I pay $500 per year for UpToDate, the online reference that helps me stay current on diagnostic criteria and best treatment options for most diseases I might run into in my practice. They also have a rich library of patient information, which I often print out during office visits.
I don’t get any “credit” for doing that, but I do if I print the, often paltry, patient handouts built into my EMR. That was how the rules governing meaningful use of subsidized computer technology for medical offices were written.
If I describe in great detail in my office note how I motivated a patient to quit smoking but forgot to also check the box that smoking cessation education was provided, I look like a negligent doctor. My expensive EMR can’t extract that information from the text. Google, from my mobile device, can translate between languages and manages to send me ads based on words in my web searches.
When I do a diabetic foot exam, it doesn’t count for my quality metrics if I freetext it; I must use the right boxes. If I do it diligently on my iPad in eClinicalWorks, one of my EMRs, even if I use the clickboxes, it doesn’t carry over to the flowsheet or my report card.
I’ve been toying with this dilemma for a while: SOAP notes (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan) are too long; APSO just jumbles the order, but the core items are still too far apart, with too much fluff in between. We need something better – aSOAP!
Electronic medical record notes are simply way too cumbersome, no matter in what order the segments are displayed, to be of much use if we quickly want to check what happened in the last few office visits before entering the exam room.
It is time we do something different, and I believe the solution is under our noses every day, at least if we read the medical journals:
I can be aware of what’s going on in the medical literature without reading every article. How? Think about it…
Today I’m happy to release an update to some unique data about a pressing problem–the ability of small health tech vendors to access data from the major EMR vendors and integrate their applications into those EMRs. For those of you following along, in 2016 when Health 2.0 first ran this EMR API survey, we confirmed the notion that it’s hard for small health technology companies to integrate with the EMR vendors. Since then the two biggest vendors, Epic & Cerner, have been much more aggressive about supporting third party vendors, with both creating app stores/partnership programs and embracing FHIR & SMART on FHIR.
In 2018, we conducted a follow-up survey to see if these same issues persisted and how much progress has been made. In this report, we break down the results of the 2018 survey and compare them to the results of our 2016 survey. As in 2016, survey response rates weren’t great, but in this year’s survey we asked a lot more questions regarding app store programs, specific resources accessed, troubling contract terms and much more. And if you look at the accompanying slides, we also pulled some juicy quotes.
The key message: In 2016 we said this, The complaint is true: it’s hard for smaller health tech companies to integrate their solutions with big EMR vendors. Most EMR vendors don’t make it easy. But it’s a false picture to say that it’s all the EMR vendors’ fault, and it’s also true that there is great variety not only between the major EMR vendors but also in the experience of different smaller tech companies dealing with the same EMR vendor.
In 2018, things are better but not yet good. A combination of government prodding (partly from ONC implementing the 21st Century Cures Act, partly in the continued growth of pay for value programs from CMS), fear of Apple/Google/Amazon, genuine internal sentiment changes at least at one vendor (Cerner), and maturity in dealing with smaller applications vendors from three others (Allscripts, Athenahealth, Epic), and the growth of third party integration vendors like Redox and Sansoro, is making it easier for application vendors to integrate with EMRs. But it’s not yet in any way simple. We are a long way from the all-singing, all-dancing, plug-in interoperability we hoped for back in the day. But the survey suggests that we are inching closer. Of course, “inching” may not be the pace some of us were hoping to move at.
All the data is in the embedded slide set below, with much more commentary below the fold.
Drivers are distracted klutzes and computers could obviously do better. Self driving cars will make all of us safer on he road.
Doctors have spotty knowledge and keep illegible records. EMRs with decision support will improve the quality of healthcare.
The parallels are obvious. And so far the outcomes are disappointing on both fronts of our new war against human error.
I remember vividly flunking my first driving test in Sweden. It was early fall in 1972. I was in a baby blue Volvo with a long, wiggly stick shift on the floor. My examiner had a set of pedals on the passenger side of the car. At first I did well, starting the car on a hill and easing up the clutch with my left foot while depressing and then slowly releasing the brake pedal with my right forefoot and at the same time giving the car gas with my right heel.
I stopped appropriately for some pedestrians at a crosswalk and kept a safe distance from the other cars on the road.
A few minutes later, the instructor said “turn left here”. I did. That was the end of the test. He used his pedals. It was a one way street.
Three times this spring, driving in the dark between my two clinics, I have successfully swerved, at 75 miles (121 km) per hour, to avoid hitting a moose standing in the middle of the highway. Would a self driving car have done as well or better? Maybe, maybe not.
Every day I get red pop up warnings that the diabetic medication I am about to prescribe can cause low blood sugars. I would hope it might.
Almost daily I read 7 page emergency room reports that fail to mention the diagnosis or the treatment. Or maybe it’s there and I just don’t have enough time in my 15 minute visit to find it.
For a couple of years one of my clinics kept failing some basic quality measures because our hasty orientation to our EMR (there was a deadline for the incentive monies to purchase EMRs) resulted in us putting critical information in the wrong “results” box. When our scores improved, it had nothing to do with doing better for our patients, only clicking the right box to get credit for what we had been doing for decades before.
Our country has a naive and childish fascination with novelties. We worship disrupting technologies and undervalue continuous quality improvement, which was the mantra of the industrial era. It seems so old fashioned today, when everything seems to evolve at warp speed.
But the disasters of these new technologies should make us slow down and examine our motives. Change for the sake of change is not a virtue.
I know from my everyday painful experiences that EMRs often lack the most basic functionalities doctors want and need. Seeing a lab result without also seeing if the patient is scheduled to come back soon, or their phone number in case they need a call about their results, is plainly speaking a stupid interface design.
I know most EMRs weren’t created by doctors working in 15 minute appointments. I wonder who designed the software for self driving cars…
WTF Health – ‘What’s the Future’ Health? is a new interview series about the future of the health industry and how we love to hate WTF is wrong with it right now. Can’t get enough? Check out more interviews at www.wtf.health.
What can you find diving into the black hole of healthcare’s unstructured data? Natural Language Processing (NLP) seems to be the ‘tech du jour’ this year, so I spoke to early-entrant Simon Beaulah of Linguamatics about the big picture of NLP-plus-AI and the tech’s evolving role in improving care by putting together a more complete ‘patient narrative’ in the EMR.
Wanna hear his thoughts on what’s next for NLP in terms of scaling? Jump in at 2:15 mark.
TL;DR Accessing and using APIs from major EMR vendors has proved a real problem in the past — in 2016, Health 2.0 (with support from CHCF) collected the data to prove it. This year, we’re updating the survey and are asking again: how hard is it for smaller tech companies to integrate their solutions with big EMR vendors? Take the survey here.
In 2016, Health 2.0 conducted a survey of health tech startups on behalf of the California Healthcare Foundation (CHCF) to shed some light on the difficulties around integrating third party applications–mainly from a new generation of health technology companies–into major electronic medical records (EMRs). The data was revealing, and confirmed that much of the anecdotal gossip was true: it is a challenge for smaller health tech companies to integrate their solutions with the major EMR vendors. There is no clear path to integration or data access, fees are sometimes involved, and even without fees, the lengthy process is too complicated and costly for small companies to handle. Of course, the problem of integration and data access is not limited to major EMR vendors. Healthcare providers and other data custodians may well be complicating the process, too.
In 2016, this survey found an incredible diversity of experience across the major EMR vendors (i.e. working with Epic is different than working with athenahealth), as well as an incredible diversity of experience across different tech companies dealing with the same EMR vendor. We want to know more. Now, Health 2.0 is reprising our previous work, looking once again to collect concrete data around this problem. Will the data reinforce what we found in 2016 or will there be some measure of progress in the past few years?
Much has changed since the first version of this survey, including a flurry of activity around Epic and Apple’s Healthkit integration, Cerner’s Ignite initiative, and the Carin Alliance. We want to know if any of that has made an impact for those looking to integrate. If you are a tech company that has experience with these issues, take this survey. Help us understand where we stand.
The data and commentary collected here will be used to generate a set of slides, charts, and graphs that will be shared on THCB and at Health 2.0 Conferences, and will provide another year of data and much-needed transparency around the issue of integration. Responses will be kept anonymous by Health 2.0
Matthew Holt is Publisher of THCB & Co-Chairman Health 2.0. Kim Krueger is Research Director at Health 2.0
My big brother Bill, may he rest in peace, taught me a valuable lesson four decades ago. We were gearing up for an extended Alaskan wilderness trip and were having trouble with a piece of equipment. When we finally rigged up a solution, I said “that was harder than it should have been” and he quipped in his wry monotone delivery, “There are no hard jobs, only the wrong tools.”
That lesson has stuck in my mind all these years because, as simple as it seems, it carries a large truth. It rings of Archimedes when he was speaking about the simple tool known as the lever: “Give me but one firm spot on which to stand, and I will move the earth.”
Enter the Electronic Medical or Health Record (EMR or EHR) as it exists in most forms today. As information tools for clinicians, most EMRs have been purchased by administrators who know nothing of patient care or workflow, and most of these EMRs have been reverse engineered from billing and collection systems, because the dollar drives all.
There’s so much happening in the Health 2.0 world of new technology in health that it’s hard to keep up. AI, VR, AR, Blockchain–and they’re just the buzzwords keeping the VCs happy. So this year I’ve decided to try to interview more interesting new companies to keep you in the know. We’ll see how long that resolution lasts but first up is Kyna Fong, CEO of ElationHealth. Yes, she left a Stanford tenure-track professorship to start an EMR company, and no, she doesn’t sound crazy! This is an in-depth interview including a decent length demo, and it hints at how companies like hers might solve the conundrum of EMRs being necessary but impossible to use.
Just in case you didn’t realize there still is a world going on despite last week’s election. Back in health technology, a systemic change is happening as older client-server companies (like McKesson) retreat or open up their technology (Allscripts) while investors still believe that there’s a big market for SMAC technology and cloud-based systems to run the next generation of American health care. More evidence of that today with the news that CareCloud has raised another $31.5 million to double down on the already large bet placed on it by its investors as a platform for growing medical groups. I talked to CEO Ken Comee about the company, the state of the market, and what he expects to do with the money! — Matthew Holt
Today I’m happy to release some really unique data about a pressing problem–the ability of small tech vendors to access health data contained in the systems of the major EMR vendors. There’ll be much more discussion of this topic at the Health 2.0 Provider Symposium on Sunday, and much more in the Health 2.0 Fall Annual Conference as a whole.
Information blocking, Siloed data. No real inter-operability. Standards that aren’t standards. In the last few years, the clamor about the problems accessing personal health data has grown as the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) increased post the Federally-funded HITECH program. But at Health 2.0 where we focus on newer health tech startups using SMAC (Social/Sensor; Mobile OS; Cloud; Analytics) technologies, the common complaint we’ve heard has been that the legacy–usually client-server based–EMR vendors won’t let the newer vendors integrate with them.
With support from California Health Care Foundation, earlier this year (2016) Health 2.0 surveyed over 100 small health tech companies to ask their experiences integrating with specific EMR vendors.
The key message:The complaint is true: it’s hard for smaller health tech companies to integrate their solutions with big EMR vendors. Most EMR vendors don’t make it easy. But it’s a false picture to say that it’s all the EMR vendors’ fault, and it’s also true that there is great variety not only between the major EMR vendors but also in the experience of different smaller tech companies dealing with the same EMR vendor. All the data is in the embedded slide set below, with much more commentary below the fold.