When building software, requirements are everything.
And although good requirements do not necessarily lead to good software, poor requirements never do. So how does this apply to electronic health records? Electronic health records are defined primarily as repositories or archives of patient data. However, in the era of meaningful use, patient-centered medical homes, and accountable care organizations, patient data repositories are not sufficient to meet the complex care support needs of clinical professionals. The requirements that gave birth to modern EHR systems are for building electronic patient data stores, not complex clinical care support systems–we are using the wrong requirements.
Two years ago, as I was progressing in my exploration of workflow management, it became clear that current EHR system designs are data-centric and not care or process-centric. I bemoaned this fact in the post From Data to Data + Processes: A Different Way of Thinking about EHR Software Design. Here is an excerpt.
Do perceptions of what constitutes an electronic health record affect software design? Until recently, I hadn’t given much thought to this question. However, as I have spent more time considering implementation issues and their relationship to software architecture and design, I have come to see this as an important, even fundamental, question.
The Computer-based Patient Record: An Essential Technology for Health Care, the landmark report published in 1991 (revised 1998) by the Institute of Medicine, offers this definition of the patient record:
A patient record is the repository of information about a single patient. This information is generated by health care professionals as a direct result of interaction with the patient or with individuals who have personal knowledge of the patient (or with both).
Note specifically that the record is defined as a repository (i.e., a collection of data). There is no mention of the medium of storage (paper or otherwise), only what is stored. The definition of patient health record taken from the ASTM E1384-99 document, Standard Guide for Content and Structure of the Electronic Health Record, offers a similar view—affirming the patient record as a collection of data. Finally, let’s look at the definition of EHR as it appears in the 2009 ARRA bill that contains the HITECH Act:
ELECTRONIC HEALTH RECORD —The term ‘‘electronic health record’’ means an electronic record of health-related information on an individual that is created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized health care clinicians and staff. (123 STAT. 259)
Even here, 10 years later, the record/archive/repository idea persists. Now, back to the issue at hand: How has the conceptualization of the electronic health record as primarily a collection of data affected the design of software systems that are intended to access, manage, and otherwise manipulate said data?
Continue reading “Is the Electronic Health Record Defunct?”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Data, Data Management, EHR Design, Meaningful Use, Patient Safety, Quality, Workflow
Jun 30, 2014
Five years ago, my mother needed an orthopedic surgeon for a knee replacement. Unable to find any data, we went with an academic doctor that was recommended to us (she suffered surgical complications). Last month, we were again looking for an orthopedic surgeon- this time hoping that a steroid injection in her spine might allay the need for invasive back surgery.
This time, thanks to a recent data dump from CMS, I was able to analyze some information about Medicare providers in her area and determine the most experienced doctor for the job. Of 453 orthopedic surgeons in Maryland, only a handful had been paid by Medicare for the procedure more than 10 times. The leading surgeon had done 263- as many as the next 10 combined. We figured he might be the best person to go to, and we were right- the procedure went like clockwork.
Had it been a month prior to the CMS data release, I wouldn’t have had the data at my fingertips. And I certainly wouldn’t have found the most experienced hand in less than 10 minutes.
It’s been a couple of months since the release of Medicare data by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) on the volume and cost of services billed by healthcare providers, and despite the whiff of scandal surrounding the highest paid providers (including the now-famous Florida ophthalmologist that received $21 million) the analyses so far have been somewhat unsurprising. This week, coinciding with the fifth Health DataPalooza, is a good time to take stock of the utility of this data, its limitations, and what the future may hold.
Continue reading “10 Things You Can Do With CMS Data”
Filed Under: Tech, THCB
Tagged: CMS, Data Dump, Mash ups, Medicare, Outliers, Practice patterns, Quality, specialists, Trending, Value
Jun 9, 2014
Last year, about 43 million people around the globe were injured from the hospital care that was intended to help them; as a result, many died and millions suffered long-term disability. These seem like dramatic numbers – could they possibly be true?
If anything, they are almost surely an underestimate. These findings come from a paper we published last year funded and done in collaboration with the World Health Organization. We focused on a select group of “adverse events” and used conservative assumptions to model not only how often they occur, but also with what consequence to patients around the world.
Our WHO-funded study doesn’t stand alone; others have estimated that harm from unsafe medical care is far greater than previously thought. A paper published last year in the Journal of Patient Safety estimated that medical errors might be the third leading cause of deaths among Americans, after heart disease and cancer.
While I find that number hard to believe, what is undoubtedly true is this: adverse events – injuries that happen due to medical care – are a major cause of morbidity and mortality, and these problems are global. In every country where people have looked (U.S., Canada, Australia, England, nations of the Middle East, Latin America, etc.), the story is the same.
Patient safety is a big problem – a major source of suffering, disability, and death for the world’s population.The problem of inadequate health care, the global nature of this challenging problem, and the common set of causes that underlie it, motivated us to put together PH555X.
It’s a HarvardX online MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) with a simple focus: health care quality and safety with a global perspective.
Continue reading “Harvard MOOC: Patient Safety and Quality with Ashish Jha”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Ashish Jha, EduX, Global Health, Medical Education, MOOC, Patient Safety, PH55X, public health, Quality
May 15, 2014
Doctors get blamed a lot these days — blamed for aversion to change, for obstructing innovation, and for being self-centered. This familiar litany asserts that in the nation’s drive to transform health care, physicians are part of the problem.
While it is undeniable that doctors are part of the problem in some places, it is equally undeniable that they are leading innovation in many places and must be part of the solution everywhere.
We may well be in the midst of the most unsettling era in health care and that turbulence is bone-jarring to physicians. We argue that there is a doctor crisis in the United States today – a convergence of complex forces preventing primary care and specialty physicians from doing what they most want to do: Put their patients first at every step in the care process every time.
Barriers include overzealous regulation, bureaucracy, liability burden, reduced reimbursements, and poorly designed care delivery systems.
On the surface the notion of a doctor crisis seems altogether counterintuitive. How could there be a “crisis’’ afflicting such highly educated, well-compensated members of our society?
But the nature of the crisis emerges quite clearly when we listen to doctors. Ask about the environment in which they practice and you hear words such as “chaos,’’ “conflict,’’ and “dysfunction.’’ Based on deep interviews with doctors throughout the country, the research firm Harris Interactive reports that a majority of physicians are pessimistic about their profession; a profession Harris describes as “a minefield’’ where physicians feel burned out and “under assault on all fronts.’’
Have terms this extreme ever been used to characterize the plight of physicians in our nation? Burnout, chaos, conflict, dysfunction, minefield, under assault. How can the nation transform its health care system under such disturbing conditions?
Continue reading “The Doctor Crisis”
Filed Under: OP-ED, Physicians, THCB
Tagged: Burnout, Charles Kenney, Doctor Crisis, Information Management, Innovation, Jack Cochran, Quality
May 11, 2014
In further celebration of Nurses Week, it’s worth discussing this TIME article about the “Killer Burden on Nurses” under the Affordable Care Act.
The point I’m raising and highlighting here is not meant to be political or partisan, but really one about nursing workloads, management decisions, and what’s right for patients.
We’ve seen recently that American healthcare spending is UP about 10%(the biggest increase in spending since 1980) – mainly due to newly insured patients getting care. The point is to get people care and treatment, but maybe the law should have been called the “More People Getting Healthcare Act?” That’s a noble goal.
From the TIME article, an opinion piece written by a nurse from California:
“… I worry that the switch may compromise the quality of the care our patients receive.”
The nurse talks about patients who are sicker due to not getting good healthcare previously. These patients require more attention and more nursing time.
In any workplace, the staffing levels should be set based on the total workload. Using “number of patients” is not a good basis, since the acuity of patients (and the resulting workloads) aren’t equal. Not every patient is the same.
Hospitals, due to other industries, do a really poor job of “industrial engineering” work that would establish the right staffing levels based on workloads.
Continue reading “Higher Workloads and Fewer Nurses? Not a Recipe for Patient Protection and Affordable Care.”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB
Tagged: Burnout, frontline health workers, LEAN, Mark Graban, Nurses, Quality, The ACA, Wellness
May 8, 2014
On April 29, Dr. Daniel Croviotto published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, “A Doctor’s Declaration of Independence,” in which he argued that it is time to “defy healthcare mandates issued by bureaucrats not in the healing profession.”
Dr. Croviotto does a good job of articulating his frustration with the increasingly burdensome bureaucracy and regulations placed on care. Many physicians and nurses share his frustration. I once did, until I saw a way out of the cynicism and frustration – a way that can improve the quality and lower the cost of care for all Americans.
No matter how misguided we think the federal government is in its electronic health record mandate or other requirements, simply defying mandates as Dr. Croviotto proposes is not likely to accomplish much. Those who signed the Declaration of Independence knew it was only an initial step toward ridding the country of tyranny. They had to create a new vision for a better, more effective government.
Similarly, the medical profession needs to move beyond cynicism to create a vision for a better, more effective healthcare system.
Continue reading “A Declaration of Independence Is Only the Beginning”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB
Tagged: frontline health workers, health care delivery, Hospitals, John Haughom, LEAN, Physicians, practice of medicine, process improvement, Quality
May 7, 2014
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
This aphorism has been deliciously, but, alas, incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein (the saying actually has mixed origins, but credit properly might be given to sociologist William Bruce Cameron, writing in 1963).
But, whatever its provenance, the saying is particularly appropriate in describing the woeful lack of attention paid to the long-standing problem of diagnosis errors in the provision of health care services.
Last week academic researchers from Baylor and the University of Texas published important research estimating that one in 20 adults in the U.S., or roughly 12 million people every year, receive an error of diagnosis—a wrong, missed or delayed diagnosis—in ambulatory care.
This likely represents a conservative estimate of the incidence of such errors in ambulatory care and does not attempt to include inpatient hospital care or care provided in nursing homes and post-acute care facilities, such as rehab hospitals.
The news media correctly decided that this peer-reviewed finding deserved prominent attention—it was a lead story on “NBC Nightly News” and other national news programs.
It seems that attaching a large number to the prevalence of such errors provided the needed news hook to give the problem the attention it has long deserved. Surveys reveal that the public is worried as much about a misdiagnosis or missed diagnosis as any other quality and safety issue in health care.
Autopsy studies performed over time find that unacceptably high rates of diagnosis errors persist; similarly, diagnosis errors continue to represent a leading cause of medical malpractice suits.
But even without newsworthy body counts, the problem of diagnosis errors has been known to clinicians for decades, if largely ignored by stakeholders and policy-makers as a major quality and safety problem.
Continue reading “Placing Diagnosis Errors on the Policy Agenda”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB
Tagged: diagnosis errors, health care delivery, IOM, medical malpractice, Patient Safety, Quality, Robert Berenson, RWJF
Apr 24, 2014
It’s a strange business we are in.
Doctors are spending less time seeing patients, and the nation declares a doctor shortage, best remedied by having more non-physicians delivering patient care while doctors do more and more non-doctor work.
Usually, in cases of limited resources, we start talking about conservation: Make cars more fuel efficient, reduce waste in manufacturing, etc.
Funny, then, that in health care there seems to be so little discussion about how a limited supply of doctors can best serve the needs of their patients.
hair-brained novel idea making its way through the blogs and journals right now is to have pharmacists treat high blood pressure. That would have to mean sending them back to school to learn physical exam skills and enough physiology and pathology about heart disease and kidney disease, which are often interrelated with hypertension.
Not only would this cause fragmentation of care, but it would probably soon take up enough of our pharmacists’ time that we would end up with a serious shortage of pharmacists.
Within medical offices there are many more staff members who interact with patients about their health issues: case managers, health coaches, accountable care organization nurses, medical assistants and many others are assuming more responsibilities.
We call this “working to the top of their license.”
Doctors, on the other hand, are spending more time on data entry than thirty years ago, as servants of the Big Data funnels that the Government and insurance companies put in our offices to better control where “their” money (which we all paid them) ultimately goes.
In primary care we are also spending more time on public health issues, even though this has shown little success and is quite costly. We are treating patients one at a time for lifestyle-related conditions affecting large subgroups of the population: obesity, prediabetes, prehypertension and smoking, to name a few that would be more suitable for non-physician management than hard-core hypertension.
It is high time we have a serious national debate, not yet about how many doctors we need, but what we need our doctors to do. Only then can we talk numbers.
Hans Duvefelt, MD is a Swedish-born family physician in a small town in rural Maine. He blogs regularly at A Country Doctor Writes where this piece originally appeared.
Filed Under: Physicians, THCB
Tagged: doctor/ patient relationship, Hans Duvefelt, Physicians, Population Health, practice of medicine, primary care, Quality
Apr 22, 2014
A long time ago, when I worked in Sweden’s Socialized health care system, there were no incentives to see more patients.
In the hospital and in the outpatient offices there were scheduled coffee breaks at 10 and at 3 o’clock, lunch was an hour, and everyone left on the dot at five. On-call work was reimbursed as time off. Any extra income would have been taxed at the prevailing marginal income tax rate of somewhere around 80%.
There was, in my view, a culture of giving less than you were able to, a lack of urgency, and a patient-unfriendly set of barriers. One example: most clinics took phone calls only for an hour or two in the morning.
After that, there was no patient access; no additions were made to providers’ schedules, even if some patients didn’t keep their appointments, not that there was a way to call and make a same-day cancellation.
As my father always said: “There must be a reward for working”.
But, high productivity can sometimes mean churning out patient visits without accomplishing much, or it can mean providing unnecessary care just to increase revenue. For example, some of my patients who spend winters in warmer climates come back with tall tales of excessive testing while away.
A recent Wall Street Journal article offers an interactive display of doctors who collect the highest Medicare payments. The difference between providers in the same specialties across the country makes interesting reading. It is hard to imagine that many individual doctors are billing Medicare more than $10,000,000 per year.
So it might make sense to insure against paying for excessive care by also demanding a certain level of quality.
But defining quality is fraught with scientific and ethical problems, since quality targets really aren’t, or shouldn’t be, the same for all of our patients.
Continue reading “How Should Doctors Get Paid? Hourly Wage, Piecework or Quality?”
Filed Under: Economics, Physicians, THCB
Tagged: Cost-Quality Paradaigm, Family medicine, Hans Duvefelt, Medicare payments, Patient Centeredness, Physicians, Population Health, Quality
Apr 17, 2014