. So one of the costly requirements that Big Data may impose on us results from the need to convert large amounts of unstructured or poorly structured data to structured data. But when that is accomplished, so advocates tell us, Big Data is not only good for quality care, but is “absolutely essential” for attaining the cost efficiency needed by doctors and nurses to have a positive and money-making experience with accountable care shared-savings, gain-share, or risk contracts.

Continue reading “The Power of Small”

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 2.07.25 PMThe new mantra for the medical practice is upgrade, integrate, and outsource according to the results of the Black Book Rankings™ 2014 Survey. Each year, Black Book gathers over 400,000 viewpoints on information technology through an interactive online survey and telephone discussions. The result is an annual barometer of HIT satisfaction and experiences.

This year, three clear trends emerged for practices looking to stay independent in a changing and challenging time in healthcare. While each trend holds its own unique benefits, it is clear from the survey that many practices are looking to implement all three—upgrade technology, implement integrated solutions, and outsource business functions like revenue cycle management.

According to the survey, nearly 90% of physician practices agree their billing and collections systems need upgrading. Over 65% of those practices are considering a combination of new software and outsourcing services. Here are the trends:

Move to Upgrade Outdated Software

Even with recent changes in the CMS EHR Incentive program, delaying the required use of a 2014 Edition CEHRT, many practices do not currently have an EHR that will enable them to attest for meaningful use. In addition, 91% of business managers fear that the ramifications of their outdated and/or auto-piloted revenue cycle management (RCM) systems, particularly those not integrated to EHRs, will force their physician to sell.

As a result of these challenges and other impending changes like ICD-10, 21% of practices are considering an upgrade of their RCM software within the next six to twelve months, and 90% of those are only considering an EHR centric module.

Practices considering upgrades to cloud-based solutions can see other benefits including reduced costs, seamless upgrades, more flexible access, and reduced concerns around storage and security. Continue reading “2014 Black Book Survey Says Majority of Medical Practices Want Updated Software”

Health care for veterans has been all over the news.  At the same time, the DoD is moving to procure a replacement EHR system.  So it seems there is no time like the present to review a recent RAND case studies report entitled “Redirecting Innovation in U.S. Health Care: Options to Decrease Spending and Increase Value.”

The case studies include a chapter comparing America’s two most broadly deployed EHRs:  The VA’s VistA and Epic.  The tale RAND tells is not one of different EHR technologies, as both VistA and Epic both employ the MUMPS programming language and file-based database. Rather, it is about how different origins, business models and practices have dramatically influenced the respective systems.  As the report itself says, the contrast offers “useful insights into the development, diffusion, and potential future of EHRs.”

VistA

VistA, “the archetype of an enterprise-wide EHR solution,” supports the Veterans Health Administration, “the largest integrated delivery system in the United States.” Initial VistA development was a collaborative, distributed, grass-roots effort where individual VA medical centers built out new clinical functionality on a common platform.

In the mid 90’s, VistA became the instrument of change at the VA.

The pace and scope of EHR adoption increased dramatically under the leadership of Dr. Kenneth W. Kizer, who served as the VA’s Undersecretary for Health from 1994 through 1999.  Dr. Kizer considered installation of a major system upgrade to be a core element in his effort to transform the organization … Continue reading “How Does the VA’s Technology Rate Against Other EMR Vendors?”

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FROM THE VAULT

The Power of Small Why Doctors Shouldn't Be Healers Big Data in Healthcare. Good or Evil? Depends on the Dollars. California's Proposition 46 Narrow Networking
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