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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 2/9/17

February 9, 2017 Dr. Jayne No Comments

Several readers asked whether I saw this article about Obamacare vs. the Affordable Care Act, so I feel compelled to respond. I don’t know about the exact statistics, but we’re having lots of conversations with patients in the office about their coverage and their concerns about what will be changing. Usually it’s in the context of their being grateful for our transparent pricing and low costs, but a lot of people are genuinely worried about pre-existing conditions and whether their insurance will still cover preventive services.

When patients complain about rising premiums or changes to insurance plan offerings, I typically mention that while the laws regulate doctors and hospitals, there hasn’t been much done in the way of insurance regulation. Whether or not you think enormous bonuses for insurance company CEOs are warranted, the sheer economics dictate that the money has to come from somewhere.

On the payer front, Centene’s recent report showed quarterly revenue and profit ahead of expectations, helped by growth in the individual coverage market and by Medicaid expansion. Net earnings for Centene were $261 million for the fourth quarter of 2016. Based on 11.4 million patients covered, it’s a small margin, but when you couple it with the administrative costs of running a health plan, it represents a tremendous amount of premium and tax dollars that are not being spent on patient care.

I’ve been inundated by requests from HIMSS for their corporate member focus groups. Some of the sessions are pretty drab sounding and others don’t work with my schedule, so I probably won’t make it to any this year. I was a little aggravated, though, that they can’t figure out how to blind copy the invitation – seems like a basic email skill.

Some of the sessions are vendor-specific and it’s obvious who you will be talking to or about, but others are a bit more vague. I was tempted by one that advertised discussion of precision medicine solutions, but I figured it would just irritate me. As a preventive and public health curmudgeon, I have a hard time talking about spending millions of dollars on focused gene-based therapy when we can’t fund the basics of health promotion and disease prevention.

I attended a service launch webinar for another consulting company this week. They’re not in the same space as me, but they’re a fun bunch of people, so I wanted to see what they’re up to. They’ve partnered with a third-party vendor for the tool, although they didn’t say it. If it’s not totally white labeled, I think it’s better to say you’re at least “powered by X vendor” rather than having prospects or vendors see “copyright X vendor” at the bottom of the screen and wonder what’s going on. The presenter also seemed nervous. Even if you’re a presentation pro, I’d definitely recommend a dry run when you’re launching something new or presenting in a new format.

For weird news fans: I stumbled across an article about a patient who lived for six days without lungs. She had been waiting for a transplant but developed influenza and sepsis along with organ therapy. After concluding that death was likely imminent unless there was intervention, physicians removed the source of infection – her lungs. She was placed on an external oxygenation device (Novalung) with rapid improvement and received donor lungs several days later. Four months later, she’s breathing normally on room air, although she does still have to have dialysis following kidney failure. Hearing about physicians pushing the boundaries and having success reminds me of the excitement of medical school, when it seemed like our faculty was making history on a weekly basis.

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CMS has extended the submission deadline for 2016 clinical quality measure reporting required by eligible hospitals and critical access hospitals participating in the Medicare EHR Incentive Program or the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting program. Electronic clinical quality measures are now due March 13 rather than February 28. For 2017 reporting, CMS plans to start a rule-making process looking at modifications to the final rule. It’s always fun to wait for the rules to be finalized after you’re already playing the game.

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The AMIA Mentor Match program is looking for informaticists willing to spend an hour a month for the next 11 months working with mentees. I’m thinking about signing up, but struggle with how to describe my experience and areas of expertise. Somehow I don’t think “Sassy former CMIO turned consultant seeks idealistic mentee to remind me how idealistic I used to be, before corporate healthcare and chaotic vendors drove me over the edge” is what they’re looking for. Some days I wish I had a mentor of my own to give me perspective on the bizarre work situations in which I often find myself.

I’m spending some extended time in the patient care trenches due to a colleague’s medical leave. We’ve started seeing some EHR performance issues during the times of peak patient volume. It’s bad enough when you’re overwhelmed with patients, but having your system fail you makes it intolerable. At times, the system is at a crawl.

I was spoiled when I was a CMIO because our EHR vendor had a SWAT team they would send out for issues like this. Even if you had strong resources in house, you could leverage the team to review performance and monitoring tools and make recommendations. My current vendor is on the smaller side and not terribly helpful when it comes to helping us manage the issues.

We use a third party to manage desktop and wireless solutions, so as you can imagine, there is a bit of finger-pointing between the access crowd and the application support folks. It always unnerves the IT team when you have a physician who starts asking about latency and Citrix load balancing, but I’m happy to give everyone a nudge to stop the blame game and get about the business of finding solutions.

The HIMSS mailings have started rolling in. Every year it seems like the marketing themes and giveaways get a little goofier. Physicians have long been scrutinized for regarding gifts from industry, but there’s no reporting for the majority of healthcare IT professionals. I hope the Open Payments system has fields available for tracking giveaways such as virtual reality goggles, scooters, art pieces, and more.

What’s the best trade show giveaway you’ve ever seen? Email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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