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The Exciting Future of Healthcare IT #NHITWeek

Posted on September 28, 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.

One time I went to my wife’s OB/GYN appointment and I was in shock and awe with how well the doctor remembered my wife’s past pregnancies. Literally down to the tear that occurred. The reason I was in shock was that she prefaced her memory of my wife’s medical history with “Your old chart is off in storage, but as I recall you had a…”

While year later I’m still impressed with this OB/GYN’s ability to remember her patients, I know that this is not always the case. Doctors are humans and can’t possibly remember everything that occurred with every patient. Humans have limits. In fact, doctors deserve credit that they’ve provided such amazing medical care to so many patients despite these limits.

My esteem for doctors grows even greater when I think of the challenges associated with diagnosing computer problems (Yes, I am the nerd formerly known as @techguy). It’s not easy diagnosing a computer problem and then applying the fix that will remedy the problem. In fact, you often find yourself fixing the problem without really even knowing what’s causing the problem (ie. reinstall or reboot). While fixing computers is challenging, diagnosing and treating the human body has to be at least an order and probably two or more orders of magnitude more complex.

My point is that the work doctors do is really hard and they’ve generally done great work.

While I acknowledge the history of medicine, I also can’t help but think that technology is the pathway to solving many of the challenges that make doctors lives so difficult today. It seems fitting to me that IT stands for Information Technology since the core of healthcare’s challenges revolve around information.

Here are some of the ways technology can and will help:

Quality Information
The story of my wife’s OB/GYN is the perfect illustration of this potential. Doctors who have the right information at the point of care can provide better care. That’s a simple but powerful principle that can become a reality with healthcare IT. Instead of relying on this OB/GYN’s memory, she could have had that information readily available to her in an EHR.

Certainly, we’re not perfect at this yet. EHR software can go down. EHR can perpetuate misinformation. EHRs can paint the incorrect picture for a patient. However, on the whole, I believe an EHRs data is more accessible and available when and where it’s needed. Plus, this is going to get dramatically better over time. In some cases, it already is.

Deep Understanding of Individual Health Metrics
Health sensors are just starting to come into their own. As these health sensors create more and more clinically relevant data, healthcare providers will be empowered with a much deeper understanding of the specific health metrics that matter for each unique patient. Currently, doctors are often driving in the dark. This new wave of health sensors will be like turning the lights on in places that have never seen light before. In some cases, it already is.

Latest Medical Research
Doctors do an incredible job keeping up on the latest research in their specialty, but how can they keep up with the full body of medical knowledge? Even if they study all day and all night (which they can’t do because they have to see patients), the body of medical knowledge is so complex that the human mind can’t comprehend, process, and remember it all. Technology can.

I’m not suggesting that technology will replace humans. Not for the forseeable future anyway. However, it can certainly assist, inform, and remind humans. My phone already does this for me in my personal life. Technology will do the same for doctors in their clinical life. In some cases, it already is.

Patient Empowerment
Think about how dramatic a shift it’s been from a patient chart which the patient never saw to EHR software that makes your entire record available to patients all the time. If that doesn’t empower patients, nothing will. I love reading about how many kings use to suppress their people by suppressing information. Information is power and technology can make access to your health information possible.

Related to this trend is also how patients become more empowered through communities of patients with similar conditions and challenges. The obvious example is Patients Like Me, but it’s happening all over the internet and on social media. This is true for chronic patients who want to find patients with a rare condition, but it’s also true for patients who are finding the healthcare system a challenge to navigate. There is nothing more empowering than finding someone in a similar situation that can help you find the best opportunities and solutions to your problems.

In some cases, patient empowerment is already happening today.

Yes, I know that many of the technologies implemented to date don’t meet this ambitious vision of what technology can accomplish in healthcare. In fact, many health technologies have actually made things worse instead of better. This is a problem that must be dealt with, but it doesn’t deter me from the major hope I have the technology can solve many of the challenges that make being a doctor so hard. It doesn’t deter me from the dream that patients will be empowered to take a more active role in their care. It doesn’t deter me from the desire to leverage technology to make our healthcare system better.

The best part of my 11 years in healthcare IT has been seeing technology make things better on a small scale (“N of 1” –@cancergeek). My hope for the next decade is to see these benefits blow up on a much larger scale.

President’s Message for National Health IT Week #NHITWeek

Posted on September 27, 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.

This week is National Health IT Week. I’m not sure why we need a week for it. Some of us celebrate health IT all year round. That said, at least it’s an opportunity for some people that could impact healthcare IT to take some time to think about it. A good example of this was that President Obama put out a letter for National Health IT Week (Side Note: It’s kind of funny that it’s still a “letter” and not a blog post or Tweet or Snap or something else. It’s interesting how letters keep subsisting in electronic format. Hmm…sounds a bit like healthcare.). Here’s an excerpt of what he said:

During National Health IT Week, we recommit ourselves to improving the health of our citizenry using the breakthrough technologies of our time and reaching for the next frontier of innovation…Because of our collective efforts, 97 percent of our Nation’s hospitals and three-quarters of doctors are using electronic records to care for their patients…These efforts help advance our Administration’s goal of fostering the seamless and secure flow of electronic health information when and where it is needed most. Though there is more to be done to realize a healthcare system that fits each of our needs, I am confident that if we continue working together, we can build a future of greater health and prosperity for coming generations.

While I’d like to think that this week has caused the President to spend some time thinking about healthcare IT, I’m not sure it really makes any difference. Besides the fact that some staffer or ONC itself probably did most of the work for the letter, the letter illustrates to me that the President doesn’t really understand the challenges that face healthcare IT. That’s unfortunate because it means we won’t see any real push to change things from him.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying the President should be an expert on healthcare IT and I’m certain that few people in Congress know much more about it than he does. They’re all likely in the same position the President is in with too many challenges and limited time. They can only dive in deeply on so many of them.

The thing that disturbs me about this letter is that it’s likely the same position that our government has had for health IT since pre-meaningful use. In fact, it’s likely why meaningful use was included so easily in the ARRA stimulus package. Is Health IT good? Well, electronic has been good in every other industry. So, that sounds good. Can you transfer bits and bytes of health data better than paper? Yep! So, EHR should make sharing data easier. Conclusion: Let’s keep doing more EHR and healthcare will be better and healthcare data sharing will happen.

It’s this naivety that’s gotten us where we are today.

My cause for optimism is that the people in government positions over healthcare like Andy Slavitt, Acting Director of CMS, do have a much better pulse on what’s happening in healthcare IT. They understand physician burnout. They understand overwhelming doctors with unnecessary and useless documentation. They understand data blocking and the pressures healthcare organizations face to not share health data. I’m not saying they have all the solutions. These are challenging problems, but I’m hopeful because they do understand these problems much better than most people give them credit.

Will we see much change? The jury is still out. Those at HHS only have so many levers they can pull. I do hope they can find ways to encourage without stifling innovation. I hope they focus on collecting useful data as opposed to possibly useful data. I hope they stop wasting money on EHR certification which provides no benefit and causes a lot of harm and they instead focus on a meaningful EHR interoperability certification.

Most of all, I hope they’re not afraid to focus on one thing that’s extremely valuable and doable (ie. interoperability) and set aside the 100s of other things which have questionable value. Wouldn’t we all rather have CMS do 1 thing really well as opposed to doing 100 things poorly?

Today I focused on some government health IT perspectives. Tomorrow I’ll talk about some of the other healthcare IT trends that get me excited and a few that scare me. Happy National Health IT Week!

HIMSS #NHITWeek e-Book

Posted on September 18, 2012 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.

I was happy to be invited to participate in the HIMSS #NHITWeek e-Book. They just recently posted the HIMSS ProBook (PDF) which includes mine and 17 other health IT experts responses. It’s nice to see my name alongside wonderful health IT pros like Regina Holliday, John Moore, and Eric J. Topol (to name a few). You can find my responses on page 26-27 in the e-book or I’ve posted my responses below.  I kind of got this last minute, so my responses are a bit off the cuff.  I’d love to hear your thoughts or your responses to these questions.

1. How has the conversation about health IT evolved and / or progressed since last year’s National Health IT Week?

With the announcement of meaningful use stage 2, we’re starting to see a real dividing line between those healthcare organizations that plan to show meaningful use of a certified EHR and those organizations that plan to stay far away from it. All but a few smaller hospitals are getting on board with EHR because the EHR incentive money is so large. In smaller practices, many are still afraid that EHR will slow them down, decrease their productivity, and cause them more headache than the value it will provide.

With EHR incentive money dominating the EHR discussions, ACOs are also drawing a lot of attention and discussion in the world of health IT. Everyone seems to realize that if we’re going to make ACOs a reality, then it’s going to take a heavy dose of well implemented health IT. The increase in discussion happening around health data warehouses has really increased and more and more health organizations are trying to find was to pull value out of all the data that’s now being stored in their health IT systems.

Mobile Health is still the wild wild west. Mobile health apps are popping up in every corner of the mobile world. However, we still don’t have any breakout mobile health app superstars which have captivated the imagination of the world. Considering the number of apps, one of them is bound to reach that point soon.

2. What are the major challenges to hospitals and healthcare providers as we move toward a new century of health technology?

I’ve often said that health IT is the great magnifier. Health IT will take the good and make it better, but it will also point out the bad just as easily. What I think the implementation of health IT has done is caused many healthcare organizations wake up to some of the problems they never realized they had. Overcoming much of the built in healthcare problems is going to be the biggest challenge to the implementation of health technology.

Along similar lines, the biggest built in problem in healthcare IT is the walled gardens which create incredibly difficult to access data silos. Much like a President once famously said, “Healthcare, take down your walls.” Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any authority that can make such a strong statement. Breaking down the walls surrounding healthcare data is going to be an almost insurmountable challenge.

One other major challenge we’ll see and we’re starting to see already is how to handle the literal flood of healthcare data. Floods of data will be pointed at health care providers from HIEs, PHR’s, medical devices, genomics, etc. Creating IT systems which process all the data into a digestible format will be key to the future of healthcare.

3. How can we increase adoption and meaningful use of health IT in hospitals and health systems across the U.S.?

I think we need a fundamental change in how we define meaningful use. The current definition of meaningful use might provide benefits to healthcare in general, but I know very few hospitals and health systems that see value in what HITECH has defined as meaningful use.

The hospitals and health systems I talk to see meaningful use of an EHR as improved patient care, improved revenue integrity, and streamlined processes. This is a much different definition of “meaningful” use of EHR. Once EHR vendors achieve this type of meaningful, healthcare won’t know how to live without it.

4. What advice would you give to the next generation of health IT leaders and their role in improving our healthcare system through advancement of IT?

My advice is that “when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” To make the comparison, just because you’re an IT leader doesn’t mean that IT is always the solution. Sometimes the solution is to fix the process first. Applying IT to bad processes just makes things worse. Be thoughtful in when and where you implement health IT. IT has tremendous potential, but only when applied the right way to the right problems.

5. What’s one thing the general public should know about health IT that they do not already, and what’s an easy way for them to get involved?

I believe the general public doesn’t realize the power they yield. Patient demand is likely the most powerful force in healthcare. If enough patients requested online patient scheduling, we’d see more doctors providing online patient scheduling. If more patients demanded e-visits, we’d see more e-visits. Patients need to stop accepting the current method of care delivery and start caring more about the healthcare services they receive.

6. What’s one health technology you are most excited about?

I’m absolutely fascinated with non-obtrusive health monitoring devices. It’s amazing how much health data can be collected with a simple cell phone camera. Everything from pulse, blood pressure, and cholesterol can potentially be monitored with a digital camera. Plus, we’re just at the beginning of the health monitoring that will occur using a person’s cell phone.

7. Fill in the blank. Health IT is _________________
Health IT is integral to the future of healthcare.

Those were my responses. You can find the other 17 responses to these questions in the HIMSS ProBook (PDF).

The Immortal Life of Healthcare IT

Posted on September 5, 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.

As any one of my family or friends will tell you, I’m a voracious reader. I’ll read anything I can get my hands on – blogs, online news, books, magazines. I’ll even confess that after a week of keeping up with healthcare IT editorial, I typically enjoy a good, diverting issue of Entertainment Weekly on the weekend. Having an e-reader in the house has only increased my propensity to check out books from my local library, thanks to its new e-book lending program. Mobile technology has certainly aided and abetted my habit.

That being said, I find myself juggling two books right now – “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot (great New York Times book review here); and “Healthcare Business Intelligence: a Guide to Empowering Successful Data Reporting and Analytics,” by Laura B. Madsen. One is for pleasure, while the other is to help me better understand the buzz behind BI. Both have much to say on the subject of healthcare. In the simplest of terms, they are two sides of the same coin. Skloot’s work of non-fiction tells the tale of what happens when patients and their families are kept in the dark, while Madsen’s guide denotes the possibilities that come with dissecting data in meaningful ways for patient benefit – freeing information, if you will, from silos for the benefit of better clinical outcomes.

I’m not too far into The Immortal Life, but one paragraph has jumped out at me in light of the current state of heightened patient engagement in healthcare:

“… like most patients in the 1950s, she deferred to anything her doctors said. This was a time when ‘benevolent deception’ was a common practice – doctors often withheld even the most fundamental information from their patients, sometimes not giving them any diagnosis at all. They believed it was best not to confuse or upset patients with frightening terms they might not understand, like cancer. Doctors knew best, and most patients didn’t question that.”

My how times are changing. (Granted, you’d hope that in 60+ years they would.) Patients are seeking information out before they even think to call their doctor. And they are no longer afraid to question diagnoses, or even obtain second opinions. Patients are becoming more interested in the value of their care – is the financial outlay worth the result? And some are beginning to wonder when their doctors will catch up.

By pure coincidence, HIMSS is asking the question “How will health IT make a difference a year from now at the next National Health IT Week?” as part of its first annual blog carnival, in an effort to highlight the week’s activities and reflect on the strides healthcare IT has made in the six preceding years the event has been held.

I would have to say that as the next year passes, we’ll see healthcare IT increase patient engagement – digital or otherwise. More doctors will implement EHRs, participate in HIEs, sign up for ACOs. Along the way, they’ll find themselves confronted with patients who are used to having instant access to up-to-the-minute information on everything, and who think access to their personal health information should be no different.

Couple this with the increasing consumerization of healthcare and IT – be it the new iPhone, the smaller iPad, fitness and weight-loss apps, cars that help you keep up with your quantified self, and other gadgets that let you “check your body as often as your email,” and you’ve got a population of patients ripe for aiding and abetting this transformation of healthcare we’ve been hearing so much about.

How interesting it is to think that Henrietta Lacks’ cells are still alive today to inadvertently be a part of this movement, when she herself was kept in the dark by the systemic problems of a society that never thought to question its care.