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Retail Clinics Are Not the Enemy, Inconvenience Is!

Posted on June 16, 2017 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.

Check out this incredible insight that Gabriel Perna shared on Twitter:

What a great insight and something that most of the entrenched healthcare people don’t understand. Retail clinics are not the enemy, inconvenience is.

In many ways, it reminds me of the approach that taxi cabs took to Uber and Lyft. Taxis described them as evil as opposed to understanding why consumers wanted to use Uber and Lyft instead of a taxi cab. If the taxi cab industry would have understood the conveniences that Uber and Lyft provided customers, they could have replicated it and made Uber and Lyft disappear (or at least they could have battled them more effective than they’ve done to date).

Gabriel Perna further describes the issues of retail clinics and AMA’s approach to retail clinics in his article and this excerpt:

There are many reasons for this phenomenon [growth of retail clinics], but more than anything though, retail clinics are convenient and many physician offices are not. Because of this, the AMA shouldn’t be trying to treat the retail clinics as some kind of foreign invader, but rather use their rise to prominence as a way to guide physician practices forward. For instance, getting in to see a doctor shouldn’t be a three-week endeavor, especially when the patient is sick and needs attention immediately. However, that’s what has happened. Personally, I’ve been told “the doctor doesn’t have anything open for at least a month” more times than I can count.

It’s simple supply and demand. If you or your child needs to see someone immediately because of an illness and your doctor’s office can’t take in you for a week, and there happens to be a retail clinic down the street, guess where you’re going? Any hesitations you may have over your care being fragmented, the limited ability of your retail clinic physician, or anything else will go out the window pretty quickly.

I agree completely with the idea that convenience is key. However, what Gabriel doesn’t point out is that the fact that doctors have a 3 week waiting list for patients is why they don’t care about offering convenience to their patients. They have enough patients and so they don’t see why they should change.

You can imagine the taxi cab industry was in a similar position. They had plenty of people using their taxi service. They didn’t see how this new entrant could cause them trouble because they were unsafe and whatever other reasons they rationalized why the new entrant wouldn’t be accepted by the masses. Are we seeing the same thing with retail clinics vs traditional healthcare? I think so. Will it eventually catch up to them? I think so.

What’s even more interesting in healthcare is that retail clinics are just one thing that’s attacking the status quo. Telemedicine is as well. Home health apps and sensors are. AI is. etc etc etc. All of these have the potential to really disrupt the way we consume healthcare.

The question remains: Will traditional healthcare system be disrupted or will they embrace these changes and make them new tools in how they offer care? It took the taxi cab industry years to adapt and build an app that worked like Uber and Lyft. However, it was too late for them. I don’t think it’s too late for healthcare, but it’s getting close.

Sorting Through HIT’s Cultural Revolutions

Posted on June 15, 2017 I Written By

When Carl Bergman isn't rooting for the Washington Nationals or searching for a Steeler bar, he’s Managing Partner of EHRSelector.com.For the last dozen years, he’s concentrated on EHR consulting and writing. He spent the 80s and 90s as an itinerant project manager doing his small part for the dot com bubble. Prior to that, Bergman served a ten year stretch in the District of Columbia government as a policy and fiscal analyst, a role he recently repeated for a Council member.

HIT is a small ship in the large IT sea. Whether we like it or not whatever stirs IT will rock HIT’s boat – to stretch an analogy. Sometimes it’s a tidal change in how we do business. Dial up modems, for example, gave way to high speed lines revolutionizing all that they touched.

Sometimes these revolutions – to switch analogies are much welcome and undeniable. No one is going back to MS-DOS or parallel interfaced printers. Sometimes, though, IT gets caught up in cultural revolutions (CRs) that eventually fade and disappear, but take a toll before their done and gone.

Chinese Cultural Revolution Poster

Chinese Cultural Revolution Poster. Source: chineseposters.net

By cultural revolutions I don’t mean the extremes of Chairman Mao’s creation, with Red Guards who destroyed everything and everyone in their path. We’re far more kinder and gentler than that. The CRs I’m talking about are organizational or technical fads noted for their promoters’ evangelical zeal. Heavily promoted they soak up organizational time and effort often with little to show.

To be sure IT’s not the only organizational sphere with fads. DOD’s Program, Performance Budgeting System (PPBS) is a famous 1960s example. It promised an almost mechanical solution to DOD’s major logistical, operational and performance review problems. It didn’t. Little changed. That doesn’t mean PPBS didn’t have some practical aspects, or that it didn’t leave behind some improvements. However, little justified its over blown hype and massive organizational disruption.

IT and HIT have had their share. Six Sigma, CMMI, and ISO 9000 quickly come to mind. I would add XML and Big Data. Advocates pushed these in the name of curing many woes or reaching new heights by adopting a new way of thinking or doing. However, CRs almost always just put old beer in new bottles.

Spotting a Cultural Revolution

Each day brings something new in IT/HIT. Here some ways to determine if what you’re facing is a fad or not:

  • Advocates. Who’s promoting it? Who certified them and what did that entail?
  • Analogues. Who’s implemented the CR and can you speak to them freely?
  • Client Demand. What do your clients think? Do they want you to adopt the new ways?
  • Effort. What effort will it take to adopt the CR? What are the opportunity costs?
  • Focus. Does the CR require your staff to stop what it’s doing and attend lengthy, expensive seminars?
  • Jargon. Do the advocates speak terms you know, or do they promote a whole new language you’ll have to master?
  • Organizational Fit. How well does the CR fit into your current way of doing things?
  • Payoff. What are the CR’s specific, definable advantages?
  • Segments. Does the CR give you a menu of choices or is it an all or nothing approach?
  • Sponsors. Who’s the CR author? Is it a standards organization, a movement by knowledgeable users or a self referencing group?

CRs aren’t a simple matter of useful or not. Sometimes even fads can bring a useful approach wrapped up in hyperbole.  For example, XML advocates claimed it would change everything. After that promotional tide receded, XML became another tool. The challenge, then, is being able to see if the current CR really offers anything new and what it really is.

EHR Data – Is it Improving Healthcare?

Posted on June 14, 2017 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 written pretty regularly about the wave of data that’s coming to the world of healthcare. It’s really something quite extraordinary. However, data in itself doesn’t solve anything. So, I was bothered by this tweet which suggested that technology was improving healthcare by illustrating that more and more health data was being collected by technology.

Here’s the tweet:

Attached to this tweet is the following image which doesn’t illustrate the above assertion at all.

No one believes that technology can help improve healthcare more than me. However, it’s not right to make that assertion on Twitter and then use the increased collection of healthcare data as proof of this fact. We can collect all the data in the world and healthcare can remain exactly as it is today.

This reminds me of when the government suggested that HITECH (Meaningful Use) was a success based on graphs that show that most organizations have adopted an EHR. I guess if EHR adoption is your goal, then it was a success. However, if your goal is to use technology to improve healthcare, then EHR adoption is a vanity metric.

We need to stop focusing on adoption and start focusing more on metrics that really matter. Are we improving care? Are we lowering the cost of healthcare? Are we improving the efficiency of our healthcare providers? If technology can’t help you in one of these areas, then we should question why we’re doing it. Let’s bring some sanity back to our approach to healthcare technology.

Embracing Quality: What’s Next in the Shift to Value-Based Care, and How to Prepare

Posted on June 13, 2017 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Brad Hill, Chief Revenue Officer at RemitDATA.

Whatever the future holds for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the shift to value-based care is likely here to stay. The number of providers and payers implementing value-based reimbursement contracts has grown steadily over the past few years. A survey of 465 payers and hospitals conducted in 2016 by ORC International and McKesson revealed that 58 percent are moving forward with incorporating value-based reimbursement protocols. The study, “Journey to Value: The State of Value-Based Reimbursements in 2016” further revealed that as healthcare continues to adopt full value-based reimbursement, bundled payments are the fastest growing with projections that they will continue to grow the fastest over the next five years, and that network strategies are changing, becoming narrower and more selective, creating challenges among many payers and hospitals as they struggle to scale these complex strategies.

Given the growth of adoption of value-based care, there are certainly many hurdles to clear in the near future as policymakers decide on how they plan to repeal and replace the ACA. A January 2017 report by the Urban Institute funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation revealed that some of the top concerns with some potential scenarios being floated by policymakers include concerns over an immediate repeal of the individual mandate with delayed repeal of financial subsidies; delayed repeal of the ACA without its concurrent replacement; and a cutoff of cost-sharing subsidies in 2017.

With the assumption that value-based healthcare is here to stay, what steps can you take to continue to prepare for value-based payments? The best advice would be to continue on with a “business as usual” mindset, stay focused and ensure all business processes are ready for this shift by continuing to:

  1. Help providers establish baselines and understand their true cost of conducting business as a baseline for assuming risk.
  2. Analyze your revenue cycle. Look at the big picture for your practice to analyze service costs and reimbursements for each – determine if margins are in-line with peers.  Identify internal staff processing time and turnaround times by payer. Evaluate whether there are any glaring issues or problems that need to be addressed to reduce A/R days and improve reimbursement rates.
  3. Determine whether there are reimbursement issues for specific payers or if the problem is broader in nature. Are your peers experiencing the same issues with the same payers?
  4. Capture data analysis for practice improvement. With emerging payment models, hospitals and practices will need expertise in evaluating data and knowledge in how to make business adjustments to keep the organization profitable.
  5. Determine how you can scale and grow specific payment models. Consider, for example, a provider group that maintains 4 different payment models and 10 different payers. The provider group will need to determine whether this system is sustainable once payment models shift.
  6. Break down department silos in determining cost allocation rules. Providers need a cost accounting system that can help determine exact costs needed to provide care and to identify highest cost areas. Cost accounting systems are typically managed by the finance team. There needs to be clinical and operational input from all departments to make a difference. Collaborate across all departments to determine costs, and design rules and methodologies that take each into account.
  7. Compare your financial health to that of your peers. Comparative analytics can help by giving you insights and data to determine your practice’s operational health. Determine whether you are taking longer to submit claims than your peers, have a higher percentage of denied claims for a specific service, percentage of billed to allowed amounts and more.

Though change is a part of the healthcare industry’s DNA, ensuring business processes are in line, and leveraging data to do so will help organizations adapt to anything that comes their way.

Will the eCW Settlement Impact MACRA? – MACRA Monday

Posted on June 12, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is part of the MACRA Monday series of blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

In case you missed it, eCW settled a whistleblower lawsuit for $155 million. At the core of the lawsuit were the Medicare meaningful use payments that were paid to eCWs customers. The lawsuit alleged that eCW had been inappropriately certified as an EHR and told their customers that they were appropriately certified.

Many in the industry including myself are suggesting that eCW isn’t the only EHR vendor that could run into these types of issues. It’s quite easy for an EHR vendor to pass the EHR certification test. It’s another thing to have actually implemented all of the EHR certification requirements. We’ll see what other lawsuits come forward.

What does this settlement mean for MACRA?

Before the eCW settlement, many in the EHR industry didn’t realize their risk profile because their customers were getting government money. Once your customers start taking government money, the legal framework really changes. This is going to be true with the MACRA program as well.

It behooves every EHR vendor to really make sure they are following the spirit of the law and not just trying to game the EHR certification process (which we all know is easily gamed). I expect that most EHR vendors will step up their game and make a good faith effort to comply. I think this is the hope of the US Attorney’s office given their press release about the settlement.

We’re still waiting to see if the eCW settlement will cause any issues for eCW users who attested with the inappropriately certified eCW software. My prediction is that they’ll be fine, but some have argued that their meaningful use incentive payments could be pulled too. If that happens, that could really impact participation in the MACRA/MIPS program.

You can be sure that healthcare organization’s compliance officers are going to spend more time verifying their EHR vendor’s certification. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some new contracts that include some new language to cover the healthcare organization if their EHR has issues similar to eCW.

One other thing that might be an issue is those organizations that choose to switch to a new EHR from eCW. EHR switching has always been an issue when it comes to meaningful use and now MACRA and MIPS. We’ll have to dive into EHR switching and MACRA in a future post.

What impact do you think the eCW settlement will have on MACRA?

Do We Need Stricter Scribe Standards?

Posted on June 9, 2017 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 most readers will know, scribes have gone from a neat idea to a fixture in many clinical settings. Though the long-term effect of their participation has yet to be determined, so far it seems that scribes have been proven to be quite useful. Not only are they saving time, they’re helping physicians connect with patients again, rather than their computer screen.

That being said, when you hire a scribe you don’t always know what you’re getting. After all, there’s no such thing as a scribe certification accepted by the healthcare industry as a whole. There are schools which offer aspiring scribes a thorough education in the essentials of medical terminology and practice, but they don’t need to adhere to a single national standard.

This lack of standardization could turn out to be a problem, according to Dr. Jeffrey Gold. In an article for The Doctor Weighs In, Dr. Gold concedes that scribes seem to be offering real benefits, noting that researchers have found that scribes can enhance physician efficiency, boost physician satisfaction and even increase billing. And he notes that scribes may improve patient satisfaction, as they make it easier for physicians to connect with patients during visits.

But despite the benefits they offer, Dr. Gold says he’s concerned about the lack of regulation concerning how scribes participate in healthcare. For example, he notes that researchers haven’t yet assessed scribes’ ability to interface safely with the EMR.

His concerns seems to be shared by the Joint Commission, which requires that providers signed all scribe-generated orders prior to implementation, that healthcare organizations document the ability of scribes to perform their assigned tasks. These concerns arise because scribes aren’t held to a common standard, Dr. Gold contends.

“Scribes have a wide variety of backgrounds, including premed students and certified medical assistants,” he notes. “…Unfortunately, few rules or standards currently exist that designate appropriate scribe activities.”

Scribe training varies a great deal as well, he notes. To make his point, Dr. Gold cites a study by medical malpractice insurer The Doctors Company and Oregon Health and Science University which looked at scribe capabilities and backgrounds. He notes that the survey, which had 335 respondents, found that 44% of scribes had no prior experience, and that only 22% of scribes have had any form of certification.

Under these circumstances, using scribes might come with some unexpected risks, he suggests. “The combination of rapid growth in scribe use, lack of standardized training, variability in scribe experience, and variability in both EHR exposure and EHR workflows raises the concern that scribes may introduce potential negative unintended consequences to either workflow or documentation,” he writes.

It is worth noting that another of Dr. Gold’s fears is that scribes will be asked to take on more complex EMR work which, if handled badly, could also lead to problems. He’s concerned that scribes may simply accumulate such duties due to “functional creep.”

For myself, while I understand Dr. Gold’s concerns, I don’t feel the situation is as dire as he suggests. Yes, it would probably be appropriate and beneficial to standardize scribe training, as it never hurts to boost the professionalism of any party participating in the care process. At the same time, though, with many scribes being trained largely by their employers, there will be a lot of variation in outcomes anyway.

But maybe I’m wrong. What do you think? Is it important to give scribes or standardized training and ask them to meet national certification standards? Or are they working effectively as is?

5 Stages of Patient Frustration and Satisfaction Infographic

Posted on June 8, 2017 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.

SCI Solutions sent me a really interesting infographic that looks at the 5 stages of patient frustration, but also the 5 stages of patient satisfaction. Check it out below:

I’m not sure that it’s best to describe these as stages since I’m not sure that they always flow through the various stages. Instead, I would rather describe them as patient states or even patient emotions. Regardless of the semantics, I like how this graphic explains the emotions patients feel both good and bad. It’s worth looking at your workflow and seeing where you can move from the frustrated patient emotions and into the happy patient emotions.

Roadmap to Succeed in Value Based Contracts with Mark Anderson

Posted on June 7, 2017 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.

Nishanth Varghese, Marketing Director at Innovaccer, sat down to talk with Mark R. Anderson, Chief Operating Officer at East Texas Healthcare System and a well-known thought leader with over 44 years of healthcare experience, about the ongoing shift from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement.

This is an extremely important topic and Mark Anderson never pulls punches and has a deep understanding of healthcare. So, take 34 minutes and let Mark catch you up to speed on what’s happening with value based contracts.

Is there anything Mark Anderson didn’t cover in this discussion that we should know. Anything that he talked about where you have a different perspective? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.

The EMR Vendor’s Dilemma

Posted on June 6, 2017 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.

Yesterday, I had a great conversation with an executive at one of the leading EMR vendors. During our conversation, she stressed that her company was focused on the future – not on shoring up its existing infrastructure, but rather, rebuilding its code into something “transformational.”

In describing her company’s next steps, she touched on many familiar bases, including population health, patient registries and mobile- first deployment to support clinicians. She told me that after several years of development, she felt her company was truly ready to take on operational challenges like delivering value-based care and conducting disease surveillance.

All that being said – with all due respect to the gracious exec with whom I spoke – I wouldn’t want to be a vendor trying to be transformed at the moment. As I see it, vendors who want to keep up with current EMR trends are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, such vendors need to support providers’ evolving health IT needs, which are changing rapidly as new models of care delivery are emerging. Not only do they need to provide the powerhouse infrastructure necessary to handle and route massive floods of data, they also need to help their customers reach and engage consumers in new ways.

To do so, however, they need to shoot at moving targets, or they won’t meet provider demand. Providers may not be sure what shape certain processes will take, but they still expect EMR vendors to keep up with their needs nonetheless. And that can certainly be tricky these days.

For example, while everybody is talking about population health management, as far as I know we still haven’t adopted a widely-accepted model for adopting it. Sure, people are arriving at many of the same conclusions about pop health, but their approach to rolling it out varies widely.  And that makes things very tough for vendors to create pop health technology.

And what about patient engagement solutions? At present, the tools providers use to engage patients with their care are all over the map, from portals to mobile apps to back-end systems using predictive analytics. Synchronizing and storing the data generated by these solutions is challenging enough. Figuring out what configuration of options actually produces results is even harder, and nobody, including the savviest EMR vendors, can be sure what the consensus model will be in the future.

Look, I’m aware that virtually all software vendors face this problem. It’s difficult as heck to decide when to lead the industry you serve and when to let the industry lead you. Straddling these two approaches successfully is what separates the men from the boys — or the girls from the women — and dictates who the winners and losers are in any technology market.

But arguably, health IT vendors face a particularly difficult challenge when it comes to keeping up with the times. There’s certainly few industries are in a greater state of flux, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

It will take some very fancy footwork to dance gracefully with providers. Within a few years, we’ll look back and know vendors adapted just enough.

New MIPS Eligibility Tool – MACRA Monday

Posted on June 5, 2017 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This post is part of the MACRA Monday series of blog posts where we dive into the details of the MACRA Quality Payment Program.

If you aren’t sure about your eligibility for MACRA (Quality Payment Program if you prefer), then check out CMS’ new tool which will help you see if you can participate in MIPS. In fact, you can check if anyone is eligible to participate in MIPS if you know their NPI number (which is easily available with a search on Google). Here’s the output I got for a provider that I looked up:

Pretty straight forward. This doctor can participate in MIPS as an individual or with his group. It would be really nice if this screen also informed the doctor about the penalties and bonuses they could receive depending on how they choose to approach MIPS. However, I guess they would have to be careful about how specific they were with that data since anyone can search any provider. However, even some generic details on the penalties and/or incentives would be a smart addition to this screen. The “What Can I Do Now?” button does lead to some more information, but it’s not very compelling.

I liked this friendly reminder from @JournalofCP:

MACRA and MIPS are upon us. How are you approaching it?