Among many healthcare providers, it’s been long-standing conventional wisdom (CW) that hoarding patient data is an effective business strategy to lock-in patients — “He who holds the data, wins”. However…we’ve never seen any evidence that this actually works…have you?
We’re here to challenge CW. In this article we’ll explore the rationale of “hoarding as business strategy”, review evidence suggesting it’s still prevalent, and suggest 7 reasons why we believe it’s a lousy business strategy:
Data Hoarding Doesn’t Work — It Doesn’t Lock-In Patients or Build Affinity
Convenience is King in Patient Selection of Providers
Loyalty is Declining, Shopping is Increasing
Providers Have a Decreasingly Small “Share” of Patient Data
Providers Don’t Want to Become a Lightning Rod in the “Techlash” Backlash
Hoarding Works Against Public Policy and the Law
Providers, Don’t Fly Blind with Value-Based Care
In the video below, Dr. Harlan Krumholz of Yale University School of Medicine capsulizes the rationale of hoarding as business strategy.
We encourage you to take a minute to listen to Dr. Krumholz, but if you’re in a hurry we’ve abstracted the most relevant portions of his comments:
“The leader of a very major healthcare system said this to me confidentially on the phone… ‘why would we want to make it easy for people to get their health data…we want to keep the patients with us so why wouldn’t we want to make it just a little more difficult for them to leave.’ …I couldn’t believe it a physician health care provider professional explaining to me the philosophy of that health system.”
By KENNETH D. MANDL, MD; DAN GOTTLIEB;
JOSH C. MANDEL, MD
The opportunity has never been greater to, at long last, develop a flourishing health information economy based on apps which have full access to health system data–for both patients and populations–and liquid data that travels to where it is needed for care, management and population and public health. A provision in the 21st Century Cures Act could transform how patients and providers use health information technology. The 2016 law requires that certified health information technology products have an application programming interface (API) that allows health information to be accessed, exchanged, and used “without special effort” and that provides “access to all data elements of a patient’s electronic health record to the extent permissible under applicable privacy laws.”
After nearly two years of regulatory work, an important rule on this issue is now pending at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), typically a late stop before a proposed rule is issued for public comment. It is our hope that this rule will contain provisions to create capabilities for patients to obtain complete copies of their EHR data and for providers and patients to easily integrate apps (web, iOS and Android) with EHRs and other clinical systems.
Modern software systems use APIs to interact with each other and exchange data. APIs are fundamental to software made familiar to all consumers by Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon. APIs could also offer turnkey access to population health data in a standard format, and interoperable approaches to exchange and aggregate data across sites of care.
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?
Over the years, I’ve written more than a few HealthBlog posts on the topic of health information exchange (HIE) and why I feel so strongly that most of the initiatives currently underway are missing their mark.
As I’ve stated before, during my worldwide travels I haven’t yet come across a country that has accomplished a truly national, interoperable, bi-directional, fully functional HIE.
Those few countries that come close are more like a large American city or small state in size, perhaps mirroring some of the moderately successful regional or state-wide exchanges currently operating in America. Over the years I’ve also watched implosions of national HIE attempts in several countries that have failed miserably despite billions of dollars being spent on the efforts.
Reading each of the articles referenced above, I once again reach the conclusion that what I have been evangelizing as a better model for HIEs still rings true.
The green notebook and pen represent the latest and greatest health IT innovations used by the hospital nurse to record my wife’s health information in the hours before her surgery to re-attach a fully torn Achilles tendon.
(Apologies for the cheeky intro and to my wife and anyone else for any HIPAA violations I may have committed in the capturing of this image).
It’s not that the hospital does not have an electronic health record.
They do – from a vendor widely considered a leader in the industry: Meditech. Same goes with the physician practice where she receives all her care and where her surgeon and primary care doctor are based.
They too have an EHR from another leading vendor: NextGen.
The problem? These systems are not connected. Thus, confirming the not so surprising news that health data interoperability has yet to make its debut in our corner of the NYC burbs.
Fortunately for my wife, she is well on her way to recovery (a bit more reluctant to juggle a soccer ballwith her son in airport passenger lounges, but nevertheless feeling much better…and mobile). By everyone’s estimation – hers, mine, friends who suffered the same injury and friends who happen to be doctors – she received high quality care.
What’s more, we feel the overall patient experience at our physician practice and the hospital was quite good. That said, I cannot help but ask myself a series of ‘what ifs?’
What if…we forgot to mention a medication she was taking and there was a bad reaction with medication they administered as part of the surgery or afterwards?
What if… the anesthesiologist or surgeon couldn’t read the nurse’s handwriting?
What if the next time we go to the hospital, it is a visit to the emergency room and the attending clinicians have no ability to pull any of my family’s health records and we are not exactly thinking clearly enough to recall details related to medical history?
Just back from the Health Datapalooza confab that took place last week – an event now in its 4th year hosted by the federal government. I had a few lingering thoughts to share. First, on the event name: I’m guessing it came out of my old business partner and current national CTO Todd Park’s experience in Washington, where trying to get any single distinct thought through “the interests” could knock the “palooza” out of a grown stallion.
You’d think the federal government would be the last ones to host a Datapalooza, but the fact is NO ONE ELSE has stepped up!
So they did.
And complain as I might about the G-men and G-women being industry conference conveners (makes me want to bathe with a wire brush) they pulled it off pretty darn well. The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) attracted hundreds of serious entrepreneurs… and hundreds more wannabes (who real entrepreneurs desperately need in order to feel cool).
And boy were there some great bloopers…
Kaiser came blistering onto the scene with an open API—to the location and hours of operation of its facilities! Kinda sounds like Yelp to me…I’d be surprised if developers will come a runnin’ to that one. Kaiser’s CIO (a very cool guy whom they or anyone in health care would be lucky to get) broke this news in a two-minute keynote speech. Imagine President Obama announcing, in a State of the Union address, that the green vegetables in the White House cafeteria were now much crunchier!
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius applied similarly excessive fanfare announcing the release of cost data for 30 ambulatory procedures. The whole idea that Toddy (Park) was trying to get going with this Palooza was not to release REPORTS on things but to release the SOURCE data so that anyone with proper security and privacy clearance could INVENT a million reports that no one had ever conceived before!
So here are my thoughts on all of this, some of which I shared at the conference in my way-longer-than-two-minute keynote:
1. Release the data!! Secretary Sebelius announcing the release of cost data for 30 ambulatory procedures during her keynote felt like the Secretary of Energy serving up a can of 10W30 to oil companies to drill into.
Her words were great. To wit: “The fact that this [unlocking the data] is growing by leaps and bounds is a good indication that we can leapfrog over years and decades of inaction into an exciting new future.” YES! GO GIRRRL! OK, so…where’s the data?
It’s a busy time in Washington, DC. June 3 marks the Datapalooza and begins a week of cheering and reflection on the success of federal initiatives designed to improve health while reducing cost. This year, the big claim is “information following patients” – a combination of federal Stage 2 Meaningful Use regulations, federal Health Information Exchange guidelines and federal open pricing data policies. We’re surely beyond 1,000 pages of federal initiatives around health data and the policy fog seems to be getting thicker every day. The Independent Purchase Decision Support Test is my beacon for whether we’re headed in the right direction.
“In effect, HISPs are creating “islands of automation using a common standard.” This will hamper information following patients where they seekcare―including across organizational and vendor boundaries―to support care coordination and Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements.”
How will “information following patients” improve health while reducing cost?
It all depends on where the patient goes to get what. Not surprisingly, federal Accountable Care Organizations and related accountable quality contracts with private payers are exactly about where the patient goes too. The difference between these health reform innovations and the old managed care approach is supposed to be the patient’s ability to choose where to go for a healthcare service. Will Stage 2 and the new federal health information exchange implementation guidelines actually lead to effective patient engagement or is it time to “reboot” the HITECH incentives as some have suggested?
The Independent Purchase Decision Support Test cuts through the techno-jargon and paternalistic framing and goes straight to the heart of the policies that influence the physician-patient decisions to drive health care quality and cost. This the essence of patient engagement and the place where the money in healthcare is actually spent.
Anyone who understands the importance of continuity of care knows that health information exchange is essential. How are we supposed to cut waste and duplication from the healthcare system and truly focus on patient welfare if doctor B has no idea what tests doctor A conducted, or what the results were?
The predominant proprietary HIT vendors know this, yet have engaged in prolonged foot-dragging on interoperability and even basic data interfacing. Yes healthcare IT is their business, but interoperability is not in their nature.
The proprietary business model makes the vendor the single source of HIT for hospital clients. Complexity and dependence are baked into both solutions and client relationships, creating a “vendor lock” scenario in which changing systems seems almost inconceivable.
In the proprietary world, interfacing with third-party products is a revenue generation strategy and technical challenge; the latter, though unnecessary, justifies the former. When we go looking for the reasons that healthcare is a laggard compared with other industries, this single-source model—the obstacle to much-needed competition and innovation—is a primary culprit.
To be fair, provider organizations, with little if any incentive to exchange patient data before the advent of Meaningful Use, haven’t shown much collaborative spirit either. In the fee-for-service model, why would a healthcare organization let patients slip from their grasp? Health reform is finally mandating needed change, but when will proprietary vendors actually enable the interoperability hospitals and practices soon have to demonstrate?
Recent rumblings from Washington, DC, suggest the feds are losing patience.
Today I’m speaking at the ONC annual meeting as part of panel discussing interoperability.
For years, patients, providers and payers have complained that EHRs “do not talk to each other.”
By 2014, I expect this issue to disappear.
Do I expect that every state and territory will have a robust, sustainable healthcare information exchange by 2014? No
Do I expect that every provider will be connected to a Nationwide Health Information Network by 2014? No
Do I expect that a single vendor will create a centrally hosted method to share data by 2014 just as Sabre did for the airline industry in the 1960’s? No
What I expect is that Meaningful Use Stage 2 will provide the technology, policy, and incentives to make interoperability real.
Stage 2 requires that providers demonstrate, in production, the exchange of clinical care summaries for 10% of their patient encounters during the reporting period. The application and infrastructure investment necessary to support 10% is not much different than 100%. The 10% requirement will bring most professionals and hospitals to the tipping point where information exchange will be implemented at scale, rapidly accelerating data liquidity.
(Note: the following commentary was co-authored with Tory Wolff, a founding partner of Recon Strategy, a healthcare strategy consulting firm in Boston; Tory and I gratefully acknowledge the insightful feedback provided by Jay Chyung of Recon Strategy.)
Medicine has been notoriously slow to embrace the electronic medical record (EMR), but, spurred by tax incentives and the prospect of cost and outcomes accountability, the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) is finally catching on.
There are a large number of EMR vendors, who offer systems that are either the traditional client server model (where the medical center hosts the system) or a product which can be delivered via Software as a Service (SaaS) architecture, similar to what salesforce.com did for customer relationship management (CRM).
Historically, the lack of extensive standards have allowed hospital idiosyncrasies to be hard-coded into systems. Any one company’s EMR system isn’t particularly compatible with the EMR system from another company, resulting in – or, more fairly, perpetuating – the Tower of Babel that effectively exists as medical practices often lack the ability to share basic information easily with one another.
There’s widespread recognition that information exchange must improve – the challenge is how to get there.
One much-discussed approach are health information exchanges (HIE’s), defined by the Department of Health and Human Services as “Efforts to rapidly build capacity for exchanging health information across the health care system both within and across states.”
With some public funding and local contributions, public HIE’s can point to some successes (the Indiana Health Information Exchange, IHIE, is a leading example, as described here). The Direct Project – a national effort to coordinate health information exchange spearheaded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT – also seems to be making progress. But the public HIEs are a long way from providing robust, rich and sustainable data exchange.