With all due respect to the good intentions of Congress, HHS, CMS, ONC and their dedicated advisors, they are pursuing — and for years have pursued — the wrong approach to achieve medical record interoperability. Endless studies, reports and anecdotal evidence conclude that trying to standardize the way medical records are formatted and kept, and linking provider silos via health information exchanges, doesn’t work! It is far too rigid, complex and constraining, and far too costly. Most importantly, it doesn’t meet care providers’ needs for “total interoperability” — instant access at the point of care to a patient’s COMPLETE medical record from all his or her providers.
Despite having held endless hearings, listening sessions and receiving hundreds of responses to their draft proposals, they continue to ignore reality. Healthcare is dramatically different than banking and travel, the industries they frequently cite as role models. It is perhaps the most massive, complex, diverse and decentralized industry in the country, and requires a very different approach than used in simpler industries. Standardizing record content and formatting simply doesn’t work in healthcare.
Instead of trying to force care providers to accept their pre-conceived technology, they should adopt technology that meets the unique needs of providers. Simply put, they are trying to cut the man to fit the cloth rather than the cloth to fit the man!
Fortunately, there is a simple solution that accommodates the complexities of healthcare and meets the diverse needs of care providers. It focuses on how to MANAGE records rather than how to KEEP them. All we have to do is embrace it!
In learning my third EMR, I am again a little disappointed. I am again, still, finding it hard to document and retrieve the thread of my patient’s life and disease story. I think many EMRs were created for episodic, rather than continued medical care.
One thing that can make working with an EMR difficult is finding the chronologyin office visits (seen for sore throat and started on an antibiotic), phone calls (starting to feel itchy, is it an allergic reaction?) and outside reports (emergency room visit for anaphylactic reaction).
I have never understood the logic of storing phone calls in a separate portion of the EMR, the way some systems do. In one of my systems, calls were listed separately by date without “headlines” like “?allergic reaction” in the case above.
In my new system, which I’m still learning, they seem to be stored in a bigger bucket for all kinds of “tasks” (refills, phone calls, orders and referrals made during office visits etc.)
Both these systems seem to give me the option of creating, in a more or less cumbersome way, “non-billable encounters” to document things like phone calls and ER visits, in chronological order, in the same part of the record as the office notes. That may be what IT people disparagingly call “workarounds”, but listen, I need the right information at the right time (and in a place that makes sense to me) to make safe medical decisions.
At the end of the year my patients and I will start over. That is what changing EMRs does to us. I have mixed feelings about data migration, if it even happens.
I will move into a new virtual environment and my patients will take on slightly different appearances, maybe even alter their medical histories. Some will perhaps be asking me to edit diagnoses that have haunted them since we went from paper to computer records almost a decade ago.
With our first EMR, we scanned in a few things from patients’ paper records – sometimes only a few pages from years or decades of first handwritten and later typed notes. Much got lost, because we were doing something we never really had thought through, and we had to do it with a clock ticking: “Hurry, before the Federal incentives go away”. The Feds wanted EMRs because the vision was that more data would help research and population health and also reduce medical errors.
This time, another factor is pushing us forward: The EMR we have will no longer be supported after a certain date, and for an EMR that requires continuous tinkering in order to do basic tasks consistently, that is an untenable scenario. Only yesterday, I was suddenly unable to send prescriptions electronically and it took the national headquarter’s involvement to get me up and running again.
Healthcare providers are
moving forward with their digital initiatives, pursuing intranet development, implementing e-prescribing software, and deploying
EHR systems and patient portals to enhance patient care, maximize staff
efficiency, and improve the bottom line.
However, while medical professionals
are largely enthusiastic about digital healthcare solutions, the disparity
between the rate of clinical support and patient utilization of some of this
software, patient portals in particular, is enormous. Even though patient
self-service solutions have become ubiquitous in medical facilities nation-wide,
over 62% of US hospitals report that their patient portal systems are used by less than a quarter of all patients.
Patients still don’t see
enough value in patient portals, voicing concerns over the steep learning curve,
lack of training, anxiety regarding data security and confidentiality, and
other issues. Addressing these challenges is critical to encouraging patient
buy-in and getting more patients involved in their health.
Since most medical
facilities in the country already have patient portals in place, the next step
to overcome barriers to their adoption is to expand these systems to deliver
features that will get more patients involved.
Today on Health in 2 Point 00, Jess is in Italy…and has me up far too early in the morning for this episode. On Episode 79, Jess asks me for an update on uBiome after their raid by the FBI. We also talk about nutrition startup Noom’s $58 million raise and clinician house-call platform DispatchHealth’s $33 million raise. In other news, Kaiser Permanente is launching a network to integrate the social determinants of health with their EHR. –Matthew Holt
Back in the
‘stone ages’ when I (an MIT grad) was an intern, I was called at 4 AM to see
someone else’s gravely ill patient because her IV had infiltrated. I
started a new one and drew some blood work to check on her status. When
the results came back (on paper) I (manually) calculated her anion gap.
This is simple arithmetic but I had been up all night and didn’t do it right.
rounds the attending assured me that there was nothing I could have done anyway
but, of course, in other circumstances it could have made a difference and an
EHR could have easily done this calculation and brought the problematic result
to my attention. My passion for EHRs and FHIR apps to improve them really
traces back to this patient episode I will never forget.
My criticism of the recent Kaiser Health News and Fortune article Death by 1000 Clicks is generally not about what it says but what it doesn’t say and its tone.
The article emphasizes the undeniable fact that EHRs cause
new sources of medical error that can damage patients. It devotes a lot of ink
to documenting some of these in dramatic terms. Yes, with hundreds of vendors
out there, the quality of EHR software is highly variable. Among the major
weaknesses of some EHRs are awkward user interfaces that can lead to errors. In
fact, one of the highlights of my health informatics course is a demonstration
of this by a physician whose patient died at least in part as a result of a
poor EHR presentation of lab test results.
However, the article fails to pay equal attention to the
ways EHRs can, if properly used, help prevent errors. It briefly mentions that
around a 60% majority of physicians using EHRs feel that they improve quality. The
reasons quality is improved deserved more attention. The article also fails to
discuss some of the new, exciting technologies to improve EHR usability through
innovative third party apps and he real progress being made in data sharing
including patient access to their digital records.
Sansoro Health is a next-gen EHR integration platform for Health IT companies that need a better, cheaper, and faster way to integrate their products into EMR systems. What sets them apart in this crowded space? Listen in to hear co-founder and CEO Jeremy Pierotti paint a picture of perfect-world of interoperability.
Filmed at HIMSS 2019 in Orlando, Florida, February 2019
Jessica DaMassa is the host of the WTF Health show & stars in Health in 2 Point 00 with Matthew Holt.
Get a glimpse of the future of healthcare by meeting the people who are going to change it. Find more WTF Health interviews here or check out www.wtf.health.
Amazon has transformed the way we read books, shop online, host websites, do cloud computing, and watch TV. Can they apply their successes in all these other areas to healthcare?
Just last week, Amazon announcedComprehend Medical, machine learning software that digitizes and processes medical records. “The process of developing clinical trials and connecting them with the right patients requires research teams to sift through and label mountains of unstructured clinical record data,” Fred Hutchinson CIO Matthew Trunnell is quoted saying in a MedCity News article. “Amazon Comprehend Medical will reduce this time burden from hours to seconds. This is a vital step toward getting researchers rapid access to the information they need when they need it so they can find actionable insights to advance life-saving therapies for patients.”
Deriving insights from data and making those available in a user-friendly way to patients and clinicians is just what we need from technology innovators. But these tools are useless without data. If an oncology patient is hospitalized, her provider may not be informed of her hospitalization for days or even weeks (or ever). And the situation is repeated for that same patient receiving care from cardiologists, endocrinologists, and other providers outside of her oncology clinic. When it comes to personalized health and medicine, both the quantity and quality of data matter. Providers need access to comprehensive patient health data so they can accurately and efficiently diagnose and treat patients and make use of technology that helps them identify “actionable insights.”
Today we have a humming economy and insane politics. In early 2009 we were in economic meltdown and were about one week into the sanest, soberist Administration and even Congress over many recent decades. In February 2009 they passed a stimulus bill that had a huge impact on the health IT market (and still does). At that time there was much debate on THCB about what the future of health IT policy should look like and how the stimulus “Meaningful Use” money should be spent. My January 2009 summary of that whole debate introduced the notion of “Cats and Dogs in health IT”. They’re still around today. We’re reprinting it here as part of our 15-year THCB birthday party–Matthew Holt
Those of you paying attention for the past few days might have noticed on the one hand a sense of optimism and unity as Barrack H. Obama, somewhat somberly, began his presidency.
Meanwhile, over the past few weeks the fur has been flying among the electrons on THCB while some very knowledgeable and opinionated health care wonks and geeks have been battling it out about what exactly we should be doing in terms of federal health care IT spending.
Given that even among you smart THCB readers this may be all a little perplexing, I’m going to try to try to make what I hope are some elucidating comments to put this argument in context. I’m doing this partly because I’m perplexed too, but also because I think that there is some hope for a middle road.
First the basics: As sometime THCB contributor & uber-CIO John Halamka makes clear in this excellent post about The Greatest Healthcare IT Generation, some $20 billion of the soon to be passed “spend it as fast as you can” stimulus package is going to be targeted towards health care IT. Now, that’s by no means the biggest part of the $800 billion or so package, and it’s not even the biggest part of the health care spending in the bill. Nearly $87 billion or so is going to support Medicaid, although that will mostly will be replacing cuts being forced on states.
Americans on average will visit a care provider about 300 times over the course of their lives. That’s hundreds of blood pressure readings, numerous diagnoses, and hundreds of entries into a patient’s medical record—and that’s potentially with dozens of different doctors. So it’s understandable, inevitable even, that patients would struggle to keep every provider up-to-date on their medical history.
This issue is compounded by much of our healthcare information being fragmented among multiple, incompatible health systems’ electronic health records. The majority of these systems store and exchange health information in unique, often proprietary ways—and thus don’t effectively talk with one another.
Fortunately, recent news from Apple points to a reprieve for patients struggling to keep all of their providers up-to-date. Apple has teamed with roughly a dozen hospitals across the country, including the likes of Geisinger Health, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, to make patient’s medical history available to them on their phone. Patients can bring their phone with them to participating health systems and provide caregivers with an up-to-date medical history.
Empowering patients with the ability to carry their health records on their phone is great, and will surely help them overcome the issue of fragmented healthcare records. Yet the underlying standardization of how healthcare data is exchanged that has made this possible is the real feat. In fact, this standardization may potentially pave the way for innovation and rapid expansion of the health information technology (HIT) industry.