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Guest Post: The Case for Modular EHR Over Complete EHR

Posted on November 30, 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.

Dr. Sullivan is a practicing cardiologist who joined DrFirst in 2004, just after completing his term as President of the Massachusetts Medical Society. He is known throughout the healthcare industry as the father of the Continuity of Care Record (“CCR”) and a leader on the future of healthcare technology. He is assisting DrFirst in ensuring that Rcopia continues to add the functionality necessary to maintain its leadership position both in electronic prescribing and in the channel of communication between various sectors of the healthcare community and the physician. Dr. Sullivan is active in organized medical groups at the state and national level, and is both a delegate to the AMA and the Chairperson of their Council on Medical Service as well as past Co-Chair of the Physicians EHR Consortium.

The buzz surrounding Electronic Health Records (EHR) is nothing short of constant.  The daunting task of selection, purchase and implementation is quite confusing, technical, and expensive, with many physicians, clinics and health systems uncertain of their needs and questioning how the technology is going to impact the way they practice medicine and their bottom line. It’s all about workflow and productivity.

More recently, Providers are faced with the intimidating task of deciding which kind of system to install. There are all inclusive systems, often referred to as fully paperless or standard EHRs and there are so called a la carte systems known as modular EHRs.

The Case for Modular

Modular EHR systems allow providers to take a stepping stone approach to health IT clinical documentation and order writing, by choosing the tools and functions which make the most sense in their practices and clinics; improving specialized workflow and efficiency.  Going the modular route can gradually ease the provider and the office staff into a more paperless environment without having to make a full and often-times difficult transition to a fully paperless workspace.

There is need for caution however. The sheer volume of modules available can make selecting appropriate ones an overwhelming task.  Not only do clinicians need to be wary of which modules they are choosing, but also what functions have been certified by an authorized organization.

By combining specific modular systems, it can become “qualified,” making the user eligible for the monetary reimbursements set forth by Title IV of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

At DrFirst, our Rcopia-MUTM has taken all of the guess work out of this process and is a completely certified Modular EHR that physicians can implement and start earning incentive money directly out-of-the-box.

The implementation of a complete EHR system can be confusing and time consuming.  Herein lays some distinct advantages of implementing a modular EHR.  Practices that have already implemented e-prescribing or registry modules may not need to relearn a different system, or move their data from one to another (as long as the current module is certified).

Providers who are considering going the modular route can check the certification status of their options at Certified Health IT Products List. The cost for a modular approach is often much less expensive and providers can select the modules from various vendors to meet their financial and practice-based needs.  Upon implementation, providers must show they’re using certified EHR technology in measureable ways to receive their incentive monies from the Federal Government.  With this very high ROI, many providers see the advantage of using the modular approach to postpone the decision process in selecting a complete EHR and yet at the same time earn Meaningful Use incentive money to put towards the cost of  the much more expensive system.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, doctors who have not adopted an EHR (either modular or complete) by 2015 will be penalized by Medicare — a 1% penalty to begin, then up to 3% within three years. Many providers are banking on the reimbursement that has been made available by the ARRA to help offset the initial costs.

What is your practice considering, complete EHR or modular? Do you see benefits of one over the other?

Information on CCR, CCD and EMR

Posted on November 4, 2009 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.

Dr. Jeff sent me the following summary of quotes he put together about CCR and CCD and how they relate to EMR. I don’t think he meant for it to be published, but the information was too good not to publish it. So, sorry that it’s missing references to where the quotes were made and is a little scattered. With that said, take the following quotes as information purposes and I’d be happy to update the source if someone knows where it’s from. I think Dr. Jeff is going to find some of the sources as well. Enjoy!

“The Continuity of Care Record (CCR) is a patient health summary standard.  It is a way to create flexible documents that contain the most relevant and timely core health information about a patient, and to send these electronically from one care giver to the next” – Wikipedia

XML(Extensible Markup Language) is an open standard for structuring information. – the standard data exchange interchange language used by the CCR

PDF and Office Open XML – other formats that the CCR uses

“Because it is expressed in the standard data interchange language known as XML, a CCR can potentially be created, read and interpreted by any EHR or EMR software application” – Brian Klepper

CDA(Clinical Document Architecture) stores or moves clinical documents between medical systems. Documents are things like discharge summaries, progress notes, history and physical reports, prior lab results, etc. The CDA uses XML for encoding of the documents and breaks down the document in generic, unnamed, and non-templated sections.

The CCR Standard was developed by a collaborative – the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), the HIMSS (HIMSS), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and other health informatics vendors – under the auspices of ASTM International, a not-for-profit organization that developes standards for many industries, including avionics, petroleum, and air and water quality” – Brian Klepper

“The CCR’s advance will allow patient health data to be easily transported from one platform to another, intact and with integrity, so that better decisions can positively impact care, health, and the costs of achieving them” – Brian Klepper

CCD(Continuity of Care Document) is the result of a collaborative effort between the Health Level Seven and ASTM organizations to “harmonize” the data format between ASTM’s Continuity of Care Record (CCR) and HL7’s Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) specifications. [CORRECTION: See these comments from David C. Kibbe, MD MBA]

HL7(Health Level Seven) is the registered trade mark of the HL7 consortium – an ANSI approved non-profit standards body set up to establish communications protocols for the health industry.

CCD is an attempt to meld  CCR with HL7 standards for data exchange” – jd

“There’s something of a religious war going on here.  BUT many of the more “open” vendors are using both CCR and CCD.  The more “closed” vendors seem to be waiting until CCD “wins” the war” – Matthew Holt

CCD and CCR are often seen as competing standards.  Google Health supports a subset of CCR, while Microsoft HealthVault claims to support a subset of both CCR and CCD” – Mehdi Akiki

IMHO, CCR and CCD are more complimentary than competitive” – Vince Kuraitis

CCD standard is likely to be used by organizations that already use HL7 (large delivery systems), to support existing business models, in non-disruptive applications that achieve cost savings and/or quality improvements by automating EXISTING processes that are INTERNAL TO THE ORGANIZATION (or with existing trading partners), e.g., hospitals sending test result information to doctors and where implementers have already incurred significant fixed costs to adapt HL7 as a broad enterprise standard” – Vince Kuraitis

CCR standard is likely to be used by organizations that have not yet adopted any standard (e.g., early stage companies), to support new business models, in disruptive applications that achieve cost savings and/or quality improvements by creating NEW PROCESSES, often involving parties that are not currently exchanging information, e.g., improving patient chronic care management with the goal of avoiding ER visits and hospitalizations and where the implementers are highly sensitive to incremental costs of IT resources and view the CCR as a “better, faster, cheaper” alternative” – Vince Kuraitis

“Most institutions and vendors that have large investments in HL7 are dealing with the “classic” HL7 versions, the 2.x standards” – Margalit Gur-Arie

“For many applications – especially ambulatory and small companies – the CCR is a complete solution.  Hospitals can also deploy CCR for specific applications.  However, hospitals will not view CCR as a complete data exchange solution for all applications.  Hospitals will need to adopt HL7.  The vast majority of hospitals today are on HL7 2.x.  While HL7 3.x is incompatible with 2.x, my assumption is that hospitals view “eventual” migration to 3.x as necessary, albeit dreaded because of the reasons you cite” – Vince Kuraitis

“Forcing vendors and institutions to adopt those standards (CDA and the RIM), if one can call them standards, will result in increased IT spending all over the board.  I don’t think this is something we need right now.  On the other hand, the CCR is almost “simple stupid” which is a compliment when it applies to a standard and could be implemented at very short notice.  I just think we have to start somewhere and CCR is just the easies and simplest way to start the process and achieve meaningful results” – Margalit Gur-Arie

LOINC , SNOMED , RxNORM – other data exchange standards

“The CCR authors recognize the need for our industry to “ease into” structure … the format does a great job of encouraging coding and normalization without creating an unrealistic bar – this is a tough tightrope to walk” – Sean Nolan

“Both formats (CCR and CCD) are important and help move the ball forward.  We come across situations every day where CCD is a better (or sometimes the only) option for some particular problem, so both HealthVault and Amalga are built to embrace them both.  Frankly this isn’t just a CCR/CCD issue – there are a zillion formats out there holding useful information, and the reality is we’re all just going to have to deal with that for some time to come.  The good news is that we do seem to have a little bit of bedrock in the form of XML and XSLT – these help a ton.  The key thing, I believe, is to stay focused on moving data so that it can be reused and shared – not getting dogmatic about how we move it.  Turns out that when we do that … the right things are happening, a little more quickly with every turn of the crank” – Sean Nolan

“Should there be evidence that any proposed approaches to interoperability will actually succeed in the real world before we declare such approaches as required?  Otherwise, who can determine what approaches to interoperability will prove acceptable to the majority of medical practices?” – Randal Oates, MD

CCR is simple and straightforward” – Margalit Gur-Arie

SureScripts is a certified network able to connect one EHR with another EHR.  Mainly used for connecting doctor’s offices to pharmacies.

“But consider that CVS MinuteClinic is already sending many thousands of CCR xml files from its EHR via SureScripts network, where they are either routed electronically to practices in thexml format (not many yet) or transformed into PDF and sent electronically or faxed.  There is no reason that existing national network operators (e.g. NaviMedix, Zix and Quest, just to name a few that easily come to mind) couldn’t do the same job.  It’s really simply an electronic post office.  There is growing real world experience.  It’s just not coming very often from incumbent health care organizations and vendors” – David C. Kibbe, MD MBA

“Consider this a model (SureScripts, Prescriptions, CVS MinuteClinic) for health network exchange of data like that which is in the CCR standard XML file format supported by Google Health, limited to demographics, insurance info, problem list/diagnoses, medications, allergy and alerts, vital signs, and lab results [I would add consultation reports, hospital discharge and operative reports and test results (ie.  stress test, cardiac catheterization].  Not a lot of data, but meaningful data much of the time.  Kept current and accurate by a person’s healthcare team (nurses, doctors and pharmacists) which includes the patient” – David Kibble, MD MPH

“My argument is that it is much more efficient, and in the long run much easier to implement, a system that pays for the data to be transmitted in CCR format among providers, and between care systems;  and to trust that the market will come up with innovative tools and technologies for helping doctors and patients do this; than it is for government, or anyone else, to pay for complicated “EHRs” that create new silos of data and which force physicians to click dozens or hundreds of times to document a “visit”, while not creating the data set that could be useful in so many ways outside the four walls of the practice to help managed care!  I don’t think this is as complicated as we’re made to think this is, and I know that the tools are available now to get it done.” – David C. Kibbe, MD MPH

“I do agree that the HITECH money would be better spent on facilitating simple data transfer, as opposed to complex data entry” – Margalit Gur-Arie

I have to agree with MD regarding the reality of office and hospital computer systems.  It seems there is a disconnect between the people talking abut all the wonderful things these systems do, and we physicians whose experience with the things in the real world is almost uniformly negative, to neutral at best.  Some of the people with big visions need to visit a hospital or large doctor’s office sometime and see how these things actually work (or don’t)” – Bev M.D.

This summary compiled by Jeffrey E. Epstein, MD

A Patchwork Quilt of Unique EMR Software

Posted on July 20, 2009 I Written By

We keep hearing about the Big National Data Bank for Healthcare Information. The thought is that you need a big data bank so everyone’s health information is available anywhere/anytime. This type of personal health information repository has many problems. First it is complex and expensive to set up and maintain. Second there are very significant and well-founded privacy concerns. And finally, this large, complex electronic structure may not be needed … it might even be counterproductive!

Is there another way to transport patient health data from one platform to another (so it can go from one EMR to another), so that healthcare providers, anywhere/anytime can provide fully informed care for individual patients which would be less expensive and higher in quality?

I think the answer is YES!

There are standard data exchange platforms currently being used which can help us all share “meaningful” personal health information. They are called the Continuity of Care Record (CCR), CCD and HL7. For more information on these platforms, I suggest you read Brian Klepper’s blog post. This blog gave me great insight into this connectivity issue.

In addition to obviating the need for a big data bank, these data exchange platforms make it possible for small, innovative EMR companies to compete and survive in the “EMR Jungle”. By allowing for diversity and encouraging innovation, we will end up with better EMR software. In addition, physicians will be able to pick EMRs that suit their practice style and can make them more efficient, productive and better doctors. I think we need a patchwork quilt of unique EMRs that are all well connected rather than a few big standard lemming EMRs that are totally connected by “big brother” or “big business”.

What are your thoughts on this topic?