David Lee is CEO of Huntington Medical Foundation of Pasadena, CA.
Tell me about yourself and the medical group.
I’ve been in the medical group practice for over 20-plus years. To a community clinic, from an FQHC, to a private practice, to a mid-sized medical group like we are here, I have a vast experience in healthcare over a long period of time. Most of it’s been from an operational standpoint, so it gives me some good background of knowing the different lines of healthcare business. Not just in the commercial world, but also in the community side of it.
We’re a multi-specialty group, about 75 physicians, eight locations, and with a handful of subspecialties in the group. We are spread out primarily in Pasadena, but east is Arcadia and also north is La Canada.
What are your primary systems?
Our EHR system is the Allscripts Enterprise system.
What do you think about the Meaningful Use program?
The ambition is the right ambition. There’s no perfect EHR system. A lot of times, it’s how it gets mapped and capturing the right information. There are times of trying to capture the information in a meaningful way is not always the most meaningful way to capture the information, to be quite frank with you. It’s just trying to navigate into some of the complexities of an EHR system.
I don’t think there’s a perfect system out there that does it all. Having a strong IT team and a clinical team to be able to make sure that the execution takes place is a critical piece for us and what we do. That’s how we’ve been successful in Meaningful Use.
What is your real-world experience in exchanging information with other providers?
My end goal is to get to the predictive analytics side of it and create an ecosystem that has self-reporting data to be able to aggregate the data. As you’re well aware, today it’s all disparate.
On our end, what we’re doing is not relying on our EHR system to pull out data. We have someone who’s dedicated on the analytics side who will dive in deeper into the data. But we’re also being innovative and thinking outside of healthcare.
We’re engaged today in working outside of the healthcare industry to have some of these solutions to creating, for example, a master patient index, so that the disparate systems are being connected and to be able to exchange information. Not so much in an HIE, but similar to an HIE. As simply as getting an order to a specialist that’s outside of our organization. It’s always been a challenge, but I’m very optimistic – we are very close on our end to making this connection happen in the near term.
Are physicians are pushing back against the idea that everything that they do should be summarized by clicking a box or choosing a dropdown and in doing so losing the ability to quickly determine afterward what’s wrong with the patient or what they need to do?
Absolutely. Part of the challenge is completing a form online. A lot of those forms are converted in a PDF and it’s not discrete. Once it comes into our system, it’s still fragmented. Part of what we’re trying to do is getting this form that’s filled in discretely completed and moving that discrete information into that patient’s profile in the EHR system.
There’s been a lot of work on our end of creating that type of system so that it becomes seamless and it tells the right story at the right time for our physicians. If it’s a scanned document, it gets filed away and then scanned. The frequency of those being viewed is probably not as good if it was on a dashboard created on the screen as a summary of what’s currently in our system. That would be much more effective than as a scanned document.
How are you doing with exchanging information with hospitals?
We’re fortunate that with our partnership through Huntington Hospital, Huntington Hospital has an HIE. We’re able to get the information from an inpatient standpoint. Obviously it’s not perfect and I think there’s some challenges with that, but half of the battle is that there’s an HIE already established to be able to get ED visits, inpatient information, lab information, anything that resides in their system that involves one of our patients. We can get that information today and we are fortunate in that sense.
Have you started the move toward value-based care in a way that has increased the need for that same kind of connectivity to outside organizations?
Absolutely. The culture has definitely changed for our organization in moving to a value-based. A lot of things, even from the physician standpoint, are changing some of our compensation model for our physicians to incentivize in the right away, a lot of it based on the value. But not just the segmentation of that. Our entire population is all based on this value-based, taking the baby steps incrementally to get that in place.
But the importance of it is the data. We also have an ACO that is very critical in how we hand off care, especially with the high risk and trying to look at readmission rate. We leverage resources from the hospital, but also with that leverage of not just resources, but the data. Trying to get that aggregated is an important piece that we’re working through, too.
In terms of population health management, who drives the initiative and what information is collected and aggregated to allow you to manage a population outside your own encounters?
Today we are taking just a segment of the population. It’s a Medicare population with the ACO. That is a start. That also includes independent physicians in the community that are into some ACO. Obviously there’s different challenges in that sense, but we have just embarked with a segment of that population.
On our end, from an ambulatory standpoint, we look at it as the entire population. But when we’re looking at it from an enterprise and a value-based with the hospital, we’re just taking the Medicare population and specifically the ACO population.
Are you learning anything in those steps of trying to understand more about the patient outside their visits and trying engage with them even when they don’t initiate the conversation?
Overall, patients are very receptive. We collected data and looked at our readmissions. We took a segment in that ACO population and took some of the high-risk patients to reduce readmission rate. When we first started, our readmission rate was 16 percent. By leveraging, for example, resources from the nurse navigators that then come into one of our three primary care offices, internal medicine offices, to be able to go into our EHR system to look at the data. We reduced it to eight percent readmission rate, a substantial amount of percent reduction. Leveraging some of the resources, and those are resources being able to tap into our information to be able to then manage the patients. Obviously the outcomes have been successful in what we’re trying to do.
What is that patient’s recourse if they have a problem at nine at night other than to go to the ED?
We have an urgent care. That’s something positive on our end. It closes at 10, and when you’re in one system, the navigation internally makes it more seamless. We’re able to leverage that instead of them going to the ED.
The nurse navigators, for example, are always connected. If they’re in the skilled nursing facility, they are always informing the primary care physician about keeping them in the loop if there’s any activity that needs to be contacted. Again, it’s not perfect. We just started this program about eight months ago. But it’s been a good work in progress of looking at where those gaps are, and the ones we identify, we’re able to put some solutions together.
For-profit retail clinics can be either competitors or partners, and in some cases, they are offering community outreach services and off-hours coverage. Do you have any relationships with them?
We currently don’t have any partnerships with these retail businesses, but I am looking into creating this. A lot of our patients want care right now. Creating access is always a challenge in healthcare.
What I’m looking to do is create a platform that not only engages the patient when they need it from a telemedicine standpoint, but the whole patient experience along with the whole continuum. Create a platform from a technology standpoint so that I’m not relying on a retail business … not knowing if they got services in that sense, but when the services are performed that we have that information.
As I mentioned early on, the end goal of what I’m trying to achieve is getting to the predictive analytics side of it. Why am I interested? Because for us, we need to transform and focus on the prevention and the wellness side of it. For so long, healthcare has not put any emphasis on that. We’re really driven on this outcome-based. We need to focus a lot of our efforts on the prevention side. From the prevention side, we’ve got to dive in deep to look at the analytics to be predictive before they get sick and we’re managing patients at that point, before they enter into the hospital. There’s no follow-up from an ambulatory standpoint. We just need to have much more effective systems in place to be able to do that.
Retail clinics have a lot of locations, extended hours, and short wait times. Are you feeling market pressure to change your practice for patient convenience?
No, I haven’t felt it yet. In our area, it’s probably slower on that retail business side of it. But as it grows, we just then need to figure out from an access standpoint how to get that information back. As the world moves into this value-based and more outcome-driven, it’s more about getting that information, that data, back into our system. If we’re not informed or in the loop of that even though the care was taking place, those outcomes won’t go anywhere. They’re getting the care somewhere else.
What are you doing or considering to let patients be more involved in the information that you have or to collect information from them?
Patients have access to a portal that gives information. What I hope in the near future is that we get much more push notification in creating that experience, as simply informing patients as they walk into our office to be able to say, “Welcome to your 10:00 appointment” or if our physician is behind. They’re using their own personal device of getting information that we’re helping to provide them so they’re much more informed and much more engaged about their own health. Those are some of the pieces that from a technology standpoint of what we’re looking to do.
I personally feel that we haven’t leveraged technology and healthcare in general the way we should have. As a lot of good solutions in the healthcare space have been entered, we need to take advantage of some of these opportunities to create a better experience for our patients and better care. It doesn’t have to be a traditional way of coming to the office to be treated –it can be done with us sending someone into the home or using telemedicine, especially from a technology standpoint. We need to start exploring and creating some of that delivery model in a different way.
What are the technologies you need that someone could build?
The interoperability, the connection, the integration to outside systems that are outside of our organization. That’s one of our biggest challenges. When you have the disparate systems out there, it’s hard to get that connection. That would be our number one problem and issue.
That’s where duplications often are created. Primary care sends a referral to a specialist outside of our network or our organization. If the subspecialty is referring to another subspecialty, or a subspecialty wants to see that patient again for a follow-up, primary care is unaware of that 90 percent of the time. That’s the part of the system — how do we get that connection, so at least everyone who’s part of this patient’s care is in the loop of the care that’s being taken care of? That’s a big challenge for healthcare, to connect all these fragmented systems into a much more seamless and aggregated way.
What will be the group’s greatest opportunities and the greatest threats in the next five years?
Healthcare in general is rapidly changing, but I think one of our greatest opportunities will be the technology side. Healthcare in general has not done a good job in collecting that data or even using technology in a meaningful way. But the obstacle and challenge that healthcare faces is culture. A long-time fee-for-service world and mentality changing into a value-based and a focus on prevention and wellness — that’s a culture shift. When you’re doing that, it doesn’t happen overnight. I see that as the biggest challenge for the healthcare in general and the industry — changing culture. It will be a big undertaking.