Over the last few years, we have seen large EHR vendors purchase the moderate size EHR vendors, while moderate-size EHR vendors acquire smaller EHR vendors. We can expect to see a further decline in the number and diversity of EHRs as the IT mandates of Meaningful Use 2 and 3 are technically unachievable for all but the most well-endowed EHR vendors.
Along with the decreasing diversity of EHR options, an increasing number of physicians have lost the ability to choose the most important tool in their black-bag, their EHR, as many are now employed by large organizations which tell the physicians which EHR/HIT tools they are allowed to use.
If there was data that “Certified” EHRs, “Meaningful Use,” ICD10 and PQRS mandates had an impact on the cost or quality of healthcare which was commensurate with the IT costs and logistical disruptions, I would be the first to encourage physicians to use the new and proven technology. Unfortunately, we still do not know if “more” HIT is good for the healthcare system and society in general, or if it is only good for the IT industry.
Is 5 too few and 40 too many? That’s one of many questions that researcher David Chan is asking about the clinical reminders embedded into those electronic health record (EHR) systems increasingly used at your doctor’s office or local hospital. Electronic reminders, which are similar to the popups that appear when installing software on your computer, flag items for healthcare professionals to consider when they are seeing patients. Depending on the type of reminder used in the EHR—and there are many types—these timely messages may range from a simple prompt to write a prescription to complex recommendations for follow-up testing and specialist referrals.
Chan became interested in this topic when he was a resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he experienced the challenges of seeing many patients and keeping up with a deluge of health information in a primary-care setting. He had to write prescriptions, schedule lab tests, manage chronic conditions, and follow up on suggested lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and smoking cessation. In many instances, he says electronic reminders eased his burden and facilitated his efforts to provide high quality care to patients.
That Epic would find itself labeled a monopoly is in itself an extraordinary turn of events. In 2000, after 21 years in business, the company had only 400 employees and 73 clients, and did not appear on a list of the top 20 hospital EHR vendors. Its big break came in 2003, when the 8 million–member Kaiser Permanente system selected Epic over two far better known competitors, IBM and Cerner. The cost to build Kaiser’s electronic health record: $4 billion.
Today, Epic has 8,100 employees, 315 clients, and yearly revenues of approximately $2 billion. The system is now deployed in 9 of the US News & World Report’s “Top 10” hospitals. In 2014, the company estimated that 173 million people (54 percent of the U.S. population) had at least some medical information in an Epic electronic record.
Epic Founder and CEO Judy Faulkner’s vision, built on several central tenets, has been vindicated many times over. The first principle was that the winning EHR vendor would be the one that solved the most problems for its customers.
While Apple’s App Store has made a modular environment seem feasible and even desirable, most healthcare decision makers want a single product that does everything they need right out of the box (physician notes, nursing notes, drug ordering and dispensing, billing, compliance, and population health) and does those things everywhere, from the newborn nursery to the urology clinic to the ICU.
DocGraph will release an initial dataset will become available on the last full day at HIMSS, and the crowdfund will continue until Datapalooza. This post discusses our underlying motivation for creating a new dataset, as well as some of our goals with its release.
I enjoy and appreciate many aspects of the annual HIMSS conference: the people who run it, the attendees, educational sessions, and keynotes. Further, I find that regional and local HIMSS events are well worth attending. However, I am not a fan of the “big” HIMSS tradeshow floor. The parallels between walking down the “main aisle” at HIMSS and walking down the strip at Vegas creates are striking. The opulence of the Vegas strip and the excess in the HIMSS tradeshow floor both stir a sense of unease and bring up the same questions: “Who is paying for all of this? Is someone getting fleeced? Is it me? If it is not me, would that make the fleecing OK?”
The HIMSS tradeshow floor is a necessary evil because we have, in Health IT, no better way to make decisions about what products we buy. As it stands, figuring out which vendors have the biggest booths at HIMSS is probably not the worst way to make decisions about EHR systems.
The alternative is to hire someone to tell us which EHR vendor fits us best. Probably the most famous provider in this space is the “Best in Klas” service. However, Klas is famous for being payed by both sides of the industry. Klas is paid both by potential EHR purchasers and by those who sell EHR system. Like HIMSS, Klas creates a space for buyers and sellers to meet. I think Klas and HIMSS both do an admirable job trying to maintain fairness and objectivity, given the massive financial biases under which both organizations operate.
Epic Systems, the market leader in electronic health record software (EHR), recently made a quiet but potentially transformative announcement that may finally shake the healthcare industry out of its technological doldrums.
Epic said it is prepared to support the creation of a more open interoperability platform for integration with other diversified healthcare applications. This will attract substantial investment to create software that operates, hopefully seamlessly, within the Epic EHR infrastructure. Expect Epic’s competitors to follow suit, eventually opening up the marketplace of installed EHRs to third-party software developers and the efficiencies of modern, post-EHR technology ecosystem.
Epic’s critics have often denounced the company for selling a mostly closed technology, dampening hopes for the creation of an ecosystem of best-of-breed applications that work together with the EHR to automate much of the care delivery infrastructure beyond patient intake and billing. The value of such an infrastructure is extremely compelling and so the company is under enormous pressure from its customers to become more open.
In his 2015 State of the Union address President Obama announced the launch of his precision medicine initiative, an audacious initiative to address these issues. In a nutshell, precision medicine customizes health care; That is, medical decisions are tailored based on the individual characteristics of the patients, ranging from their genes to their lifestyle. To have a clear understanding of the relationship between individual characteristics of patients and medical outcomes, it is necessary to collect various types of data from a large population of individuals. The precision medicine initiative requires a longitudinal cohort of one million individuals to provide researchers with various data types including DNA, behavioral data, and electronic health records. Assembling such a large sample of many different data types proposes two unique challenges pertaining to healthcare information technology: interoperability and privacy.
The federal government has already spent $28 billion to incent medical providers to adopt electronic health record (EHR) systems. As a result, almost all of the medical providers in the United States currently compile an electronic archive of their patients’ medical records. However, most of the EHR systems are not able to exchange information with each other. This is a strange problem in the age of information technology and Internet connectivity. There are a variety of technical and economic reasons, which make it especially complicated and difficult to solve.
Given the current lack of interoperability between EHR systems, it seems highly unlikely to be able to obtain a complete medical history of one million Americans. To succeed, the precision medicine initiative has to either overcome the lack of interoperability problem in the nation’s health IT system or to find a way around it. Congress members in both the House and Senate are considering new rules that would stop EHR vendors from interfering with medical providers that had already started transferring records. These efforts are fraught with difficulty and will take a very long time to produce tangible results.Continue reading…
Rep. Mike Burgess (R-Texas) has released a draft bill entitled “ensuring interoperability of qualified electronic health records” in which interoperable (Electronic Health Records) EHRs are defined as those that do not block sending and receiving data to and from other EHRs and provide users with complete access to the captured medical data. The draft bill proposes that detailed methods to assess interoperability be defined by a “Charter Organization.” According to the draft bill, this Charter Organization shall consist of one member from each of the standard development organizations accredited by the American National Standards Institute and representatives that include healthcare providers, EHR vendors, and health insurers. To keep its certification after January 2018, an EHR vendor should comply with the definitions of the Charter Organization, publish API’s to enable data exchange with other EHRs and attest and demonstrate that it has not willfully interrupted data exchange with other EHRs. The draft bill suggests that the Inspector General of HHS shall have the authority to investigate both EHR vendors and medical providers with regards to claims that they have interrupted interoperability.
The proposed Charter Organization will not be successful.
The AMA and about 100 other physician groups urge CMS to develop an ICD-10 contingency plan in the event of a “catastrophic” backlog following the October 1 transition. The organizations want CMS to make public its plans to make advanced payments or reimbursements for services already rendered, work with ONC to ensure EHR systems are ICD-10 ready, and confirm contractors won’t audit for the correct code.
The silver lining here is that these organizations are (finally) not asking for a delay in implementing ICD-10. CMS apparently has drafted a contingency plan in the event of claims process disruptions but does not plan to make it public. In this age of more transparency, CMS needs to make the plan public – even though provider groups will surely find fault with the plan. But, isn’t it better to continue moving the conversation forward, just in case of there is a catastrophe?
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…