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Tag: BIDMC

What Keeps Me Up at Night 2012

I’ve written several posts about the issues that keep me up at night.  Here’s what I wrote in 2011.

Today, my team presented a list of risks to the Compliance, Audit and Risk Committee at BIDMC.   Here’s my list of top risks for 2012:

1.  Old Internet browsers – many vended clinical applications require specific versions of older browsers such as Internet Explorer 6, which are known to have security flaws.  We’ve worked diligently to eliminate, upgrade or replace applications with browser specificity.   At this point we are 96% Internet Explorer 8/Firefox 7/Safari 5 minimizing our risks to the extent possible.

2.  Local Administrative rights – Of our 18,000 devices on the network, a few thousand are devices that require the user to have local administrative rights to run their niche applications (often the research community doing cutting edge research with open source or self developed software).   We have done everything possible to eliminate Local Administrative rights on our managed devices.

3.  Outbound transmissions – Security has historically focused on blocking evil actors from the internet.   Given the current challenges of malware and infections brought in from the outside, it’s equally critical to block unexpected outbound activity.

4.  Public facing websites –  any machine that touches the internet has the potential to be targeted for attack.  We’ve implemented proxy servers/web application firewalls on most public websites.

5.  Identity and Access management – Managing the ever changing roles and rights of individuals in a large complex organization with many partners/affiliates is challenging.  If an affiliate asks for access to an application, how do you automatically deactivate accounts when users leave an affiliate, given the lack of direct employment relationships?

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The Perfect EHR

I support over 3000 clinicians in heterogeneous sites of care – solo practitioners, small offices, multi-specialty facilities, community hospitals, academic medical centers, and large group practices.

In every location there is some level of dissatisfaction with their EHR.   Complaints about usability, speed of documentation, training, performance, and personalization limitations are typical.   Most interesting is that users believe the grass will be greener by selecting another EHR.

I’ve heard from GE users who want Allscripts, eClinicalworks users who want Epic, Allscripts users who want AthenaHealth, and NextGen users who want eClinicalWorks.

The bottom line from every product I’ve used and everyone I’ve spoken with is that there is no current “perfect” EHR.   We’re still very early in the EHR maturity lifecycle.

What is the perfect EHR?   I’ve written about my best thinking, which has been incorporated into the BIDMC home built record, webOMR.   (and has dissatisfied users too)

However, after listening to many “grass is greener” stories, I believe that what a provider perceives as a better EHR often represents trade offs in functionality.  One EHR may have better prescribing functionality while another has better letters, another is more integrated and another has better support.  The “best” EHRs, according to providers, varies by what is most important to that individual provider/practice, which may not be consistent with enterprise goals or the needs of an Accountable Care Organization.

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The Perfect Storm For Innovation

In my career, there have been a few perfect storms, defined as “a confluence, resulting in an event of unusual magnitude”.

When I was an undergraduate at Stanford University in 1980, two geeky guys named Jobs and Wozniak dropped by the Homebrew Computer Club to demonstrate a kit designed in their garage.   IBM introduced the Personal Computer and MSDOS 1.0.   I purchased an early copy of Microsoft Basic and began creating software in my dorm room including early versions of tax calculation software, an econometric modeling language, and electronic data interchange tools.   Every day brought a new opportunity. The energies of hundreds of entrepreneurs created an industry in a few intensely creative months that laid the foundation for the architecture and tools still in use today.   A guy named Gates offered me a job and I decided to stay in school instead.

In 2001 when I was first hired at Harvard, a visionary Dean for Medical Education, a supportive Dean of the Medical School,  talented new development staff, and a sleepless MD/Phd student came together to create one of the first Learning Management Systems in the country, Mycourses.   Robust web technologies, voice recognition, search engines, early mobile devices, and new multi-media streaming standards coincided with resources, strong governance, and a sense of urgency.  Magic happened and in a matter of months, an entire platform was created that is still powering the medical school today.

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A Look Back at 2011

2011 was a year of change and tumult. For a day by day look at the top stories of 2011, check out this impressive chart from the UK Guardian.

It was a year in which the economy sputtered worldwide, the Arab Spring toppled several regimes, and unprecedented acts of nature (severe weather, earthquakes) caused billions in worldwide damage.

What about the world of healthcare IT?

Federal

In 2011, Meaningful Use and Certification accelerated healthcare IT adoption and doubled implementation of EHRs throughout the country. Every aspect of the industry was stressed along the way

  • Vendors were challenged to add the features necessary for certification resulting in some “haste makes waste” lack of usability and workflow integration. GE admitted its faults and should be congratulated for its honesty, since many other vendors had the same problems but did not communicate them.
  • IT organizations created productivity miracles to meet meaningful use timeframes with limited staff and limited budgets. Many organizations will apply their meaningful use payments to general operations and not IT department budget increases, so the sacrifice of IT staff may remain unrecognized.
  • Providers had to radically change workflows to accommodate new business processes, resulting in staff turnover and short term frustration.

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Decision Fatigue

We’re all suffering from information overload.  More projects with fewer staff on shorter timeframes mean more email, texts, blogs, online meetings, and phone calls.

We make more decisions and have more accountability than ever before.  Regulatory complexity and the need for risk management has increased.  We’re pressured to make decisions faster and there is less tolerance for mistakes.   Making all those decisions in a high stakes environment like healthcare leads to decision fatigue,  that numbness you feel at the end of an overloaded day when you decided what to spend, who to hire, and what to do, hundreds of times.

I believe decision fatigue is an escalating threat to our ability to manage the events of each day and keep balance in our lives.

When I think back on my early career as a leader, in the 1980’s, there was no email, no overnight shipping, and limited numbers of fax machines.

Issues were escalated by writing and mailing a letter.    The time it took to compose, type, mail, and deliver a letter meant that many problems solved themselves.  Since the effort to escalate was significant, many problems were never escalated.Continue reading…

How the Veterans are Winning the War

At a seminar last night at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School, one of the students asked a question along the lines of, “How do you know when you have done too much with regard to transparency?” My answer was that the question presupposed the wrong approach to transparency, that it was being driven by the CEO without proper attention to the efficacy and appropriateness of what was being measured and disclosed. Instead, I suggested that it should be driven by the leadership of the organization, but based on metrics that were viewed as useful and appropriate by the clinical staff. In such an instance, transparency serves the function laid out by IHI’s Jim Conway, as summarized here in an article discussing the BIDMC experience:

[P]ublic reporting created what management guru Peter Senge calls creative tension, a key in getting an organization to change. Announcing a daring vision — the elimination of patient harm — combined with honestly publicizing the problems, fuels improvement, he said.

I expressed the concern last night that the general recalcitrance of the medical profession about engaging transparency will inevitably lead to fiats about disclosure from government regulatory agencies. The problem with those fiats is that they will be grossly constructed and force hospitals and doctors to focus on the wrong things, in a manner not consistent with widely established principles of process improvement. (See, for example, this approach in Maryland.)

Now comes the Veterans Administration, proving the case with panache! You may recall my complimentary post on the VA back in January. Thomas Burton’s article this week in the Wall Street Journal — “Data Spur Changes in VA Care” — documents this in more detail. Some excerpts:

Hospitals serving U.S. military veterans are moving fast to improve care after the government opened a trove of performance data—including surgical death rates—to the public.

The information was released at the urging of VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. Among other things, it presents hospitals’ rates of infection from the use of ventilators and intravenous lines, and of readmissions due to medical complications. The details have been adjusted to account for patients’ ages and relative frailty.

“Why would we not want our performance to be public? It’s good for VA’s leaders and managers, good for our work force, and most importantly, it is good for the veterans we serve,” Mr. Shinseki said in an emailed statement.

At VA hospitals in Oklahoma City and Salem, Va., the rate of pneumonia acquired by patients on ventilators was shown last fall to be significantly higher than the national VA average. The Salem hospital says a relatively low number of patients on ventilators skewed its infection rate higher, but staff members at both facilities say the numbers prompted action.

Seeing the data helped, says the Salem hospital’s chief of surgery, Gary Collin, because “you can become kind of complacent.”Continue reading…

Implementing a Modern Hospital Website

By JOHN HALAMKA

Over the past two years, I’ve witnessed a transition in modern website design from plain text and static  information to multimedia centric and interactive. I’ve written about the new BIDMC website we implemented to meet patient expectations for a modern website.

Many healthcare organizations I work with are considering content managed, new media, highly interactive web 2.0 sites. I thought it would be useful to describe how we approached the BIDMC website so you can leverage our experience.Picture 1

Content Management – BIDMC has a great
deal of .NET expertise, so we wanted a content management system that worked well in our .NET/SQL Server 2008 environment. SiteCore has been ideal for us, providing content templates, distributed content management, and publishing workflow in a load balanced, secure, virtualized environment. At HMS we use Drupal and WordPress for content management. They also work well for hosting institutional web sites.

Interactive features – The Corporate Communications folks at BIDMC really wanted to highly improves interactivity. We built and bought the components they needed as follows:

  • Blogs – Uses a SiteCore provided blogging module
  • Chat – a commercial application called Cute Chat from CuteSoft.
  • BIDMC TV (news and information videos produced by BIDMC)- Hosted by BrightCove.
  • Medical Edge (videos about innovation produced by BIDMC)- Hosted by BrightCove.
  • Podcast Gallery – Hosted on BIDMC servers.
  • Health Quizzes – created using a commercial application called SelectSurvey.NET from ClassApps.
  • Social Networking – entirely hosted by outside service providers (Facebook/Twitter/You Tube).
  • Secure patient web pages for communication with their families – a commercial application provided by CarePages.
  • Conditions A-Z – a web-based encyclopedia branded for BIDMC using commercial reference provided by Ebsco.
  • Search Engine – We’re using a Google Appliance

Thus, the combination of SiteCore plus purchased interactive applications and externally hosted streaming video has worked very well to provide our patients with an information rich, interactive experience.

I hope this is useful to you as you implement your own hospital websites.

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