A recent RAND(1) study has concluded that the implementation of health information technology (HIT) has neither effected a reduction in the cost of healthcare nor an improvement in the quality of healthcare. The RAND authors confidently predicted that the widespread adoption of HIT will eventually achieve these goals if certain “conditions” were implemented. I do not believe that there is sufficient scientific data to support the authors’ conclusion nor validate the Federal Government’s decision to encourage the universal installation of “certified” electronic medical records (EMRs.)
As a “geek” physician who runs a solo, private practice and the creator of one of the older EMRs, I believe that I can provide a somewhat unique perspective on the HIT debate which will resonate with a large fraction of private practitioners.
Continue reading “A Time Out For Health IT?”
Filed Under: OP-ED, Tech, THCB
Tagged: Costs, Data, EHR, EHR adoption, Federal government, Hayward Zwerling, HIT, Meaningful Use, Physicians, RAND study
Mar 17, 2013
In case you missed it, the shocking news was that health IT companies that stood to profit from billions of dollars in federal subsidies to potential customers poured in – well, actually, poured in not that much money at all when you think about it – lobbying for passage of the HITECH Act in 2009. This, putatively, explains why electronic health records (EHRs) have thus far failed to dramatically improve quality and lower cost, with a secondary explanation from athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush that everything would be much better if the HITECH rules had been written by Jonathan Bush of athenahealth.
Next up: corporate lobbying for passage of the 1862 Pacific Railroad Bill is blamed for Amtrak’s dismal on-time record in 2013.
The actual scandal is more complicated and scary. It has to do with the adamant refusal by hospitals and doctors to adopt electronic records no matter what the evidence. Way back in 1971, for example, when Intel was a mere fledgling and Microsoft and Apple weren’t even gleams in their founders’ eyes, a study in a high-profile medical journal found that doctors missed up to 35 percent of the data in a paper chart. Thirty-seven years later, when Intel, Microsoft and Apple were all corporate giants, a study in the same journal of severely ill coronary syndrome patients found virtually the same problem: “essential” elements to quality care missing in the paper record.
Continue reading “The Health IT Scandal the NY Times Didn’t Cover”
Filed Under: Tech, THCB
Tagged: EHR, EHR adoption, HIT, Hospitals, Innovation, Meaningful Use, Michael Millenson, Patient Safety, Physicians, Quality
Mar 3, 2013
Over the next few months, the majority of my time will be spent discussing topics such as care coordination, healthcare information exchange, care management, real time analytics, and population health. At BIDMC, we’ve already achieved 100% EHR adoption and 90% Meaningful Use attestation among our clinician community. Now that the foundation is laid, I believe our next body of work is to craft the technology and workflow solutions which will be hallmarks of the “post EHR” era.
What does this mean?
I’ve written previously about BIDMC’s Accountable Care Organization strategy, which can be summed up as ACO=HIE + analytics.
In a “post EHR” era we need to go beyond simple data capture and reporting, we need care management that ensures patients with specific diseases follow standardized guidelines and protocols, escalating deviations to the care team. That team will include PCPs, specialists, home care, long term care, and family members. The goal of a Care Management Medical Record (CMMR) will be to provide a dashboard that overlays hospital and professional data with a higher level of management.
How could this work?
Imagine that we define each patient’s healthcare status in terms of “properties”. Data elements might include activities of daily living, functional status, current care plans, care preferences, diagnostic test results, and therapies, populated from many sources of data including every EHR containing patient data, hospital discharge data, and consumer generated data from PHRs/home health devices.
That data will be used in conjunction with rules that generate alerts and reminders to care managers and other members of the care team (plus the patient). The result is a Care Management Medical Record system based on a foundation of EHRs that provides much more than any one EHR.
My challenge in 2013-2014 will be to build and buy components that turn multiple EHRs into a CMMR at the community level.
Continue reading “The “Post EHR” Era”
Filed Under: Tech, THCB
Tagged: ACOs, BIDMC, Care Management Medical Record, coordinated care, delivery innovation, EHR, EHR adoption, John Halamka, Meaningful Use, post-EHR era
Feb 12, 2013
What a week last week! First the disgraced cyclist confession and later the baffling college-football-player-and-his nonexistent-(dead)-girlfriend story, with the RAND report sandwiched somewhere in between. It’s positively a scandal-palooza.
What’s that? You don’t feel like the recent RAND report, which basically says that a 2005 RAND study financed by GE and Cerner was wildly optimistic in predicting about $81 billion in potential health care cost savings through widespread adoption of electronic health records, qualifies as a genuine hoax, controversy, scandal?
But it does neatly frame what is arguably a unique characteristic of the healthcare industry—a trait that extends to peripheral industries as well. Basically, healthcare is an interconnected environment. Call it the systems theory of healthcare, co-dependency … or just regular dependency. Call it what you want, but there is an interconnectedness in healthcare that we ignore at the expense of national wellness.
Witness key data points provided by the RAND report:
- Modern health IT systems are not interconnected and interoperable, functioning “less as ‘ATM cards,’ allowing a patient or provider to access needed health information anywhere at any time, than as ‘frequent flier cards’ intended to enforce brand loyalty…”
- Neither are they widely adopted, with an estimated 27 percent of hospitals utilizing a basic electronic record. Without broad adoption, interoperability is far less relevant.
- Improvements in quality of care / patient safety and reductions in healthcare costs (which have grown by $800 billion since 2005) are not manifesting with EHR adoption, in part because hospitals and clinics are rushing to adopt mediocre solutions and garner federal funds.
- The provision of care is the same as it ever was, even though EHRs are frequently promoted as the optimal tool for a different kind of care.
The reasons for these disappointing stats are readily apparent and unalterably interconnected.
Continue reading “Are Healthcare and Health IT in a Dysfunctional Relationship?”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Cerner, Costs, Edmund Billings, EHR, EHR adoption, EHR incentives, Fee-for-service, General Electric, HIT, Hospitals, Interoperability, IT vendors, Meaningful Use, Patients, Physicians, Quality, RAND study
Jan 23, 2013
Although healthcare providers are making progress in adopting health IT, Americans seem to be resistant to change to Electronic Health Records (EHRs). In fact, only 26 percent of Americans want their medical records to be digital, according to findings from the third annual EHR online survey of 2,147 U.S. adults, conducted for Xerox by Harris Interactive in May 2012.
Last month the Institute of Medicine issued a seminal report entitled “Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health in America.” The report estimates the American healthcare system suffered a $750 billion loss in 2009 from inefficient services and administrative expenditures. The report is grounded on the principle that effective, real-time insights for providers and patients which result in collaborative and efficient care depend on the adoption and use of digital records.
As people are naturally resistant to change, education will be key in gaining support among Americans for the transition to EHRs. If providers can help patients understand “what’s in it for me,” that will likely go a long way in making Americans feel more comfortable with the switch to digital.
Let’s take a look at five ways EHRs directly impact the patient. For these examples, we’ll use a fictitious patient named “Joe”:
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: caregivers, e-Prescribing, EHR, EHR adoption, HIEs, IOM, Midas+Live Software, Predictive analytics, Security, Will Saunders, Xerox
Oct 2, 2012
Electronic health records (EHRs) offer many valuable benefits for patient safety, but it becomes apparent that the effective application of healthcare informatics creates problems and unintended consequences. As many turn their attention to solving the seemingly intractable problems of healthcare IT, one element remains particularly challenging–integration–healthcare’s “killer app.” Painfully missing are low-cost, easy to implement, plug-and-play, nonintrusive integration solutions. But why is this?
First, we must stop confusing application
integration with information
integration. Our goal must be to communicate data (ie, integrate information), not to integrate application functionality via complex and expensive application program interfaces (APIs). Communicating data simply requires a loosely coupled flow of data, as occurs today via email. In contrast, integration is a CIOs nightmare. Integrating applications, when we just wanted a bit of information, is akin to killing a gnat with a brick.
Even worse, like a bad version of Groundhog Day, the healthcare IT industry keeps repeating the same mistakes, and we keep working with these mistakes. Consultants and vendors from whom we request simple data communication solutions offer their sleight of hand, which usually recasts our problem into a profitable application integration project that simply costs us more money. This misdirection takes us down a maze of tightly coupled integrations that are costly, fragile and brittle, and not really based on loosely-coupled data exchanges, a simpler approach that allows the Internet to perform so well.
The key to unlocking the potential of EHRs lies in securely communicating (a.k.a. exchanging) data between EHR silos. If we simply begin by streaming data from EHR systems onto a common backbone, using a common currency like XML (eXtensible Markup Language), we will have solved healthcare integration in a way that works the way much of the Internet works. And this is good. When this happens, we know interoperability will work, robustly. Continue reading “It’s the Patient, Stupid”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Clay McDonald, EHR adoption, Groundhog Day, Integration, PHR
Sep 10, 2012
On Wednesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the results of its yearly survey on Electronic Health Records (EHR) adoption for office-based physicians. No surprises. Generally speaking, the majority of physicians in ambulatory practice are now using an EHR, and over half of surveyed doctors say that they intend to seek Meaningful Use incentives. The report is also presenting results broken down by state, so you can learn what folks are doing in your immediate vicinity. The more instructive exercise is to compare last year’s survey results [Fig. 1] to this year’s estimated EHR adoption numbers [Fig. 2].
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: CDC, EHR, EHR adoption, Margalit Gur-Arie, Meaningful Use, Office-based physicians
Dec 2, 2011
Seven months into 2011, things look very different than they did this time last year at my office. Not only have I been using an electronic medical record for nine months now, but I’ve also been submitting claims electronically (through a free clearinghouse) using an online practice management system. I’ve also begun scanning patients’ insurance cards into the computer, as well as converting all the paper insurance Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) into digital form. I’ve even scanned all my office bills and business paperwork and tossed all the actual paper into one big box. As of the first of the year I even stopped generating “daysheets” at the end of work each day. After all, with my new system I can always call up the information I want whenever I need it.
How did such a committed papyrophile get to this point? It is the culmination of a process that actually began last summer with the purchase of an adorable refurbished little desktop scanner from Woot ($79.99, retails for $199, such a deal!) The organizational software is useless for my purposes, but it does generate OCR PDFs, which makes copying and pasting ID numbers from insurance cards into wherever else they need to be a piece of proverbial cake. The first step was to start scanning the office’s administrative paperwork (phone bills, electric, etc), since that didn’t affect the staff’s workflow. Suddenly, instead of having to sort the increasingly teetering piles of paper bills into file folders in an upstairs desk drawer, I had a single file on my computer where I could access any document I needed with a click or two.
Continue reading “The Year of Going Paperless”
Filed Under: The Insider's Guide To Health Care
Tagged: EHR adoption, Low cost, Lucy Hornstein
Aug 9, 2011
For over a hundred years the paper chart has been a trusted partner and best friend to many physicians and nurses. The paper chart was born the day a new patient walked into the office, a pristine, crisp and neatly color-coded folder, with just the right markings in carefully shaped calligraphy on its covers. As the years went by, the paper chart grew in size, acquired meaning and wisdom, and like most of us, became a bit tattered around the edges and heftier in the middle. It felt good to hold the elderly paper chart in your hands and its voluminous physical presence inspired confidence and trust. The paper chart is dead. In some places the paper chart’s pages are still turning slowly, but we all know its long, productive life has come to an end and someone should pull the plug and call it. Or do we?
In 1969 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed a 5 stage model for typical grieving behavior. The various reactions from the clinical community to the apparent demise of the paper chart exhibit almost textbook adherence to the Kübler-Ross model, with each clinician advancing through the five stages of grief at his/her own pace*.
Denial – This is a joke. These people don’t understand medicine and this entire Obamacare thing will soon go away and we’ll return to normalcy. My practice is doing just fine on paper and my patients get all this fancy medical home care right here and always had. They actually get better care. Besides, I have patients to see and I am too busy to tinker with these fads that come and go every five years or so. Continue reading “The Kübler-Ross Model of EHR Adoption”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: EHR adoption, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Margalit Gur-Arie, Stages of grief
Apr 25, 2011
A recent post in the Wall Street Journal Health Blog noted that a study found electronic medical records don’t improve outpatient quality. The authors of the Archives of Internal Medicine article, Electronic Health Records and Clinical Decision Support Systems, correctly points out that we should be skeptical and “doubt [the] argument that the use of EHRs is a “magic bullet” for health care quality improvement, as some advocates imply.”
This should surprise no one. Were we that naive to think that simply installing health information technology (HIT) in the medical field would generate significant improvement in outcomes? Does simply installing computers in our classrooms improve educational test scores?
Of course not.
The excellent commentary after the article makes some plausible reasons why the clinical decision support (CDS) didn’t seem to improve outcomes on 20 quality indicators. First, it isn’t clear that the CDS implemented across the various doctors’ offices and emergency rooms actually addressed the indicators studied. Second, the data studied is already dated (from the 2005 to 2007 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey), a long time in technology terms (iPhone first debuted in 2007). The authors of the original article also point out that there is some evidence that institution specific use of CDS actually improves quality. Whether this can be scaled to the national level is the question.
Continue reading “Why This Primary Care Doctor Loves His EHR”
Filed Under: Electronic Health Records, Physicians
Tagged: CDS, Davis Liu, EHR, EHR adoption
Feb 7, 2011