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The Common Thread Connecting Top-Performing Practices

Posted on November 14, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Jim Higgins, Founder & CEO at Solutionreach. You can follow him on twitter: @higgs77

A top-performing practice. Isn’t that what every organization in the healthcare industry is striving to become? But how do you get there? According to MGMA’s recent Winning Strategies From Top Medical Groups report, there are a few things that top performers have in common—from exceptional strategy, to smooth operations, and strong culture. But one interesting finding of the study was that top performing medical groups have a radically different approach to investment than the rest of the industry.

In an era of cutting costs and reducing overhead, many medical practices avoid spending money like the plague. However, top performers do the opposite. They are significantly more likely to spend additional money on their practice. They then maximize the returns on these investment, ultimately achieving lower overall operating costs. As MGMA President and CEO Halee Fisher-Wright, MD, recently said, “We have found that better performers are systematic about improvement and continually invest time and effort in new resources while maximizing the tools and information already available to them.”

Technology for the Future

If top-performers are investing more, where is that money going? One of the best investments—not only for today but the future as well—is technology. Emerging technologies are a critical aspect of the future of the healthcare industry. In fact, an SAP/Oxford Economics study recently found that 70 percent of healthcare executives say that investing in technology is essential to a practice’s growth, competitive advantage, and the quality of a patient’s experience. Thomas Laur, global president of SAP Health, explained, “Digital innovation will fuel the next wave of breakthroughs in healthcare and accelerate the broader shift toward data-driven care for healthcare organizations. Unlocking actionable data insights in real time is critical for the future success for value-based care.”

The technologies expected to create the highest return on investment include:

  1. Efficiency-fueling technologies. Most healthcare organizations are riddled with inefficiencies throughout their patient care processes. One of the biggest inefficiencies lies with unwieldy administrative processes. In the healthcare industry, 31 percent of employees deal solely with administrative challenges. As a comparison, across other industries, just 13 percent of workers perform administrative work. That’s a whole lot of wasted time! Technologies that standardize and streamline administrative processes will reduce this burden, improving efficiency levels and overall patient care. This includes automation of appointment reminders, recall messaging, billing, scheduling, and more.
  2. Technology that personalizes care. For years and years, uniform medicine has been the norm in healthcare. The large majority of patients with the same disease will end up receiving the exact same treatment as one another. This is not the most effective nor efficient way of treating patients. It is estimated that a staggering $700 billion each year is spent in the U.S. on health care efforts that do not improve health outcomes. This is where the technology of personalized medicine comes in to play. A variety of tools are emerging that target patient’s health at an individual level. From technology that predicts a patient’s likelihood of contracting any given disease to technologies that can take into account an individual patient’s makeup before prescribing medications, more and more options are available for personalized care. And these technologies are very popular with patients. According to one study, more than three-quarters of consumers say they would like to undergo diagnostic tests that develop personalized prevention or treatment plans. Implementing these options differentiates you from the competition.
  3. Patient engagement technologies. Todays’ digital patients want access to tools that give them greater understanding and control over their own care. Since patient engagement is a major goal of the healthcare industry as well, implementing technology that engages patients is a no-brainer. From patient portals to text messaging to targeting patient education, the options to get patients involved and excited about their care have never been more diverse.
  4. Security-based technology. Data breaches and security concerns have become a hot-button issue in the industry. While it is impossible to completely eliminate all security threats, there are more and more options to safeguard your data. Some of the most exciting trends include next-generation firewalls (NGFWs), block chain technology, cloud-based securities, secure messaging and health information exchange, and biometric security applications. You can read more about each of these emerging technologies here.
  5. Remote-health monitoring. Remote wearables and apps are not only fun and popular with patients, but can also provide healthcare providers access to extended monitoring, greater disease prevention, and improved fact-based care decisions. Practices should look for ways to maximize the use of remote monitoring tools.

In order to obtain long-term success, healthcare organizations need to find ways to invest in the future. Looking at some of these most popular technologies is a great way to get started. Choose just one or two that you would like to focus on and then expand from there. This will put you in a great position for the future.

Solutionreach is a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene. As the leading provider of patient relationship management solutions, Solutionreach is dedicated to helping practices improve the patient experience while saving time for providers and staff.

Is EHR Use Causing Physician Burnout?

Posted on November 12, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Wayne Crandall, President & CEO of NoteSwift.

Over the past decade, numerous studies have been published with the same concerning conclusion – physicians are increasingly expressing feelings of burnout, frustration, and a lack of support from their employers and technology solutions. There is no single cause for this burnout, but there are plenty of signals pointing to a primary cause:

EHR use, requirements, and regulations are leading to incredibly high levels of physician burnout.

The data is increasingly clear on this issue. Consider this statistic: according to a 2015 survey, almost 90% of doctors feel moderately to severely stressed and burned out on an average workday.

And this one: A new study by the University of Wisconsin and the American Medical Association (AMA) found primary care physicians spend almost six hours (5.9) on EHR data entry during a typical 11.4 hour workday.

Because of this rapid rise in physician burnout and clear connection to EHR use and management, we decided to look more deeply into the causes, symptoms, and possible solutions to the physician burnout crisis. The result of this research is a newly published white paper we’ve created in partnership with Dr. Robert Van Demark, Jr., a leading voice on the issue of physician burnout.

In this paper, you’ll find the following:

  • Compilation of recent data and studies on the symptoms and causes or physician burnout.
  • Researching connecting physician burnout to employee retention
  • Examination of how EHR use contributes to the burnout crisis
  • A look ahead to emerging solutions to this crisis

There are many compelling examples for why this research is more timely and important than ever. In a time where many physicians are questioning whether the burnout, stress, and anxiety are worth it, health care systems are reporting massive costs for recruiting and replacing doctors who leave due to burnout and overwork. The stakes could not be higher for health systems, doctors, and patients who need access to expert care.

The paper also takes a closer look at the innovative world of artificial intelligence and how it holds much promise for improving health care and EHR entry through automation and understanding. At a time where physicians are looking for more ways to control their workflow and create better, more efficient care for patients, the world of artificial intelligence is leading the way toward better solutions and better care.

I was recently reading a helpful LinkedIn article on the topic of physician burnout, and the author noted how many practices and health care systems focus on treating the symptoms of physician burnout instead of treating the actual cause of this burnout. More meetings, more committees, more work for doctors, while the underlying causes go untreated. EHRs are a primary cause of this burnout, and we believe that finding a better way to handle our EHR work is major way we can improve workflows and reduce physician burnout. Hopefully this white paper can lead the conversation in that direction.

To receive your complimentary copy of this white paper, “Physician Burnout By The Numbers,” click here. You’ll receive instant access to the paper as a resource for you and your team.

About Wayne Crandall
Wayne Crandall’s career in technology spans sales, marketing, product management, strategic development and operations. Wayne was a co-founder, executive officer, and senior vice president of sales, marketing and business development at Nuance Communications and was responsible for growing the company to over $120M following the acquisition of Dragon and SpeechWorks.

Prior to joining the NoteSwift team, Wayne was President and CEO of CYA Technologies and then took over as President of enChoice, which specialized in ECM systems and services, when they purchased CYA.

Wayne joined NoteSwift, Inc. at its inception, working with founder Dr. Chris Russell to build the team from the ground up. Wayne has continued to guide the company’s growth and evolution, resulting in the development of the industry’s first AI-powered EHR Virtual Assistant, Samantha(TM).

NoteSwift is the leading provider of EHR Virtual Assistants and a proud sponsor of Healthcare Scene.

Social Diagnosis? – Fun Friday

Posted on November 9, 2018 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.

It’s Friday as we start to head into the holiday season. A lot of fun and a lot of stress. What an interesting juxtaposition when it comes to your health, no? The good news is that I’m back again with some Fun Friday humor for you. When I saw this cartoon, I loved it immediately:

What’s interesting is that there is so much potential for collaborating with other doctors around challenging diagnosis. I first realized some of the opportunities there when I learned some of what Health Tap is doing.

It’s still a little bit of a wild west for many, but the fact that a patient or doctor can go online and get help with challenging healthcare situations is a very good thing. Technology will continue to enable this. I just hope it’s not quite as depicted in this cartoon.

Problematic Medical Bills Drive Consumers To Cut Back On Care

Posted on November 7, 2018 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.

As we all know, patients and families are taking over responsibility for a steadily greater percentage of their healthcare costs over time. Not surprisingly, this can affect their medical decisions in negative ways. In fact, a new study has documented that their medical bills are confusing or unexpected, a patient may get overwhelmed and simply skip some forms of care entirely.

The study, which was conducted by Hanover Research and sponsored by HealthSparq, surveyed more than 1,000 Americans on their experiences with unexpected medical bills. The results should be unsettling to anyone in outpatient services, especially those in primary care.

Researchers found that more than half (53%) of respondents had received a surprise medical bill over the past 12 months. This included bills that were higher than expected (60%), for services they thought were covered by insurance but weren’t (62%) and from multiple providers when they expected to get just one (42%).

When faced with these frustrating billing situations, patients may drop out of their care routine to some extent. Many skip routine checkups (40%), routine health screenings (39%) or care for injuries (39%).

A substantial number of respondents (40%) conceded that they could’ve avoided such shocks by doing more to better understand their benefits and healthcare processes, in addition to blaming their insurers (45%) or their health providers (42%). Regardless, it appears that a large number didn’t know who was responsible for the problem, which doesn’t bode well for their future health behavior.

Look, everyone knows that offering an accurate estimate of patient financial liabilities could be a nightmare in some situations, particularly if insurance companies don’t play nicely with the billing department. It’s also true that in some cases, patients simply won’t be able to pay the bill regardless of how you present it, a problem you certainly can’t surmise on your own as a medical practice.

That being said, you can take a look at the bills your practice management system produces and get a sense whether they’re decipherable to those who don’t work within the organization. Even if the PM system does a good job of supporting your end of the process, that doesn’t mean it’s turning out bills that patients can use and understand.

Yes, arguably the most important thing a practice management system does is to support your claims process effectively, but seeing to it that patients aren’t overwhelmed by their bills is clearly a big deal too. Particularly under value-based care, you can’t afford to have them holding off on the services that will keep them well.

2019 MACRA Final Rule Overview

Posted on November 5, 2018 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Joy Rios, Health IT Consultant at Chirpy Bird.

It happened right on time this year. The 2019 MACRA Final Rule was released on Thursday, Nov. 1, the weekend of Daylight Savings Time – so those of us who track these laws carefully got one extra hour to read through the 2878-page document. Thanks CMS!

First, I’d like to point out that we expect the rules to change each year. If fact, my colleague, Robin Roberts, and I often joke that CMS starts writing the next rule before the ink is dry on the one they just released. However, this year it feels like there’s a lot more to get up to speed on than that which we’ve grown accustomed.

The expansion of the rule’s title alone, which is both comprehensive and overwhelming, hints that this year’s ruling is far-reaching and will impact a great many stakeholders across healthcare.

Look for yourself: The difference between the proposed and finalized titles:

Proposed Title:

Medicare Program; Revisions to Payment Policies Under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2019; Medicare Shared Savings Program Requirements; Quality Payment Program; and Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Program

Finalized Title:

Medicare Program; Revisions to Payment Policies under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2019; Medicare Shared Savings Program Requirements; Quality Payment Program; Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Program; Quality Payment Program–Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstance Policy for the 2019 MIPS Payment Year; Provisions from the Medicare Shared Savings Program–Accountable Care Organizations–Pathways to Success; and Expanding the Use of Telehealth Services for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder under the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act

The subtitles from the Finalized rule that I reviewed are broken out below with the main bullet points:

1. Medicare Program; Revisions to Payment Policies under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2019

  1. Supports access to care using telecommunications technology.
  2. Medicare will pay providers for new communication technology-based services, such as brief check-ins between patients and practitioners, and pay separately for evaluation of remote pre-recorded images and/or video.
  3. CMS is also expanding the list of Medicare-covered telehealth services.
  4. CMS is delaying implementation of E&M coding reforms until 2021.

“Physicians will see some immediate changes in 2019 that reduce burden and even more significant burden reduction in 2021, when broader changes to the E&M framework take effect,” said Seema Verma.

2. Quality Payment Program

a. MIPS: 2019 Performance Year

General Program Changes

  1. Amount at risk to Medicare Part B services:
    1. Max 7% penalty
    2. 7x incentive, which could result in an adjustment above or below 7%
  2. Avoid a penalty: 30 points (double the 2018 threshold of 15)
  3. Earn Exceptional Performance to capture part of the $500M bonus pool: 75 points (up from 70 in 2017 & 2018)
  4. Expansion of Eligible Clinician types:
    1. PT, OT, Speech & Language, Audiologists, Clinical Psychologists, Registered Dieticians/Nutrition Professionals
  5. Low-volume threshold now includes a third criterion. To be excluded from MIPS, clinicians or groups need to meet one or more of the three criterion.
  6. New Opt-in policy for clinicians or groups who meet or exceed at least one, but not all three of the low-volume threshold criteria.
  7. Virtual Groups must designate a representative and email election to MIPS_VirtualGroups@cms.hhs.gov by Dec. 31, 2018 for the 2019 performance year.
  8. Finalizing a policy to assign a weight of 0% to each of the four performance categories and a final score equal to the performance threshold when:
    1. A MIPS eligible clinician joins an existing practice (existing TIN) in the final three months of the performance period year and the practice is not participating in MIPS as a group
    2. A MIPS eligible clinician joins a practice that is a newly formed TIN in the final three months of the performance period year
  9. Small practice bonus 5 to 6, but applied at the Quality Category level, rather than being applied to overall CPS.

Category Changes

Quality

  1. Category weight: 45%
  2. Different quality measures may now be submitted via different collection types. For example, a group or clinician may submit some measures through an EHR and some through a QCDR, and the measures will be scored together as part of one set.
  3. Claims can be reported by individuals or groups (again), but only by clinicians in a small practice (15 or fewer ECs)
  4. Groups who report 5 or fewer quality measures and do not meet the CAHPS for MIPS sampling requirements, will have their quality denominator reduced by 10 and the missing measure will receive zero points
  5. NEW: Extremely Topped-Out Measures: A measure attains this status when the average mean performance is within the 98th to 100th percentile range. Such measures will be proposed for removal in the next rule-making lifecycle for other topped-out measures.
    1. QCDR measures are excluded from the topped-out measure life cycle.

Promoting Interoperability

  1. Category weight: 25%
  2. Requires 2015 Edition CEHRT
  3. Two new measures: Opioid Treatment Agreement & Query of PDMP
  4. PI Score based on a single, smaller set of measures, no longer divided into Base, Performance, and Bonus

Cost

  1. Category weight: 15%
  2. Adding 8 new episode-based measures
    1. Case minimum 10 for procedural episodes
      1. CMS will attribute episodes to each MIPS EC who renders a trigger service
    2. Case minimum 20 for acute inpatient medical condition episodes
      1. CMS will attribute episodes to each MIPS EC who bill inpatient E&M claim lines during a trigger inpatient hospitalization under a TIN that renders at least 30% of the inpatient E&M claim lines in that hospitalization

Improvement Activities

  1. Category weight: 15%
  2. Added 6 new activities, modified 5 existing activities, removed 1 activity

b. APM Performance Year 2019

  1. Several references to 2025 and beyond
  2. CEHRT requirements of Advanced APMs: 75% of Eligible Clinicians in each APM Entity
  3. Other Payer Advanced APMs: 75% beginning in 2020
  4. Expanding the 8% revenue-based nominal amount standard for AAPMs and Other Payer AAPMs through 2024
  5. Quality – must report at least one outcome measure
  6. All-Payer Combo Option and Other Payer AAPMS
    1. Established a multi-year streamlined determination process where payers and Eligible Clinicians can provide info on the length of the agreement as part of their initial submission, and have any resulting determination be effective for the duration of the agreement (or up to 5 years)
    2. Allowing QP determinations at the TIN level, in addition to the APM Entity and individual EC levels
    3. Allowing all payer types to be included in the 2019 Payer Initiated Other Payer AAPM determination process for the 2020 QP performance period
  7. Multi-Year Other Payer AAPMs
    1. Payers and eligible clinicians with payment arrangements determined to be Other Payer Advanced APM must re-submit all information for CMS review and redetermination on an annual basis.
      1. At the time of the initial submission, the payer and/or eligible clinician will provide information on the length of the agreement, and attest at the outset that they will submit information about any material changes to the payment arrangement during its duration.
      2. In subsequent years, if there were no changes to the payment arrangement, the payer and/or eligible clinician do not have to annually attest that there were no changes to the payment arrangement
    2. Updated the MIPS APM measure sets that apply for purposes of the APM scoring standard

c. Public Reporting via Physician Compare

  1. Quality – all measure under MIPS Quality are available for public reporting, unless the measure itself is new (i.e. in its first or second year.)
  2. Cost – subset of Cost measures is available for public reporting, except new measures
  3. PI – Include an indicator for Eligible Clinician or group “successful” performance
  4. PI – include objectives, activities, and/or measures

3. Quality Payment Program–Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstance Policy for the 2019 MIPS Payment Year;

CMS has had to respond to some hard-to-face realities* since the proposed rule was released in July. Of note, the first policy addition to the rulemaking provides relief for ACOs, in addition to other MIPS eligible clinicians affected by fires, hurricanes, natural or man-made disasters that have a significant negative impact on healthcare operations, area infrastructure or communication systems. They will have the option to self-attest and receive a hardship exception.

*Climate Change is real.

4. Provisions from the Medicare Shared Savings Program–Accountable Care Organizations–Pathways to Success;

This policy provides a new direction for the Shared Savings Program by establishing pathways to success through redesigning the participation options available under the program to encourage ACOs to transition to two-sided models, in which they may share in savings and are also accountable for repaying any shared losses.

It also offers to:

  1. Further promote interoperability
  2. Grant voluntary 6-month extension for existing ACOs whose participation agreements expire on Dec. 31, 2018.
  3. Align CEHRT with QPP

5. Expanding the Use of Telehealth Services for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder under the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act

This policy outlines plans to reimburse physicians for virtually checking in with patients and remotely evaluating recorded images.

As it turns out, people treated remotely for psoriasis did just as well as those treated in person — and were much happier about not having to travel to see their doctors.

The final Medicare physician payment rule also expands payment for treatments for stroke, kidney disease, mental health and substance abuse by removing restrictions on originating sites. Those are all provisions from the budget and opioid packages.

************************

You could take any of these sections and write opinion pieces, draw dotted lines to affected stakeholders, and venture down about 1000 rabbit holes with this rule.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma acknowledges that transitioning to value-based care will require all of us to stretch and maybe sit with a bit of discomfort.

In her words, “If we’re going to move our system to a patient-centered, value-based system, change is inevitable, and change is always hard for those whose livelihood is dependent on the status quo.”

If you’re looking for some direction with MIPS, ACOs, or your place in the value-based care ecosystem, get in touch.

If you want to hear Robin and I geek out over this rule, be on the lookout for a special episode of the HIT Like a Girl podcast, to which you can subscribe here.

Doc Vader Rants on CHF Readmissions and Scribes – Fun Friday

Posted on November 2, 2018 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.

It’s Friday after a week full of candy from Halloween. Given all the candy that’s been consumed this week, I thought Doc Vader’s most recent rant on CHF Bouncebacks was quite appropriate for a Fun Friday post. Doc Vader takes a swipe at scribes at the same time too (literally if you count lightsabers to the head, but watch to see what I mean). Check out the video below to see what I mean.

Unfortunately, I don’t think shame is the answer. I’m not sure a video like this is the answer either though. However, the popeyes piece gave me a good laugh. Plus, the best part is the comments on YouTube. Go and check them out and you can see that ZDoggMD’s videos really resonate with doctors. Here’s a sample of one that was hard to believe:

One time, a scribe didn’t know a diagnosis so she went with what she “thought it sounded like” and we ended up getting a call from the CDC because what she “thought it sounded like” was varicella major

And this one that’s even harder to believe:

On the scribe note: we had a patient with the surname Noenglish. Because I am pretty sure the scribe just heard the patient say “No English” when he/she asked the patient their surname.

I guess it’s fair to say that not all scribes are created equal. Not all doctors are either which is obvious when you watch Doc Vader in action.

What’s the Breakout of Small vs Large Health Insurance Plans?

Posted on October 31, 2018 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.

It never ceases to amaze me how our perceptions of how large something is can be skewed. It’s easy for us to see a really large company and assume that it must have the majority of the market share. This perception might be even more skewed because of companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft which really do have the majority of the market.

It’s a well-known idea in the tech startup world that the big winner will win the majority of the market, a second company will own most of the rest and then a long tail of others will have a small share and then eventually disappear. A great modern example of this is Uber followed by Lyft and then everyone else.

While this is an interesting way to look at a market when investing in tech companies, I’m surprised how often it doesn’t play out the same way in healthcare. The first time I saw this was in the lab market. Everyone knows that the 2 dominant players in the lab market are LabCorp and Quest. While they are both large companies, they still don’t have even close to a majority of the lab market. There are so many other independent labs and every hospital and health system has their own labs as well.

While looking at a recent report on the SMB Health Insurance Market by edifecs, I saw the same situation in the health insurance market. We all know about the massive health insurance companies that dominate the headlines. However, this report highlights the number of small and medium sized health plans out there. It was also interesting to note how these small plans are more concentrated in certain states.

If you don’t want to read the full report, this infographic summarizes a number of the stats and findings:

Is this result surprising to you? What does this mean for healthcare? Is there an opportunity for these small to medium size health plans to disrupt healthcare? Will we see more small plans chipping away at the large health plans?

How Connected Medical Device Platforms Can Conquer IoT Difficulties

Posted on October 29, 2018 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.

The following is a guest blog post by Abbas Dhilawala, CTO of Galen Data.

The medical industry in the United States and around the world faces unprecedented challenges in 2019. An aging population, growing costs throughout the system, and frequent regulatory changes are just a few reasons why healthcare providers are increasingly adopting new technologies that can reduce costs and drive operational efficiency throughout the healthcare industry.

To that end, a growing number of connected medical devices are using the internet of things (IoT) to collect, analyze and transmit health data or images to internal hospital servers or cloud-based storage. While these innovative devices are slowly changing the paradigm of patient care and lowering costs throughout the system, med tech companies are still facing major barriers in the widespread adoption of connected medical devices.

Here are a few challenges associated with connected medical device platforms and the IoT, and how med tech companies can work to overcome those difficulties in the near future.

Improving Interoperability Between Connected Medical Devices

The technology companies that are building connected medical devices envision a future where wearable medical devices will instantly collect, analyze and transmit patient data to a central data repository where it can be used to update electronic health records and provide physicians with real-time information about patient wellness. One of the major obstacles here is interoperability – such a system would require a standard format for data and a common communication protocol that would allow all of these connected devices to transmit data to a single system.

Health plans, health care providers and medical technology vendors must work together to develop a consensus for interoperability standards that will facilitate more open exchange of data between authorized parties.

Address Growing Concerns over Cybersecurity

As connected medical devices proliferate through our world, it is becoming clear that medical technology companies need to take bigger steps to secure these devices and the data they collect against data breaches and malicious software attacks. Research from the Ponemon institute found that 70 percent of medical device manufacturers believe an attack on their medical devices is likely, but just 17% have taken significant steps to protect against this kind of attack.

We can look at data from recent years to estimate the results of poor security oversight in the world of connected medical devices. McAfee reports that the healthcare industry saw a 211% increase in cybersecurity incidents in 2017 compared to 2016. In the same year, 65% of all healthcare-related ransomware attacks were conducted by exploiting software vulnerabilities in connected imaging devices. However you measure it, the connected medical devices produced today aren’t sufficiently secure to be used in modern healthcare settings without the risk of compromising patient data.

Medical technology companies need to reduce the security risk posed by their devices by investing in improved security measures that reduce or eliminate software vulnerabilities. Medical technology companies should adopt a secure-by-design approach, even if it means adding hardware that increases the power consumption or cost of the product. Healthcare providers and patients need to trust that connected medical devices provide adequate protections for sensitive data.

Work to Fully Understand User Needs

The market for connected medical devices is expected to triple between 2018 and 2023, reaching a value in excess of $60 billion globally. As healthcare plans and providers move towards value-based payment models, the companies that build connected medical devices will have to demonstrate that their devices improve patient outcomes when compared to the alternative.

Manufacturers of medical devices must develop stronger ties to clinicians and patients that use their products and invest more resources in collecting evidence about the efficacy of their devices in improving outcomes for patients. In an outcome-based model, health plans will only want to pay for connected medical devices that create genuine value in the marketplace, and preference will likely be shown for devices that lead the way in software security.

Focus on Actualizing Real Benefits

As IoT medical devices become increasingly common in the marketplace, med tech companies must develop use cases that highlight the benefits they can deliver to early adopters. This includes efficiencies like the ability to transmit data wirelessly to health care providers, the potential to automatically update patient health records using data from wearables, easier access to data for physicians and health plans, and overall lowered costs of medical care.

Medical technology companies are working towards building the systems and functions that will usher in a more data-driven and patient-focused approach to health care. The most successful manufacturers will be the ones that gain industry support by delivering reduced costs and enhancing patient outcomes through repeatable use cases.

Summary

Connected medical devices stand to revolutionize the global healthcare industry, but there are still many challenges to overcome before IoT medical devices take over. Manufacturers of IoT medical devices must improve interoperability between systems to promote data sharing, address growing concerns over device security and generate evidence that their devices can meet user requirements and improve patient outcomes. Med tech companies that focus on creating real, demonstrable benefits for their customers will have the best opportunities to succeed as the healthcare IoT expands in size over the next five years.

About Abbas Dhilawala
Abbas has over 13 years of experience developing enterprise grade software for the medical device industry. He is well versed with technology and industry standards regulating security and privacy of data. His expertise lies in programming, cloud, cyber security, data storage and regulated medical device software.

Healthcare Machine Learning Humor – Fun Friday

Posted on October 26, 2018 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.

Happy Friday to all of you! We’re excited to be back with another Fun Friday entry. This time it’s a little humor related to machine learning and healthcare brought to us by Andrew Beam.

As if this wasn’t enough Scott Kozicki replied to this tweet with his own:

Yep. Healthcare IT is hard. Chew on that as we head into the weekend.

Lost EMR Data

Posted on October 24, 2018 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.

More and more EMR data is being lost and this trend is just beginning. This is particularly true in the ambulatory space where ambulatory medical practices are being bought up left and right by health systems. In the vast majority of acquisitions, the acquired practice has to convert from their current EHR to the health system EHR. In that process, a few of them will convert some of the data, but in many cases, the health system leaves behind the data from the old EHR system. That data is lost.

Also, just to be clear, when I say the data is lost. It’s probably not fully lost. Most organizations continue to limp along the old system per the state records retention laws or they move it on to some archival solution. However, no one other than HIM has real access to the old system. If a doctor can’t easily access the data from the legacy EHR, then the data is lost from my point of view.

It’s a really unfortunate situation since much of that data has value that can impact the care being given to patients going forward. Plus, in the worst scenarios, the data is truly lost as the IT department sunsets an old system and doesn’t realize the proper way to retire a legacy system.

In a recent tweet, Galen Healthcare, experts in EHR data archiving, offered important insights into archiving old EMR and healthcare IT systems and highlighted some commonly missed data sets.

It’s amazing how many people forget the value and importance of things like a contextual audit trail. You’ll understand their value once you get a release of information request as part of a malpractice case. You don’t want to be there empty handed.

As EHR and other healthcare IT software matures and we start their replacement lifecycles, it’s going to be important that your organization has a detailed process for retiring old systems. You have to ensure your providers still have access to the clinical information they need, but that you also retain the other compliance information that protects your organization. Missing one or the other is a recipe for disaster.