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Doctors Aren’t Tuned In To Blockchain News

Posted on March 28, 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.

Sure, there are doctors who are knee-deep in clinical informatics work. Others may not work in IT full-time, but they keep an eye on IT developments and feel comfortable using new technology.

Then, of course, there are physicians who only interact with technology when they must (and yes this is probably the biggest group). They skim or even ignore technology articles in their favorite magazines and journals, and you’re not likely to see them comparing notes on the advantage of one EHR vs. another. In other words, when it comes to health IT, they’re definitely not trendy.

Even so, I was surprised to see how many physicians were out of the loop when it came to blockchain technology. According to a poll by physician-oriented site SERMO, which asked whether blockchain was ready to enter the healthcare world 25% said yes and 28% said no, but a far larger number (47%) responded that they weren’t aware of this technology.

I have a few theories as to why this is the case:

  • Though many vendors are experimenting with integrating blockchain into EHRs, working models are far from common at this point
  • Most physicians are overwhelmed by using EHRs as they currently exist, and aren’t too likely to contemplate adding even more complexity to their platform
  • Too few of their actual peers — practicing doctors working in traditional settings — have attempted to explain the basics of blockchain tech
  • Even high-level health IT experts are still grappling with the problem of how, exactly, healthcare tools can benefit from incorporating blockchain

The truth is, it’s not too surprising to see that many doctors have tuned out blockchain discussions, and probably other bleeding edge technologies like AI as well.  Until these technologies are more mature, and vendors can demonstrate a day-to-day use for them, why would your average physician take time out of their crazy day to ponder what the health IT whiz kids are talking about this week?

And honestly, until someone can demonstrate that blockchain offers real benefits to practicing physicians, I think they’re actually wise to step back from it for the time being. Unless they are natural techies who really want to experiment with blockchain options, there’s little for them to gain from pursuing a topic. Right now, it doesn’t affect them much.

Yes, the time will come when blockchain features are incorporated into EHRs, and vendors can demonstrate why this matters. In the meantime, physicians’ indifference seems very logical.

New Payment Model Pushes HIT Vendors To Collaborate

Posted on April 20, 2016 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.

CMS has launched a new program designed to shift more risk to and offer more rewards to primary care practices which explicitly requires HIT vendors to be involved at advanced stages. While the federal government has obvious done a great deal to promote the use of HIT in medical practices, this is the first I’ve seen where HHS has demanded vendors get involved directly, and I find it intriguing. But let me explain.

The new Comprehensive Primary Care Plus payment scheme – which builds upon an existing model – is designed to keep pushing risk onto primary care practices. CMS expects to get up to 5,000 practices on board over the next five years, spanning more than 20,000 clinicians serving 25 million Medicare beneficiaries.

Like Medicare payment reforms focused on hospitals, CPC+ is designed to shift risk to PCPs in stages. Track 1 of the program is designed to help the practices shift into care management mode, offering an average care management fee of $15 per beneficiary per month on top of fee-for-service payments. Track 2, meanwhile, requires practices to bear some risk, offering them a special hybrid payment which mixes fee-for-service and a percentage of expected Evaluation & Management reimbursement up front. Both tracks offer a performance-based incentive, but risk-bearing practices get more.

So why I am I bothering telling you this? I mention this payment model because of an interesting requirement CMS has laid upon Track 2, the risk-bearing track. On this track, practices have to get their HIT vendor(s) to write a letter outlining the vendors’ willingness to support them with advanced health IT capabilities.

This is a new tack for CMS, as far as I know. True, writing a letter on behalf of customers is certainly less challenging for vendors than getting a certification for their technology, so it’s not going to create shockwaves. Still, it does suggest that CMS is thinking in new ways, and that’s always worth noticing.

True, it doesn’t appear that vendors will be required to swear mighty oaths promising that they’ll support any specific features or objectives. As with the recently-announced Interoperability Pledge, it seems like more form than substance.

Nonetheless, my take is that HIT vendors should take this requirement seriously. First of all, it shines a spotlight on the extent to which the vendors are offering real, practical support for clinicians, and while CMS may not be measuring this just yet, they may do so in the future.

What’s more, when vendors put such a letter together in collaboration with practices, it brings both sides to the table. It gives vendors and PCPs at least a marginally stronger incentive to discuss what they need to accomplish. Ideally – as CMS doubtless hopes – it could lay a foundation for better alignment between clinicians and HIT leaders.

Again, I’m not suggesting this is a massive news item, but it’s certainly food for thought. Asking HIT vendors to stick their necks out in this way (at least symbolically) could ultimately be a catalyst for change.