Rick Adam is president and COO of Stanson Health of Los Angeles, CA.
I’m a serial entrepreneur and have done several different startups in healthcare IT. I’ve been with Stanson about 15 months.
The company was founded by Dr. Scott Weingarten, who was the founder of Zynx. Scott wanted to do something new and different. He wanted to put clinical advice in front of physicians who are ordering. Scott got the company started and then I was hired to help Scott scale it up.
What’s the connection between the company and Cedars-Sinai?
Scott was at Cedars 20 years ago when he came up with the idea for order sets. Cedars funded what became Zynx. Then Scott left and was CEO for Zynx for 16 years. It ultimately ended up as part of Hearst Publishing.
About four years ago, Scott wanted to do real-time CDS as docs order. Hearst didn’t want to do it, so Scott went back to Cedars with two hats on. He’s SVP for clinical transformation at Cedars-Sinai. They also wanted him to go ahead and start this new company to launch point-of-care CDS. Scott is founder and chairman of our board. Our primary funding source so far has been Cedars-Sinai.
How do you tie your product into EHRs?
It’s a little different from vendor to vendor. We’re operational in Epic. We’re developing a system in Cerner. We’re working with Athenahealth and Meditech on integration.
Epic has a Best Practice Alert rules engine. We write Epic rules that our customers then load into their Epic BPA engine. When an order meets the criteria to fire the alert, we trigger the alert and it shows up inside the physician’s order entry screen. Then they either accept it or reject it and can cancel the order right inside their natural workflow. We’re operating in 80 hospitals and 25,000 docs that use Epic.
External to Epic is our analytics facility. We outload the log every night and then wrap it back around analytics so the medical management of health system can see how their clinicians are reacting when they see alerts. The analytics system is in the cloud, but the actual interaction with the clinicians is native inside Epic.
Someone told me that at least two vendors asked to license your analytics and dashboard to improve what happens after their own alerts have fired and been acted on.
The popularity of our analytics has been a little bit of a surprise to us. We understood that it was valuable so we could see the efficiency and effectiveness of our own clinical recommendations. We outload everything in the log.
What surprised us was the customers were interested in seeing what other alerts were happening and behaving. For example, their drug-drug, drug-allergy alerts which typically have very low followed rates, they could see that. Most large Epic clients have written some best practice BPA alerts on their own. There’s no real tool to see how they’re performing. For example, Henry Ford likes our content, but I’d say they probably like our analytics better.
Are hospitals following up on alerts that are constantly overridden even though they are clinically appropriate given evidence-based guidelines?
For the alerts we’ve written, we continuously refine them and make then more pertinent and more likely to be on target.
We had a client-written alert that fired 2,500 times and was followed once. Once they saw that, they just turned it off. The issue of alert fatigue is really serious. All of us need to be much more careful what we put in front of a clinician in order to improve efficiency and safety.
With our tool, you’re going to see a lot of curation of what alerts are out there — emphasize the ones that are helpful and start shutting down the ones that don’t do any good. They just clutter up the doctor’s workflow.
In the medical management process in these health systems and in the government system, it’s common to take our reports and go to a clinician. In the old days, you would go to a clinician and say, “You use too many CTs.” They would say, “My patients are different.”
Now we say, “There’s a recommendation from Choosing Wisely and the American College of Radiology that says don’t CT headache first-time presentation. You overrode that 50 times. Why are you doing that?” That’s the dialogue between clinical leadership and the physicians. It’s patient-specific and order-specific. It only fired if the patient met the criteria. It’s a much more targeted conversation with clinicians now.
In many cases the clinicians like the feedback. They’ll say things like, “I want to do the right thing. Help me figure out what the right thing is.” When you wrap back around, you say, “You’re a really good follower of clinical advice.” That’s one thing. You have another guy and you say, “You’re on the low end of followed rights. Why is that?” It’s a more targeted, more clinically oriented discussion.
What outcomes are properly presented Choosing Wisely recommendations having on clinical practice?
We have inpatient ones and outpatient ones. It varies pretty widely over the recommendation. I’d say on the low end, we get followed rates of, let’s say, 15 percent. On the high end, we get followed rates as high as 60 percent. This compares to other CDS, where a one or two percent followed rate is considered adequate.
If these things are coded properly and presented properly, the Choosing Wisely recommendations get a lot of uptake. They came from the American Board of Internal Medicine and their 70 sub-societies, like cardiology and radiology. It’s not the government telling you what to do or the payer telling you what to do — it’s advice from your colleagues and your sub-society. It’s a lot easier for the docs to look at that and conclude that it’s good advice.
How do see the role of societies in creating guidelines like these going forward?
I think there will be more. However, I would say that, in terms of influence, we’re getting lots and lots of recommendations from CMS and Medicare now. For example, the PQRS series. Choosing Wisely mostly doesn’t do recommendations. PQRS, Physician Quality Reporting System — which is going to morph into MACRA – is “do,” “do in addition,” or “do instead.”
For example, you’ve got a heart failure patient — I’d like you to prescribe a beta blocker and ACE inhibitor. If we look in the medical record and we see it’s not there, we can alert the doctor that it’s missing. That ties to physician reimbursement, both bonuses on the upside and penalties on the downside. Then there’s a huge push for bundled payment starting this year with hips and knees. Most of the clinical advice that’s going to come out in the next year will be driven by CMS.
What are the most important lessons that you’ve learned in your career?
Most of my experience is on the provider side. The people who run health systems are dedicated, smart, hard-working, credentialed people. But they have a lot going on and there’s a lot of distraction going on. A lot of noise in the system.
The hardest thing to get IT projects moving is that you have to come up with a good enough explanation and a good enough value proposition for what you’re proposing. You have to come up out of the noise and get the leadership’s attention and give them a really good ROI — both financially and quality-wise — on why they should consider doing your project.
The technology is plenty hard enough, but getting onto the health system’s priority list is even harder. The hardest thing is to come up with a great communication program where the decision-makers and health systems understand your offering as one they should take a hard look at.
What are the most important factors that impact whether a startup will succeed or fail?
Assuming they’re trying to get customers out of the provider set, they’ve got to understand what the provider’s strategy is and how their tool, their offering, or system, or whatever helps the health system meet its strategy.
From our point of view specifically, as we move into payment reform and fee-for-value instead of fee-for-volume, it’s critical that you get the clinicians to shift their clinical practice. Eighty percent of the cost in healthcare is the result of a physician making a decision. You’ve got to get into that decision-making and get them to make a better decision or the right decision given where the health system is trying to go.
For anybody trying to bring health IT into the marketplace, you’ve got to match what you’re reasonably capable of doing as a vendor and what’s on the A-list for the decision-makers in the health system. That’s the trick.
Where do you see the company in five years?
We’re early in this market of putting information in front of physicians and having it change their mind. It’s going to be a valuable line of work for us and other people. It has a chance to be a big business and to make a meaningful difference in the way healthcare gets practiced.
I saw an interview with Paul Ryan. They were talking about how hard it is to attack entitlement. They said, do you think you could do Medicare reform? Ryan said Medicare is going to go bankrupt, which is in nobody’s interest. We’ve got to do something different in Medicare to preserve the system.
In some small way, Stanson helps clinicians get a higher quality clinical outcomes for less resource. The driving force behind that is Medicare driving the fee-for-value. In our own small way, we’re going to help preserve Medicare and everybody is going to be better off. I think we’ve got a chance to be a really big company because we add a lot of value.
Do you have any concluding thoughts?
We’re in a really great time. The country has paid the bill for putting in all these electronic health records. The government subsidized $31 billion and health systems have paid way more than that to get these things up and running. Essentially, the railroad tracks are down.
On average, we look at 30 elements in the medical record before we give the physician advice. We look at their medications, we look at their lab results, we look at their age, their presenting symptoms. Ten years ago, you couldn’t do that, because the stuff wasn’t digitized.
To get the Meaningful Use money, you have to get clinicians entering their own orders. We now have the point of attack where the clinician is ordering something. We have a rich amount of digitized medical records. We finally have the infrastructure to start giving people intelligent clinical advice.
The technology is there. The payment reform is the driver for change. There’s never been a better time to be in healthcare technology. We’re going to see huge advances in the next five years. It’s an exciting time to be in the business.