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Tag: HITECH

Gimme My Damn Data!

So far in this series has looked at HITECH participation by hospitals (grumbling but in the game) and physicians (wary, on the sidelines), kudos for ONC’s three major policy points, and how HITECH is already moving the needle on the vendor side. Today we’re going to look at the reason the whole system exists: patients.

It’s possible to look at the patients issue from a moral or ethical perspective, or from a business planner’s ecosystem perspective. In this post we’ll simply look at it pragmatically: is our approach going to work? It’s our thesis that although you won’t see it written anywhere, the stage is being set for a kind of disruption that’s in no healthcare book: patient-driven disruptive innovation.

We’ll assert that in all our good thinking, we’ve shined the flashlight at the wrong place. Sure, we all read the book (or parts), and we talk about disruption – within a dysfunctional system.

If you believe a complex system’s actual built-in goals are revealed by its actual behavior, then it’s clear the consumer’s not at the core of healthcare’s feedback loops. What if they were?

We assert that to disrupt within a non-working system is to bark up a pointless tree: even if you win, you haven’t altered what matters. Business planners and policy people who do this will miss the mark. Here’s what we see when we step back and look anew from the consumer’s view:

  1. We’ve been disrupting on the wrong channel.
  2. It’s about the consumer’s appetite.
  3. Patient as platform:
    • Doc Searls was right
    • Lean says data should travel with the “job.”
    • “Nothing about me without me.”
  4. Raw Data Now: Give us the information and the game changes.
  5. HITECH begins to enable patient-driven disruptive innovation.
  6. Let’s see patient-driven disruption. Our data will be the fuel.

1.     We’ve been disrupting on the wrong channel.

The disruptive innovation we’ve been talking about doesn’t begin to go far enough. It’s a rearrangement of today’s business practices, but that’s not consumer-driven. Many pundits, e.g. the ever-popular Jay Parkinson, note that today’s economic buyer isn’t the consumer, which is screamingly obvious because consumer value isn’t improving as time goes by.

When we as patients get our hands on our information, and when innovators get their hands on medical data, things will change. Remember that “we as patients” includes you yes you, when your time comes and the fan hits your family. This is about you being locked in, or you getting what you want.

I (Dave) witnessed this in my first career (typesetting machines) when desktop publishing came along. We machine vendors were experts at our craft, but desktop publishing let consumers go around us, creating their own data with PageMaker, Macs and PostScript. Once that new ecosystem existed, other innovators jumped in, and the world as we knew it ended.

(Here’s a tip from those years: this outcome is inevitable. Ride with it, participate in it, be an active participant, and you can “thrive and survive.” Resist and within a generation you’ll be washed away.)

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It’s Not About Meaningful Use …

MucartoonWith the impending comment deadline for Meaningful Use (MU) fast approaching, many organizations, from CHIME to AHA to AAFP and others are asking for some form of relaxation of MU criteria in the final version.  Now it is not to say these concerns are not justified, it just may be that they are misplaced for the vast majority of those who currently do not use an EHR, small physician practices and clinics.  It is within these small practices, which are really just small businesses, that the majority of patient care occurs and where possibly the biggest benefit may be derived in the use of EHRs. It is also here where we may find the highest adoption hurdles, and those adoption hurdles are not so much about MU criteria, but more about productivity losses in adopting an EHR.

This past weekend I spent some time with a nurse who works in a primary care/pediatrics clinic in Vermont.  There facility, part of a network of several clinics, recently adopted and went live with a new EHR system (about 18 months ago). According to the nurse, this EHR, from one of the big names in ambulatory systems, has been a complete disaster for the clinic.  Productivity is way down, countless glitches have occurred, whole system crashed during a recent upgrade and the list goes on.  For 2009, this clinic, which has been in operation for a few decades, had its first ever loss last year, the year they went live with this EHR. The clinic puts the blame squarely on the EHR, which has severely constricted their ability to see patients and as all readers know, clinicians get paid for seeing patients, not trying to use a complex and difficult to use EHR.

It is stories like this that concern me.

This is a clinic trying to do the right thing, trying to use an EHR in a meaningful way (note, did not say meaningful use) and they are struggling. Yes, they do want to deliver the best patient care, but at the end of the day, they, like any business have bills to pay.  They are losing money far in excess of what HITECH Act incentives will provide. This story is, unfortunately, not unique, though few EHR vendors will come clean on the productivity hit to a practice.  Maybe instead of guaranteeing that their application(s) will meet MU criteria, EHR vendors should guarantee that the productivity hit of using their solution will not exceed HITECH incentive payments.  Now that would be an interesting value proposition.

Thanks to Michael Jahn of Jahn & Associates for the MU cartoon.

John Moore is an IT Analyst at Chilmark Research, where this post was first published.

Why Rush Vendor Certification of EHR Technologies?

A surprise move by ONC/HHS indicates the wheels may be falling off health IT reform at about the same rate they’ve fallen off Democrats’ broader health reforms.

David Blumenthal and his staff have unveiled two separate plans to test and certify EHR technology products and services. We don’t think this is a good idea. We’ve supported the purpose and spirit of the ARRA/HITECH incentive programs, and believe ONC’s/HHS’ re-definition of EHR technology puts it on a trajectory to improve the quality and efficiency of health care in the U.S. But this recently-announced two-stage EHR technology certification plan bears all the marks of a hastily drawn up blueprint that, if rushed into production, could easily collapse of its own bureaucratic weight.

The new Proposed Rule puts vendors through the wringer, twice. As defined by ONC, vendors with “complete EHRs” and those with “EHR modules” will have to find an “ONC-approved testing and certification body” (ONC-ATCB) that will take them through a “temporary certification program” from now until end of 2011. Then in 2012, under a “permanent certification program,” they’ll have to switch over to a National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP)-accredited testing body for testing, after which they must seek an “ONC-approved certification body” (ONC-ACB, not to be confused with ONC-ATCB) that can provide certification. The ONC-ATCB will be accredited by ONC, but the ONC-ACBs will be accredited by an “ONC-approved accreditor” (ONC-AA).Continue reading…

HIMSS impressions

HIMSS is like a 4 day party with interesting conversations, meetings that I always miss (sorry RelayHealth & Ingenix—I owe ya both!), and usually a travel complication. This time I got there smoothly but missed my plane out while chatting with Mitch Work at the next door gate. I was going to be spending the night in Dallas but I got lucky and the next plane to DFW arrived early enough that I could rush to the SFO flight and make it home. Great to see my wife for the first time in two weeks!

I have about 10 longish interviews that will go up when the video gremlins give up, but here are a few impressions.

Busiest booth?: I think Cisco wins. Maybe it was HealthPresence, maybe the magician—but it was always packed. What I think it means is that mainstream Internet tools are now coming into health care (with some little tweeks). But as MrHISTalk says, putting all the big guys in the A hall was a mite unfair on the C side—although I got to both a little.Continue reading…

Dispatch from HIMSS

Picture 82 I’ve just finished my day in Atlanta and am beginning a commute to Tokyo.

Every year, I describe my top 10 impressions from HIMSS. Here’s my summary of the event for 2010

I’ve just finished my day in Atlanta and am beginning a commute to Tokyo.

Every year, I describe my top 10 impressions from HIMSS. Here’s my summary of the event for 2010Continue reading…

CCD Standard Gaining Traction, CCR Fading

In a number of interviews with leading HIE vendors, it is becoming clear that the clinical standard, Continuity of Care Document (CCD) will be the dominant standard in the future.  The leading competing standard, Continuity of Care Record (CCR) appears to be fading with one vendor stating that virtually no client is asking for CCR today.  This HIE vendor did state that one client did ask for CCR, but only to enable data transfer to Google Health.

CCR was created by ASTM with major involvement by AAFP wih the objective to create a standard that would be far easier to deploy and use by smaller physician practices.  At the time of CCR formation, the dominant standard was HL7’s CDA, a beast of a standard that was structured to serve large hospitals and based on some fairly old technology and architectural constructs.  With competing CDA and CCR standards in the market, there was a need for some rationalization which led to the development of CCD, a standard that combined some of the best features of CCR and CDA.

Today, CCD is seen as a more flexible standard that is not nearly as prescriptive as CCR. This allows IT staff to structure and customize their internal HIT architecture and features therein for their users and not be confind to a strict architectural definition such as that found in CCR.  (Note: such strict definitions are not always a bad thing as they can greatly simplify deployment and use, but such simplicity comes at a price, flexibility.)

Unfortunately for Google Health, who has built its system on top of a modified version of CCR, this trend   likely lead to increasingly difficulty in convincing healthcare providers to provide patient health records in a CCR format.  Google would be wise to immediately begin the work necessary to bring CCD documents into their system as the writing on the wall is getting clearer by the day.  CCR is a standard that will fade away.

John Moore is an IT Analyst at Chilmark Research, where this post was first published.

Should the Feds Certify EHR Usability?

In an interesting turn, the Commerce Department’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) says it is looking to develop standards for evaluating ease-of-use of health IT systems. This raises some questions about the appropriate federal role in guiding the evolution of Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems – should the feds be specifying “usability standards” in the first place?

The NIST notice is currently very preliminary – they are simply looking for companies with expertise in quantifying and measuring Usability in health IT systems. However, the NIST has been charged with developing the specific testing and process documents that will be used (by organizations yet to be selected) to certify EHR systems. The overall policy and specification about Meaningful Use of a Certified EHR, which is needed to access ARRA stimulus moneys available beginning in 2011, have been published for open commentary. However, the specific nuts-and-bolts of certification is being hammered out by the NIST. They have already contracted with Booz Allen Hamilton to help with this process.Continue reading…

The Health Internet vs. the NHIN — A Matter of Control, Cost, and Timing

David KibbeThere is growing tension within the Obama administration’s health team over who will control health data exchange: everyone (including consumers and their doctors), or just large provider organizations. The public debate will be framed in terms of privacy, security, and the adequacy of current exchange standards. But what really matters is who gets to make decisions about where health data resides, how it can be accessed, how much exchange will cost, and how long it will take for exchange to become routine.

Now is a good time to re-visit the plans for a National Health Information Network (NHIN), since we can finally observe and compare different health data sharing and exchange models in the marketplace. NHINs represent an older model that tries to use regional health information organizations (RHIOs) to establish secure networks, privately owned and operated by large provider organizations, mostly hospitals and health systems. The idea was that, over time, each private regional network would develop a gateway to other networks, creating a “network of networks” that would allow Stanford to talk to Partners Health, or Kaiser to Mayo. This communications model was enterprise/provider-centric. Patients/consumers were relegated to depending upon each RHIO’s policies for access to their health information. It was also a massively expensive and time consuming – think decades – way to build a health data network.

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Where were you?

MPainter

By MICHAEL PAINTER

I distinctly remember the first time I heard the title, “National Coordinator for Health Information  Technology”.  It was 2004.  That’s, of course, the year that RAND released its important national report card highlighting the overall mediocre state of health care quality.  You know the one that told us “it’s a flip of a coin.”  I was an RWJF Health Policy Fellow working on the Hill with then Majority Leader Bill Frist’s health policy staff.

There was a flurry of staff activity regarding the president’s pending executive order pushing adoption of the electronic health record and creating a new federal health information technology, dare I say, czar. . . . But what to call this new position?  To be honest, when I initially heard folks say the words, “national coordinator for health information technology,” my first thought was, “Well, that’s a mouthful.”  My second was “It sort of sounds like a character from that TV show, ‘The Love Boat’”.  But I kept those smart remarks to myself and quite quickly got on board—and, to be honest, never looked back.Continue reading…

Why Standards Matter 2: Health IT Enters a New Era of Regulatory Control

David KibbeThe recent history of electronic medical records in ambulatory care, or what we now call EHR (electronic health record) technology, can be divided roughly into three phases. Phase I, which lasted approximately 20 years, from about 1980 to the early 2000’s, was an era of exploration and early adaptation of computers to outpatient medicine. It coincided with the availability of PCs that were cheap enough to be owned by many doctors, and with the increased capacity of off-the-shelf software programs, mainly spreadsheet and database management systems such as Lotus, Excel, Access, and Microsoft’s SQL, to lend themselves to computerized capture of health data and information. Phase II coincided roughly with the American Academy of Family Physician’s (AAFP’s) commitment to health IT as a core competency of the organization, and with its support/promotion of the early commercial vendors in the Partners for Patients program, a national educational campaign inaugurated in 2002 which involved joint venturing with vendors that included Practice Partners, MedicaLogic, eClinicalWorks, and eMDs, among others. Several other physician membership organizations joined this effort to popularize EMRs, or crafted their own education programs for their members based on the AAFP’s model. The most popular Phase II products were, and still are for the most part, client-server software applications that run on local networks and PCs within the four walls of a practice, and tend to use very similar programming development tools, back-end databases, and support for peripherals such as printers. The industry grew, albeit sluggishly, from roughly 2002-present in an unregulated environment, with increasing support from quasi-official industry groups like HIMSS and CCHIT, and with the blessing of many professional organizations, including the AAFP, ACP, AOA, and the AAP. Best estimates are that the numbers of physicians using EHR technology from a commercial vendor roughly tripled during this period, from about 5% of physicians to about 15%. The Bush administration gave moral support to the industry, but did not provide funding or payment incentives, and mostly left the industry to itself to sort out the rules, including certification. The industry is now entering a new phase, one we predict will significantly depart from the previous two eras.Continue reading…