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Paper Records Are Dead

Posted on March 14, 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.

Here’s an argument that’s likely to upset some, but resonate with others. After kicking the idea around in my head, I’ve concluded that given broad cultural trends, that the healthcare industry as a whole has outgrown the use of paper records once and for all. I know that this notion is implicit in what health IT leaders do, but I wanted to state this directly nonetheless.

Let me start out by noting that I’m not coming down on the minority of practices (and the even smaller percentage of hospitals) which still run on old-fashioned paper charts. No solution is right for absolutely everyone, and particularly in the case of small, rural medical practices, paper charts may be just the ticket.

Also, there are obviously countless reasons why some physicians dislike or even hate current EMRs. I don’t have space to go into them here, but far too many, they’re hard to use, expensive, time-consuming monsters. I’m certainly not trying to suggest that doctors that have managed to cling to paper are just being contrary.

Still, for all but the most isolated and small providers, over the longer term there’s no viable argument left for shuffling paper around. Of course, the healthcare industry won’t realize most of the benefits of EMRs and digital health until they’re physician-friendly, and progress in that direction has been extremely slow, but if we can create platforms that physicians like, there will be no going back. In fact, for most their isn’t any going back even if they don’t become more physician firendly. If we’re going to address population-wide health concerns, coordinate care across communities and share health information effectively, going full-on digital is the only solution, for reasons that include the following:

  • Millennial and Gen Y patients won’t settle for less. These consumers are growing up in a world which has gone almost completely digital, and telling them that, for example they have to get in line to get copies of a paper record would not go down well with them.
  • Healthcare organizations will never be able to scale up services effectively, or engage with patients sufficiently, without using EMRs and digital health tools. If you doubt this, consider the financial services industry, which was sharing information with consumers decades before providers began to do so. If you can’t imagine a non-digital relationship with your bank at this point, or picture how banks could do their jobs without web-based information sharing, you’ve made my point for me.
  • Without digital healthcare, it may be impossible for hospitals, health systems, medical practices and other healthcare stakeholders to manage population health needs. Yes, public health organizations have conducted research on community health trends using paper charts, and done some effective interventions, but nothing on the scale of what providers hope (and need) to achieve. Paper records simply don’t support community-based behavioral change nearly as well.
  • Even small healthcare operations – like a two-doctor practice – will ultimately need to go digital to meet quality demands effectively. Though some have tried valiantly, largely by auditing paper charts, it’s unlikely that they’d ever build patient engagement, track trends and see that predictable needs are met (like diabetic eye exams) as effectively without EMRs and digital health data.

Of course, as noted above, the countervailing argument to all of this is the first few generations of EMRs have done more to burden clinicians than help them achieve their goals, sometimes by a very large margin. That seems to be largely because most have been designed — and sadly, continue to be designed — more to support billing processes than improve care. But if EMRs are redesigned to support patient care first and foremost, things will change drastically. Someday our grandchildren, carrying their lifetime medical history in a chip on their fingernail, will wonder how providers ever managed during our barbaric age.

 

E-Patient Update: Hey Government, Train Patients Too!

Posted on February 10, 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.

Recently I got a most interesting email from the ONC and A-list healthcare educator Columbia University. In the message, it offered me a free online course taught by Columbia’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, apparently paid for by ONC funding. (Unfortunately, they aren’t giving away free toasters to students, or I definitely would have signed up. No wait, I’m sorry, I did register, but I would have done it faster for the toaster.)

The course, which is named Health Informatics For Innovation, Value and Enrichment) or HI-FIVE, is designed to serve just about anyone in healthcare, including administrators, managers, physicians, nurses, social workers an care coordinators. Subjects covered by the course include all of the usual favorites, including healthcare data analytics, population health, care coordination and interoperability, value-based care and patient-centered care.

If I seem somewhat flippant, it’s just because the marketing material seemed a little…uh…breathlessly cheery and cute given the subject. I can certainly see the benefits of offering such a course at no cost, especially for those professionals (such as social workers) unlikely to be offered a broader look at health IT issues.

On the other hand, I’d argue that there’s another group which needs this kind of training more – and that’s consumers like myself. While I might be well-informed on these subjects, due to my geeky HIT obsession, my friends and family aren’t. And while most of the professionals served by the course will get at least some exposure to these topics on the job, my mother, my sister and my best girlfriend have essentially zero chance of finding consumer-friendly information on using health IT.

Go where the need is

As those who follow this column know, I’ve previously argued hard for hospitals and medical groups to offer patients training on health IT basics, particularly on how to take advantage of their portal. But given that my advice seems to be falling on deaf ears – imagine that! – it occurs to me that a government agency like ONC should step in and help. If closing important knowledge gaps is important to our industry, why not this particular gap. Hey, go where the need is greatest.

After all, as I’ve noted time and again, we do want patients to understand consumer health IT and how to reap its benefits, as this may help them improve their health. But if you want engagement, folks, people have to understand what you’re talking about and why it matters. As things stand, my sense is that few people outside the #healthit bubble have the faintest idea of what we’re talking about (and wouldn’t really want to know either).

What would a consumer-oriented ONC course cover? Well, I’m sure the authorities can figure that out, but I’m sure education on portal use, reading medical data, telemedicine, remote monitoring, mobile apps and wearables wouldn’t come amiss. Honestly, it almost doesn’t matter how much the course would cover – the key here would be to get people interested and comfortable.

The biggest problem I can see here is getting consumers to actually show up for these courses, which will probably seem threatening to some. It may not be easy to provoke their interest, particularly if they’re technophobic generally. But there’s plenty of consumer marketing techniques that course creators could use to get the job done, particularly if you’re giving your product away. (If all else fails, the toaster giveaway might work.)

If providers don’t feel equipped to educate patients, I hope that someone does, sometime soon, preferably a neutral body like ONC rather than a self-interested vendor. It’s more than time.

KPMG: Population Health Taking Hold

Posted on January 31, 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 new KPMG survey has concluded that population health management approaches are becoming popular – and for nearly half of respondents, are already working.

According to the consulting firm, which reached out to 86 respondents working for a payer or healthcare provider, 44% said that they have a population health platform in place which is being used “efficiently and effectively.” Twenty-four percent of respondents said that they were in the process of implementing a pop health program within the next three years, while 10% said they had no plans to use such a platform. (Another 21% said that their organization didn’t need one.)

Thirty percent of respondents said that the biggest individual obstacle to implementing a population health strategy was aggregating and standardizing information from multiple sources. Meanwhile, 10% cited stakeholder adoption as a barrier, and 10% named integrating with clinical work flows as a key issues. Meanwhile, another 34% cited “all of the above” as a significant barrier, along with enabling patient engagement, funding investments and choosing the right vendors.

Along the way, KPMG asked respondents where they stood with value-based payments. Thirty-six percent said “some of our revenue is generated by value-based payments,” and 14% said that the majority of their revenue came from value-based payments.  As for those that weren’t there yet, 26% said they were planning to enter into value-based contracts within one to three years, while just 7% said they were not planning to do so. (The remaining 17% said they don’t require value-based payments.)

All that being said, though, there’s a problem here. And that problem is that while everyone seems to think they mean the same thing when they discuss population health management, I’d submit that in many cases they aren’t on the same page. In fact, I’d argue that until we get that straight, studies like these don’t tell us a lot.

Yes, I think we all have the same broad idea in mind when the topic of PHM comes up, which is to say that we envision a system in which a health system, ACO or health insurer sets broad goals for key health metrics across a population.  And as most readers probably know, the health insurance industry has been managing a population-wide set of standards known as HEDIS (the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set) for decades. HEDIS is designed to make apples-to-apples comparisons of health plan performance possible by providing very carefully defined criteria.

On the other hand, the number of technologies, approaches and philosophies being implemented by health organizations for population health management do no such thing. While there’s probably many areas of broad consensus on what should be measured – particularly when it comes to chronic, costly conditions like diabetes and heart disease — we don’t have any shared performance standard.

So before we look at pop health stats, it might be a good idea to clarify what that means to those answering surveys like this. Otherwise, it’s GIGO.

The Importance of Communication in Healthcare and Thoughts on How To Do It Right

Posted on December 23, 2016 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 while back I had the chance to sit down with 4 healthcare experts to talk about healthcare communication. The panel consisted of:

  • Mandi Bishop, Chief Evangelist and Co-Founder of Aloha Health
  • Jessica Johnson, Director of Operations, Health Transformation at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Population Health Management
  • Ethan Bechtel, CEO at OhMD
  • Nathan Larson, Chief Experience Officer at ImagineCare
  • John Lynn, Founder of HealthcareScene.com

We had a wide ranging conversation about the importance of communication in healthcare and how to do it more effectively. This is a topic that should be of interest to all of us. Watch the full video conversation below:

Happy Holidays! What more could you want this holiday weekend than some great discussion from amazing people?

Accountable Care HIT Spending Growing Worldwide

Posted on November 30, 2016 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 new market research report has concluded that given the pressures advancing the development of accountable care models, the market for solutions serving ACOs should expand worldwide, though North America is likely to lead the segment for the near future.

The report, by research firm Markets & Markets, covers a wide range of technologies, including EHRs, healthcare analytics, HIE, RCM, CDSS, population health, claims management and care management. It also looks at delivery mode, e.g. on premise, web and cloud and end-user, which includes providers and payers. So bear that in mind when you look at these numbers. That being said, providers accounted for the largest share of this niche last year, and should see the highest growth in the sector over the next five years.

Broadly speaking, Markets & Markets reports that the accountable care solutions market grew a healthy growth rate during the last decade. Researchers there expect to see this market grow at a CAGR of 16.6% over the next five years, to hit $18.86 billion by 2021.

When it comes to leaders in the sector, researchers identify Cerner, IBM, Aetna and Epic as leaders in the current ACO solutions market and probable future winners between 2016 and 2021. Other major players in the space include UnitedHealth Group, Allscripts, McKesson, Verisk Health, Zeomega, eClinicalWorks and NextGen. Given how broadly they define this category, I’m not sure how important this is, but there you have it.

According Markets & Markets, the growth of the ACO solutions market worldwide is due to forces we know well, including shifting government regulations, the rollout of initiatives shifting financial risk from payers to providers, the demand to slow down healthcare cost increases in the advance of IT and big data capabilities. (Personally, I’d add the desire of health systems – ACO-affiliated or not – to differentiate themselves by performing well at the population health level.)

If your view is largely US-centric, as is mine, you might be interested to note that the trend towards ACO-like entities in the Asia-Pacific and Latin American regions is expanding, the researchers report. Most specifically, Markets & Markets researchers found that there is notable growth occurring in Asian countries, which, it reports, are modifying regulations and monitoring the implementation of procedures, policies and guidelines to promote innovation and commercialization. This has led to an increasing number of hospitals and academic institutions interested in the sector, along with a government focus on implementing health IT solutions and infrastructure – factors likely to generate an expanding ACO solutions market there.

After reading all of this, the question I’m left with is whether there’s any point in differentiating an “ACO” specific player as these researchers have. Maybe I’m playing with words too much hear, but wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that the definition of health system infrastructure is evolving, whether it’s part of an ACO as such or not?

E-Patient Update: Time To Share EMR Data With Apps

Posted on November 18, 2016 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.

Like most Americans, I’ve used many a health-related app, in categories including vitals tracking, weight control, sleep management, medication management and exercise tracking. While I’ve continued to use a few, I’ve dropped most after a few uses because they didn’t contribute anything to my life.

Now, those of you who are reading this might assume that I lost interest in the apps because they were poorly designed. I admit that this was true in some cases. But in others, I’ve ceased to use the apps because the data they collect and display hasn’t been terribly useful, as most of it lives in a vacuum. Sure, I might be able to create line graph of my heart rate or pulse ox level, but that’s mildly interesting at best. (I doubt physicians would find it terribly interesting either.)

That being said, I believe there is a way healthcare organizations can make the app experience more useful. I’d argue that hospitals and clinics, as well as other organizations caring for patients, need to connect with major app developers and synch their data with those platforms. If done right, the addition of outside data would enrich the patient experience dramatically, and hopefully, provide more targeted feedback that would help shape their health behaviors.

How it would work

How would this work? Here’s an example from my own life, as an e-patient who digitally manages a handful of chronic, sometimes-complex conditions.

I have tested a handful of medication management apps, whose interfaces were quite different but whose goals seem to be quite similar — the primary one being to track the date and time each medicine on my regimen was taken. In each case, I could access my med compliance history rather easily, but had no information on what results my level of compliance might have accomplished.

However, if I could have overlaid those compliance results with changes in my med regimen, changes in my vital signs and changes in my lab values, I have a better picture of how all of my health efforts fit together. Such a picture would be far more likely to prompt changes in my health behavior than uncontextualized data points based on my self-report alone.

I should mention that I know of at least one medication management app developer (the inspiration for this essay) which hopes to accomplish just this result already, and is hard at work enriching its platform to make such integration possible. In other words, developers may not need much convincing to come on board.

The benefits of added data

“Yes,” I hear you saying, “but why should I share my proprietary data?” The answer is fairly simple; in the world of value-based reimbursement, you need patients to get and stay well, and helping them better manage their health fits this goal.

Admittedly, achieving this level of synchronization between apps and provider data won’t be simple. However, my guess is that it would be easier for app developers to import, say, pharmacy or EMR data than the other way around. After all, app platforms aren’t at the center of nearly as many overlapping data systems as a health organization or even a clinic. While they might not be starting from zero, they have less bridges to build.

And once providers have synchronized key data with app developers, they might be able to forge long-term partnerships in which each side learned from the exchange. After all, I’d submit that few app developers would turn up the chance to make their data more valuable — at least if they have bigger goals than displaying a few dots on a smartphone screen.

I realize that for many providers, doing this might be a tall order, as they can’t lose their focus on cultivating their own data. But as a patient, I’d welcome working with any provider that wanted to give this a try. I think it would be a real win-win.

AMA Urges Med Schools To Cover Health IT Basics

Posted on November 17, 2016 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.

Despite the nearly universal use of health IT tools in medical practice today, the majority of med students make it through their medical school experience without having much exposure to such tools. In an effort to change this, the AMA is launching a new textbook designed to give med students at least a basic exposure to critical health IT topics.

To create the textbook, the AMA collaborated with its 32-school Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium. The collaboration generated a new “pillar” of medical education it dubs Health Systems Science, which members concluded should be taught alongside of basic and clinical sciences. This follows a recent study by the AMA concluding that its practicing physician members are quite interested in digital health.

In addition to covering key business concepts such as value in healthcare, patient safety, quality improvement, teamwork/team science and leadership, socio-ecological determinants of health, healthcare policy and health care economics, the textbook also addresses clinical informatics and population health.  And an AMA press release notes that many schools within the Consortium will soon use the textbook with the students, including Penn State College of Medicine and Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School.

The Brown program, for example, which received a $1 million AMA grant to support the change in this curriculum, has created a Primary Care-Population Medicine program. The program awards graduates both a Doctor of Medicine and a Master of Science in Population Medicine. The AMA describes this program is the first of its kind in the US.

It’s interesting to see that the AMA has stepped in and funded this project, partly because it seems to have been ambivalent about key health IT tools in the past, but partly because I expect to see vendors doing something like this. Honestly, now that I think about it, I’m surprised there isn’t a Cerner grant for the most promising clinical informatics grad, say, or the eClinicalWorks prize sponsoring a student’s medical training. Maybe the schools have rules against such things.

Actually, this is a rare situation in which I think getting vendors involved might be a good idea. Of course, med students wouldn’t benefit particularly from being trained exclusively on one vendor’s interface, but I imagine schools could organize regular events in which med school students had a chance to learn about different vendors’ platforms and judge the strengths and weaknesses of each on their own.

I guess what I’m saying is that while obtaining an academic understanding of health IT tools is great, the next step is to have med students get their hands on a wide variety of health IT tools and play with them before they’re on the front lines. That being said, adding pop health any clinical informatics is a step in the right direction

Physician Calls For Widespread Patient Data Ownership

Posted on October 26, 2016 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.

At present, patients anywhere in the United States are entitled to access their patient records, but the records are typically controlled by providers. New Hampshire is the only state which provides citizens with legal ownership of the health information, notes Eric Topol, MD.

“That’s completely wrong. That has to get fixed,” said Topol, who spoke at the MedCity ENGAGE show last week. “It should be your data.”  In fact, he calls patient data ownership “a civil right that’s yet to be granted.”

Patient data ownership rules vary across the U.S. In many states, including Washington, Idaho, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Maine, Pennsylvania, and Nevada, there was no law in place as of mid-2015 which specified whether patients are providers owned or had property rights medical records. But in a large number of additional states, including Oregon, California, Texas, Georgia and New Mexico, state laws specifically state that the hospital or physician owns the medical record.

Long before EMRs went into wide use, ownership of medical records would occasionally come into dispute, such as when a practice went out of business or a hospital was acquired. The historic lack of clear case law governing such transactions would occasionally lead to major legal controversies during such transitions.

Today, the stakes are even higher, contends Topol, who serves as director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute at San Diego-based Scripps Health. To realize the benefits of “individualized medicine” – Topol’s term for “precision medicine” — patients will have to control their health data, he said.

“We are going to be leaving population medicine – where it’s one size fits all — in favor of individualized medicine,” Topol told the audience. With individualized medicine, patients drive their own care, he said.

The current centralized model of health data ownership actually poses a risk to patients, Topol argues, given the ripe, financially-attractive lure that big databases pose. “We need to decentralize this data because the more it’s amassed, the more it’s going to be hacked,” he contends.

So what of Topol’s vision for “individualized medicine”? Well, here’s how I see it. Topol’s comments are interesting, but it seems to me that there’s an inherent contradiction between one half of his arguments and the other.

If by talking about individualized medicine, he’s referring to what is otherwise known as precision medicine, I’m not sure how we can pull it off without building big databases. After all, you don’t gain broad understandings of how, say, a cancer drug works without crunching numbers on thousands or millions of cases. So while giving consumers more power over the medical records makes sense, I don’t see how we could fail to aggregate them to some degree at least.

On the other hand, however, it does seem absurd to me that patients should ever lack the right to retrieve all of the records from the custody of a provider, particularly if the patient alleges malpractice or some form of malfeasance. If we want patients to engage with their health, owning the documentation on the care they received strikes me as an absolutely necessary first step.

Creating Healthcare Interoperability Bundles

Posted on October 25, 2016 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.

At this point in the evolution of healthcare data, you’d think it would be easy to at least define interoperability, even if we can’t make it happen. But the truth is that despite the critical importance of the term, we still aren’t as clear as we should be on how to define it. In fact, the range of possible solutions that can be called “interoperable” is all over the map.

For example, a TechTarget site defines interoperability as “the ability of a system or a product to work with other systems or products without special effort on the part of the customer.” When defined down to its most basic elements, even passive methods of pushing data from one to another count is interoperability, even if that data doesn’t get used in clinical care.

Meanwhile, an analysis by research firm KLAS breaks interoperability down into four levels of usefulness, ranked from information being available, to providers having the ability to locate records, to the availability of clinical view to this data having an impact on patient care.

According to a recent survey by the firm, 20% of respondents had access to patient information, 13% could easily locate the data, 8% could access the data via a clinical view and just 6% had interoperable data in hand that could impact patient care.

Clearly, there’s a big gap between these two definitions, and that’s a problem. Why? Because the way we define baseline interoperability will have concrete consequences on how data is organized, transmitted and stored. So I’d argue that until we have a better idea of what true, full interoperability looks like, maybe we should map out interoperability “bundles” that suit a given clinical situation.

A Variety of Interoperabilities

For example, if you’re an ACO addressing population health issues, it would make sense to define a specific level of interoperability needed to support patient self-management and behavioral change. And that would include not only sharing between EMR databases, but also remote monitoring information and even fitness tracking data. After all, there is little value to trying to, say, address chronic health concerns without addressing some data collected outside of clinic or hospital.

On the other hand, when caring for a nursing home-bound patient, coordination of care across hospitals, rehab centers, nurses, pharmacists and other caregivers is vital. So full-fledged interoperability in this setting must be effective horizontally, i.e. between institutions. Without a richly-detailed history of care, it can be quite difficult to help a dependent patient with a low level of physical or mental functioning effectively. (For more background on nursing home data sharing click here.)

Then, consider the case of a healthy married couple with two healthy children. Getting together the right data on these patients may simply be a matter of seeing to it that urgent care visit data is shared with a primary care physician, and that the occasional specialist is looped in as needed. To serve this population, in other words, you don’t need too many bells and whistles interoperability-wise.

Of course, it would be great if we could throw the floodgates open and share data with everyone everywhere the way, say, cellular networks do already. But given that such in event won’t happen anytime in the near future, it probably makes sense to limit our expectations and build some data sharing models that work today.

E-Patient Update: The Joy Of Health Data Synchronization

Posted on October 7, 2016 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.

Today, I realized that I’m a lucky girl. So lucky, in fact, that I get to have most of my health data accessible through one interface. No, I can’t access all of the data through a single interface — if that were true I’d be extraordinarily fortunate — but for day-to-day purposes I’m pretty close.

How does this happen, you ask? Well, actually it’s something fairly simple in principle, but powerful in action. I’ve fallen into a network.

I have been seen, now, by three physicians’ offices which are part of Privia Medical Group. Privia is a multi-specialty network of physicians who use the practice management and population tools provided by parent company Privia Health.

Because she’s part of the multi-specialty network, my primary care physician was able to refer me to two other specialists in the group with confidence and ease. But because she is part of a network of independent practices, rather than a group of employed physicians, I feel confident that she’s not unduly pressured to refer to these other providers. (I am definitely not a fan of staff model HMOs like Kaiser, which give you far too little choice of physicians and far too few means of recourse if you don’t like your provider.)

Just as importantly, at least to an e-patient geek like myself, I’ve learned that all Privia Medical Group specialists work with the same athenahealth portal. So when I log in to read the notes for one visit, I get to review the others as well, through a single sign-in.

Because members of Privia work with the same portal, I get the (sadly) unusual pleasure of looking at past and future appointments for multiple specialists as well as primary care on a single page.

Meanwhile, and this is of course critical, the provider I saw this morning had all the key details he needed about previous care, including an updated medication list, via a shared EMR. It always amazes me how hard it seems to be to give providers access to important details like this, but as readers know it’s still unusual independent offices share information fluidly.

While this is mostly good news story, it’s bit of a downer too, because it shouldn’t be such a treat to have your doctors share your information. Still, the fact remains that this is a high level of data sharing performance. The Privia set-up is a sure-as-shootin’ cure for my recent case of hyperportalotus, a nasty condition in which patients are beset with multiple incompatible portals by their providers.

Now, I still have to deal with two other portals (both instances of Epic MyChart) if I want to review my hospital care notes. But if I can be view all of my outpatient encounters with PCPs and specialists AND be reminded of routine care I might need (such as a flu shot), schedule and reschedule with my providers and pay any remaining bills I’m pretty darned happy.