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Is Your Health Data Unstructured? – Enabling an AI Powered Healthcare Future

Posted on June 22, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

If you asked a hospital IT executive how much of their data is unstructured data, most of them would reasonably respond that a lot or most of their data was unstructured. If you asked a practice manager or doctor how much of health data is unstructured, they’d likely respond “What do you mean?”

The reality is that most doctors, nurses, practice managers, etc don’t really care if their data is structured data or not. However, they should care about it and more importantly they should care about how they’re going to extract value out of the structured and unstructured data in their organizations.

The reality in healthcare, as the above tweet and image point out, is that much of the data we have and are going to get is going to be unstructured data. Our systems and software need to handle unstructured data in order to facilitate the AI powered healthcare future. That’s right. An AI powered healthcare future is coming and it’s going to be built on the back of structured and unstructured healthcare data.

I think the reason so many healthcare providers are concerned with this AI powered future is that they know the data they currently have is not very good. That’s going to be a problem for many organizations. Bad data is going to produce bad AI powered support.

We shouldn’t expect technology to solve our problems of bad data but, technology will amplify the state of your organization. If your organization is doing an amazing job creating high quality health data, then the AI powered future will propel you in amazing ways to be an even better organization. However, the opposite is also true. If your health data is poor, then these new AI powered systems are going to highlight how poorly your organization is being run. I get why that’s scary for many people.

This should be one of the big lessons we take away from the EHR experience. Healthcare organizations with poor workflows hoped that implementation of an EHR would help them fix their workflows. Instead of EHR fixing the workflows it just highlighted the poor workflows. Technology accentuates and accelerates your current state. It doesn’t usually fix it. You have to fix your organization and workflows first and then use technology to accelerate your organization.

The next step after that is what Rasu Shrestha highlighted when he said, “How can we move from ‘doing digital’ to ‘being digital’. Let’s not replicate analog workflows. Let’s rethink!”

5 Stages of Provider Dissatisfaction and Happiness

Posted on June 21, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A couple weeks ago I posted an infographic on the 5 stages of patient frustration and the 5 stages of patient satisfaction. This week SCI Solutions came out with a new infographic which looks at the 5 stages of provider dissatisfaction and the 5 stages of provider happiness.

It was interesting that the infographic focused so much on the pains of prior auths. I agree that this is extremely painful for doctors and definitely leads to a lot of dissatisfaction. However, I’m surprised that they didn’t include the EHR and other regulations related to the EHR in their list of provider dissatisfaction. I’m sure EHR and prior auths would fight a good fight as to which is more annoying to doctors.

As for the provider satisfaction, the infographic focused so much on easy access to the right information. I agree that’s a valuable thing, but the most valuable thing is doctors getting quality time that helps their patients. We need to facilitate more of that in healthcare.

A Tribute to Larry Weed

Posted on June 20, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I must admit that I didn’t really know about Larry Weed until in 2013 I saw Neil Versel interviewing him at HIMSS. I’d been getting to know Neil Versel pretty well at this point and I saw him hit the press room full of energy and totally engaged with a man who was 89 years of age. I was new to the press room then, but I now know well the look Neil gets when he has a good interview. It’s how he looked at HIMSS 2013 when I saw him interviewing the 89 year old Larry Weed.

After the interview, I was talking with Neil and he recounted to me that he’d just been able to interview Larry Weed. I could tell that this was a real highlight for him and that he was honored by the opportunity. This month, Larry Weed passed away and Neil Versel offered up this great tribute to Larry Weed’s work.

I love this Larry Weed quote that Neil shared in his tribute:

“The worst, the most corrupting of all lies is to misstate the problem. Patients get run off into the most unbelievable, expensive procedures … and they’re not even on the right problem,” Weed said during that memorable presentation in New Orleans.

“We all live in our own little cave. We see the world out of our own little cave, and no two of us see it the same way,” he continued, explaining the wide deviation from standards of care. “What you see is a function of who you are.”

We should all take a week or so to think about the most corrupting lie of misstating the problem and how our own experiences corrupt our views.

I also didn’t know that Larry Weed was possibly one fo the founding father’s of patient empowerment. As Neil notes:

Indeed, it could be argued that Weed was a founding father of patient empowerment. Back in 1969, Weed wrote a book called “Medical Records, Medical Education, and Patient Care.” In that, he said, “patients are the largest untapped resource in medical care today.”

Larry Weed also co-developed an early EMR and the SOAP note was his idea.

I often don’t think that those of us who take healthcare IT and EHR for granted today realize the rich history and evolution of technology in healthcare. Thanks Neil for sharing a small glimpse into that history and honoring a man who was an important part in it.

Everyone should take 2 minutes and go and read Neil Versel’s full tribute to Larry Weed.

MACRA Video Training – MACRA Monday

Posted on June 19, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is part of the MACRA Monday series of blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

I did a quick search on YouTube for the term MACRA and it found 23,300 search results. It’s not surprising to find so much MACRA content. It seems to me that healthcare has an insatiable appetite for MACRA information.

While it’s great that so many organizations are producing MACRA content, no doubt some of it is not all that valuable and a bunch of it isn’t accurate. Case in point, the first video returned in the YouTube search for MACRA was a video from eClinicalWorks (eCW). Is there anyone that would want eCW to train them on government regulations after the recent eCW settlement that revolved around their decision to not properly certify their EHR and the meaningful use program? Maybe all the information is accurate, but that’s not where I’d go to for my source of MACRA information.

If you wanted a really brief, high level overview of MACRA, I found this 2 minute cartoon video from MediSync to be a nice intro to the intent of MACRA:

If you want a much more in depth look into MACRA’s MIPS program, you’ll want to check out Answers Media’s 25 videos in their The ABCs of MIPS series:

We all know that the government MACRA website is the first place to go for really high quality MACRA information. Do you have another go to source for your MACRA information that we should know about? Let us know in the comments.

EHR Data – Is it Improving Healthcare?

Posted on June 14, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve written pretty regularly about the wave of data that’s coming to the world of healthcare. It’s really something quite extraordinary. However, data in itself doesn’t solve anything. So, I was bothered by this tweet which suggested that technology was improving healthcare by illustrating that more and more health data was being collected by technology.

Here’s the tweet:

Attached to this tweet is the following image which doesn’t illustrate the above assertion at all.

No one believes that technology can help improve healthcare more than me. However, it’s not right to make that assertion on Twitter and then use the increased collection of healthcare data as proof of this fact. We can collect all the data in the world and healthcare can remain exactly as it is today.

This reminds me of when the government suggested that HITECH (Meaningful Use) was a success based on graphs that show that most organizations have adopted an EHR. I guess if EHR adoption is your goal, then it was a success. However, if your goal is to use technology to improve healthcare, then EHR adoption is a vanity metric.

We need to stop focusing on adoption and start focusing more on metrics that really matter. Are we improving care? Are we lowering the cost of healthcare? Are we improving the efficiency of our healthcare providers? If technology can’t help you in one of these areas, then we should question why we’re doing it. Let’s bring some sanity back to our approach to healthcare technology.

Will the eCW Settlement Impact MACRA? – MACRA Monday

Posted on June 12, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is part of the MACRA Monday series of blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

In case you missed it, eCW settled a whistleblower lawsuit for $155 million. At the core of the lawsuit were the Medicare meaningful use payments that were paid to eCWs customers. The lawsuit alleged that eCW had been inappropriately certified as an EHR and told their customers that they were appropriately certified.

Many in the industry including myself are suggesting that eCW isn’t the only EHR vendor that could run into these types of issues. It’s quite easy for an EHR vendor to pass the EHR certification test. It’s another thing to have actually implemented all of the EHR certification requirements. We’ll see what other lawsuits come forward.

What does this settlement mean for MACRA?

Before the eCW settlement, many in the EHR industry didn’t realize their risk profile because their customers were getting government money. Once your customers start taking government money, the legal framework really changes. This is going to be true with the MACRA program as well.

It behooves every EHR vendor to really make sure they are following the spirit of the law and not just trying to game the EHR certification process (which we all know is easily gamed). I expect that most EHR vendors will step up their game and make a good faith effort to comply. I think this is the hope of the US Attorney’s office given their press release about the settlement.

We’re still waiting to see if the eCW settlement will cause any issues for eCW users who attested with the inappropriately certified eCW software. My prediction is that they’ll be fine, but some have argued that their meaningful use incentive payments could be pulled too. If that happens, that could really impact participation in the MACRA/MIPS program.

You can be sure that healthcare organization’s compliance officers are going to spend more time verifying their EHR vendor’s certification. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some new contracts that include some new language to cover the healthcare organization if their EHR has issues similar to eCW.

One other thing that might be an issue is those organizations that choose to switch to a new EHR from eCW. EHR switching has always been an issue when it comes to meaningful use and now MACRA and MIPS. We’ll have to dive into EHR switching and MACRA in a future post.

What impact do you think the eCW settlement will have on MACRA?

Do We Need Stricter Scribe Standards?

Posted on June 9, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

As most readers will know, scribes have gone from a neat idea to a fixture in many clinical settings. Though the long-term effect of their participation has yet to be determined, so far it seems that scribes have been proven to be quite useful. Not only are they saving time, they’re helping physicians connect with patients again, rather than their computer screen.

That being said, when you hire a scribe you don’t always know what you’re getting. After all, there’s no such thing as a scribe certification accepted by the healthcare industry as a whole. There are schools which offer aspiring scribes a thorough education in the essentials of medical terminology and practice, but they don’t need to adhere to a single national standard.

This lack of standardization could turn out to be a problem, according to Dr. Jeffrey Gold. In an article for The Doctor Weighs In, Dr. Gold concedes that scribes seem to be offering real benefits, noting that researchers have found that scribes can enhance physician efficiency, boost physician satisfaction and even increase billing. And he notes that scribes may improve patient satisfaction, as they make it easier for physicians to connect with patients during visits.

But despite the benefits they offer, Dr. Gold says he’s concerned about the lack of regulation concerning how scribes participate in healthcare. For example, he notes that researchers haven’t yet assessed scribes’ ability to interface safely with the EMR.

His concerns seems to be shared by the Joint Commission, which requires that providers signed all scribe-generated orders prior to implementation, that healthcare organizations document the ability of scribes to perform their assigned tasks. These concerns arise because scribes aren’t held to a common standard, Dr. Gold contends.

“Scribes have a wide variety of backgrounds, including premed students and certified medical assistants,” he notes. “…Unfortunately, few rules or standards currently exist that designate appropriate scribe activities.”

Scribe training varies a great deal as well, he notes. To make his point, Dr. Gold cites a study by medical malpractice insurer The Doctors Company and Oregon Health and Science University which looked at scribe capabilities and backgrounds. He notes that the survey, which had 335 respondents, found that 44% of scribes had no prior experience, and that only 22% of scribes have had any form of certification.

Under these circumstances, using scribes might come with some unexpected risks, he suggests. “The combination of rapid growth in scribe use, lack of standardized training, variability in scribe experience, and variability in both EHR exposure and EHR workflows raises the concern that scribes may introduce potential negative unintended consequences to either workflow or documentation,” he writes.

It is worth noting that another of Dr. Gold’s fears is that scribes will be asked to take on more complex EMR work which, if handled badly, could also lead to problems. He’s concerned that scribes may simply accumulate such duties due to “functional creep.”

For myself, while I understand Dr. Gold’s concerns, I don’t feel the situation is as dire as he suggests. Yes, it would probably be appropriate and beneficial to standardize scribe training, as it never hurts to boost the professionalism of any party participating in the care process. At the same time, though, with many scribes being trained largely by their employers, there will be a lot of variation in outcomes anyway.

But maybe I’m wrong. What do you think? Is it important to give scribes or standardized training and ask them to meet national certification standards? Or are they working effectively as is?

The EMR Vendor’s Dilemma

Posted on June 6, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Yesterday, I had a great conversation with an executive at one of the leading EMR vendors. During our conversation, she stressed that her company was focused on the future – not on shoring up its existing infrastructure, but rather, rebuilding its code into something “transformational.”

In describing her company’s next steps, she touched on many familiar bases, including population health, patient registries and mobile- first deployment to support clinicians. She told me that after several years of development, she felt her company was truly ready to take on operational challenges like delivering value-based care and conducting disease surveillance.

All that being said – with all due respect to the gracious exec with whom I spoke – I wouldn’t want to be a vendor trying to be transformed at the moment. As I see it, vendors who want to keep up with current EMR trends are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, such vendors need to support providers’ evolving health IT needs, which are changing rapidly as new models of care delivery are emerging. Not only do they need to provide the powerhouse infrastructure necessary to handle and route massive floods of data, they also need to help their customers reach and engage consumers in new ways.

To do so, however, they need to shoot at moving targets, or they won’t meet provider demand. Providers may not be sure what shape certain processes will take, but they still expect EMR vendors to keep up with their needs nonetheless. And that can certainly be tricky these days.

For example, while everybody is talking about population health management, as far as I know we still haven’t adopted a widely-accepted model for adopting it. Sure, people are arriving at many of the same conclusions about pop health, but their approach to rolling it out varies widely.  And that makes things very tough for vendors to create pop health technology.

And what about patient engagement solutions? At present, the tools providers use to engage patients with their care are all over the map, from portals to mobile apps to back-end systems using predictive analytics. Synchronizing and storing the data generated by these solutions is challenging enough. Figuring out what configuration of options actually produces results is even harder, and nobody, including the savviest EMR vendors, can be sure what the consensus model will be in the future.

Look, I’m aware that virtually all software vendors face this problem. It’s difficult as heck to decide when to lead the industry you serve and when to let the industry lead you. Straddling these two approaches successfully is what separates the men from the boys — or the girls from the women — and dictates who the winners and losers are in any technology market.

But arguably, health IT vendors face a particularly difficult challenge when it comes to keeping up with the times. There’s certainly few industries are in a greater state of flux, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

It will take some very fancy footwork to dance gracefully with providers. Within a few years, we’ll look back and know vendors adapted just enough.

New MIPS Eligibility Tool – MACRA Monday

Posted on June 5, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is part of the MACRA Monday series of blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

If you aren’t sure about your eligibility for MACRA (Quality Payment Program if you prefer), then check out CMS’ new tool which will help you see if you can participate in MIPS. In fact, you can check if anyone is eligible to participate in MIPS if you know their NPI number (which is easily available with a search on Google). Here’s the output I got for a provider that I looked up:

Pretty straight forward. This doctor can participate in MIPS as an individual or with his group. It would be really nice if this screen also informed the doctor about the penalties and bonuses they could receive depending on how they choose to approach MIPS. However, I guess they would have to be careful about how specific they were with that data since anyone can search any provider. However, even some generic details on the penalties and/or incentives would be a smart addition to this screen. The “What Can I Do Now?” button does lead to some more information, but it’s not very compelling.

I liked this friendly reminder from @JournalofCP:

MACRA and MIPS are upon us. How are you approaching it?

EHR Lifecycle

Posted on May 30, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Far too many organizations look at the EHR go live as the end all be all to EHR implementations. Unfortunately, this fallacy in thinking has caused many EHR implementations to suffer after the EHR go live. The reality of an EHR implementation is that it’s never done.

This was highlighted really well in this graphic that The Advisory Board Company put out about the EHR life cycle. They compare the EHR lifecycle to that of raising a child. The most poignant part of this chart to me are the final 3 phases of the EHR lifecycle which are all after the EHR go live event. These final 3 phases are listed as ongoing. In other words, these final 3 phases will never end.

See the details in the graphic below (click on it to see a larger version):

If you don’t have a process in place to improve your EHR use, performance, and the benefits you receive from your EHR, then you should get one now.