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#HIMSS14 Highlights: the Snail’s Pace of Interoperability

Ah, HIMSS. The frenetic pace. The ridiculously long exhibit hall. The aching feet. The Google Glass-ers. As I write this, day three for me is in full swing and I’ve finally managed to find some time to reflect on what I’ve seen, which includes a ridiculously long taxi queue at the airport, more pedicabs than I can count, beautiful weather and lots of familiar faces, which is what makes HIMSS so much fun. I’ve heard lots of buzzwords and sales talk, and seen only about an eighth of the exhibit hall, barely scratching the surface of what’s out there on the show floor.

Several common themes stand out based on the sessions and events I’ve been to, and the passions of those I’ve encountered. Whether it’s vendor breakfasts, social networking functions, exhibit elevator pitches or educational sessions, interoperability and engagement are still the buzzwords to beat. This particular HIMSS has given me a different perspective on each, and offered new insight into what’s happening with the Blue Button Connector. I’ll cover each of these in HIMSS Highlights posts over the next several weeks, starting with interoperability.

The industry seems far more realistic this year regarding interoperability – downright frustrated by the slow pace at which such a lofty goal is proceeding. Industry experts Brian Ahier and Shahid Shah perhaps expressed it best during a lively panel discussion at the Surescripts booth:

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Putting vendors’ feet to the fire will certainly initiate a quick and painful reaction, but probably not a sustainable one. True momentum will occur only when providers get singed a bit, too. Panelist comments at a Dell / Intel breakfast on analytics for accountable care brought this into sharper focus for me. The fact that too many disparate EMRs (and thus too many vendors poised to cause inertia) are making it hard for analytics to successfully be adopted and utilized at an enterprise level, highlights a bigger problem related to hindsight and strategy.

From my perspective – that of an industry observer and commentator – it seems many providers felt compelled to purchase EMRs because the federal government offered them money to do so, and hopefully just as many were optimistic about the role technology would play in positively affecting patient outcomes. Vendors saw a great business opportunity and moved quickly to develop systems that met Meaningful Use criteria (not necessarily going for best-fit as related to workflow needs and usability). Neither group truly knew what they were in store for, especially regarding longer term plans for health information exchange.

Providers now find themselves wanting to move forward with health information exchange and greater interoperability, but slowed down by the very IT systems they were so insistent on purchasing just a few years ago. Vendors (some more than others) are hesitant to crack open their products to allow data to truly flow from one system to another, and who can blame them? The EMR market, in particular, is poised to shrink, which begs the question, who will survive? What companies will be around at HIMSS 15 and 16? Those who keep their systems siloed, like Epic? Or those who are trying to break down the silos, such as Common Well Alliance members like athenahealth and Greenway?

It makes me wonder if providers wouldn’t have been better served with just had a handful of EMRs to choose from around the time of HITECH, all guaranteed to evolve as needed and play nicely with each other in the interest of health information exchange. Too many options have caused too many barriers. That’s not just my opinion, by the way. I’m willing to bet that a sizeable chunk of the 37,537 HIMSS 14 attendees would agree with me.

Do you disagree? Are providers (and patients) better served by more IT options than less? Let me know your thoughts, and impressions of interoperability advancement at HIMSS, in the comments below.

February 26, 2014 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Digital Health Could Seal Fate of Small Hospitals

I am not a healthcare investment expert by any means, but two recent pieces of news make me wonder if the digital health movement will inadvertently result in the hurried demise of already struggling small and rural hospitals.

According to a recent CB Insights report covered by MedCity News, 362 digital health deals last year accounted for an all-time high of $1.5 billion. Of those deals, 55 were exits – smaller digital health companies bought up by larger players. CB Insights notes the majority of these acquired companies were those that provided products that make administrative health processes more efficient, such as EMRs and revenue cycle management systems. This is an assumption, but I’m inclined to think these EMR companies priced their products below their more corporate competitors. These companies may well have supplied their systems to the budget-conscious small and rural hospital market.

As most everyone knows, small and rural hospitals are facing an uphill battle these days when it comes to keeping their doors open. A recent Georgia Health News item noted that three rural hospitals in the state have closed in 2013, with some predicting an additional 20 facilities will close within the next two years. The article cites constant cash shortages, claims disputes with payers, lower projected payments to hospitals from Georgia’s new state employee benefit contract, and reduced indigent care funding as contributing factors to the poor financial health many small Georgia hospitals find themselves in.

While these may be specific to Georgia, they are almost surely indicative of similar problems seen by similar institutions in the U.S. At least 849 facilities across the country will soon face the common problem of increased scrutiny by Medicare as a result of the current “bloated and unwieldy” state of the critical access hospital program, which was designed to financially stabilize small hospitals by providing them with higher Medicare reimbursement rates.

It looks to me as if the digital health exits noted above are perhaps indicative of a broader industry trend. Small and rural hospitals are already under enormous pressure to care for underserved populations in a fiscally responsible way. As the healthcare vendor market consolidates and looks to digital health as the next best venture, will we see more affordable EMRs folded into those that are less so? Where will small healthcare facilities turn for their healthcare IT?

Where do you think these two trends will converge in the next year or two? Please share your comments below.

August 30, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

The Week of the EMR Celebrity

What a strange week in healthcare IT it’s been, particularly where EMRs are concerned. First came breaking news that Kim Kardashian’s privacy potentially had been breached (insert ironic arch of eyebrow) by Cedars-Sinai employees who had inappropriately accessed patients’ private medical records last month. Then came much more noble press via NPR, which has devoted a series on All Things Considered this week to profiling the world of EMRs:

I had to shush my husband – clap a hand over his mouth, actually – when the NPR interview with Farzad Mostashari came on. “I’ve met that guy!” I told my husband. “He’s a celebrity in our industry, but for all the right reasons!” It was almost invigorating, especially after reading Kardashian headlines, to hear him discuss the many points we’ve all been debating and/or covering for the last few years. He was just as much a compelling cheerleader for the adoption of EMRs and the impact they are likely to have on patient safety as he had been when he bounded across the stage at HIMSS a few years ago.

Which brings us to the middle of the week, when CMS released its latest set of data touting the latest round of EMR success:

  • More than 50% of eligible health care professionals and 80% of eligible hospitals have begun using electronic health record systems since the meaningful use program launched in 2011
  • Shared more than 4.6 million EHR copies with patients;
  • Sent more than 13 million appointment, test and check-up reminders;
  • Checked medication interactions more than 40 million times; and
  • Sent more than 190 million electronic prescriptions

I’m beginning to think that CMS and federal agencies like the ONC are really getting the hang of this media game. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that NPR ran its stories the same week CMS released its latest success story. I just wonder how the general public is digesting this information. With 80% of hospitals now on EMRs, it’s a safe bet that the majority of patients in this country (even Kim Kardashian) have information stored away in one. Are they beginning to realize the benefits this technology brings to their care? Or are most patients still uneasy with the lack of eye contact from their doctors, who are now glued to a computer screen?

Do the CMS numbers tell the whole truth? Has patient safety increased to the detriment of patient satisfaction with bedside manner? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

July 18, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

User Experience is Hot HIT Topic with Good Reason

User experience in the world of healthcare IT has never been a hotter topic. It seems not a day goes by that I don’t come across an article, blog, tweet, or outright rant regarding the state of user friendliness, especially with regard to EMRs. (Who can forget the American Medical Association’s note earlier this year to Farzad Mostashari, peppered with complaints about physician usability of EMRs?) I see plenty of negative coverage around the topic – plenty of folks like to have a soapbox to stand on, after all.

I don’t, however, see enough coverage devoted to businesses and providers working to make the backlash better. Surely there are unsung heroes out there in the world of HIT UX that are at their drawing boards right now, attempting to take the sting out of those extra clicks, and listening with bated breath to providers’ complaints and praises.

I came across one such story in New Orleans a few months ago, where, like many of you, I tried to successfully drink from the fire hose (bottled water, actually) that was HIMSS13. I was able to sate my thirst for good UX news at the PointClear Innovation Awards breakfast, which honored a select group of the company’s clients for their work in the realm of user experience.

McKesson took home top honors this year, and while I had some knowledge of their work in the area, I didn’t realize how great of an emphasis they have placed on making sure their healthcare IT solutions are used in the most optimal way for the best possible patient outcomes.

“The big dynamic we are trying to tackle is around critical decision makers,” explains Bobby Middleton, Executive Director, Enterprise Intelligence Product Management at McKesson. “Through experience with our customers and continued research, it is becoming very obvious that our healthcare leaders are often put in a position to make critical decisions without pertinent, relevant and timely information.

“Our Enterprise Intelligence solutions are all geared around providing the right information to the right person at the right time,” he adds. “Our User Experience research is being used to make sure the targeted offering we are delivering via these solutions help a specific set of critical decision makers make the right decision. It is going great so far, and really allowing our technology teams to connect with their end consumers.”

I wonder if we’ll start to see more positive publicity of efforts like McKesson’s, especially as Stage 2 draws closer, more and more providers consider switching to more mature EMRs, and next year’s predicted influx of the newly insured start to clamor for greater digital engagement options and price transparency. One less click or toggle may just make all the difference when it comes to quality patient care.

April 18, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Cash for Care a Trickle-Down Effect of EMR Dissatisfaction?

By now we’ve all heard about or read of the group of dissatisfied EMR users – hospitals and small-practice physicians who bought into the notion of government incentives – and a better way to deliver healthcare with the added benefit of more efficient processing and payment collection from patients and payers – but aren’t seeing the ROI they initially anticipated. Say what you will about this group, but one thing is for sure: Investment in healthcare IT systems like EMRs have led some physicians to turn to hospital employment, others to close up shop, and yet others to turn to more unique business models such as concierge or cash-only practices.

On the flip side of this change in healthcare delivery is an increasing demand from patients to know just what their dollars are paying for, no matter whether those dollars pay into a monthly insurance premium or directly for services rendered. I wouldn’t say we’re yet at the point where this demand is a trend, but I do believe that as more and more mainstream media outlets cover the debate over healthcare costs and price transparency, more patients like you and me will learn how to ask for costs up front, how to shop around, and most importantly, how to determine if what we’re paying for is worth it.

Entrepreneurs didn’t take long to catch wind of this, and as a result we’re seeing a number of consumer-friendly healthcare businesses pop up. Take Healthpons, for instance. I came across mention of this company a few weeks ago, and was intrigued by its Groupon model for healthcare services. The company offers one line of service for providers, and another for patients. According to its website, Healthpons offers a free portal that allows physicians to market their services at a cash price so that patients can quickly search for said practice and service by city, state, zip, specialty or symptom checker; purchase services and set appointments online. Patients, in turn, can use the portal to search for providers, find the one with the best price, and use a Healthpons discount to pay in advance and make an appointment at the same time.

I chatted with Healthpons co-founder Patty Everette, to learn more about the business:

How do you qualify providers to participate in the program?
We have a system, similar to an insurance company, to review and verify credentials of all providers. This is why we are in a pre-launch phase to validate providers prior to posting their information.

How many providers have signed up?
We have validated about 6,000 providers and many more have enrolled.

The website mentions the patient portal will go live in all 50 states in 2013 – can you give us a more exact timeline?
June 2013 is our target launch. All validated providers will be posted, however, there are certain geographic areas that have a higher concentration of providers, such as the Southeast, Northeast and California. Each month we will continue to add providers as they enroll and are verified.

What types of providers is healthpons best suited to (primary care docs, dermatologists, cosmetic surgeons, etc.)?
The first provider registered was an ENT. We have pediatricians, surgeons, primary care, orthopedic, ENTs, family medicine and more. It is best suited to any provider willing to provide reasonable cash prices, willing to share content and to help people become more informed about what they do and how they are qualified to do it. Our focus is on transparency – and developing relationships.

How are you going to avoid the Groupon problem of too many vouchers sold, and providers subsequently becoming overrun with customers they are inadequately staffed to handle (typically resulting in poor customer service and no repeat patients)?
Our business model is not like Groupon. We make money primarily from any upgraded, subscription-based services or advertising.

All providers control the number of visits they can sell per service. We provide a guide to each provider as to what is recommended to sell. The consumer can see the provider’s availability prior to purchasing a visit. Also, we will monitor their sales and service comments to ensure quality and service is maintained.

I know there is more to share as Healthpons is developed with great depth. We have used multiple panels of providers and their office managers to preview our systems as we have developed. We took an idea we had and asked providers what they thought – what they wanted – then we asked our customers (patients) what they would like to get out of our platform. We bridged the concepts to bring doctors and patients together for an online network marketing experience to de-mystify medical services and pricing.

April 5, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

“If You Could Tell Your CIO …”

In the first part of this blog series, I outlined the increasingly important role CMIOs are playing in the hospital ecosystem. They are bridging the gap between the world of clinical and IT, bringing a spirit of impartiality to HIT implementations that often makes the acceptance of impending workflow upsets a little bit easier to swallow.

This second part will focus on the specific challenges CMIO panelists at a recent Georgia HIMSS luncheon were particularly vocal about:

* Taking an EMR implementation from grumbles to growth;
* Data and its potential impact on establishing or refining best practices;
* Patient engagement; and
* “If You Could Tell a CIO.”

From Grumbles to Growth
All the panelists shared their “secret ingredients” for EMR implementation success. Roland Matthews, MD, physician champion at Grady, stressed that the hospital chose to implement an EMR not for the Meaningful Use incentives, but to ultimately improve quality over the long term. Despite recent EMR backlash, Matthews is a firm believer in the benefit they will ultimately bring to patient care.

That being said, he believes that simpler, easier-to-use systems are the best choice when it comes to gaining full adoption amongst clinicians. His statement echoes the increasingly loud call from clinicians for better user experience. Involving all departments in the selection and implementation process from the very beginning is also essential, according to Matthews, and serves as a testament to good leadership.

The best user experience won’t take physicians very far, however, if infrastructure is too unreliable to sport it. While he didn’t claim to speak from personal experience, Matthews also pointed out the latest and greatest EMR may never be used to its fullest potential if the platform on which it stands is down half the time.

Steve Luxenberg, MD, CMIO at Piedmont Healthcare, made sure to point out the full value of an EMR can only be realized if clinical and IT work together to maintain, optimize, and grow the product from within.

This takes us to conversation points about extracting data to create or refine best practices in an effort to drive quality initiatives.

Digging Out Data to Increase Quality
“It’s not an EMR for the sake of an EMR,” Luxenberg emphasized. “It’s about the data we can pull out, interpret and impact outcomes with.”

Daniel Wu, part-time CMIO at Grady, echoed Luxenberg’s comments: “The EMR has opened a door to allow us to collect data as we’ve never been able to do before.” The panelists all agreed on this point, and now it seems as if they are tackling the issue of interpreting the data to enable better outcomes and quality.

Matthews insisted that collecting the data is really all about quality, and suggested that the EMR should guide standards, which the panelists referred to in the same context as best practices.

Wu made the point that if providers don’t control what designates quality care, or best practices, then the government will come along and regulate it for them. (I’m fairly certain this echoes what Farzad Mostashari has tweeted about in the recent past.)

Luxenberg again emphasized the impartiality CMIOs must take when dealing with clinical and IT staff. He noted the CMIO’s role is to bring the two groups together for consensus on what best practices are and how to put those into the EMR, and added this becomes more challenging when working in a multi-facility healthcare system.

Patient Engagement
Patient portals were on the tips of all the panelists’ tongues when it came to patient engagement. Julie Hollberg, MD, CMIO at Emory, is in the middle of rolling out a portal right now. Her team is finding the most challenging part of that implementation to be educating Emory patients on what benefits the portal offers. Luxenberg was a bit lukewarm with regard to patient portals. He’s seen several come and go and has found that only a certain set of patients is apt to use them.

Wu, who has helped implement Epic’s MyChart at Grady, was firm when he said that patients have the responsibility in their court now. Patient kiosks are helping in that effort, too.

What Would You Like Your CIO to Know?
Wu’s big point was that if CMIOs and CIOs can’t communicate, each is doomed to fail. He said it with a smile, of course, as his CIO, moderator Debbie Cancilla from Grady, was standing right next to him.

Other insights included:

* Keep IT simple for the clinicians.
* Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should.
* Always keep in mind what’s best for the patient, and what’s the simplest way to get that done.
* It’s always a good idea to have IT folks shadow clinicians and vice versa. The CMIO’s job is to help facilitate this type of partnership.

How have CMIOs brought your clinical and IT teams together? Please share anecdotes and more best practices in the comments below.

March 7, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Breaking up with Your EMR is Hard to Do

In light of this week’s “holiday,” I thought I’d take a look at the current love/hate relationship the healthcare industry seems to have with electronic medical records and Meaningful Use.

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Thanks are due to @mdrache and @EHRworkflow for their inspiration for the title of this week’s post: EMRtweet1

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The nay sayers seem to have become especially vocal lately, which may be due in large part to the passing of time. Those that have implementations under their belt now feel qualified to talk about the efficacy of the solutions they selected. Negative EMR press may also have bubbled up to the service in light of the recent RAND report, which backpedaled on previous predictions of cost-savings associated with healthcare IT adoption. That study broke the ice, so to speak, and perhaps made providers more comfortable with voicing their discontent.

In any case, if current healthcare IT press is any indication, EMR technology currently on the market has often left providers dissatisfied for a number of reasons. No doubt this dissatisfaction will be a subject of many show-floor conversations at HIMSS in a few weeks. I wonder how EMR vendors are preparing their responses. What will be their top three talking points when it comes to EMR benefits? It seems Meaningful Use incentives have lost their luster, and in fact have left many providers disenchanted with healthcare IT in general.

John Lynn posted a very telling reader comment over at EMRandHIPAA.com from a provider who used his Meaningful Use malaise to create a new independent practice business model. Is this an indication that more providers may “revolt” against Meaningful Use and the trend towards hospital employment? If so, what will the private practice landscape look like in three to five years?

Just how easy is it for providers to truly “break up” with their EMRs? We’ve all read the multi-million-dollar rip-and-replace horror stories – talk about a bad breakup. And then there are the providers that stay in dysfunctional relationships with their EMRs because they can’t afford a new one, instead developing copious amounts of workarounds potentially at the expense of clinical care and accurate reimbursement.

As of last summer, KLAS reported that a whopping 50% of providers were looking to replace their ambulatory EMRs, compared to 30% in 2011. A recent Health Data Management webinar noted more than 30% of ALL new EMR purchases are made to replace an existing EMR.

To me, these numbers beg a number of questions. Were first- and perhaps even second-generation EMRs just not mature enough for providers’ needs? Did providers simply not do enough due diligence before making their purchases? Will these impending replacement EMR purchases stick? If you have updated EMR breakup statistics or a crystal ball, please send them my way.

February 13, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Finding the Silver Lining in EMR Investment

It’s been a week of doom and gloom news as far as healthcare IT goes. Apparently, providers aren’t seeing the ROI they’d hoped for from EMRs, and as I’m sure you’ve heard, RAND researchers have found that, despite predictions to the contrary some years ago, healthcare IT does not actually save money. Couple these with the 2% hike in social security tax everyone is seeing in their paychecks this month, and it’s easy to understand why the healthcare community might be a bit grumpy.

I’m here to propose that providers try to look on the bright side when it comes to recouping some of that EMR investment. Telemedicine programs may hold a ray of hope for providers looking to find additional value in their EMR. These programs, in my opinion, have gained a strong foothold in the healthcare industry – providers, payers and patients are certainly showing interest, especially given the industry’s stance on readmissions these days; the government seems supportive; and vendors are always eager to provide more product to willing customers.

Here are just a few of the telemedicine highlights I’ve come across in the last few weeks:

* A proposed bill in the House backed by the American Telemedicine Association – The Telehealth Promotion act of 2012 – would potentially expand telemedicine programs in Medicaid and Medicare programs, federal health employee plans, the VA, and others

* The federal government has set aside $1.9 million as part of its Telehealth Resource Center Grant Program in the hopes of expanding its current network of 14 centers to 20.

* The FCC will offer qualifying healthcare facilities up to $400 million annually as part of its Healthcare Connect Fund, which seeks to accelerate development of broadband networks in rural areas.

My thinking is that we’ll see these telemedicine initiatives grow as physicians become more scarce (at least in non-metropolitan areas), coordinated care programs increase, payers look to play a part in wellness programs and preventing readmissions, and everyone continues to look for ways to drive down costs. And from what I’ve read, I don’t see how a hospital or physician’s practice can successfully or meaningfully (pardon the pun) participate in a telemedicine program without an EMR.

Which brings us back to the bad news above. EMRs in recent years have mostly been designed with Meaningful Use measures in mind, not telemedicine, and so might not be adequately equipped to integrate data from teleconsultations. This is where vendors come in. If BCC Research’s prediction of the telehospital market growing to $17.6 billion in 2016 is true, they’ll come in droves. They’ll get to that value by working with hospitals and physicians that want to further their telemedicine programs, and will likely be looking for ways to increase the functionality of their EMRs as a result.

As many of us head to HIMSS in a few weeks, it will be interesting to see if providers really are as disgruntled with HIT expenditures as the media would have us believe, and how much play is being given to telemedicine in the educational sessions and on the show floor.

What is your opinion? Do you currently participate in any sort of telehealth program? Do they have the ability to make EMRs more useful? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

January 17, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Sebelius’ ACA Highlights Need a Dash of HIT Benefits for Parents

As a mother of young children, I have the pleasure of trying to squeeze in routine, pediatric dental appointments during Christmas and summer breaks. This time around, I had the added pleasure of taking my daughter to a new dentist – one within the same group she’s been going to for all of two years, but at a different location. Though I had her dental records transferred from the previous office, I still had to fill out a plethora of new patient forms upon arrival at the new location. Needless to say, the smile I gave the receptionist as she handed me a sheaf of papers asking me for redundant information was somewhat thin.

I passed the time flipping through the pages of a recent Parents magazine, and imagine my surprise when I came across an interview with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius regarding the Affordable Care Act and its implications for women and families. I thought it was a good idea on the part of Parents editors to have Sebelius explain – succinctly and briefly – the highlights of the ACA, especially pertaining to preventive services and the supposed affordability of health insurance once health insurance exchanges get up and running in 2014.

Being that I had just wasted 15 minutes of time filling out duplicate paper forms, I felt that a sidebar on the benefits of healthcare IT might also help out harried mothers like myself. Bullet points would include:

* Do your mental health a favor and avoid filling out paper forms in waiting rooms while your children “entertain” others with their shenanigans/arguments. Do business only with “digital” docs – those who utilize electronic medical records, enable sign-in via the Web before you arrive at the office, and are willing to communicate via email. Those that offer telemedicine services (provided your insurance will cooperate) are an added bonus if your family lives somewhat off the beaten healthcare path.

* Healthcare will become more affordable once consumers start making an effort to patronize providers that have a reputation for high patient satisfaction and quality scores. Get engaged via websites like Healthgrades.com to start sifting through local MDs’ scores and reviews.

* Assuming you’re a connected parent – one that routinely uses a smartphone and/or tablet, ask your healthcare provider about apps specific to any wellness or illness issues your children may be experiencing. I certainly wouldn’t mind switching out my children’s Toca Boca screen time with educational health games and stories.

These were just a few of the items running through my mind when my daughter’s dental hygienist asked if she had x-rays last time around, adding that those hadn’t come over yet from the other office, and the process of looking them up was overly complicated.

As Seth Meyers says on SNL, “Really?!”

January 3, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Christmas Scavenger Hunt Inspires EMR Wish List

Happy holidays, dear readers! I hope my latest blog post finds you well, resting comfortably away from your usual place of employment, and not tied to a device despite being “on vacation” or attempting to take “time off.”

My family and I are a bit further South than usual, visiting family in Jacksonville and engaging in a time-honored tradition in nearby St. Augustine – the Holly Jolly Trolley. Never was there a better excuse to turn Christmas lights into a 3-D psychedelic experience.

We turned our annual light-seeing drive through the Blackhawk Bluff neighborhood into a Christmas lights scavenger hunt, checking off images from our list as we came across them during our drive. Suitable for the younger crowd, our checklist had images of traditional holiday décor – snowmen, stars, candy canes, candles, etc. The gingerbread man gave us the most trouble, and eventually we had to settle for seeing a gingerbread man windsock.

Driving home I got to thinking about what a similar hunt would look like, say, at HIMSS next year. Gather a group of providers, give them a list of EMR attributes and set them loose in the exhibit hall to find as many as possible within a certain amount of time. I wonder how many vendors/booths they’d have to stop at before they checked everything off the list.

For that matter, it would be interesting to turn the check list into a wish list – pinpoint a number of features providers most want in their EMR and see which vendor offers the most in one package. This would then of course lead to a comparison of price and customer reviews, but that’s another blog entirely.

What would such a check list / wish list look like? Based on the major healthcare trends that have come to light over the last year, I’m willing to bet these features (however pie-in-the-sky they might be) would be included:

  • Guaranteed security / protection, especially with regard to mobile EMR applications
  • Innate knowledge of ICD-9 to ICD-10 code translation
  • Ability to connect to any HIE at the click of a button
  • CPOE
  • Pop-up that suggests, on a patient-by-patient basis, how best to digitally engage with that particular person based on their preferred method of communication
  • Suggested protocols culled from evidence-based medicine analytics

What other features would likely be included? What vendors already offer a majority of these features? Do they exist, or will tomorrow’s start up be next year’s true game changer when it comes to success in the EMR marketplace? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

December 27, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.