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Patients Showing Positive Interest In NY-Based HIE

Posted on November 16, 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.

A few months ago, I shared the story of HEALTHeLINK, an HIE serving Western New York. At the time, HEALTHeLINK was announcing that it had managed to obtain 1 million patient consents to share PHI. The HIE network includes 4,600 physicians, in addition to hospitals, health plans and other providers.

This month, HEALTHeLINK has followed up with another announcement suggesting that it’s making significant progress in getting patients and physicians connected and perhaps more importantly, interested in what it can do for them. In particular, the study suggested that consumers were far more aware of the HIE’s existence, function and benefits than one might’ve assumed.

The study found that 90% of respondents said they knew their doctors use EHRs, a percentage which differed but remained high across all demographic groups study. Respondents also knew that their doctor could send and receive medical information back and forth with other healthcare providers involved in their care using EHRs.

Not only that, 51% of respondents felt that the use of EHRs by doctors and hospitals made healthcare “more safe,” though 24% said EHRs made no impact on their care and 18% said EHRs made care “less safe.” Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that electronic access is good for healthcare, and 24% answered “strongly yes” when asked whether electronic access was beneficial.

When asked whether electronic access is good for healthcare, 24% of respondents said “strongly yes” and 58% said “yes.” Things looked even more positive for the future of the HIE when patients were specifically aware of HEALTHeLINK, with 57% of this group of patients rating care as “more safe.”

Those who rated care as “more safe” using HEALTHeLINK also included respondents with a two-year degree, those who visited Dr. more than 15 times a year and those who fell into 35 to 44-year-old age bracket.(However, it is worth noting that 41% to respondents said they weren’t aware of the name HEALTHeLINK.)

The only significant downside mentioned by HEALTHeLINK users was a lack of face time, with 37% reporting that their doctor or healthcare professional was spending too much time on a laptop or computer, and another 11% saying that this was a significant problem. (Another 60% had no issue with this aspect of the electronic medical records use process.)

Despite those reservations, when asked if they were willing to cut their doctor to use the HIE to give the other providers instant access to medical records, 57 percent said “yes” and 24% said their answer was “strongly yes.”

Lest this begin to sound like a press release for HEALTHeLINK, let me stop you right there. I am in no way suggesting that these folks are doing a better overall job of running its business than those in other parts of the country. However, I do think it’s worth noting that HEALTHeLINK’s management is building awareness of its benefits more effectively than many others.

As obvious as the benefits of health information sharing may seem to folks like us, it never hurts to remind end users that they’re getting something good out of it — and if they’re not, to find out quickly and address the problem.

Digital Health Venture Snags $10M Investment After Buzzword Upgrade

Posted on November 7, 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.

Melon Springs, FL – In a deal observers are calling “disruptive,” “groundbreaking” and “lemon-scented,” high-profile wellness startup ICanHazHealth has closed a $10 million investment round on the heels of its recent buzzword upgrade.

Investors participating in ICanHazHealth’s Series B round include Bracelet Capital, Two Right Thumbs LLC and Window Dressing Digital. Few details of the agreements were disclosed, though Bracelet’s Jared Spoon-Monicker told Wired that its investment contract included an agreement to provide buzzword platform to its other portfolio companies. “We’re calling it ‘BaaS’ — buzzwords-as-a service,” said Spoon-Monicker, an early backer of exaggeration engine JIVETalk. “It will be the Uber of monetizing incremental marketing hyperbole.”

Launched in 2010 to tap the emerging market for digital health investment catchwords, the vendor’s BLOviATE platform offers both employer-and consumer-compatible content libraries. “Today, it’s not enough for consumers to use digital health buzzwords,” said ICHH founder P. Foster Bellbottom. “If we want to improve outcomes, we need to increase their level of buzzword engagement.”

The latest iteration of ICHH’s enterprise jargon platform, BLOviATE nACTION, now offers modules supporting several functional areas, including bragging, wishful thinking, puffery, exaggeration, self-deception, embellishment, and hyperbole.

Hospitals and health systems can also opt for a 10-year buzzword maintenance contract which supports BLOviATE deployment over existing SLANG and LinGO databases. However, ICHH won’t be offering distortion upgrades for BLOviATE past 2020, so after that point facilities will need to do their own grandiloquence support.

When asked what they thought of the emerging doubletalk startup’s prospects, analysts noted that ICHH faces several competitors with well-established client bases. Many pointed to iNtercAP, iNc., a niche buzzword developer specializing in novel tech company names, whose customers include Hangzhou No Trouble Looking for Trouble Internet Technologies (usually referred to as HNTLFTIT for short) and connected health giant Slippers and Sonograms.

“The issue is not whether there’s enough demand to support a bunch of balderdash startups,” said Warren Wallaby, head of the braggadocio research consulting firm the Seesaw Group. “At the moment there’s definitely a market for a range of bravado solutions.” The thing is, there’s no guarantee that the buzzword market won’t go soft at some point. “Health IT buyers have to be ruthless,” Wallaby says. “The day CIOs can get the same results from a few white lies and a little dissembling, these startups will be out of business.”

Note: This is a parody for those so inundated by buzzwords that it’s hard to tell.

In What Seems Like An Effort To Make Nice, eClinicalWorks Joins OpenNotes Initiative

Posted on October 12, 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.

eClinicalWorks has decided to try something new. The health IT vendor has announced that it will support the OpenNotes project, an initiative in which doctors share their notes with patients.

As most readers will know, it recently came to light that eClinicalWorks had gotten itself into some very hot water with the feds. eCW was forced to pay a $155 million settlement when the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that it had faked compliance with EMR certification standards.

Now, perhaps in an effort to make nice, eCW is making it possible for its customers to share visit notes using its patient portal. Actually, to be precise, the patient portal already had the ability to offer visit summaries to patients, but OpenNotes capabilities enhance these summaries with additional information.

OpenNotes, for its part, got its start in 2010, when Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Geisinger Health System and Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center decided to study the effects of letting patients read their medical notes via a portal.

The study, the results of which were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2012, concluded that patients approved of note-sharing wholeheartedly, felt more in control of their care and had an easier time with medication adherence. Also, while some doctors reported changing documentation during this process, the study also found that doctors saw no significant changes in workload.

Perhaps most telling, at the end of the process 99% of patients wanted OpenNotes to continue, and none of the participating doctors opted out. A movement had been launched.

Since then, a long list of organizations has come on board to drive implementation of open notes, including Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Providence Health System, Salem Health and Oregon Health and Science University. This year, OpenNotes announced that 16 million Americans now had access to their medical notes online.

Back in 2012, I asked readers whether OpenNotes would eventually influence EMR design. Today, I would suggest that the answer is both “yes” and “no.”

On the one hand, I have little doubt that the project helped to advance the notion that patients should have on-demand access to their healthcare information, and moreover, to use it in managing their care. While some doubted this approach would work, OpenNotes can now be said to have sold the idea that health data transparency is a good idea. While the initiative had its doubters at its outset, today patient record access is far better accepted.

On the other hand, eClinicalWorks is the first EMR vendor I’m aware of to explicitly announce its support for OpenNotes. While it’s hard to tell what this means, my guess is that its competitors don’t see a need to take a position on the matter. While vendors are certainly being forced to take patient-facing data access into account, we clearly have a long way to go.

MGMA17 Day 2 – The Future of Patient Engagement Looks Bright

Posted on October 10, 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.

Day 2 at MGMA17 started very early for exhibitors when the doors to the exhibit hall opened sharply at 6:30am Pacific Time. It was clear that MGMA organizers were catering to the early-rising-east-coast contingent of attendees. Thankfully there was a warm breakfast with plenty of caffeine options available.

The early exhibit hours provided a unique opportunity to slowly browse the floor and read booth signage fully without being blocked by fellow attendees walking in the aisles…and in some cases without being blocked by company representatives in the booth itself.

As I walked around the exhibits I began to notice that the words “Patient Engagement” appeared frequently. EHR companies, revenue cycle management companies, call center providers and even HR consultants had this nebulous term emblazoned on their booth properties. I thought it would be interesting to ask a few of these companies how they interpreted patient engagement and how they saw it evolving over the next three years.

Josh Weiner, Chief Operating Officer at SolutionReach, was quick to say “Patient Engagement is more than having a portal on your EHR”. He believed that the key to engaging patients was communicating with them in an easy, convenient manner. “For SolutionReach, this means texting. Everyone knows how to text and it’s just so simple to use. A few years ago texting patients was just one-way. Doctors would send a text to a patient and that would be it. More recently companies like SolutionReach introduced the ability for healthcare providers to conduct one-to-one conversations with patients via text. We call it SR Conversations and we have over 4,000 clients using it.”

In the future, Weiner predicted that providers and patients would continue to use SMS texting as the primary means of patient engagement. The key difference is that instead of just sending text messages back and forth we would be sending mini-text-applications back and forth. He cited the example of the latest iOS upgrade which now featured the ability to send a map, a Starbucks gift card and other such applications within an SMS message. He foresaw a day when we will have the ability to send a prescription, a lab test, a referral and an appointment schedule to a patient via SMS.

At BinaryFountain, a company that makes a platform that consolidate patient feedback from multiple social media sources as well as from HCAHPS surveys and allows providers to publish positive comments made in those medium as online reviews, they define patient engagement through the lens of reputation management. Engaged patients mean they are more likely to provide a positive comment and if they provide a positive comment, they are more likely to rate the doctor/practice/hospital highly. That, in turn, leads to a better reputation which attracts patients who are more likely to be engaged in their care. In the future, the company believes that quantitative measures for patient engagement will be developed and that these measures will be used in a similar way that the 5-star rating system is used today.

West Communications is a provider of telephony solutions to a broad range of industries. In healthcare, West offers a number of patient communication tools that engage patients via phone, email, and text. They define patient engagement as the degree to which a patient is active in and adherent to their care plan. They saw a bright future for patient engagement – especially as technologies from other industries are adapted to healthcare. The West team, for example, has been working on adding AI-based intelligent IVR capabilities to their healthcare IVR solutions so that inbound calls from patients can be automatically triaged quickly based on needs.

At Stericycle Communication Solutions, Sarah Bennight, Healthcare Strategist, defined patient engagement as getting patients to be active throughout their care journey. “Patient engagement creates trust between patients and providers. It’s more than just pushing information out to patients, it’s true two-way conversations that are relevant to where the patients are in that moment. It means providing patients with useful calls to action – clicking on a button to book their next appointment, download information or connect with the right clinician.”

Bennight sees a patient engagement future that includes new forms of communication through platforms like Snapchat and iMessage. “The younger generation communicates in different ways. They’ve gone beyond voice, text, and email. Healthcare will need to adapt to these new forms of communication. We may even need to develop a healthcare nomenclature for communicating information via emoji’s and giphies.”

Finally, Varun Hippalgaonkar, Senior Vice President of Growth at HealthGrid suggested that patient engagement is the sum total of all the interactions that a patient has with their healthcare providers including face-to-face visits, phone calls, text messages, telemedicine, and emails. The key for Hippalgaonkar was not to try and engage patients across all channels, but rather to zero in on the communication modalities that each individual patient preferred.

“HealthGrid is striving to be the single communication platform for all pre-, day of and post- visit patient interactions. Our platform will provide a consistent patient experience in the communication channel or channels that patients prefer to use. We mine our own interaction data to determine the best way to interact with patients. For example, the analysis of past interactions may reveal that John Smith responds better during weekday mornings via text message and seems to prefer phone calls at night. When a hospital or a practice has the information they want to share with John, they simply put the content in our system and we handle how it will be delivered to him based on his known response patterns.”

Down the road, Hippalgaonkar saw patients interacting with AI-powered chat bots that were so sophisticated that patients would feel they were interacting with a person. These bots would work across the different communication channels providing a consistent experience no matter what modality the patient elected to use.

Hippalgaonkar summed up by saying: “In the end it’s all about motivating patients to make changes to their health or put another way, to engage in their health. We can only achieve this if we communicate with patients in a way that compels them to take action. As an industry, we need to build technologies and processes that takes things down to the individual patient level. We need to use AI, machine learning, personalization and deliver meaningful information to patients so that they are compelled to make a change.”

From these conversations, it was clear that patient engagement meant different things to different people. Yet everyone agreed healthcare needed more engagement and more involvement from patients in order to deliver on the promise of better health at lower cost. Motivating patients to become more involved is not going to be easy, but if the MGMA17 exhibit hall is representative of HealthIT overall, the future is certainly bright for patient engagement.

Full Disclosure: Solution Reach and Stericycle Communication Solutions are both sponsors of Healthcare Scene.

Say It One More Time: EHRs Are Hard To Use

Posted on September 19, 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.

I don’t know about you, but I was totes surprised to hear about another study pointing out that doctors have good reasons to hate their EHR. OK, not really surprised – just a bit sadder on their account – but I admit I’m awed that any single software system can be (often deservedly) hated this much and in this many ways.

This time around, the parties calling out EHR flaws were the American Medical Association and the University of Wisconsin, which just published a paper in the Annals of Family Medicine looking at how primary care physicians use their EHR.

To conduct their study, researchers focused on how 142 family physicians in southeastern Wisconsin used their Epic system. The team dug into Epic event logging records covering a three-year period, sorting out whether the activities in question involved direct patient care or administrative functions.

When they analyzed the data, the researchers found that clinicians spent 5.9 hours of an 11.4-hour workday interacting with the EHR. Clerical and administrative tasks such as documentation, order entry, billing and coding and system security accounted about 44% of EHR time and inbox management roughly another 24% percent.

As the U of W article authors see it, this analysis can help practices make better use of clinicians’ time. “EHR event logs can identify areas of EHR-related work that could be delegated,” they conclude, “thus reducing workload, improving professional satisfaction, and decreasing burnout.”

The AMA, for its part, was not as detached. In a related press release, the trade group argued that the long hours clinicians spend interacting with EHRs are due to poor system design. Honestly, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to connect the study results directly to this conclusion, but of course, the group isn’t wrong about the low levels of usability most EHRs foist on doctors.

To address EHR design flaws, the AMA says, there are eight priorities vendors should consider, including that the systems should:

  • Enhance physicians’ ability to provide high-quality care
  • Support team-based care
  • Promote care coordination
  • Offer modular, configurable products
  • Reduce cognitive workload
  • Promote data liquidity
  • Facilitate digital and mobile patient engagement
  • Integrate user input into EHR product design and post-implementation feedback

I’m not sure all of these points are as helpful as they could be. For example, there are approximately a zillion ways in which an EHR could enhance the ability to provide high-quality care, so without details, it’s a bit of a wash. I’d say the same thing about the digital/mobile patient engagement goal.

On the other hand, I like the idea of reducing cognitive workload (which, in cognitive psychology, refers to the total amount of mental effort being used in working memory). There’s certainly evidence, both within and outside medicine, which underscores the problems that can occur if professionals have too much to process. I’m confident vendors can afford design experts who can address this issue directly.

Ultimately, though, it’s not important that the AMA churns out a perfect list of usability testing criteria. In fact, they shouldn’t have to be telling vendors what they need at this point. It’s a shame EHR vendors still haven’t gotten the usability job done.

Healthcare Execs Have Varied Opinions On Patient Access To Medical Data

Posted on September 8, 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.

Not long ago, I wrote an item about an alleged exchange between Epic CEO Judy Faulkner and former Vice President Joe Biden. Reportedly, Faulkner questioned whether patients actually need their full medical records or are capable of understanding them.

Even if that particular exchange didn’t take place as written (Epic challenges the account) it still leaves me wondering whether her supposed views are widespread in the industry.

Now, I may have at least one answer. A recent write-up in Becker’s Hospital Review suggests that healthcare leaders are conflicted as to what part of medical records patients need, the circumstances under which they should have access to their records and if patients should own them. The article, which includes comments from five different healthcare execs, includes a wider range of view than I had expected.

For example, Daryl Kallevig, CIO of Aitkin, MN-based Riverwood Healthcare Center, argues that there are times when it might not be beneficial to let the patient see their entire record:

“Physicians and clinicians document in notes things they would hope patients may never see – [like] mental health patients or drug-seeking patients that come into our emergency room…[Also], if they’ve had an ongoing relationship for a number of years, would that patient or that physician want to see that compromised by a statement in a medical note? There has to be discretion in what is released to the patient.”

Keith Safian, former president and CEO of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.-based Phelps Hospital, has a problem with the idea of patients owning their data:

“Patients should have unlimited access to the data, but since they did not create it and are not responsible for maintaining it, they do not own it…If the patient owned it, he or she could demand a hospital or practice destroy ‘his’ or ‘her’ medical record, which a hospital cannot do for many reasons.”

Another interviewee, CEO Grant Geiger of New York City-based EIR Healthcare, suggests that as clinical and technical models change, the whole notion of patient data stewardship will evolve:

“As we [look] beyond the EHR and we think about the adoption of [Internet of things] functionality… we need new guidelines and regulations in place for the future of healthcare. We are going to collect more data from patients in the next five years than we have in the past 10.”

In the interest of simplicity, I’ve edited out some of the nuances from these comments. Regardless, I think you will agree with me that they offer some food for thought.

I do have a couple of things I’d like to challenge:

  • Having written about the success of the Open Notes project, I’m not sure I agree with Kallevig that patient should be protected from the content of their records. My feeling is that in most cases, the patient would rather know what they say and deal with any comments they don’t like than miss important notes because of the care.
  • I take issue with Safian’s notion that patients shouldn’t own their records because it might be inconvenient for providers. Even if patients don’t own the records, or want to do something with them that’s impermissible by law, providers should at least think of patient is having moral ownership of the information. Any records request they make should be honored if possible, evaluated in light of their needs rather than it affects the healthcare organization.

That being said, I largely found the comments to be worth reading and considering. We can’t spend too much time thinking about patient access to records, not only for ethical reasons but also because we need to figure out how to use records to build engagement.

How about you, readers? To what extent would you like to see patients have access to and/or on their medical records? And why?

Is Healthcare Delivery Not ‘Sexy’ Enough for Investment?

Posted on September 1, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

On the latest #hcldr tweetchat, guest hosts Pam Ressler @pamressler and Pippa Shulman @drpippa posed an interesting question – why hasn’t the delivery of healthcare been an area of innovation? or put another way – is healthcare delivery not sexy enough to warrant investment?

Ressler and Shulman used the example of online retail giant Amazon. Among its many innovations, Amazon came up with a new way to deliver the retail experience. They found a way to deliver goods to people where and when they wanted it. Their approach to delivery was so good that it has since become the expected norm for anything purchased online.

Ressler and Shulman wanted to know why healthcare delivery wasn’t getting the attention it needed.

Shulman’s comment makes for an interesting thought exercise. Instead of just asking what it would be like if Disney ran your hospital. What if we asked what would happen if FedEx, Dominos or Amazon did. It would be fun to see uniformed “delivery agents” speed-walking through the hospital carrying meals and oxygen tanks.

Deanne Kasim @DKasim agreed with Shulman and Ressler:

Kasim’s “need it, want it” statement really struck a chord with the #hcldr community. It’s not just a case of delivering care in the way that patients want it (ie: Telehealth), we need to think about delivering it in when and where patients need it. Telehealth during regular business hours is helpful, but imagine how much more successful it would be if it were available after-hours when most people are home from work. The same with text messaging and email communication.

Kat McDavitt @katmcdavitt tweeted her frustration with this timing mismatch:

Dr. David Tom Cooke @DavidCookeMD went further and provided a great example of how appointment-booking could use an Amazon-upgrade.

Later in the chat, Dr. Cooke provided an compelling idea. Instead of trying to make healthcare delivery attractive for investment by making it “sexy” (which many believed would be very hard), why don’t we just present it as it is – a difficult and challenging problem.

I believe one of the best ways to spur investment is to have a bold pioneer show the world how successful they can be. Amazon showed the world how shopping online could be as-good-as (and now even better than) shopping in-person. FedEx showed us that next-day delivery could be done affordably and reliably. I believe it will take a healthcare pioneer to help blaze the trail for innovation in healthcare delivery.

For a time, Turntable Health in Las Vegas was one such pioneer. Zubin Damania MD, better known as @ZDoggMD, created a wholistic practice – one that made health a relationship rather than a transaction. They used technologies to engage patients in their care and they helped their patients with prevention as much as treatment.

James Legan MD, who practices in Montana, is another pioneer who projects his EHR so that patients can see what he is entering. He has also linked his EHR to a cloud-based customer-relationship-management (CRM) system so that his practice can be more efficient in the way they serve the community.

There are also practices like Access Healthcare in North Carolina and Izbicki Family Medicine in Pennsylvania that are demonstrating the benefits of direct primary care for both patients and physicians.

Hopefully there is a physician practice pioneer out there today that will become the beacon that will attract more investment in healthcare delivery. If you know of one, please email me or put their name in the comments section.

Should EMR Vendors Care If Patients Get Their Records?

Posted on August 11, 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.

Not long ago, Epic CEO Judy Faulkner and former Vice President Joe Biden reportedly butted heads over whether patients need and can understand their full medical records. The alleged conversation took place at a private meeting for Cancer Moonshot, a program with which Biden has been associated since his son died of cancer.

According to a piece in Becker’s Health IT & CIO Review, Faulkner asked Biden why patients actually needed their full medical records. “Why do you want your medical records? They’re a thousand pages of which you understand 10,” she is said to have told Biden.

Epic responded to the widely-reported conversation with a statement arguing that Faulkner had been quoted out of context, and that the vendor supported patients’ rights to having their entire record. Given that Becker’s had the story third-hand (it drew on a Politico column which itself was based on the remarks of someone who had been present at the meeting) I have little difficulty believing that something was lost in translation.

Still, I am left wondering whether this piece had touched on something important nonetheless. It raises the question of whether EMR vendor CEOs have the attitude towards patient medical record access Faulkner is portrayed as having.

Yes, I suspect virtually every EMR vendor CEO agrees in principle that patients are entitled to access their complete records. Of course, the law recognizes this right as well. However, do they, personally, feel strongly about providing such access? Is making patient access to records easy a priority for them? My guess is “no” and “no.”

The truth is, EMR vendors — like every other business — deliver what their customers want. Their customers, providers, may talk a good game when it comes to patient record access, but only a few seem to have made improving access a central part of their culture. In my experience, at least, most do what medical records laws require and little else. It’s hard to imagine that vendors spend any energy trying to change customers’ records practices for the better.

Besides, both vendors and providers are used to thinking about medical record data as a proprietary asset. Even if they see the necessity of sharing this information, it probably rubs at least some the wrong way to ladle it out at minimal cost to patients.

Given all this background, it’s easy to understand why health IT editors jumped on the story. While she may have been misrepresented this time, it’s not hard to imagine the famously blunt Faulkner confronting Biden, especially if she thought he didn’t have a leg to stand on.

Even if she never spoke the words in question, or her comments were taken out of context, I have the feeling that at least some of her peers would’ve spoken them unashamedly, and if so, people need to call them out. If we’re going to achieve the ambitious goals we’ve set for value-based care, every player needs to be on board with empowering patients.

Bringing Zen To Healthcare:  Transformation Through The N of 1

Posted on July 21, 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.

The following essay wasn’t easy to understand. I had trouble taking it in at first. But the beauty of these ideas began to shine through for me when I took time to absorb them. Maybe you will struggle with them a bit yourself.

In his essay, the author argues that if providers focus on “N of 1” it could change healthcare permanently. I think he might be right, or at least makes a good case.  It’s a complex argument but worth following to the end. Trust me, the journey is worth taking.

The mysterious @CancerGeek

Before I share his ideas, I’ll start with an introduction to @CancerGeek, the essay’s author. Other than providing a photo as part of his Twitter home page, he’s chosen to be invisible. Despite doing a bunch of skillful GoogleFu, I couldn’t track him down.

@CancerGeek posted a cloud of interests on the Twitter page, including a reference to being global product manager PET-CT; says he develops hospital and cancer centers in the US and China; and describes himself as an associate editor with DesignPatient-MD.

In the essay, he says that he did clinical rotations from 1998 to 1999 while at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center, working with Dr. Minesh Mehta.

He wears a bow tie.

And that’s all I’ve got. He could be anybody or nobody. All we have is his voice. John assures me he’s a real person that works at a company that everyone knows. He’s just chosen to remain relatively anonymous in his social profiles to separate his social profiles from his day job.

The N of 1 concept

Though we don’t know who @CancerGeek is, or why he is hiding, his ideas matter. Let’s take a closer look at the mysterious author’s N of 1, and decide for ourselves what it means. (To play along, you might want to search Twitter for the #Nof1 hashtag.)

To set the stage, @CancerGeek describes a conversation with Dr. Mehta, a radiation oncologist who served as chair of the department where @CancerGeek got his training. During this encounter, he had an insight which helped to make him who he would be — perhaps a moment of satori.

As the story goes, someone called Dr. Mehta to help set up a patient in radiation oncology, needing help but worried about disturbing the important doctor.

Apparently, when Dr. Mehta arrived, he calmly helped the patient, cheerfully introducing himself to their family and addressing all of their questions despite the fact that others were waiting.

When Dr. Mehta asked @CancerGeek why everyone around him was tense, our author told him that they were worried because patients were waiting, they were behind schedule and they knew that he was busy. In response, Dr. Mehta shared the following words:

No matter what else is going on, the world stops once you enter a room and are face to face with a patient and their family. You can only care for one patient at a time. That patient, in that room, at that moment is the only patient that matters. That is the secret to healthcare.

Apparently, this advice changed @CancerGeek on the spot. From that moment on, he would work to focus exclusively on the patient and tune out all distractions.

His ideas crystallized further when he read an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that gave a name to his approach to medicine. The article introduced him to the concept of N of 1.  All of the pieces began to began to fit together.

The NEJM article was singing his song. It said that no matter what physicians do, nothing else counts when they’re with the patient. Without the patient, it said, little else matters.

Yes, the author conceded, big projects and big processes matter still matter. Creating care models, developing clinical pathways and clinical service lines, building cancer centers, running hospitals, and offering outpatient imaging, radiology and pathology services are still worthwhile. But to practice well, the author said, dedicate yourself to caring for patients at the N of 1. Our author’s fate was sealed.

Why is N of 1 important to healthcare?

Having told his story, @CancerGeek shifts to the present. He begins by noting that at present, the healthcare industry is focused on delivering care at the “we” level. He describes this concept this way:

“The “We” level means that when you go to see a physician today, that the medical care they recommend to you is based on people similar to you…care based on research of populations on the 100,000+ (foot) level.”

But this approach is going to be scrapped over the next 8 to 10 years, @CancerGeek argues. (Actually, he predicts that the process will take exactly eight years.)

Over time, he sees care moving gradually from the managing groups to delivering personalized care through one-to-one interactions. He believes the process will proceed as follows:

  • First, sciences like genomics, proteomics, radionomics, functional imaging and immunotherapies will push the industry into delivering care at a 10,000-foot population level.
  • Next, as ecosystems are built out that support seamless sharing of digital footprints, care will move down to the 1,000-foot level.
  • Eventually, the system will alight at patient level. On that day, the transition will be complete. Healthcare will no longer be driven by hospitals, healthcare systems or insurance companies. Its sole focus will be on people and communities — and what the patient will become over time.

When this era arrives, doctors will know patients far more deeply, he says.

He predicts that by leveraging all of the data available in the digital world, physicians will know the truth of their experiences, including the food they eat, the air they breathe, how much sleep they get, where they work, how they commute to and from work and whether they care for a family member or friend, doctors will finally be able to offer truly personalized care. They’ll focus on the N of 1, the single patient they’re encountering at that moment.

The death of what we know

But we’re still left with questions about the heart of this idea. What, truly, is the N of 1? Perhaps it is the sound of one hand clapping. Or maybe it springs from an often-cited Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” Do what you’re doing right now – focus and stay in the present moment. This is treating patients at the N of 1 level, it seems to me.

Like Zen, the N of 1 concept may sound mystical, but it’s entirely practical. As he points out, patients truly want to be treated at the N of 1 – they don’t care about the paint on the walls or Press Ganey scores, they care about being treated as individuals. And providers need to make this happen.

But to meet this challenge, healthcare as we know it must die, he says. I’ll leave you with his conclusion:

“Within the next eight years, healthcare as we know it will end. The new healthcare will begin. Healthcare delivered at the N of 1.”  And those who seek will find.

E-Patient Update: The Kaiser Permanente Approach To Consumer Health IT, Second Stanza

Posted on July 7, 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 some of you may recall, I recently wrote a positive review of Kaiser Permanente’s use of consumer-facing health IT. (Kaiser Permanente is both my health insurer and provider.) Their offerings have a number of strengths including:

  • Interfaces: The kp.org site is decent, and the KP app highly usable
  • Access to care: Booking medical appointments is easy, as is cancelling them
  • Responsiveness: Physicians are quick to replay to email via the Kaiser portal
  • Connectedness: Thanks to being on a shared Epic platform, every provider knows my history (at least for the time I’ve spent within the KP system, which is pretty useful)

At the time, I also noted that I had a few minor concerns about the portal features and whatnot, but I was still a fan of KP’s setup.

By and large, my perceptions of Kaiser’s consumer health IT strengths haven’t changed. However, after a couple of months in the system, I’ve gotten a good look at its weaknesses as well. And I thought you might be interested in the problems Kaiser faces in connecting consumers, particularly given its use of best practices in many cases.

All told, these weaknesses suggest that over more than ten years after its Epic rollout, KP leaders still haven’t put their entire consumer health IT strategy in place. Here are a couple of my concerns.

Specialist appointments aren’t integrated

The biggest gripe I have with Kaiser’s interactive tools is that while I can schedule PCP appointments myself, I haven’t been able to set specialist appointments without speaking to a real live person. (My primary care doctor seems to be able to access specialist schedules and set appointments with them on my behalf.)

This may work for someone with no significant health problems, but creates a significant burden for me. After all, as someone with multiple chronic illnesses, I schedule a lot of specialist consults. You don’t realize how much time it takes to set each appointment with a clerical person until you’ve done it for five times in a week.  Try it sometime.

You might assume that this is a rationing measure, as organizations like KP are pretty strict about limiting access to specialist care. The truth is, that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least when it comes to my primary care physician (a big shout out to my PCP, Dr. Jason Singh) it doesn’t seem to be unduly hard to get access to specialists when needed.

No, I have concluded that the reason I can’t schedule specialist appointments online is that KP still hasn’t gotten their act together on this front. My guess is that the specialist systems live in some kind of silo, one that KP hasn’t managed to break down yet.

Mobile and web tools clash

As noted above, I’m largely satisfied with both KP’s consumer portal and its mobile app. True, the website sprawls a bit when it comes to presenting static content — such as physician bios — but the portal itself works fine. The mobile app, meanwhile, is great to use, as it presents my choices clearly and uses screen real estate effectively.

That being said, it annoys the heck out of me that there are minor but seemingly pointless, differences between how the portal and the mobile app function. It would be one thing the app was a shrunken down version of the website, offering a parallel but more limited version of available functions, but that isn’t how it works.

Instead, the services accessible through the portal and via the mobile app vary in small but irritating ways. For example, when emailing providers, you must choose a prewritten subject line from a drop-down menu. And I don’t know why, but the list of subjects available on the web portal version varies significantly from the list of subjects you can access via the mobile app.

There may be a rational reason for this. And mine may sound like a petty objection. But when you’re trying to address something as important as your healthcare, you want to know what’s going on with every detail.

I’d identify other ways in which the app and website portal vary, but I don’t have any other examples I can recall. And that’s the whole point. You don’t remember how the site and/or portal function until you stumble into another incompatibility. You roll your eyes and move on, but you see them again and waste one more spark of energy being annoyed.

It’s all about tradeoffs

So, you might ask if there’s any broad lesson to be taken from this. Honestly, probably not. I don’t like that KP’s tools pose these problems, but they don’t strike me as unusual.

And do my criticisms have any meaning for other healthcare organizations? Nothing more than a reminder that patients will take note of even small problems in your health IT execution, particularly when it comes to tools they rely upon to get things done.

In the end, of course, it’s all about trade-offs, as with any other industry. I don’t know whether KP chose to prioritize a potentially dangerous problem in provider-facing technologies over consumer quibbles, or just don’t know what’s going on. Perhaps they know and have added the fix to a long list of pending projects, or perhaps they don’t have their act together.

Still, lest it is lost in the discussion, remember I’m the customer, and I really don’t care about your IT problems. I just want to have tools that work every time and simplify my life.

So this is my official challenges to Kaiser leadership. For Pete’s sake, KP, would you please help me cut down on the specialist phone calls? Perhaps you could create a centralized specialist appointment call center, or use carrier pigeons, or let me suss out their schedules using my vast psychic powers — hey, they’re all options. Or maybe, just maybe, you can let me schedule the appointments online. Your call.