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eClinicalWorks Faces Additional Fine For Violating Terms Of Fraud Settlement

Posted on August 10, 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.

In mid-2017, the news broke that EHR vendor eClinicalWorks had agreed to pay $155 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit brought by a former employee. The government had accused the company of doctoring its code to cover the fact that its platform couldn’t pass certification testing,

Following the agreement with the government, eCW was hit with two class-action lawsuits related to the certification fraud, one filed by a group of clinicians over funds lost due to the certification and another by patients who say that data display errors may have affected their care.

Unfortunately for eCW, its legal troubles aren’t over. The vendor is now on the hook for a fine it incurred for failing to comply with the Corporate Integrity Agreement it signed as part of its settlement deal. The $132,500 fine probably won’t have a massive impact on the company, but it’s a reminder of how much trouble the certification problem continues to cause.

In signing the CIA, which will be in place for five years, eCW agreed to a number of things, including that it would adhere to software standards and practices, identify and address patient safety and certification issues and meet obligations to existing and future customers. eCW also promised to report patient safety issues in a timely manner.

Apparently, it didn’t do so, and that triggered the penalty stipulated in the CIA. Among the terms buried in the hefty CIA document is that the vendor would be fined $2,500 for each day eCW failed to establish and implement patient safety issues as reportable events. Somehow, the vendor let this go for almost two months. Bummer.

Of course, eCW leaders must be reeling. This has to have been the most painful year in the company’s history, without a doubt. Customers are understandably quite angry with eCW, and some of them are suing. Patients are suing. Its reputation has taken a major hit.

The financial implications of the settlement are staggering too. Very few companies could cover a $155 million payout without a struggle, and even if a business liability insurer is covering the loss, the settlement can’t be good for its relationships with financial institutions. It’s a mess I’d wish on no one.

On the other hand, am I being too harsh when I suggest that under the circumstances, letting a reporting problem go for 53 days doesn’t speak well of eCW’s recovery? Yes, I’m sure that keeping up with CIA requirements has been pretty burdensome, but we’re talking about survival here.

I’m not going to hazard a guess as to whether eCW is on the skids or just struggling to recover from a massive blow to its fundament. But geez, folks. Let’s hope you get on top of these issues soon. Violating the terms of the CIA within year two of the five-year agreement doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

How Are Ambulatory Practices Going to Compete with Health Systems?

Posted on July 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.

We’ve all seen the stories about the explosion of data and the way healthcare is getting more personalized. However, David Chou recently pointed out how the data is one thing, but figuring out the role everyone plays in your healthcare organization is just as important as the data itself. It gets complex quickly as this graphic David shared shows:

This is a great graphic of the healthcare analytics roles and responsibilities that will be needed to make the personalized medicine future a reality. Plus, it will be key to getting a lot of the value out of our past EHR investments. Many hospitals and health systems already have these roles filled or are working to have them filled. We’ve seen this first hand when we see data jobs being posted to our healthcare IT job board.

While this work is extremely exciting and shows a lot of promise, I imagine a graphic like the one above is just completely overwhelming to consider for a small ambulatory practice. Even a large group practice would likely find the above graphic challenging to consider in their relatively small healthcare organization. How can they compete with a large health system with that kind of complexity? Do graphics like the one above just provide one other illustration of why small practices are going to soon be extinct?

I don’t think so and I hope not. However, graphics like the one above do illustrate the tremendous challenges that ambulatory practices face when they don’t have a massive health system behind them. What’s the path forward for smaller practices then?

The first thing to remember is that even though a health system is large, it doesn’t mean it’s going to do things well. In fact, it’s easy to argue how large organizations are much less efficient. It’s not hard to see how a large health system will focus all of their analytics work on the acute care environment and leaves out ambulatory practices. Smaller healthcare organizations are going to have to use this to their advantage.

While it’s unlikely that ambulatory practices will do all of the healthcare analytics work on their own, it is possible for ambulatory practices to tap into third party vendors that do the work for them and hundreds of other ambulatory practices. Smaller healthcare organizations partnering with corporate and entrepreneurial vendors is going to be the best way for these healthcare organizations to compete with the large health system. In fact, it’s a huge opportunity for them to show why patients should visit their practice instead of the large health system.

One thing that’s holding these efforts back is EHR vendors’ decision to close the doors to outside vendors. There are a few EHR vendor exceptions and areas where every EHR vendor is more open (ie. labs, pharmacy, etc), but it won’t be enough going forward. My friend Jeremy Coleman recently described why in this series of tweets:

I don’t see any healthcare future where centralization will survive. Sure, it will put up a good fight for a while, but the number and variety of applications that are coming out in healthcare are going to be so varied and dramatically important for doctors to incorporate into the care they provide that EHR vendors won’t have a choice but to create APIs that facilitate all of these applications.

An EHR vendor that embraces this approach is going to be essential for every ambulatory practice. Eventually, ambulatory practices will be stuck with the need to switch EHR systems or sell to the health system (which generally means switching EHR systems too). However, an ambulatory EHR that provides an open ecosystem for the latest and greatest in health IT will allow ambulatory practices to thrive even against the much larger health systems.

Coping With The Loss Of Your Ambulatory EMR

Posted on December 13, 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.

Despite the struggles involved, most practices seem to have settled in with an EMR they can at least tolerate. Their workflows are, well, working, the practice management features seem to connect with the clinical ones and most clinicians are complaining about using it.

Yes, your practice may have had to go through a few systems before you found one everyone liked, wasn’t too expensive and had decent technical support to offer.  By this time, though you may have been a little scarred by the experience, hopefully practice leaders have gotten comfortable with the central role the EMR plays in the practice.

Then, you decide it makes sense to sell your practice to the local health system. It could be because it’s an irresistible deal financially, or you feel you can’t survive without their help and partnership, or any number of additional reasons. Everything looks good, but then you take a hit: your new “partner” wants to dump the EMR you worked so hard to find and customize. They want you to work on the same enterprise system they do.

Now, from a hospital’s perspective that may make sense. Here’s how one consulting firm lays things out:

“[When acquiring a medical practice] one critical issue is how to transition the workflow of these physicians and their staff from the practice-owned ambulatory EMR to the centralized hospital-owned EMR to ensure the efficient and safe delivery of care to patients,” it tells its hospital customers. In other words, it’s a question of when and how, not IF the hospital should require acquired practices to make the switch.

The thing is, while the hospital may have a comparatively large staff dedicated to integrating and managing the data pulled in from your ambulatory EMR, the reverse is probably not true. Unless your practice is particularly large, it probably only includes 5 to 10 doctors. In such practices, having even a single data expert on staff would be unusual. (Not to mention that hiring one part-time or as a consultant wouldn’t be cheap.)

In other words, for a while you may be fishing for your patients’ data as you transition to the larger team to which you will belong. Also, until the hospital health system completes integrating the data from your practice into its enterprise system, you may or may not have access to quality metrics important to running a practice these days, and the effect on your billing practices could turn out to be a disaster too.

At this point, I’m supposed to stop and tell you that all this can be handled efficiently if you take one step or the other. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is any great happy ending to suggest at this point. If you have to give up your own ambulatory EMR, it’s probably going to be painful.

However, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. There probably are some strategies, perhaps unique to your practice, that can blunt the impact of some of these problems if you’re prepared. That said, the move to a new EMR is always painful, even if the change ends up being a good one.

Providers In Underserved Areas Lagging On EMR Implementation

Posted on July 11, 2013 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.

Providers in large metros are less likely to have implemented EMRs than those in smaller metro areas and rural areas, according to a study written up by Healthcare Informatics.

The study, which appeared in Health Services Research, set out to determine whether EMR adoption was lower in traditionally underserved areas. To look at this issue, in 2011 researchers gathered data from 261,973 ambulatory healthcare sites with 716,160 providers, covering 50 states and the District of Columbia. Provider sites ranged from one-physician practices to large multi-physician groups, Healthcare Informatics reports.

Researchers found that areas with high concentrations of minority and low income populations, as well as those in large metropolitan areas were more likely to be in the lowest quartile of EMR adoption nationally, as compared with rural areas. The study also found that 43 percent of providers working in ambulatory healthcare sites had EMRs with e-prescribing capabilities, Healthcare Informatics reports.

Clearly, if researchers were expecting to find a lack of EMR adoption in these metro practices, they hit the nail on the head. I’d like to know, however, why things fell out this way.

Are metro practices lacking the resources to adopt EMRs in a more pronounced way than rural practices? Is there some phenomenon in the works in which underserved populations aren’t expecting EMRs, and therefore aren’t pressuring providers to implement them?

It’s worth noting that according to HIMSS data for Q1 2013, about 50 percent of ambulatory providers were still paper-based, and that nearly half of remaining practices were still stuck at Level 3 of adoption (CDR, access to results from outside facilities) or lower.

I’d argue that the gap between practices with mature implementations and those who are barely crawling is of equal importance and worth a study of its own. In the meantime, it is worth considering what can be done — beyond Meaningful Use incentives, clearly, or the gap wouldn’t exist — to be sure that EMR uptake doesn’t hit a snag with metro providers.

Study: EMRs Improve Ambulatory Care

Posted on October 30, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

A new study done by researchers from the Weill Cornell Medical College has concluded that community-based physicians who move to EMRs can improve care meaningfully.

The study, which was done in collaboration with New York’s Health Information Technology Collaborative, gathered baseline year data gathered from 500+ physicians in ambulatory practices and 75,000 patients with five different health plans in New York’s Hudson Valley.  They then compared quality scores for EMR-using physicians and those without EMRs.

Researchers concluded that 56 percent of physicians who were using EMRs scored significantly higher on quality of care provided, particularly in managing chlamydia, diabetes, colorectal cancer and breast cancer.  A combined score across nine quality measures also also suggested that EMRs helped generated better care than paper-based records overall.

What made the study results particularly interesting, researchers said, was that the physicians using EMRs used off-the-shelf systems which hadn’t been specialized to achieve these kind of results.

Researchers seem to think that the improved ambulatory results are just the tip of the iceberg:

EHRs may improve the quality of care by making information more accessible to physicians, providing medical decision-making support in real time and allowing patients and providers to communicate regularly and securely,” says Dr. Rainu Kaushal, director of the Center for Healthcare Informatics and Policy and the Frances and John L. Loeb Professor of Medical Informatics at Weill Cornell. “However, the real value of these systems is their ability to organize data and to allow transformative models of health care delivery, such as the patient-centered medical home, to be layered on top.” 

Interesting. I would have assumed that reminders and warnings had generated , as they certainly help doctors make sure overworked doctors are on target with tests, avoid drug interactions and the like. But researchers like Dr. Kaushal and her colleagues seem to think that the big EMR payoff will come as EMR systems change the core models doctors use to deliver care.

Given that new models are all but inevitable at this point, I guess we’ll get to find out!

What Are the Problems with EMR Documentation Today?

Posted on October 29, 2012 I Written By

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

While at AHIMA 2012, I asked Susan Sumner, Executive Vice President of Ambulatory Services at Accentus Inc. about some of the problems with EMR documentation today. Here’s her video answer with her views on narrative EMR documentation vs point and click EMR documentation:

Top EMR Vendors – Solo Physician Practice – Black Book Rankings

Posted on August 19, 2011 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’m always interested in ways to try and differentiate the various EMR and EHR vendors. I’m completely sympathetic with doctors who are sorting through the 300+ EMR Companies in the marketplace. Most doctors I know, don’t want to become software selection experts or at least don’t want to spend their free time doing it.

However, it’s amazing the various services out there that try and capitalize on this need that doctors have to narrow down the field of EHR vendors. I think that’s basically what the Black Book EMR Rankings (listed on Amazon even) are basically doing with their EHR rankings. Yes, I know Black Book’s been around for a while, but I just saw it again and had to post.

They try and say that they sent the survey out to 70,000 “physician leaders and non-clinical administrators of publicly traded hospital corporations, private hospitals, academic medical institutions, multispecialty medical group practices, small and multiple physician practices, hospitalist groups, emergency departments, institutional members and officers of various healthcare/medical and IT professional organizations, subscribers of our media partners and previously validated survey participants.”

The problem is that they only received “4502 validated respondents ranked 174 EMR suppliers.”[emphasis mine] I’m not a statistics guru, but I wouldn’t be putting my EMR selection on an average of 25 responses per EMR. Plus, for many EMR it was likely much lower than 25. Not to mention, they only had responses from 174 companies. What about the other 126+ EHR vendors that had 0 responses?

Plus, the Black Book breaks it down even further by size of practice. They have 6 categories in just the ambulatory side. That’s an average of just over 4 responses per EHR vendor per category size. Although, it’s less since they have a bunch of acute care categories as well.

When you look at the list, I see a lot of the major EHR companies and a bunch of companies I’ve never heard of before. Not to mention there are a lot of big time EHR players from companies that Black Book probably has never heard about that aren’t on the list.

Unfortunately, there’s no real quality source to differentiate the various EHR companies. If there was I’d shout it from the rooftops (or at least my blog). Until then, the only solution is the work of reviewing your needs and evaluating the various EHR software yourself.

Since I’m sure many will wonder what EHR vendors made the Black Book list, here’s the list of Top Ambulatory EHR companies by practice size after the break: Read more..

Hospital Preparation for Meaningful Use

Posted on November 18, 2010 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.

HIMSS Analytics recently sent out some interesting results from a survey the did of hospital’s preparation for meaningful use. Here’s the results:

*Nearly one quarter (22 percent) of participating hospitals have the capability to achieve 10 or more of the required core measures in the meaningful use Stage 1 requirements.

*Some 34 percent of respondents have the capability to achieve between five and nine of the core measures for meaningful use.

*Just over 40 percent (40.47 percent) of the market indicated they have the capability to meet five or more of the menu items for meaningful use.


Click on the images to see the larger images.

As lone data points it’s hard to judge if hospitals are making progress or not. I’ve heard many people say that hospitals are going full bore towards meaningful use and that ambulatory practices are slower to adopt EMR and meaningful use. I’m not sure this is totally true. Plus, the lead time needed to implement in an ambulatory setting is so much shorter than in a hospital. Even a hospital that owns ambulatory practices.

I’m told that HIMSS Analytics will be doing this same survey every couple months. I’ll see about publishing the results as I get them so we can compare the change.

Complex Reimbursement Real Driver in EHR Adoption

Posted on September 1, 2010 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.

A recent Information Week article on EHR adoption had the following quote:

“I think the number one driver [of ambulatory EHR adoption] is the change in reimbursement, the fact that it is becoming so complicated to document the process of care to get paid by the government as well as commercial payers,” said Nancy Fabozzi, a senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan and the report’s author. “Everybody thinks that fee-for-service is doomed and we have to have a new system of reimbursing physicians for the quality of care instead of the quantity of care because costs are exploding.”

In an interview with InformationWeek, Fabozzi said another reason for the adoption of ambulatory EHRs is that many providers have practice management systems that are old and need to be updated as they move to ICD-10 and HIPAA 5010 requirements.

It won’t be news to most of you that it’s not government incentive that is driving adoption of EHR software. The market forces are much stronger than any sort of stimulus. Although, the retarding forces of an unknown stimulus are starting to wear off and we should see EHR adoption pick up again soon.