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Hospital CIOs Cutting Back on Non-Essential Projects

Posted on July 10, 2014 I Written By

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

Generally speaking, cutting back on IT projects and spending is a tricky thing. In some cases spending can be postponed, but other times, slicing a budget can have serious consequences.

One area  where cutting budgets can cause major problems is in preparing to roll out EMRs, especially cuts to training, which can lead to problems with rollouts, resentment, medical mistakes, system downtime due to mistakes and more.  Also, skimping on training can lead to a domino effect which results in the exit of CEOs and other senior leaders, which has happened several times (that we know of) over the past couple of years.

That being said, sometimes budgetary constraints force CIOs to make cuts anyway, reports FierceHealthIT Increasingly projects other than EMRs are falling in priority.

A recent survey of hospital technology leaders representing 650 hospitals nationwide published by HIMSS underscores this trend. Respondents told HIMSS said that despite increases in IT budgets, they still struggled to complete IT projects due to financial limitations. In fact, 25 percent said that financial survival was their top priority.

What that comes down to, it seems, is that promising initiatives fall by the roadside if they don’t contribute to EMR success.  For example, providers are stepping back from HIE participation because they feel they can’t afford to be involved, according to a HIMSS Analytics survey published last fall.

Instead, hospitals are taking steps to enhance and build on their EMR investment. For example, as FierceHealthIT notes, Partners HealthCare recently chose to pull together all of its EMR efforts under a single vendor.  In the past, Partners had used a combo of homegrown systems and vendor products, but IT leaders there  felt that this arrangement was too expensive to continue, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

This laser focus on EMRs may be necessary at present, as the EMR is arguably the most mission-critical software hospitals have in place at the  moment. The question, as I see it, is whether this will cripple hospitals in the future. Eventually, I’d argue, mobile health will become a priority for hospitals and medical practices, as will some form of  HIE participation, just to name the first two technologies that come to mind. In three to five years, if they don’t fund initiatives in these areas, hospitals may look  up and find that they’re hopelessly behind .

Are Your Order Sets in Order?

Posted on April 21, 2014 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.

Healthcare transformation is driving healthcare providers to focus on quality, value-based purchasing and accountable care. While CPOE (computerized physician order entry) has become an important tool to meet their goals, a robust order set integrated within CPOE is critical.

A December 2013 HIMSS Analytics survey with responses from nearly 500 healthcare organizations highlighted the current state of healthcare providers’ order set deployment, use, and needs. Survey results revealed that the common challenges respondents faced with their order set solutions were lack of integration with an electronic health record (EHR) and lack of functionality and usability, both of which lead to underutilization and suboptimal clinical workflow.

The results of this survey and more order set analysis is found in this whitepaper called “The Importance of Order Sets.” I love the whitepaper’s analysis of order set integration with EHR software (and associated challenges) and the ability of organizations to update their order sets.

I think we’ve certainly seen an evolution in the world of order sets. When EHR first started, doctors were happy to create their own order sets. These EHR early adopters wanted to customize everything to their exact need. However, over time doctors have wanted to buy an EHR which just worked right out of the box. This included having order sets that are already ready to go and updated regularly without much work on their part. Plus, the early adopters have started to realize how quickly an order set can become outdated if its not looked at regularly.

Order sets are one part of the movement towards evidence based medicine. However, we need deeper integration with evidence based medicine guidelines and order sets into the EHR. This has to become a normal part of the workflow to be really effective. I’m excited that most EHR vendors are at the point where they can make this a reality.

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

Posted on January 21, 2014 I Written By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hospitals Still Struggling With HIE Data Sharing

Posted on September 30, 2013 I Written By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mature EMRs? A Long, Long Time Coming

Posted on March 7, 2012 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 got a call from an executive recruiter who wanted to know, in essence, where the EMR market was going.  Aside from the usual chatter about Meaningful Use, talent shortages and HITECH, one question she asked made me think: “What do you think is the main thing someone like me should know about the health IT market.”

Having pondered this for a while, I realized that the answer is fairly simple. Above all, anyone who wants to understand health IT needs to know two things: a) That health IT leaders need to be change leaders, more than ever before in the industry and, more importantly, b) that the EMR is at version 0.5 when it comes to maturity and integration into the life of most hospitals.

Yes, I mean version 0.5. We’re talking barely in beta, when it comes to solid integration, staff training, enough institutional knowledge so people can share and learn and a high-performing system that doctors love.  Sure, a few hospitals (1 percent, as I recall) have reached that legendary HIMSS Analytics stage 7, but most are lucky to have gotten their Meaningful Use Stage 1 payment into the door.

When you consider that a large number of CIOs doubt they have the man/women power to complete their Stage 1 implementation, the picture looks even grimmer.  Not only are the EMRs immature, they’re largely being implemented and run by consultants who will cut and run with their experience bank, as they have little ability to share it other than in (to staff and doctors at least) boring reports.

Bottom line, I’d argue that it will be a whopping five to seven years, at least, before EMRs meet either HIMSS Analytics criteria for maturity or my personal Zieger seat-of-the-pants model.  I hate to say that it could even be 10 years, but I see it as a possibility.

The reality is, government can be powerful, and big financial incentives are tasty, but you can’t force an industry to change overnight just because it would be really, really cool.

Around Healthcare Scene: ADP AdvancedMD, Care360 EHR/EMR Screenshots, 24/7 Flu Hotline, and Tricorder X Prize

Posted on January 29, 2012 I Written By

Here is a quick look at some of the other articles recently posted on some of the other HealthcareScene.com websites:

EHR and EMR Videos
Software Demo of ADP AdvancedMD + EMA Ophthalmology
This medical billing and EHR software demo presents how medical practices can use ADP AdvancedMD as their practice management to collect more money, faster. EMA for ophthalmology helps doctors utilize an iPad to manage clinical charting and see more patients faster. A software bridge (data integration) has been built to help staff work faster without doing double data entry.

HIMSS Analytics: Data, Research and Consulting for Healthcare IT

Gain a deeper, more vibrant understanding of the HIT space through HIMSS Analytics. Knowing who needs what, when they need it and who to contact will enable you to sell proactively to receptive customers. Our market intelligence will help you optimize your marketing and sales strategies to advance the future of healthcare.

Steve Hinajosa Explains Advantages of DocBook MD 3.0

Travis County Medical Society Membership Director, Steven Hinojosa explains why local county Medical Societies should be interested in DocBookMD 3.0.

EHR and EMR Screenshots

The links below represent screenshots from the Care360 EHR/EMR including images from the EHR, the iPad app, and the mobile app.  Do you think it is necessary for EHRs to use multiple platforms for access, or is it unnecessary vanity?

Screenshots from the Care360 EHR/EMR

iPad App Screenshots from the Care360 EHR/EMR

Care360 EHR/EMR Mobile App Screenshots

Smart Phone Health Care

Consult A Doctor Offers 24/7 Flu Hotline That Costs Less than $40

Flu season is generally miserable for everyone.  Even if you don’t actually get sick you spend half your time avoiding the people who are sick.  Then you start to get symptoms but you wait as long as humanly possible to actually see a doctor because it is so expensive and time-consuming.  Consult A Doctor is releasing a new service designed to change all of that.

Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize Offering $10 Million Prize to Developers

We all remember those awesome little tricorders from the Star Trek series that could analyze a person’s level of health almost immediately.  All the doctor had to do was push a button and he immediately knew exactly what he needed to do to help the person.

Qualcomm and the X Prize Foundation have announced a development competition designed to create just such a device.  The two CEO’s of the respective companies, Dr. Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm Foundation Chair and Qualcomm Incorporated Chairman and CEO, and X PRIZE Foundation Chairman and CEO Dr. Peter Diamandis, announced during the keynote address at CES that the prize would be $10 million dollars.

Is This Failure Really Necessary? Another HIE Closes Its Doors

Posted on July 22, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

For several years, I’ve been watching health information exchanges struggle to birth themselves. Despite ongoing support from state and local governments, HIEs continue to fade away, few having found a business model that works. And no workable business model seems to be on the horizon yet, either, despite efforts by thousands of providers to keep their HIE afloat.

This week, I was sorry to read about the death of yet another HIE.  CareSpark, a Kingsport, TN-based network which has been in existence for six years, announced on July 11th that it would be ceasing operations.  CareSpark, whose age makes it almost a young adult in HIE years, holds records for 1.28 million patients.

According to a piece in FierceHealthIT, CareSpark was forced to close because it couldn’t come up with a viable plan to sustain itself.  The group’s leaders had hoped to move from a grant-supported non-profit to one-funded by payments from subscribers, but apparently, they just couldn’t attract enough cash to survive.

The group began its final descent in March, when Health Information Partnership of Tennessee pulled federal funding from CareSpark.  The closing leaves 38 participating healthcare organizations in the lurch.

Given you don’t have a mature EMR if you can share health information freely — at least according to HIMSS Analytics — you’d think that providers would finally be ready to dish out enough money to support their local HIE.  But apparently, they aren’t.

The question is, why?  Do hospitals and medical practices think of HIEs as “nice to have” rather than “need to have”?  Do providers only kick in money when they can control the whole exchange (such as linking up hospitals within a single chain)? Have any of them done a cost/benefit analysis which suggests HIEs *aren’t* a good investment?

All I know is that if 38 providers spend six years building up trust, it doesn’t make much sense to cheap out now, especially if it shuts down critical linkages between their EMRs. I’d really like to know why they don’t want to pay for this. Don’t you? After all, it’s about time we figure out what kind of HIE model does work.

Hospital Preparation for Meaningful Use

Posted on November 18, 2010 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.

HIMSS Analytics recently sent out some interesting results from a survey the did of hospital’s preparation for meaningful use. Here’s the results:

*Nearly one quarter (22 percent) of participating hospitals have the capability to achieve 10 or more of the required core measures in the meaningful use Stage 1 requirements.

*Some 34 percent of respondents have the capability to achieve between five and nine of the core measures for meaningful use.

*Just over 40 percent (40.47 percent) of the market indicated they have the capability to meet five or more of the menu items for meaningful use.


Click on the images to see the larger images.

As lone data points it’s hard to judge if hospitals are making progress or not. I’ve heard many people say that hospitals are going full bore towards meaningful use and that ambulatory practices are slower to adopt EMR and meaningful use. I’m not sure this is totally true. Plus, the lead time needed to implement in an ambulatory setting is so much shorter than in a hospital. Even a hospital that owns ambulatory practices.

I’m told that HIMSS Analytics will be doing this same survey every couple months. I’ll see about publishing the results as I get them so we can compare the change.