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Doctors Love iPads. What Does it Mean? What Does it Mean?

By VINCE KURAITIS

After attending HIMSS 11 the largest annual health IT conference of the year, John Moore reported that “nearly every EHR vendor has an iPad App for the EHR [electronic health record], or will be releasing such this year.”

Doctors love iPads…not surprising? But, how might you explain this?

There are at least two different possibilities:

  • Coincidence Theory
  • Conspiracy Theory

The Coincidence Theory

So doctors want to access EHR software through the iPad…what’s the big deal?

Apple has built a great new hardware platform with the iPad. There’s nothing else like it in the marketplace.  While other companies are building competing tablets, Apple’s has been the only viable option in the market for over a year.

The iPad is intuitive, easy to use, reasonably priced, easy to carry around, and has a lot of apps that have been developed for the platform. People — not just doctors — love the experience of using an iPad.

Doctors just happen to be one group of zillions buying iPads. Why wouldn’t they? Doctors are smart, affluent, and many are opinion leaders. Doctors like cool new technologies just like anyone else.

Doctors also are mobile. They want to access EHRs in different exam rooms, from the hospital, from their homes. The iPad is the perfect hardware platform to take with you as as a doctor goes about their day.

Why are nearly all EHR vendors making their software work on the iPad?

Because doctors are demanding it.

The Conspiracy Theory

The iPad is Apple’s Trojan horse to create new revenues in an industry in which the company has had minimal presence — health care.

Apple has developed a very appealing hardware platform in the iPad. Recognizing the market strength and lock-in to their walled garden they are creating with consumers, Apple is targeting key market segments to create new revenue streams and business models. Health care is the next target for Apple’s aggressive smarts.

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Is Economic Credentialing A Tool for Primary Care to Lead ACOs?

Is economic credentialing — the use of economic factors such as loyalty and utilization rates in the physician credentialing process — a potential tool for primary care physicians to lead ACOs?   and reestablish the vitality of primary care in American health care?

Keith Wright and Gregory Drutchas’ incisive article Economic Credentialing: A Prescription To Secure Shared Savings Under Accountable Care provides useful history and context about economic credentialing:

For many years, the use of economic factors by hospitals in making medical staff credentialing decisions has been the subject of much discussion and debate among physicians, groups such as the American Medical Association (AMA), healthcare providers, payors, and attorneys….the implementation of healthcare reform is likely to bring the debate over economic credentialing to the forefront once again.

While economic credentialing has been talked about a lot, it’s rarely been used.

The controversy over economic credentialing arises again with ACO’s…and this time the answer might be different — and opportunistic for primary care.Continue reading…

PCAST HIT Report Becomes a Political Piñata

The PCAST Report on Health IT has become a political piñata.

Early Feedback on PCAST

Like many of my colleagues, I was taken aback by the release of the Report in early December 2010 — I didn’t know quite what to make of it. Response in the first week of release after Report was:

  • Limited. The first commentaries were primarily by technical and/or clinical bloggers. The mainstream HIT world had remarkably little initial reaction to the Report.
  • Respectful of the imprimatur of “The President’s” Report and noting some of the big names associated with the report (e.g., Google’s Eric Schmidt and Microsoft’s Craig Mundie.)
  • Focused on technical and/or clinical perspectives around two broad themes.
    • The vision is on target:  “extraordinary”, “breathtakingly innovative”.
    • These guys didn’t do all their technical homework. The range varies, but the message is consistent.

Today’s POV on PCAST

What  a difference a six weeks makes.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) requested comments on the Report. The comments were due by January 19 and a number of influential organizations have already made their comments public.

After having read 10 early commentaries submitted to ONC, I’ll (admittedly subjectively) divide them into 3 schools of thought:

1) PCAST is a frontal attack on mainstream clinical, technical, and economic stakeholders in existing U.S. health IT. While there are some good ideas in the report, almost all of them are already in the works.  Bury PCAST ASAP.

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Updates on Proposed Stage 2 and 3 Meaningful Use Criteria

The Health IT Policy Committee has published proposed Stage 2 and 3 Meaningful Use Recommendations and they’re open for public comment until February 25.

I’ll share a couple of particularly useful and well written analyses and commentaries by colleagues.

Health IT guru and thought leader Dr. John Halamka writes about The Proposed Stage 2 and 3 Meaningful Use Recommendations.

This is a great article to get a thumbnail overview of all the proposed recommendations. John lists 38 criteria and provides a quick commentary on how challenging he sees each of them. (Keep in mind that he’s CIO at one of the most HIT-advanced health systems in the country — your definition of “easy” and his might not be alike.)

It caught my eye that the more challenging criteria generally are ones involving inter-organizational health data exchange, care coordination and care management. See his comments on the following criteria: 7, 17, 20–21, and 23–34.

Dr. Halamka concludes:

…areas of concern are chemotherapy automation, recording patient communication preferences, judging clinician performance based on patient adoption of PHRs, EMAR implementation, maturity of HIE capabilities,  widespread rollout of longitudinal care planning, and public health readiness.

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Will ACO IT Models Be Walled Gardens or Open Platforms?

Will ACO (accountable care organization) IT models be walled gardens or open platforms?  i.e., will ACO IT platforms focus on exchanging information within the provider network of the ACO, or will they also be able to exchange information with providers outside the ACO network? (If the question still isn’t clear, click here for a further explanation.).

One POV: ACO’s Will Need Open IT Platforms

Mike Cummens, M.D., associate chief medical information officer at 750-physician Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin, is quoted in a recent article in Healthcare Informatics. Dr. Cummens argues for an open ACO IT approach:

There will be an emphasis on transfer-of-care summaries and how to facilitate information sharing across the full continuum of care, he said. “For instance, you will have to work into care management plans the notification of home health agencies,” Cummens added. “In an ACO model, you will have to have methods in place to communicate all this information to providers who are not part of your own organization. People will have an option to see providers outside an ACO, so you will need to be able to transfer care summaries and discharge summaries outside the ACO.”

Also, because patient involvement is a key part of ACOs, the IT infrastructure will have to support patients signing off on their care plans and document their progress toward reaching goals, he noted. That will involve some type of self-management tools and personal health record access to their own data.

Cummens noted that the patient-centered medical home is geared toward an individual practice, and meaningful use metrics are geared toward providers, but ACOs will require managing data across enterprises. “When we visualize this and realize we are dealing with multiple electronic health records, the infrastructure for ACOs really has to ride on top of that,” he said. He sees the need for a new type of system, probably outside the EHR, that can bridge organizations, allow for risk assessment and analytics and reach down into tools for day-to-day management. That’s a tall order.

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The Penguin Problem

Remember the penguin problem described by economists?

No one moves unless everyone moves, so no one moves.

Overcoming the penguin problem has a lot to do with creating expectations. A recent writing by Dr. James O’Connor in Physician Practice expresses a voice from the physician community that I’ve never heard before.  His essay is entitled “Meaningful Use — Doctors Have No Choice”.

Physicians Have No Choice Other Than to Adopt EHRs?

Dr. O’Connor argues that physicians are effectively being forced into adopting EHRs.  He cites facts and reaches a powerful conclusion:

1. CMS penalties begin in 2015.
2. What if you won’t or don’t accept Medicare/Medicaid patients (13 percent of practices in 2009, up from 6 percent in 2004? In August, four major insurers (Aetna, Highmark, United Health Group, and Wellpoint) announced that, at a minimum, they will link their pay-for-performance programs to federal meaningful use criteria. Other insurers are likely to follow.
3. Do you run one of the increasing number of “boutique” or VIP practices that work on a cash-only basis? The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) released a statement in August saying that they intend to link meaningful use of health information technology into the ABMS Maintenance of Certification© program.
4. You don’t care about being board certified? (Sound of crickets chirping.) The Final Rule gives states the authority to impose additional requirements that promote compliance with meaningful use. As reported in Physicians Practice, the state of Massachusetts may take away your license to practice medicine in 2015 unless you demonstrate meaningful use of an EHR system. In Maryland, private insurers will be required to build incentives for acquisition of EHRs and penalties for not adopting them into their payment structure.

OK, so technically, we do have a choice. We could stop taking Medicare and Medicaid patients, accept cash only, give up our board certification (and thus usually hospital privileges), and move to a state (or country) that doesn’t impose EHR requirements. But is that really a choice? No.

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Does This ACO Thing Really Mean We Need to be ‘Accountable’?

Last month The American College of Physicians (ACP) released a well-reasoned and thorough position paper, The Patient-Centered Medical Home Neighbor: The Interface of the Patient-Centered Medical Home with Specialty/Subspecialty Practices.

As I’ve written before, the Big Idea behind ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations) is the notion of accountability, not the specifics of organizational structure.

The purpose of the ACP position paper is to address the gaps that exist in care coordination when a physician refers a patient to a specialist. The obvious and logical answer proposed is to develop “Care Coordination Agreements” between primary care physicians and referring specialists, and the position paper takes 35 pages to explain why and how.

A simplified way of thinking about Care Coordination Agreements is that they recognize that coordination of care is a team sport, that specialists are part of the team, and that this paper proposes rules of the game about how primary care physicians and specialists should play together on behalf of their common patients.

However, there’s a great big CAVEAT buried in the position paper.  I don’t doubt the earnestness of the authors, but I do take this caveat as a Freudian slip recognition that not all specialists will be eager to play on the team and to play by the rules:

At this time, implementation of the above principles within care coordination agreements represents an aspiration goal…

The care coordination agreements should be viewed solely as a means of specifying a set of expected working procedures agreed upon by the collaborating practices toward the goals of improved communication and care coordination — they are not legally enforceable agreements between the practices. [emphasis of “solely” is in the original document, not added]

Translation:

Don’t expect to hold us accountable….and don’t expect to be able to sue us if we don’t get it right

Vince Kuraitis, JD, MBA is a health care consultant and primary author of the e-CareManagement blog where this post first appeared.

Care Coordination Metrics: One Can of Worms that NEEDS to be Opened

“Track who is on a care team — and share info with the patient.”

That’s just one of the summary recommendations coming from expert testimony given in a recent public hearing on how to improve care coordination through the use of health information technology. The Meaningful Use workgroup and Quality Measures workgroups are now wrestling with how to translate this recommendation into meaningful use criteria for HITECH Stages 2 and 3.

Seems like a good idea — simple, straightforward — perhaps even obvious. The EHR (electronic health record) could be a great tool for keeping care team members in the loop and on the same page about a patient’s care.

But then I thought about this for a few minutes, and the complexities started dawning. This seemingly simple recommendation — “Track who is on a care team and share info with the patient” — is the proverbial can of worms.

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If HIT Plan A Doesn’t Work, What’s Plan B?

By VINCE KURAITIS, JD, & DAVID KIBBE, MD

Pop quiz: Among early-stage companies that are successful, what percentage are successful with the initial business model with which they started (Plan A) vs. a secondary business model (Plan B)?

Harvard Business School Professor Clay Christensen studied this issue.  He found that among successful companies, only 7% succeeded with their initial business model, while 93% evolved into a different business model.

So let’s take this finding and reexamine our human nature. In light of these statistics, what makes more sense:

  • Defending Plan A to your dying breath?
  • Assuming Plan A is probably flawed, and anticipating the need for Plan B without getting defensive?

We question many of the assumptions underlying HITECH Plan A. We also want to talk about the need and content for Plan B in a constructive way.Continue reading…

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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