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Drop In Clinics: Another EHR Quandary

If you go to a walk in health clinic, you’re in good company. These clinics and their users are growing rapidly. So, too, is their using EHRs to document your stay. That EHR use is both good and bad news.

 Clinic Types

There are two basic types of these no appointment, walk in clinics: Retail Health and Urgent Care:

  • Retail Health. These treat minor problems or do basic prevention that usually doesn’t require a physician visit. For example, they give flu shots, treat colds, ear infections, and strep throat, etc. The clinics are often one person operations staffed by a nurse practitioner. You can find them in stand alone settings, but more frequently now they are in major, retail chains such as Target, Wal-Mart, CVS, etc. In addition to their location accessibility, these clinics usually have evenings and weekend hours.
  • Urgent Care Clinics. These perform all the services of retail clinics, and also have extended hours. Importantly they add physician services. For example, they will treat burns, sprains, or run basic lab tests. These clinics usually are part of a clinical chain or may be associated with a local hospital. Unlike retail health clinics, they generally are in their own store fronts.

While their services and settings differ, both accept health insurance. With the projected growth of the insured population under the ACA, their managers are expanding their networks.

Clinic EHR to PCP EHR Problem

Unlike practices and hospitals that have undergone, often painful, transitions from paper to EHRs, these clinics, skipped that phase and have, by and large, used EHRs from the start.

EHRs give them a major advantage. If you visit Mini-Doc Clinic in Chamblee, Georgia and then go to one in Hyattsville, Maryland, the Maryland clinic can see or electronically get your Georgia record. This eliminates redundancy and gives you an incentive to stay with a service that knows you.

If you only go to Min-Doc for care, then all your information is in one place. However, if you use the clinic and see you regular doctor too, updating your records is no small issue. Coordination of medical records is difficult enough when practices are networked or in a HIE. In the case of a clinic, especially one that you saw away from home, interface problems can compound.

With luck, the clinic you saw on vacation may use the same EHR as your doctor. For example, CVS’ Minute Clinic uses Epic. However, your clinic may use an EHR tailored to walk ins. Examples of these clinic oriented, tablet, touch optimized EHRs are:

Your physician may not have the technical ability to read the clinic’s record. Getting a hospital to import the clinic’s data would require overcoming bureaucratic, cost and systems problems for what might be a one time occurence. Odds are the clinic will fax your records to your doctor where they will be scanned or keyed in, if at all.

This is not a hypothetical issue, but one that clinic corporate execs, patient advocates and physicians are concerned about. There is no easy solution in sight.

Recently, on point, NPR’s Diane Rehm show had a good discussion of the clinic phenomena, and included the clinic to PCP EHR record issue. You can hear it on podcast. Her guests were:

  • Susan Dentzer. Senior Policy Adviser, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and on-air analyst on health issues, PBS NewsHour.
  • Dr. Nancy Gagliano. Chief Medical Officer, CVS MinuteClinic.
  • Dr. Robert Wergin. Family Physician, Milford, Neb., and President-elect, American Academy of Family Physicians, and
  • Vaughn Kauffman. Principal, PwC Health Industries.

All the actors in this issue know that the best outcome would be transparent interoperability. However, that goal is more honored in the breach, etc., for EHRs in general. The issue of clinic to PCP EHR is only at a beginning and its future is unknown.

March 5, 2014 I Written By

When Carl Bergman’s not rooting for the Washington Nationals or searching for a Steeler bar, he’s Managing Partner of EHRSelector.com, a free service for matching users and EHRs. For the last dozen years, he’s concentrated on EHR consulting and writing. He spent the 80s and 90s as an itinerant project manger doing his small part for the dot com bubble. Prior to that, Bergman served a ten year stretch in the District of Columbia government as a policy and fiscal analyst.

HIE Study Finds That Failure To Use Data Cost $1.3 Million Over 18 Months

You can put an HIE in place, but you can’t make doctors drink. That fractured moral was demonstrated recently by an HIE in Western New York, which found that many doctors were failing to use data available in the HIE, and thus ordering CT scans that were unnecessary — wasting about $1.3 million over an 18 month period.

The HIE, HEALTHeLINK, recently conducted a study intended to put a specific value on how many potentially unnecessary duplicative tests were being ordered by providers in its region, as well as a potential savings to the health system.

The sample audience was comprised of patients who had received more than one CT scan within a six-month period on the same part of the body. Scans were then sorted into the three most common categories of CBT groupings — head and neck, chest, and abdomen.

The duplicate scans were divided into three separate categories: 1) studies in which the CT report clearly reference to previous CT scan, 2) inconclusive studies in which researchers were able to tell if the previous study was known prior to ordering the scan and 3) unknown studies in which the CT report clearly stated that no previous study was known of.

Some findings include the following:

* During the 18 month study, which drew on claims data from three major insurance carriers in the area, researchers found about 2,763 CT scans which were considered to be potentially unnecessary.

* About 90 percent of the potentially needless CT scans were ordered by physicians who never or infrequently used the HIE. And more than 95 percent of the identified potentially unnecessary CT scans were done in a hospital,

* About 50 percent of the patients who had a duplicate CT scan had already consented to have their data accessed (so patients weren’t the obstacle).

While the analysis is complex, the lesson seems to be fairly simple. HIE’s are missing out on producing cost reductions when doctors aren’t accessing them prior to ordering tests.

March 3, 2014 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 @annezieger on Twitter.

HIE Cuts Back On Excess Imaging, But Savings Aren’t Huge

For years now, we’ve been told that HIEs would save money and reduce redundant testing by hospitals and doctors.  Until recently, such has mostly been the stuff of anecdote rather than hard results.  But a new study comparing hospitals on an HIE with those that were not seems to offer some of the hard evidence we’ve been waiting for (though the cost savings it finds aren’t spectacular overall).

According to a piece in Healthcare IT News, a new study has come out which demonstrates a link between HIE participation and the level of imaging performed in hospital emergency departments.

The study, which was done by Mathematica Policy and the University of Michigan, found that when hospitals were joined in an HIE, the number of redundant CT scans, x-rays and ultrasounds fell meaningfully, generating savings in the millions of dollars.

To conduct the study, Mathematica and the U of Michigan compared the level of repeat CT scans, chest x-rays and ultrasounds for two groups.  One group consisted of 37 EDs connected to an HIE; the other group was 410 EDs not connected to an HIE.  Researchers collected data on the two groups, which were based in California and Florida, between 2007 and 2010, using the state emergency database and HIMSS Analytics listing of hospital HIE participation.

The researchers found that hospital EDs participating in an HIE reduced imaging across all the modalities compared with hospitals not participating in an HIE.  For example, EDs using an HIE worth 13 percent less likely to repeat chest x-rays, and 9 percent less likely to repeat ultrasounds.

Ultimately, the study concluded that if all of the hospital EDs in California in Florida were participating in HIEs, the two states could save about $3 million annually by avoiding repeat imaging.  This is just fine, but this translates to $3 million in lost revenue for those hospitals. Once you split up $3 million across that many hospitals, you don’t end up with an impressive amount per hospital, but it’s still a cut to revenues. A cut in revenue isn’t a strong motivator to implement an HIE even if it does help to lower healthcare costs.

This is why it’s a real challenge to get many hospitals on an HIE. When you throw in the technical issues involved in HIE membership, it could be quite some time before the majority of hospitals jump on board without more external incentives.

January 21, 2014 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 @annezieger on Twitter.

CommonWell Announces Sites For Interoperability Rollout

Nine months after announcing their plan to increase interoperability between health IT data sources, the CommonWell Health Alliance has disclosed the locations where it will first offer interoperability services.

CommonWell, whose members now include health IT vendors Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner, CPSI, Greenway, McKesson, RelayHealth and Sunquest, launched to some skepticism — and a bit of behind-the-hand smirks because Epic Systems wasn’t included — but certainly had the industry’s attention.  And today, the vendors do seem to have critical mass, as the Alliance’s founding members represent 42 percent of the acute and 23 percent of the ambulatory EMR market, according to research firms SK&A and KLAS.

Now, the rubber meets the road, with the Alliance sharing a list of locations where it will first roll out services. It’s connecting providers in Chicago, Elkin and Henderson, North Carolina and Columbia, South Carolina. Interoperability services will be launched in these markets sometime at the beginning of 2014.

To make interoperability possible, Alliance members, RelayHealth and participating provider sites will be using a patient-centric identity and matching approach.

The initial participating providers include Lake Shore Obstetrics & Gynecology (Chicago, IL), Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital (Elkin, NC), Maria Parham Medical Center (Henderson, NC), Midlands Orthopaedics (Columbia, SC), and Palmetto Health (Columbia, SC).

The participating providers will do the administrative footwork to make sure the data exchange can happen. They will enroll patients into the service and manage patient consents needed to share data. They’ll also identify whether other providers have data for a patient enrolled in the network and transmit data to another provider that has consent to view that patient’s data.

Meanwhile, the Alliance members will be providing key technical services that allow providers to do the collaboration electronically, said Bob Robke, vice president of Cerner Network and a member of the Alliance’s board of directors.  CommonWell offers providers not only identity services, but a patient’s identity is established, the ability to share CCDs with other providers by querying them. (In case anyone wonders about how the service will maintain privacy, Robke notes that all clinical information sharing is peer to peer  – and that the CommonWell services don’t keep any kind of clinical data repository.)

The key to all of this is that providers will be able to share this information without having to be on a common HIE, much less be using the same EMR — though in Columbia, SC, the Alliance will be “enhancing” the capabilities of the existing local HIE by bringing acute care facility Palmetto Health, Midlands Orthopaedics and Capital City OB/GYN ambulatory practices into the mix.

It will certainly be interesting to see how well the CommonWell approach works, particularly when it’s an overlay to HIEs. Let’s see if the Alliance actually adds something different and helpful to the mix.

December 13, 2013 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 @annezieger on Twitter.

One-Third of Chicago-Area Hospitals Come Together Into HIE

Thirty-four Chicago hospitals have decided to come together into a health information exchange, with plans to begin exchanging data early next year, according to a story in Modern Healthcare.

The group, which calls itself MetroChicago HIE, considers itself to have critical mass, given that it embraces about a third of the region’s 89 hospitals.

To exchange data, the HIE is using Direct protocols permitting basic, encrypted clinical messaging, such as the transmission of referral letters between providers which have established authentication and business relationships, Modern Healthcare notes.

Even with Direct protocols in hand to streamline data sharing, the hospitals will face significant challenges in tightening communications between their various EMRs, which include a number of Epic and Cerner installations, as well as a few Meditech shops. Planners will also face issues when they set out to link the HIE to office-based physicians.

To address the problem of communicating between multiple interfaces, the HIE has hired technology firm SandLot Solutions, a company launched by North Texas Specialty Physicians.

To date, many hospitals have been reluctant to sink big bucks into HIE development. But participating hospitals in Chicago seem confident that there is a business case for spending on an HIE.

The truth is, this may just be a tipping point for hospital-run HIEs generally. For example, a recent study by HIMSS Analytics and ASG Software Solutions concluded that almost 70 percent of the 157 senior hospital IT execs surveyed were involved in HIE efforts.

Now, let’s see how these Chicago hospitals handle data exchange when they move beyond Direct into more advanced sharing. That will really be where the rubber hits the road.

December 4, 2013 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 @annezieger on Twitter.

Healthcare Standards – Opportunities and Challenges Remain for SNOMED CT, RxNorm and LOINC

The following is a guest blog post by Brian Levy, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Health Language.
Levy Low Res

Health IT standards and interoperability go hand-in-hand. Going forward, the success of the industry’s movement towards greater health information exchange (HIE) will hinge on the successful uptake and adoption of standards that will ensure reliable communication between disparate systems.

Progress is being made in this area through both messaging and coding standards introduced as part of Meaningful Use (MU). Specifically, MU coding standards that draw on such industry-respected clinical vocabularies as RxNorm, SNOMED CT® and LOINC® have the potential to drive more accurate, detailed sharing of patient information to promote better decision-making and patient outcomes.

Effectively deploying and adopting these standards is a huge undertaking with responsibilities falling to both vendors and providers going forward. To survive in future of healthcare, EMR vendors will have to evolve to support current and future industry standards. Providers will also have to grow their knowledge base and become more aware of how standards impact care delivery—instead of simply relying on vendors to pick up the slack.

The ability to “normalize” data to support all of these standards will be critical to advancing interoperability and communication between healthcare providers. With so many federal health IT initiatives competing for resources, the integration and use of terminology management solutions will become an important element to any data normalization strategy.

As providers assess their current needs and vendors move towards more enhanced offerings to align with new standards, the combined effort should produce significant progress towards improved information sharing. In the meantime, many challenges and opportunities exist along the roadmap to full implementation and adoption.

Vendor Readiness

While the EMR vendor market hit $20 billion in 2012, recent surveys suggest that many will not have staying power for Stage 3 MU. And one of the primary reasons, according to a 2013 Black Book Market Research report, is lack of focus on usability. An earlier report also pointed to 2013 as the “year of the great EHR switch,” pointing to provider frustrations that their current EMRs do not address the complex connectivity and sophisticated interface requirements of the evolving regulatory landscape.

Stage 1 MU created an artificial opportunity for many vendors to enter the market through government incentive grants. Because most initial EMR systems were not designed with Stage 2 requirements for HIE standards in mind, many vendors may find that they are not in a position to fund the infrastructure advancements needed to support future interoperability.

For instance, many EMRs support ICD-9 or free text for the development of problem lists. Under Stage 2 MU, problem lists must now be built electronically using SNOMED CT, requiring EMR vendors to develop and put out new releases to support the conversion. In tandem with this requirement, EMRs will also have to be designed to support RxNorm and LOINC.

It’s a time of upheaval and financial investment in the EHR industry, and when the dust settles, healthcare providers will have designated the winners. The end-result will ultimately include those players that can support the long-term goals of industry interoperability movements.

Minimizing Workflow Impacts

In existence since 1965, the SNOMED CT code set has a long track record of success and international respect. A comprehensive hierarchical system that includes mappings to other industry terminology standards, the code set enables computers to understand medical language and act on it by organizing concepts into multiple levels of granularity.

Few would dispute the potential of SNOMED CT to enhance accuracy and address the detail needed to promote enhanced documentation practices, but the expansive nature of the code set is still not exhaustive. Searching and finding the SNOMED concepts to include in Problem lists often requires further expansion of synonyms and colloquial expressions commonly used in clinical practice.  In addition, an accurate SNOMED code may not equate to a billable ICD-10 code, potentially requiring clinicians to conduct multiple searches if EMR workflow is not carefully planned.

The challenge for healthcare organizations is two-fold when it comes to the complicated SNOMED CT conversion process. First, the conversion represents one more complex IT project that healthcare organizations must undertake  amid so many other competing initiatives. Second, the success of implementations will be diminished if clinician workflows are negatively impacted. With EMR documentation practices already requiring more time from a clinician’s day, the situation will only be exacerbated if multiple code searches are required to ensure regulatory compliance for MU and ICD-10.

Terminology conversion tools that leverage provider-friendly language can be a great asset to easing the burden by providing maps between ICD-9 or ICD-10 and SNOMED CT problems. Physicians search for the terms they are accustomed to using in the paper record, and terminology tools convert the terms to the best SNOMED CT and ICD-10 codes behind the scenes.

For example, a clinician may add fracture of femur to a problem list, but ICD-10 requires documentation of whether the fracture was open or closed, the laterality of the fracture and whether the fracture was healing. Provider-friendly terminology tools provide prompts for the additional elements needed and guide clinicians to the most appropriate choices without the need for multiple searches.

Improving Mapping Strategies Internally and Externally

Industry crosswalks and maps exist to help ease the transition to new standards like SNOMED CT, RxNorm and LOINC. While these tools provide a good starting point in most cases, there is simply not a gold standard map that will work for every case.

Consider RxNorm, a naming system that supports semantic interoperability between drug terminologies and pharmacy knowledge base systems. Working in tandem with SNOMED CT to improve accurate capture of patient information from external systems, RxNorm codes are now required as part of the CCD (Continuity of Care Document) and HL7 messages for capture of medication information.

While designing EHRs with the capability to send and receive RxNorm codes is the first step, healthcare providers will still require a method of converting codes from RxNorm to internal medicine systems and drug information and interactions databases like Medi-Span, First Databank, Micromedex and Multum. Another challenge to standardizing medication information is the use of free text. Many healthcare providers receive drug information that is not coded at all, requiring a specific, customized mapping.

LOINC, a universal standard for identifying medical laboratory observations, is particularly challenging in this arena. Because the industry is home to hundreds of local lab systems and thousands of local lab codes, creating a single industry mapping solution is nearly impossible. The process often requires that sophisticated algorithms be built by performing an analysis of individual lab tests that are conducted in a particular hospital.

By leveraging the expertise and sophistication of a terminology management solution, healthcare providers can more easily automate and customize mapping of patient data to standardized terminologies. Otherwise, IT departments must expend valuable staff time to build complex mapping systems to address the myriad of needs associated with an influx of new standards.

Conclusion

The healthcare industry has identified use of a common medical language as a key foundational component to advancing information sharing capabilities. By designating such standards as SNOMED CT, RxNorm and LOINC as MU requirements going forward, the industry is taking a progressive step forward to ensuring clinicians have more efficient access to better patient information.

It’s a critical step in the right direction, but the road to success is complex. Healthcare organizations that draw on the expertise of terminology management solutions will be able to achieve the end-goals of this movement much quicker and with fewer headaches than those trying to implement these complex standards on their own.

October 22, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

Hospitals Still Struggling With HIE Data Sharing

Hospitals are trying hard to make HIEs work, but establishing robust data exchange remains a major challenge, particularly given the difficulty involved in processing paper records, a new study by HIMSS Analytics suggests.

The report, sponsored by ASG Software Solutions, draws on a survey of 157 senior hospital IT executives.

More than 70 percent of respondents to the survey reported that they participated in an HIE with other hospitals and health systems.

The thing is, the facilities reported that they’re having difficulty exchanging patient information in meaningful, powerful ways. Also, survey respondents noted that sharing information outside of HIEs is held back by budget concerns and staffing problems.

Juggling electronic and paper-based data is still a major issue, the study suggests:

* 64 percent of health information organizations reported that they shared data with nonparticipating hospitals via fax
* 63 percent of the same organizations converted faxed information into digital form via scanning
* 84 percent of respondents integrated their output/print environment directly into their EMR/HIS system
* 42 percent of survey respondents said their output/print environment was “high effort”

Unfortunately for HIE fans, coordination and management of paper records is far from the only issue standing in the way of making them work acceptably in a hospital environment.

According to a study by Chilmark Research, the focus of most HIEs is still on secure clinical messaging, which doesn’t do the job for cross-enterprise care coordination. The Chilmark research estimates that queries of databases for patient information needed at the point of care account for just 2 percent to 10 percent of HIE transactions overall.

As Chilmark CEO John Moore recently told Information Week, the problem is particularly acute in ambulatory care. Most ambulatory EMRs haven’t been able to generate CCDs that other EMRs can consume or execute queries using a record locator service. This is a pretty serious weakness in the HIE space, given that 80 percent of care takes place in ambulatory setting.

Given their importance, it’s troubling to see how many obstacles remain to robust HIE use by hospitals and physicians. Let’s hope the next 12 months see some breakthroughs.

September 30, 2013 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 @annezieger on Twitter.

Interoperability vs. Coordinated Care

Andy Oram asked me the following question, “Is the exchange of continuity of care documents really interoperability or coordinated care?

As it stands now, it seems like CCDs (continuity of care documents) are going to be the backbone of what healthcare information we exchange. We’ll see if something like Common Well changes this, but for now much of the interoperability of healthcare data is in CCDs (lab and radiology data are separate). The question I think Andy is asking is what can we really accomplish with CCDs?

Transferring a CCD from one doctor to the next is definitely a form of healthcare interoperability. Regardless of the form of the CCD, it would be a huge step in the right direction for all of the healthcare endpoints to by on a system that can share documents. Whether they share CCDs or start sharing other data doesn’t really matter. That will certainly evolve over time. Just having everyone so they can share will be of tremendous value.

It’s kind of like the fax machine or email. Just getting people on the system and able to communicate was the first step. What people actually send through those channels will continue to improve over time. However, until everyone was on email, it had limited value. This is the first key step to interoperable patient records.

The second step is what information is shared. In the forseeable future I don’t seeing us ever reaching a full standard for all healthcare data. Sure, we can do a pretty good job putting together a standard for Lab results, Radiology, RXs, Allergies, Past Medical History, Diagnosis, etc. I’m not sure we’ll ever get a standard for the narrative sections of the chart. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t make that information interoperable. We can, are, and will share that data between systems. It just won’t be in real granular way that many would love to see happen.

The idea of coordinated care is a much harder one. I honestly haven’t seen any systems out there that have really nailed what a coordinated care system would look like. I’ve seen very specific coordinated care elements. Maybe if we dug into Kaiser’s system we’d find some coordinated care. However, the goal of most software systems haven’t been to coordinate care and so we don’t see much on the market today that achieves this goal.

The first step in coordinating care is opening the lines of communication between care providers. Technology can really make an impact in this area. Secure text message company like docBeat (which I advise), are making good head way in opening up these lines of communications. It’s amazing the impact that a simple secure text message can have on the care a patient receives. Secure messaging will likely be the basis of all sorts of coordinated care.

The challenge is that secure messaging is just the start of care coordination. Healthcare is so far behind that secure messaging can make a big impact, but I’m certain we can create more sophisticated care coordination systems that will revolutionize healthcare. The biggest thing holding us back is that we’re missing the foundation to build out these more sophisticated models.

Let me use a simple example. My wife has been seeing a specialist recently. She’s got an appointment with her primary care doctor next week. I’ll be interested to see how much information my wife’s primary care doctor has gotten from the specialist. Have they communicated at all? Will my wife’s visit to her primary care doctor be basically my wife informing her primary care doctor about what the specialist found?

I think the answers to these questions are going to be disappointing. What’s even more disappointing is that what I described is incredibly basic care coordination. However, until the basic care coordination starts to happen we’ll never reach a more advanced level of care coordination.

Going back to Andy’s question about CCDs and care coordination. No doubt a CCD from my wife’s specialist to her primary care doctor would meet the basic care coordination I described. Although, does it provide an advanced level of care coordination? It does not. However, it does lay the foundation for advanced care coordination. What if some really powerful workflow was applied to the incoming CCD that made processing incoming CCDs easier for doctors? What if the CCD also was passed to any other doctors that might be seeing that patient based upon the results that were shared in the CCD? You can start to see how the granular data of a CCD can facilitate care coordination.

I feel like we’re on the precipice where everyone knows that we have to start sharing data. CCD is the start of that sharing, but is far from the end of how sophisticated will get at truly coordinated care.

August 19, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

Data Ownership Disputes, Not Tech Challenges, Slow Interoperability

Most of the time, when we discuss obstacles to interoperability, we focus on the varied technical issues and expense involved in data sharing between hospitals and doctors. And without a doubt, there are formidable technical challenges ahead — as well as financial ones  – on the road to full-on, fluid, national data exchange between providers.

But those aren’t the only obstacles to widespread interoperability, according to one health IT leader. There’s another issue lurking in the background which is also slowing the adoption of HIEs and other data-sharing plans, according to HIMSS head H. Stephen Lieber, who recently spoke to MedCity News. According to Lieber, the idea that providers (not patients) own clinical data is one of the biggest barriers standing in the way of broad interoperability.

“There is still some fine-tuning needed around how technology is adopted, but fundamentally it’s not a technology barrier. It’s a cultural barrier and it’s also a lack of a compelling case,” Lieber told MedCity News.

In Lieber’s experience, few institutions actually admit that they believe they own the data. But the truth is that they want to hold on to their data for competitive reasons, he told MedCity News.

What’s more, there’s actually a business case for not sharing data. After all, if a doctor or hospital has no data on a patient, they end up retesting and re-doing things — and get paid for it, Lieber notes.

Over time, however, hospitals and doctors will eventually be pushed hard in the direction of interoperability by changes in reimbursement, Lieber said. “Work is already being done in Washington to redesign reimbursement. Once Medicare heads down that path, commercial insurers will follow,” Lieber told the publication.

Lieber’s comments make a great deal of sense, and what’s more, focus on an aspect of interoperability which is seldom discussed. If hospitals and doctors still cling to a culture in which they own the clinical data, it’s most definitely going to make the task of building out HIEs more difficult. Let’s see if CMS actually comes up with a reimbursement structure that directly rewards data sharing; if it does, then I imagine you will see real change.

August 13, 2013 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 @annezieger on Twitter.

HIEs Unable To Keep Up With User Demands

While HIEs are expanding their offerings to include analytic and care coordination functions useful for population health management, they aren’t doing it quickly enough to meet market demand, according to a piece in Information Week.

The IW story, which outlines the conclusions of a new report from Chilmark Research, notes that the focus of most HIEs is still on secure clinical messaging, which is not adequate for cross-enterprise care coordination. The Chilmark report estimates that queries of databases for patient info needed at the point of care account for just 2 percent to 10 percent of HIE transactions overall.

Information Week also drew attention to a study appearing in Health Affairs noting that the most common functions of the 119 operational public HIEs were transmitting lab results, clinical summaries and discharge summaries. While there’s been a large increase in the number of HIEs that can exchange Continuity of Care Documents, few EMRs can integrate the data components of CCDs in to structured fields, the Health Affairs piece noted.

The problem is particularly acute in ambulatory care. As Chilmark CEO John Moore told Information Week, most ambulatory EMRs haven’t been able to generate CCDs that other EMRs can consume or do queries using a record locator service. “The value that HIEs provide to the ambulatory sector, where 80 percent of care takes place, is pretty limited,” Moore told IW.

Still, despite their weaknesses, public HIEs continue to hold onto life. For example, as various industry stats have shown, hospital CIOs increasingly see participation in an HIE as a key initiative, if nothing else because Meaningful Use will eventually demand interoperability.

But as the Chilmark study emphasizes, HIEs have a long way to go before they’re making a major contribution to patient care. And getting enough momentum to address these problems seems elusive. All told, while HIEs are clearly an important movement, getting them to the point of true usefulness could take years more.

August 7, 2013 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 @annezieger on Twitter.