Ministry Health Care Will Implement CattailsMD
Ministry Health Care has chosen to implement CattailsMD electronic health record. For over 20, Marshfield Clinic has developed a comprehensive electronic health record, now available as a CCHIT-certified ambulatory EHR product known as CattailsMD. The EHR is also available with a data warehouse to actively drive decision support and population management.
Conventional wisdom speaks against the use of an internally developed product. While conventional wisdom is often used as a rule of thumb, tunnel thinking can limit your options. Every software decision is the result of a complex analysis of objectives, risks, benefits, values, and mitigation strategy. The purpose of this post is not an exhaustive explanation of our decision, but rather a review of several factors influencing our thoughts.
EHRs Are Becoming a Utility
Within a few years, EHRs will be more of a utility than a unique product. Increasing CCHIT certification and government incentives are driving standardization of function. Many organizations are turning to SureScripts to satisfy the CMS E-prescribing incentive. SureScripts standards will be just one of many leading to an ever-increasing identical functioning of EHRs. Simply having an EHR will not lead to process improvement nor increase clinical quality.
EHRs Do Not Improve Quality
Most EHRs have not improved quality of care. Simply automating our traditional process should not be expected to fundamentally improve quality. Improvement occurs when we redesign our care systems and standardize our processes (often enabled by use of an EHR). It is not the EHR that magically improves care; it is the people and processes utilizing the EHR that improves care. If you are both vendor and end user, then you can first vision how care should be provided and then deliver the necessary software to support it.
The Status Quo Will Not Meet Future Needs
Our health care system is broken, we simply are not meeting the prevention, wellness, and primary care needs of our patients. We do not have enough primary clinicians to meet our current needs and we are not producing enough primary clinicians to meet our future needs. In Wisconsin (warning: PDF), the demand for primary care clinicians in the next 10 years is projected to increase by as much as 33% with only a 5% increase in clinicians. We will need to redesign our health care delivery system if we hope to meet future needs.
Our use of CattailsMD maximizes our opportunity to influence the design of an EHR to meet the needs of our patients. Although our vendor is interested in the commercial success of the product, as a provider of health care, their prime objective is the same as ours: caring for patients.
It Is All About the Data
Ministry Health Care and the Marshfield Clinic have a large number of common patients and will share the same EHR. While a shared EHR with a single source of truth for medication lists, allergies, labs, and documents is appealing, the real value is an extensive data warehouse ten years in the making. The data warehouse currently contributes to a number of activities including population management, disease management, maintenance of numerous registries, formal research, and increasingly, decision support.
As our business intelligence tools become more robust, I expect increasing emphasis will be placed on activities such as searching the database for trends of best care, identifying potential drug interactions, post-marketing surveillance of medications, and identifying care opportunities that will improve the health of the communities we serve.
A Decision Without Risk?
Is our decision to use CattailsMD without risk? Nope. But then again, no decision is. During the 20 years I have been interested in health care IT, I have seen numerous vendors (both large and small) come and go. I have also been through the agony of “upgrades” in hardware, operating systems and entire new versions of software forced on us by our vendors.
What has not changed is our need for information to improve health care. We are on the threshold of having EHRs and data warehouses that do not just present information, but actively support the practice of medicine.
A Future Post
Ministry Health Care and the Marshfield Clinic have been actively working to build the infrastructure necessary to support a joint EHR. In a future post, Dr. Carlson (Marshfield’s CIO) and I will discuss some of the issues we have dealt with that will have national significance if government seeks to foster greater sharing of patient data.
While you are waiting for a joint post, please take some time to read Will Weider’s (Ministry’s CIO) advice for President Obama.
Peter Sanderson, MD, MBA is a family physician and Director of Medical Informatics and Operations and Executive Sponsor, EHR Program, at Ministry Health Care. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at MD Leader.