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What’s the Impact of MACRA on Small Practices?

Posted on July 22, 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.

I recently had a chance to sit down and chat with Tom Giannulli, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Kareo and Michael Sherling, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer and Co-founder of Modernizing Medicine, to talk about the impact of the MACRA legislation on small practices. Both of these CMOs at EHR vendors rode the meaningful use wave and now they’re preparing to ride the new MACRA wave as well. So, they were the perfect people to talk about the impact of MACRA on small practices and how a small practice should prepare themselves for the new MACRA legislation. If you’re a small practice that’s wondering about MACRA (or doesn’t even know what it is), then take the time to watch the video below to see what it means for small practices.

After our formal interviews, we always like to hold what we call the “after party.” We never know how it’s going to go. Sometimes people join in and offer their insights and ask questions and sometimes they don’t. In this case, we continued our conversation about the MACRA and small practices, but we also talked about the impact that legislation like MACRA has on an EHR vendors development lifecycle. You can learn more about MACRA in the video below:

This post was a great way to wrap up the week and also for us to announce a new blog post series we’re starting on Monday called MACRA Monday. Long time readers may remember the Meaningful Use Monday series of blog posts we did every Monday for a few years. This will be similar as we dive into the MACRA legislation and help small medical practices understand the details of what’s coming in MACRA. Watch for that on Monday!

The Virtual ACO

Posted on April 26, 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.

“Virtual ACOs may be the next big thing for small practices,” says our host Dr. Tom. “I want to talk about how independent practices can lead and not just follow the shift to value-based care.”

Who here has looked at or talked to someone about virtual ACOs?

My guess is that most small practices haven’t really heard about it. Maybe it has to do with most doctors being too busy to consider other innovation. I’ll admit that the idea of a virtual ACO is a new one to me and so I was interested in the discussion that Dr. Tom from Kareo led on virtual ACOs.

The concept of a virtual ACO makes sense. Basically use technology to provide coordinated care across the care system. In fact, that’s what most patients think is already happening with their care, but we know it’s generally not happening. We all know it should and most doctors would embrace the ability to have the right information in the right place so that their patients get the right care. I don’t know anyone who’s against that principle.

However, as was pointed out in the chat linked above, the financial model for a virtual ACO is up in the air. There’s no clear financial model that makes sense. The care model makes sense, but the financial model is a mess.

Dr. Tom did make this assertion in the virtual ACO discussion:

Although S. Turner Dean responded with something we’ve talked about quite a few times before:

I love Dr. Tom’s optimism that this new world of value based reimbursement simplifying things, but I’m not sure it will be any simpler than fee for service. That’s not even taking into account the fact that we have the whole infrastructure set up to handle fee for service and that we know how it works. Set that aside and I’m still not sure that a virtual ACO would be any less complicated than our current fee for service world.

What do you think of the concept of a virtual ACO? Will it simplify medicine? Will it help doctors love their work again? Will it help the independent physician practice survive?

Full Disclosure: Kareo is an advertiser on this blog.

Rep. Phil Gingrey Comes After Healthcare Interoperability and Epic in House Subcommittee

Posted on July 30, 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.

On July 17th, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Communications and Technology and Health (that’s a mouthful) held a hearing which you can see summarized here. Brought into question were the billions of dollars that have been spent on EHR without requiring that the EHR systems be interoperable.

In the meeting Rep. Phil Gingrey offered this comment, “It may be time for this committee to take a closer look at the practices of vendor companies in this space given the possibility that fraud may be perpetrated against the American taxpayer.”

At least Rep. Gingrey is a former physician, but I think he went way too far when he used the word fraud. I don’t think the fact that many EHR vendors don’t want to share their healthcare data is fraud. I imagine Rep. Gingrey would agree if he dug into the situation as well. However, it is worth discussing if the government should be spending billions of dollars on EHR software that can’t or in more cases won’t share data. Epic was called out specifically since their users have been paid such a huge portion of the EHR incentive money and Epic is notorious for not wanting to share data with other EHR even if Judy likes to claim otherwise.

The other discussion I’ve seen coming out related to this is the idea of de-certifying EHR vendors who don’t share data. I’m not sure the legality of this since the EHR certification went through the rule making process. Although, I imagine Congress could pass something to change what’s required with EHR certification. I’ve suggested that making interoperability the focus of EHR certification and the EHR incentive money is exactly what should be done. Although, I don’t have faith that the government could make the EHR Certification meaningful and so I’d rather see it gone. Just attach the money to what you want done.

I have wondered if a third party might be the right way to get vendors on board with EHR data sharing. I’d avoid the term certification, but some sort of tool that reports and promotes those EHR vendors who share data would be really valuable. It’s a tricky tight rope to walk though with a challenging business model until you build your credibility.

Tom Giannulli, CMIO at Kareo, offers an additional insight, “The problem of data isolationism is that it’s practiced by both the vendor and the enterprise. Both need to have clear incentives and disincentives to promote sharing.” It’s a great point. The EHR vendors aren’t the only problem when it comes to not sharing health data. The healthcare organizations themselves have been part of the problem as well. Although, I see that starting to change. If they don’t change, it seems the government’s ready to step in and make them change.

Helping the Small Practice Physician Survive with Dr. Tom Giannulli

Posted on November 19, 2013 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.

In case you haven’t seen, I’ve been doing a whole series of video interviews over on EHR Videos. There are some really great videos in the series chock full of insights into what’s happening in the world of EHR and Healthcare IT.

The following video is an example of the type of great video interviews we’ve been doing. In this interview, I talk with Dr. Tom Giannulli, CMIO of Kareo about how a well done EHR vendor can help a small practice physician survive. This has become a really popular topic for a number of ambulatory focused EHR vendors. Along with these topics, I ask Dr. Giannulli about the former Epocrates EHR he helped create which is now owned by Kareo and is offered as a Free EHR.

What do you think about Dr. Giannulli’s comments about helping the small practice physician survive? Will EHR vendors play an important role in making this happen? I look forward to seeing your thoughts in the comments.

Could High Deductible Plans Save Small Practices?

Posted on October 8, 2013 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’ve had a number of really interesting conversations with EHR vendors around the future of small practices in healthcare. In fact, many EHR vendors are focusing their marketing efforts around saving the small practice (more on that in a future post). Although, one topic that’s come up multiple times recently is how the new high deductible plans might be a tremendous opportunity for small practices.

To give credit where credit is due, I first heard this idea from Dr. Tom Giannulli (Check out this Google Hangout I did with Dr. Tom), CMIO of Kareo.

The core concept I took from talking with Dr. Tom and have since morphed with other viewpoints is that patients with high deductible plans can be more selective about who they visit for their care. This presents an opportunity for small physician practices to provide a personalized service to those patients that a large group practice or hospital owned system can’t or won’t provide.

Of course, at the core of this question is whether the small practice does offer a more personalized service than a large group practice. There are many arguments to be made that a small practice can offer a better service. In some ways it’s the eternal battle between mom and pop vs big company. We all love the idea of mom and pop locations that know are name and know our needs. In many ways small practices can provide this same level of service and relationship which is hard to create in a large group practice that’s ruled by numbers.

However, I think one challenge to this idea is that large groups could provide some services which small practices can’t or won’t provide as well. Of course, this assumes that they aren’t too distracted and immovable to actually implement change. I expect that we’ll see some patient facing services that do much better in a large group practice and that would be nearly impossible in a small practice. For example, once telehealth visits become popular, a large group practice could implement a 24×7 telehealth service for patients with emergent needs. A small practice couldn’t do this (although, they could partner with someone to offer something close).

The point is that the battle for these high deductible patients is just beginning. I usually like to put my money on the faster, more nimble organization. The problem is that many small practices aren’t that nimble. In fact, healthcare isn’t nimble (see Mandi’s post today about Inflicting Agile on the Waterfall World of Healthcare). Although, small practice can be nimble if they chose to do so.

Coming full circle, does this present an opportunity for EHR vendors? Can the small practice focused EHR vendors offer a set of features to small practices that enable them to offer a more personalized service to patients? I think there is this opportunity starting with features as simple as e-communication with the clinic, online payments, and personalized care. The real challenge for these EHR vendors is how to balance customer service focused features that patients will love against the onslaught of government regulations which bog down their development teams.

Epocrates EMR Killed Immediately After Launch

Posted on March 15, 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.

Back in 2010, Epocrates had its EMR ducks in a row. The company, known best for a very popular smartphone-based drug interaction database for physicians, announced plans to release a mobile SaaS EMR.  While Epocrates was jumping into a market more crowded than a barrel full of monkeys, one could see where leaders might see an EMR as an extension of the relationship it already had with physicians.

Now, Epocrates leaders have said “oops” and announced that they were killing the product,  telling investors and the public that building the darned thing was distracting it from its core business.  It does seem that the company was struggling with the EMR rollout process:  it didn’t roll out its first-phase product until August 2011 and didn’t get its Meaningful Use certification until February of this year. But this is the first time I’ve seen a company kill a product at this stage of development, particularly in such a high-profile manner.

It must have been more than a bit embarrassing to make the announcement during HIMSS12 when, of course, companies traditionally kick off products they’re planning to sell vigorously. As Epocrates was making plans to dump or sell their EMR, the company’s CMIO, Tom Giannulli, MD, was pitching the company’s new iPad EMR to editors.

As Epocrates itself pointed out, there aren’t too many dedicated iPad EMR offerings out there. So in theory, this should not have been a waste of the company’s time.  On the other hand, with the iPad still a new frontier for EMRs, we still don’t know whether it will ultimately work as a platform of choice for physicians.  As we’ve previously discussed on this blog, the iPad seems to be a pretty good medium for reading data but a very awkward one for entering data. Whether that’s a fatal flaw remains to be seen.

Truthfully, this looks like a failure of execution from start to finish, rather than a product that couldn’t possibly work. But these are tough times. Even the best execution may not work; and if so, Epocrates was probably wise to fold its cards before further damage was done.