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PHRs – A Difficult Pill to Digest?

Posted on October 31, 2011 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

A report from Manhattan Research earlier this month had some interesting statistics on consumer access to electronic medical records. According to the report, 56 million Americans accessed the patient records available from their medical providers’ EMRs, and another 41 million said they were interested in viewing their medical records online. Manhattan Research gets this information from surveying 8745 adults online and by phone in Q3 2011. Assuming the statistical basis for extrapolating this survey of 8745 people to the entire US population is sound (Nielsen does something similar to arrive at its daily media numbers), that’s a good 97 million people who are interested enough to have already accessed their records or are interested enough to, if given a chance.

But you know what’s the surprising tidbit? 140 million Americans have not used and are not interested in viewing their own medical records online! Predictably enough the report attributes this massive reluctance to an older or less tech-savvy population. I’m not sure how this will play out with the less tech-savvy population. With the older generation, this might just translate to access and maintenance of personal PHRs falling on authorized proxies – caregivers or adult children. Maybe this will span an entirely new profession – personal health advisers of sorts – whose sole job is to view your online medical records, explain them in plainspeak and research and offer up options. Certainly something to think about!

EMRs and the Paperless Medical Office

Posted on I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

From the American Medical Association comes a recent story on EMRs and the paperless medical office. I think it touches quite effectively on the issue facing medical offices today – transitioning new patients to the new EMR has proved a lot easier than turning older paper records electronic. In one of my earlier posts, I’d written about this topic. This article provides some clever strategies in identifying which paper records to convert earlier than others.

Among the points discussed:
EMR use does not equal paperless: And yet, these two ideas somehow seem conflated in people’s minds. A doctor I spoke to recently said he had assumed that the EMR vendor would convert older paper records to electronic as part of the EMR purchase package. Well, the vendor might – for a fee. Electronic conversion ranges from simple paper scans to character/word recognition. For truly rich use of your data, say for report generation purposes, you’ll want something that populates a database. In fact, “data transfer probably is going to be a significant line item in the EMR budget.”

Not all data is equal: Having an EMR doesn’t mean that every little scrap of paper from the patient’s records needs to go into it. Doctors can make the call on the kind of data that they find most useful. It would however need some amount of planning and insight, not to mention time, to make this happen. What’s important depends on specialty as well.

Not all patients are equal: If a small proportion of patients you see tend to be the ones that come for repeat consults, it might make more sense to get the entirety of their paper records into the EMR.

Don’t make a beeline for the shredder immediately: Really, this should be self-intuitive. Unless you’re sure that every important piece of information you need has been transferred to the EMR, and the EMR data matches what’s on paper, don’t shred the patient’s records.

The only real quibble I have with the article was where it mentions that one company found that “having the doctors enter the data ensured the integrity of the information and helped them learn the new system.” Seriously? Have your $200+ per hour physician enter older records into an EMR, when you can get a temp or third-party vendor to do it for a fraction of the cost?

The statistics at the end of the article are quite interesting. The first statistic is especially encouraging.

A survey of 200 health IT professionals found that hospitals are taking varied approaches to digitizing their records. (Respondents could give more than one answer.)
49% have scanned what they need and stayed within their budget.
23% are within budget but still have a backlog of records to scan.
54% are scanning records onsite.
29% are using a centralized scanning location.
72% are relying on full-time employees to scan.
9% are using third parties.
6% are using part-time staff.
44% are not explicitly measuring the effectiveness or productivity of their scanning process.
58% plan to shred paper records once scanning is complete.
38% plan to store paper files in onsite records rooms or offsite storage facilities.

Source: Survey by information management company Iron Mountain, July

Good Templating in EMRs and EHRs

Posted on I Written By

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC in 2009. He can be contacted at

Recently, I explored the question of what goes into a “good” template for EMR and EHR software programs. My post Good Templating in EMRs and EHRs can be found over at EHR Outlook.  Hope you enjoy it, and always remember that your EMR/EHR documentation style should be as you like it.

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC.  He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC, as a solo practice in 2009.  He can be reached at  He blogs at and

Digital Pharma East and Digital Pharma West

Posted on October 28, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and 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 meant to post about this a few weeks ago, but I was intrigued by a conference called Digital Pharma East in Philadelphia. I first noticed it, because Aaron Blackledge from Care Practice was one of the people listed to speak at it. Turns out they already have the next Digital Pharma West and Digital Pharma East on the schedule for 2012.

I’ve been traveling far too much to conferences, but at MGMA this past week I heard someone mention how much they learned from their experience attending Digital Pharma West. It’s like a whole other world out there.

The other thing that interested me about these Digital Pharma conferences is that a few of my advertisers are sponsors of the event. There’s little doubt from my experience that Pharma is trying to find its way into EMR & EHR software and other healthcare IT platforms. Although, I don’t think Pharma really knows how to do it right. I’m sure they’ll get there though. They have too much money not to make it happen.

I’ll be keeping an eye on it. I might have to get Aaron Blackledge to do a write up of his experience at the event.

101 Tips to Make Your EMR and EHR More Useful – EHR Tips 26-30

Posted on I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Time for the next entry covering Shawn Riley’s list of 101 Tips to Make your EMR and EHR More Useful. I met someone at a conference who commented that they liked this series of posts. I hope you’re all enjoying the series as well.

30. Remember that the EMR is only part of the safety problem
Remember that the EMR is just a tool. How you use that tool still matters. How you manage that tool matters. How you implement that tool matters. Safety is a result of great processes and that doesn’t change when you implement an EMR. In fact, I’d say it’s even more important. The same applies to bad clinical workflows. EMR won’t solve those bad workflows either. You can try to do a redesign of the workflows with the EMR implementation, but that often doesn’t go over well.

29. Errors should be easily reportable
To be honest, I’m not sure exactly which errors Shawn is talking about. I think I’ll take a different spin on it than what he intended and talk about the errors or issues that someone has using an EMR. This is particularly important when you first implement an EMR. You should want to know the errors that are occurring regularly so you can fix them. Make it easy for them to report them and provide proper encouragement and/or rewards for reporting errors they have with the system. Ignorance is not bliss…it always catches up to you eventually.

28. Use data to show both individual and system safety metrics
The key component that Shawn is describing here is the ability to report on various cross sections of data (individual vs system). If you can’t chop up your data to really know what’s going on in your system, then you’re not going to be able to really pinpoint the issues that users are having. Maybe it’s only one person who’s bringing down the average for the entire hospital. You don’t want to make sweeping changes to the system that annoy the majority of users when all you really needed to do was address the issues of an individual or small group of individuals.

27. Record management in the EMR is just as important as in paper
You thought HIM was done when you got the EMR. Wrong! Their role is still very important. Granted, it changes pretty dramatically, but in the clinics I’ve worked in the records management people were able to do a much more effective job improving the patient record in the EMR. Many of the things they did they never had time to do cause they were too busy pulling and filing paper charts.

26. Evaluate decision support tools for a fit to your needs
I believe that the clinical decision support tools are going to be the thing that changes the most over the next 5-10 years. You should definitely see how the clinical decision support tools they have available fit into your environment, but also spend as much time seeing what they’ve implemented and what their road map and method of implementing new clinical decision support tools is so you know where they’re going to be with their tools and product in five years.

If you want to see my analysis of the other 101 EMR and EHR tips, I’ll be updating this page with my 101 EMR and EHR tips analysis. So, click on that link to see the other EMR tips.

Social Media

Posted on October 27, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As most of you realize, I’m a huge fan of social media. Certainly social media isn’t without its risks, but that’s true about almost everything in life. I’ve found if you stick to doing and saying things that you would do in public, then you don’t have to fear social media. Instead, you can embrace all the benefits.

One of the biggest challenges we know face with social media is which social media you should use. There are far too many social media sites. In fact, it seems like almost any site that comes out today has some element of social in it. On that note, which social media websites should you use? The answer is different for everyone, but here’s how I use social media.

Twitter – I put this one first, because I think it’s the one that I use most. You can find my healthcare IT tweets on @techguy and @ehrandhit. I’m very active on both accounts. I use @techguy for lots of things that are not EMR or health IT related. The way I look at it is that @techguy is me and @ehrandhit is my EMR and Healthcare IT Twitter profile. Although, many of my EMR and healthcare IT friends/colleagues know me as @techguy. That’s fine with me as well.

The thing I like most about Twitter is the people you connect with on it. Sure, if you look through my stream you’ll see me interacting with a lot of people. Turns out I interact with even more through the private messages. Plus, Twitter is where I start a lot of relationships which then get taken to other means of communication that go beyond 140 characters.

Before I leave Twitter, just remember that Twitter is what you make it. If you want it to be about every time you eat something, then it will be that. If you want it to be something more, it can be that too. I see Twitter as a long term investment in networking. I can’t tell you how valuable it is.

LinkedIn – You can find my profile on LinkedIn here. However, if you think that LinkedIn is about those profiles, then you’re missing out on the best part of LinkedIn. Those profiles are an important feature of LinkedIn, but far from the meat of what’s great. In fact, when LinkedIn was just profiles you could barely consider it a social network. Back then it really was all about finding a job, hiring people and other recruiting related tasks. If it was still that way, I’d almost never visit LinkedIn.

Turns out, LinkedIn has done an amazing job at leveraging these trusted profiles into a really interesting professional social network. I know that many of you are part of the Healthcare Scene group on LinkedIn. My only wish was that I started it sooner. The thing I love most about the groups on LinkedIn is that any comments you add are tied to your profile. So, when you say something I can take a quick look at your background to gain a better understanding of your point of view. We’re all influenced by our background and experience and so it’s great to have a LinkedIn profile tied to what you say so people can understand some of what’s influenced you.

Facebook – I actually love Facebook and use it quite extensively. Although, I don’t use it that much for business. Sure we have an EMR and HIPAA facebook group that does quite well. In fact, it indicates that I might be in the minority as far as not really using Facebook for business since so many people use that group. I do love Facebook for connecting with friends and family that are now all over the world. That’s why I stick with it for personal instead of business, but business does creep on there sometimes.

Google+ – I’m still debating my use of Google Plus. If you look at my profile you’ll see that I tested it out a lot out of the gate and then have slowed more recently in my use of it. I still think it has potential. I also love the deep conversations you can have on Google Plus. My challenge with Google Plus has been trying to figure out what it does that I can’t do just as well or better with Twitter, LinkedIn and/or Facebook. I’ll keep playing around with it, but I’m not sure it will ever make it into my daily routine.

There you go. As I think about other social network sites I use, I don’t have any others that I really use regularly. Are there any others that you use regularly? I’m always interested in trying out new websites, but I have a feeling it will be hard for any other websites to take down these in my routine. I guess that’s why I think it’s a challenge for any new healthcare related website to crack into someone’s schedule. The one that does will take something special.

Pediatrics Face Unique Set of EMR Challenges

Posted on October 26, 2011 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.

My recent blog about Sandhills Pediatrics and its successful implementation of an EMR prompted, fortunately, a very intriguing comment from Chip Hart, a Director of Sales and Marketing at Physicians’ Computer Company who also maintains the blog “Confessions of a Pediatric Practice Consultant: True Stories from the land of Pediatric Practice Management.” He wrote: “I’ll spare everyone the diatribe about how ARRA deals with pediatricians and how only about 1/2 of them qualify, as I write to make one quick statement.” There’s a story there, I thought to myself. So, being an avid observer of pediatric EMR news and views, I reached out to him to gauge his thoughts on where healthcare IT solutions fit in the world of pediatricians.

What sort of challenges are you seeing pediatric practices facing when it comes to implementing EMR systems?
“On one hand, most of the challenges they face are hardly unique to pediatrics: resistance to change, practice differences, the lack of time and resources to be trained and configured properly, poor support, etc.

“Specific to pediatrics, there are two major issues.  First, children are not simply small adults and EMRs, as a rule, are written for adult medicine. There are many pediatric-specific features and functionality that a pediatric practice needs that simply aren’t met by your large, generic system. Simply claiming “pediatric templates” isn’t enough.

“Second, although every specialty complains about the hit that EMRs take on their productivity, pediatricians are obviously in the worst shape. Their volume is the highest and their payment is the lowest. Just adding a minute to each encounter means an extra 30 minutes of charting a day … and I hear stories, daily, of practices adding another 1 to 2 hours! Pediatricians can’t afford to see 5-percent fewer patients. Radiologists can. And pediatricians really like to eat dinner with their families.

“One second-tier issue is that less than 50 percent of all pediatric practices don’t qualify for ARRA and the regional extension centers (RECs), as a rule, don’t understand the Medicaid rules well.  Thus, we have clients and potential clients calling us to ask how they can get money they’ll never get, or to tell us some crazy thing a REC person told them.”

Are there different sets of challenges for those that are private practices versus those that are hospital/healthcare system affiliated?
“Unquestionably – the big one being that hospital/health system pediatricians simply won’t have a choice or even a voice in the process. Yes, I’ve worked with some who appear to be at the table, but in the end … you get what they hand you. Right now, Epic is pushing everyone out but that pendulum will swing back.

Also, those employed physicians don’t have to consider the impact on their productivity in the same way. I’ve met too many peds offices whose docs didn’t take home checks for a few months after implementation – that’s not right.”

Why do you think practices like Sandhills “get it” in terms of moving forward with HIT implementations, and just being forward thinkers in general?
“If I could answer that question, I’d only be working with those practices! Every successful practice I know is successful in a different way for different reasons, but there is one common trait I see in many of them: They run their practices like the businesses they are. Keep the docs in the exam rooms, where they can generate revenue, and hire professionals to actually run the business. Just because it says “MD” after your name doesn’t mean you’re the best-qualified person to run your office. Would Dirk Nowitski or Lebron James make good coaches? I doubt it.

“In the case of Sandhills, they have some excellent, excellent staff who bring some non-healthcare experience to the table. Although I’ve seen it fail, having some management that comes from outside the healthcare system to ask and answer some tough questions pays off for a lot of practices.

“We’ve enjoyed working with them.  I should also add that they, like the other ‘heads up’ clients I know, realize that we’re on the same team. That helps tremendously.”

How long have you offered the PCC EMR? What sort of up tick in implementations have you seen since ARRA/HITECH came about?
“Our PM has had pediatric clinical features (immunization tracking, registry interfaces, well visit recall, etc.) for almost 30 years, but the official EMR itself was released about 2 years ago.

“When ARRA was first announced, we received a lot of calls, all along the lines of, “Where do I get my free money?”  It was very frustrating to explain that it would be state dependent (about a quarter of them still can’t get it) and half of our clients will never qualify due to the Medicaid requirements.

“Things are starting to settle down and get organized.  Still, we are busier right now than we have ever been. We are telling potential clients they might get installed in May or June. A nice problem to have, but it’s not fun to get some excited only to explain it will be 6 months, especially when it used to be 6 weeks!”

Are any of your pediatric clients thinking of becoming involved in ACOs?
“Thinking?  Yes.  They’re all being told how if they don’t get big, they’ll be out of business, which is utter BS. The rules, as we know them now, seem to make no sense whatsoever for pediatricians. I did see a compelling presentation by Colleen Kraft at the AAP NCE last week that very much supported the ACO-esque model she employs, but I think her situation is both unique and not potentially an ACO.

“With some issues – 5010, PCMH, etc. – we take a pro-active stance. With ACOs, I’m glad to let someone else jump first.”

How will your solutions enable your customers to integrate with ACOs or coordinated care programs?
“Far too soon to tell.  In general, I can say, “Hey, we have had really good reports that have tracked patient populations for years.”  Our clients use them all the time, as it’s both good medicine and good business.  As a practical tool, I’d put our patient recall program up against anyone’s – your front desk can crank out a list of kids who need flu shots or asthma followups in seconds – but we don’t know quite what the ACOs will need.

“One thing we’ve learned, though: when a small peds office puts its data in the hands of a large entity, it’s worth double-checking the results. For more than 20 years, I’ve helped our clients fight insurance companies (which an ACO emulates) and the insurance companies never have the data right. Ever. So if a private peds office can work with us and still be in an ACO, they’ll be able to confirm the accounting.

“Here’s my prediction: As ACOs grow, the practices who participate are going to regret losing control of their data. I’m really going out on a limb there, I know.

What do you think is the greatest challenge being faced by pediatrics when it comes to keeping up with healthcare IT?
“Not getting run over by the Juggernaut.  Everyone else’s demands are put ahead of the pediatricians and the peds usually get served what everyone else is eating.  And it rarely suits them.

“I also tell them all the time: ignore the Meaningful Use money. Completely. And ignore the “deal” that you can get from your local hospital/IPA/etc. Pick the EHR that suits you the most and go with that. All the discounts or federal checks in the world won’t make up for even a 5-percent hit in your productivity or having to spend an extra 10-20 hours a month on charting or IT work. If you do like the local deal, great!  But don’t feel like you have to leap in.”

So there you have it folks. I’d be interested to hear from a pediatrician or two who has gone through or is going through some sort of HIT implementation as a follow-up to these views. Feel free to get in touch with me via the comments section below.

An Interesting MGMA Observation

Posted on October 25, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Lately I’ve been traveling to more and more EMR and Healthcare IT related conferences. The past couple days I’ve been enjoying my time at the MGMA conference in Las Vegas (although, I didn’t have to travel to this one since I live in Las Vegas). This is my first time attending the MGMA conference. From what I can tell the attendance and exhibit hall have done very well. In fact, I just asked and they’ve had 3500 conference attendees and a total of 5700 people in Las Vegas for the MGMA conference. They tell me that’s a 19% growth over last year.

What I’ve found most interesting is that unlike many conferences I’ve been at, the sessions at MGMA have been incredibly full. In fact, many of them have been standing room only. This is in contrast to the exhibit floor which has felt rather empty. There are a few short periods that were busy in the exhibit hall, but overall it seems like MGMA attendees prefer to go to the educational session as opposed to being in the exhibit hall.

I asked professional conference attender (otherwise known as Healthcare IT journalist) Neil Versel who blogs at Meaningful Health IT News why this might be the case. He said that maybe those attending MGMA have already made their EHR selection, so they’re more interested in hearing from experts as opposed to browsing products. Of course, he did highlight that it was those that attended had already implemented an EHR since we know that the majority have not yet implemented an EHR.

While I think this could be part of the reason, I wonder if there’s not something more at work. If I’d done better at taking notes during the Marcus Buckingham keynote, I could maybe look at the profiles he found in the MGMA audience to explain it. A part of me wonders how many of the MGMA attendees are decision makers as opposed to operational leaders. I’m sure they’re all over the spectrum, but sessions are likely more interesting for operations and compliance people.

As a first time attendee, I’ve been really impressed with MGMA. They’re well organized and brought together a lot of interesting vendors and attendees.

Health It in New Zealand Vs US: A Comparison

Posted on October 24, 2011 I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

I’d been corresponding with a PR person for a story I’m doing on ambulatory exoskeletons. She dug me up on Twitter, figured I dabbled in a few things health IT and asked if I would be interested in a recently published report on how health IT influences New Zealand’s healthcare. Now, unbeknownst to her, I also have an abiding interest in all things Kiwi, having lived in Wellington for a brief bit of time, so I was curious to know what this report contained.

The press release introducing the report started with an endorsement from John D. Halamka, so that was a huge plus in its favor. It outlined things that New Zealand has done right:
– It has a population the size of Colorado, and ranks 23rd among OECD countries (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, basically all of Europe, Aus and NZ, US, Canada, Mexico and industrialized nations in Asia) but is ranked number 1 or number 2 in several healthcare categories, including overall quality care delivery (92%), EMR use by doctors (97%), use of computerized patient care reminders (92%)
– Demographically similar to the US in terms of urban/rural population split (86:14 NZ, 81:19 US), Information and Communication Technology development index, has lower physician, nurse and dentist density per 10,000 (NZ: 87,4,10 resply, US: 27, 98, 16 resply) but spends far less than the US on healthcare (NZ spends 9.8 percent of its GDP, US spends about 16 percent of its GDP)

There are far too many of these interesting compare and contrast stats for me to do justice to them in this little space, so I’ll suggest you read the report in its entirety (Do not look at Table 5 if you want to avoid serious heartburn). There are some interesting case studies towards the end of the report and plenty to keep you busy reading for quite some time.

For me, the most interesting part of the report dealt with how far NZ health infrastructure has come since its national medical IT policy was implemented in 2005. New Zealand, as the report states, has a single layer of national government, low population size, making it easier to implement a standard health IT policy. However, it’s also interesting what they’ve been able to achieve infrastructurally, which is the establishment of the National Health Index, the Health Practitioner Index and a Medical Warnings System.

To those of us who associate indices with performance, the National Health “Index” seems clunkily named, and is not a measure of how healthy Kiwis are. New Zealand’s NHI is really a kind of health ID assigned to each patient who uses the country’s health and disability support services. The report says children born in New Zealand are automatically assigned an NHI at birth and about 95 percent of the population have their NHI. Where the NHI comes handy is in tracking of patient medical records. Whether a patient moves from hospital to community to private care or any combination you can think of, all EMR documentation generated along the way reference the unique NHI for the patient. The same concept applies to Health Practitioner Index, which is again a unique ID identifying every medical practitioner in a myriad of medical professions.

The Medical Warnings System is probably the most interesting piece of the New Zealand health infrastructure. It is a system containing details of all significant medical conditions associated with the patient. A flag against the NHI tells health workers that the patient has, say, a significant medical condition, or is allergic to some medicines.

Put together, this report paints us a picture of where we could take US healthcare over the next few years – from a logical way to collect patient data under one ID to a comprehensive electronics warnings system that takes the guesswork out of care. (One could argue that the American SSN serves pretty much the same purpose, but we certainly don’t have a system where records are organized by SSN, or used by health workers to communicate with one another.)

Meaningful Use Attestation: GE Admits Problems with Two Centricity Products

Posted on I Written By

Priya Ramachandran is a Maryland based freelance writer. In a former life, she wrote software code and managed Sarbanes Oxley related audits for IT departments. She now enjoys writing about healthcare, science and technology.

If you have been using GE Healthcare’s Centricity Practice Solution or Centricity Electronic Medical Record solution to demonstrate Meaningful Use, you might be in for something of a rude shock. According to an InformationWeek Healthcare story by Neil Versel,

“Some customers of GE Healthcare may not be able to achieve Meaningful Use with their current electronic health records (EMR) systems, as the vendor has discovered “inaccuracies” in its software’s reporting functions.”

According to Versel, GE admitted the problem in a letter that went out to users of the two Centricity products on Thursday and promised a solution by end-November. At the time the InformationWeek story was written, this GE link was not working, but is now. In the document, GE details exactly where its reporting was going wrong. It appears as if the problems lay in the following areas:
– the default race and ethnicity provided by GE’s Centricity products didn’t always map exactly to OMB’s race and ethnicity categories (as an example, GE’s Centricity provided for a single Multi-Racial category, whereas OMB requires that a multiracial person be allowed to select as many races as s/he wants)
– inaccurate recording of smoking status
– inadequate training of doctors on educating their patients about medications

Among the recommendations put forward by GE:

– If you’ve already attested for 2011, run reports again for attestation period once GE issues its software update. If the results don’t match up,
a) check if you clear all applicable Meaningful Use thresholds for the original period
b) check if you meet thresholds for all applicable measures

– If you haven’t attested for 2011, hold off on attesting till GE issues its updates.

– Prospectively follow GE’s recommendations for the rest of the year

While the GE letter points out there is still time till Feb 29, 2012 for 2011 attestations, these were my first reactions to reading this piece of news:
– Even a Stage 1 Meaningful Use certified software from a well-known company is not immune to inaccuracies in reporting

– It might seem like a trivial change to move from “Multi-racial” to allowing multiple check-boxes for races, but it could mean the difference between demonstrating MU and not being able to. From GE’s perspective, I would want to know why these small-seeming errors were not caught at the time these Centricity products were Stage 1 MU certified

– How many/what percentage of Centricity EMR and Practice Solution users were affected? It’s not very clear/GE doesn’t say.

– The letter and recommendations don’t show up on GE Healthcare website, and to me it’s also quite interesting that a story like this doesn’t have any hits beyond the InformationWeek article.

– Are there any recourses apart from following GE directives? Maybe if you have softwares other than GE’s Centricity, maybe you can cross-check your results. But I don’t know how many practices actually can afford two or more EMRs. So this really might be a worthless suggestion, unless you can press one of those free EMRs into service!

Full Disclosure: GE is an advertiser on this site, but I’m not sure Priya Ramachandran knew that when she wrote this article.