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Readers Write 5/9/11

May 9, 2011 Readers Write 4 Comments

Submit your article of up to 500 words in length, subject to editing for clarity and brevity (please note: I run only original articles that have not appeared on any Web site or in any publication and I can’t use anything that looks like a commercial pitch). I’ll use a phony name for you unless you tell me otherwise. Thanks for sharing!

Nurse Buy-In Essential to ACO Success
By Lisa Reichard, RN, BSN

5-9-2011 7-06-24 PM 

Though the healthcare technology landscape has changed greatly over the last 10 years, what the clinical nurse cares about most has not: delivering the best care possible to the patient. As National Nurses Week celebrates the caregivers that most would agree form the backbone of healthcare, it is interesting — as an RN who now works on the vendor side of things — to watch the leadership role of nurses evolve, especially in light of the policies behind accountable care. The ACO model will directly affect a nurse’s role at the bedside, or, as mobile technologies may have it, over the phone, via text, or by Skype.

The pending ACO model will be physician driven, true, but it must also include nurses and other providers to improve the quality of healthcare services and reduce costs. Regardless of whether an organization pilots an ACO, gets ready for the Medicare Shared Savings Program, or even chooses to wait and see how ACOs develop, the main cornerstones of ACOs — assumption of clinical risk, improvements in quality care measures, and decreasing costs — will be required of all organizations as the healthcare industry moves through reform. Therefore, nurses will be required to enhance their overall accountability and embrace the role of patient advocates in the ACO model, especially with regard to management of patients’ chronic conditions.

As CMS statistics show, 75-80% of healthcare costs are related to chronic conditions. The impact of the clinical nurse on continuity of care, from emergency room to clinic or physician office to home care, will be crucial to accountable care’s success. So how will this need for greater accountability work its way into a nurse’s already pressure-filled shift? How can administrators, doctors, payers, and even vendors get a nurse to buy in to an ACO?

Vendors tend to emphasize new technology and cost containment surrounding ACO policy as the biggest pieces of the pie when going into a clinical setting. It is important to understand, however, that at first glance, the clinical nurse may be inclined to view ACOs as roadblocks to patient care since they are used to the “treat the illness and hope that patients will comply at home” model now in place. This is where vendors and policy makers can point out and emphasize the benefits of the ACO model – improved patient outcomes and higher quality patient care, which, after all, are what nurses value most.

5-9-2011 7-02-17 PM

The time is ripe for nurses to take the lead in defining the way ACOs will deliver. Opportunities abound, including:

  • Identifying patients at risk for 30-day and multiple readmissions;
  • Assisting in developing clinical criteria and benchmarks around “The Right Care At The Right Time,” which is central to ACOs;
  • Increasing the usage and compliance with regards to home monitoring devices;
  • Ensuring timely care coordination between hospital and community-based providers;
  • Involving nurses as change agents to improve quality indicator scores;
  • Taking an active role in delivery models that focus on ongoing care coordination and resultant evaluations of clinical and financial effectiveness;
  • Developing nurse peer groups and support around new technologies like EMRs and PHRs; and
  • Helping with the development of quality measures not currently being tracked by CMS. These could include measures for the treatment of cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, or chronic pain. It will be challenging to create outcome measures that capture all key attributes of successful treatments.

Vendors can assist in this process by walking in the nurses’ shoes, understanding their world and what is at the heart of their work — helping patients to get well and stay well. Coming from this angle of understanding and cooperation, friends will be made, and yes, care will even become accountable.

Lisa Reichard, RN, BSN is director of business development at Billian’s HealthDATA.

Meaningful Use: A Case for Choosing Cloud-Based Technology
By Russ Keene

5-9-2011 6-57-42 PM

On Monday, April 18, a moment that was once among the most hyped in recent health IT memory passed almost unnoticed. That day, the Department of Health and Human Services opened the process for physicians to attest to demonstrating Meaningful Use of an EHR system so they could qualify to receive Medicare incentive payments.

Of the estimated 95,000 physicians now using an EHR system, just 150 stepped forward to attest to achieving Phase 1 Meaningful Use measures.

What gives?

As Douglas Foreman, DO, one of those 150 physicians learned, demonstrating Meaningful Use isn’t difficult. In fact, he exceeded the requirements, and did so within the first 90-day eligibility period.

Foreman’s (and his staff’s) commitment to his patients and to meeting the Core and Menu Set requirements cannot be discounted. But a decision he made in 1997 to use a cloud-based practice management and EHR system gave him a head start.

The term cloud computing is a recent entry to the IT lexicon, but the technology has been around for a while. Cloud-based health IT systems don’t require client-server hardware or for physicians to install special software on each computer. They deliver advanced health IT capabilities through a simple Web browser. System maintenance and upgrades are included in a monthly subscription rate, and delivered seamlessly.

Foreman’s example offers a clear case for physicians to consider cloud-based technologies for their health IT systems and to rid themselves of the archaic client server-based systems which are difficult to upgrade and costly to support.

Foreman received his Meaningful Use upgrade one weekend in May 2010, along with thousands of other doctors. Within days, he said he could see how well-designed technology contributes to his ability to improve patient care while also making it easier to demonstrate Meaningful Use.

However, as Foreman told Physicians Practice, the EHR vendor needs to support physicians’ efforts to demonstrate Meaningful Use. “Your vendor should have a support team. They need to be familiar with the process and support you,” he said.

He’s right. Health IT providers owe it to their clients to help them be successful at demonstrating Meaningful Use, to make using health IT simple and affordable, and to ensure the technology really delivers when it comes to supporting better patient care.

Dr. Foreman was successful because of his commitment to make technology work for his practice and because of the technology that he chose. As a result, he will receive his first payments soon. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of other EHR users are still waiting for their health IT vendor to get around to upgrading the systems in their offices. As those companies know, scaling to meet that demand is exceptionally difficult.

Physicians shopping for an EHR system should ask a couple of questions. If it’s this difficult for the old technology companies to enable their current clients to meet Phase 1 Meaningful Use requirements, how will they fare in preparing even more users for Phases 2 and 3? And, can they realistically support ICD-10 and future regulatory changes that require updates to their software?

Meaningful Use is just one stop on a long ride of technology advancement. As such, the case for “the cloud” is clear.

  • Minimum upfront investment, lower total cost of ownership, and rapid ROI
  • Cumulative value and simple interoperability with a wealth of systems and health industry partners
  • Adaptability to future demands, from ICD-10 to new Meaningful Use rules to additional performance and quality measurement capabilities

It’s time to focus on the needs of the end user. The cloud offers the easiest, fastest, and most economical means for many physicians to implement and use an EHR system.

Russ Keene is vice president of Ingenix CareTracker.

The Power to Fail
By RJ Dio

As good as the fine novel Spooner is by Pete Dexter, it’s Dexter’s bio on the back jacket that pleases me more. Dexter wrote the bio himself and it states:

Pete Dexter began his working life with a US Post office in New Orleans, Louisiana. He wasn’t very good at mail and quit, then caught on as a newspaper reporter in Florida, which he was not very good at, got married, and was not very good at that. In Philadelphia he became a newspaper columnist, which he was pretty good at, and got divorced, which you would have to say he was good at because it only cost $300. Dexter remarried, won the National Book Award, and built a house in the desert so remote that there is no postal service. He’s out there six months a year, pecking away at the typewriter, living proof of the adage “What goes around comes around” –that is, you quit the post office, pal, and the post office quits you.

What can we learn from this (besides using a sense of humor when we can)? Courage. Not many people admit their mistakes, and few of us would be candid in our assessments of ourselves or our efforts. 

It takes courage, for example, to admit an HIT project was a disaster, and to candidly discuss how it went wrong, lessons learned, and what can be done to avoid this again. The typical post-mortem that all thoughtful projects (even unsuccessful ones) should use at their conclusion. 

Where’s the story on the eight-year Cerner rollout that wasn’t intentionally slotted for eight years, for example? The lowdown on why a vendor would explain poor business intelligence reporting by suggesting the hospital spend close to another million dollars to add CPUs in a database server so the reports will run faster? The honest facts on a clinical workflow software solution that’s a glorified Intranet?

As the woman in the Wendy’s commercial in the 1980s demanded, “Where’s the beef?”

We live in a world where everyone has a raving recommendation on LinkedIn — or maybe 30 — and most of us have written them, too. Meanwhile, we could use a few people to step up courageously with constructive feedback on HIT efforts that lost their way, without permanently judging (or misjudging) those who didn’t succeed.  Some great leaders (but not enough) readily say to others, “Let me share some of my mistakes with you so you don’t have to make them, too.”

After all, failure serves a purpose in life, and business, and sometimes it makes us far better than we ever could have been otherwise. It just takes time to know. “A lot of good things in my life came from half my mistakes,” says the songwriter Radney Foster, and I’m right on board with him, (even if I did use too many parentheses in this piece).

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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. >>> Of the estimated 95,000 physicians now using an EHR system, just 150 stepped forward to attest to achieving Phase 1 Meaningful Use measures.

    Russ, where did you find the information on the 150 who successfully attested so far to meaningful use? Your article offered a lot of interesting ideas… thanks.

  2. The ACO model offers nurses the opportunity to do what they are meant to do — take care of patients. Nursing is patient-centric. It’s the political forces that interfere with nursing and break down nursing care into isolated, non-continuous episodes. When a hospital patient is discharged, what happens to the nursing care plan that was administered in-house? It disappears as if it had no value. That has to stop. Patients deserve better and the nursing care plan should be following the patient no matter what care setting they are in.

  3. Thanks Al, CMS reported that just 150 physicians attested to Meaningful Use on the first day. We were surprised so comparatively few were prepared, given how much EHR vendors talked about getting doctors to Meaningful Use quickly.

    Instead, after more than a year of such talk, we at Ingenix are hearing from prospective clients about the difficulty they’re having implementing Meaningful Use upgrades from other software providers. It doesn’t have to be that way, and I think the service platform is part of the solution.

  4. If we look at the numbers that were presented by Mr. Keene and scale them through the remainder of 2011, even with a reasonable amount of reduction from 150 on day one, there is still a good chance that 25% of EMR users will attest to MUC Stage I in 2011. That would be in line with the other research on how many physicians were actually interested in meeting MUC incentives before they became available.

    I think that looking solely at the technology platform as a burden to meeting Stage I is built on fallacy. Though there are many EMR installations in the market and some do present technological burdens, the bar for meeting meaningful use, though relatively low, requires an overhaul of workflow and significant reduction in patient through-put in order to capture (in a reportable way) the needed data.

    It has been contended in many conversations that physicians are known to err on the side of being conservative. They are trained to wait for peer-reviewed facts before implementing any change to their behaviors in practice, why would we expect that to change with regard to their documentation and reporting habits?

    The analogy I would like to enter is quite simple. People can report and file their taxes electronically in mid-January of each year. I am sure if we looked at the January statistics for people that file, we cannot adequately predict how many overall are going to file by the deadline. So what is to say that because of a slow start to the reporting season in healthcare that this spells doom for the project or stimulus?

    I think it way too early to wave the flag and point blame at the low numbers of people whom took immediate action to qualify for the incentives. Once the initial dust has settled and we at least have one year of statistics on compliance we will be able to adequately discern what were the drivers and barriers to attesting for the Federal Government’s incentive.

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