I spent a rare couple of days traveling for non-work business, but through the magic that is the small world of healthcare IT, I ran into a friend I normally only see at HIMSS. It’s always fun to run into people out of context, when you’re trying to make sure they’re really who you think they are before you call out to them. Since I was wandering around the city while my friends were attending a patient safety conference, it was nice to see a friendly face.
I did end up in some healthcare IT conversations over dinner and drinks, however, and I heard some horror stories from a conference panel on HIPAA requirements and security risk analysis. One of my friends admitted that she had her work laptop stolen and didn’t report it to anyone despite it containing protected health information. That sort of thing is one of the perks (or hazards, depending on how you look at it) of owning your own practice and not fully understanding the huge number of laws that impact our practices. At least she realized after attending the conference that she should have taken additional action.
One of my other traveling companions works for a large integrated delivery network, where policy and procedure reign. She shared her thoughts around a session on patient safety and how it relates to impaired or distressed physicians. I agree with her suspicion that we’re going to see more of those types of situations as physician stress and burnout increase. We had a great discussion on addressing the needs of physicians with chronic health conditions that are impacting their ability to deliver care. She’s in a leadership role, and given the size of her organization, has dealt with a number of issues including early-onset dementia, a surgeon with new-onset seizures that began in the operating room, and uncontrolled diabetes leading to a physician collapsing on a patient. She’s approaching retirement and I think she might have a bright future as a storyline consultant for a medical TV show.
We were also entertained by another member of our physician “ladies weekend” party who was trying her hand at social media. Even though her practice has been around for nearly 20 years, they’ve never taken the plunge. She was trying to figure out how to post conference snippets on Facebook and Twitter without being overly obvious or violating any terms of the conference or the social media platforms. They’re concerned about having patients follow them on Facebook and post personal details, revealing that they’re patients. We discussed different ways of controlling posts to their page and how to respond when there are potentially inappropriate submissions. Their practice could be a case study in physician workforce management and advertising: an OB/GYN practice which has recently converted to GYN-only to meet the needs of their “mature” physician staff, but wants to try to grow the practice.
They’re also trying to limit the number of surgical procedures they do, but I don’t think that they realized how challenging it would be to try to build a patient panel to support Well Woman visits that only occur once a year. They are considering the incorporation of some non-core procedures that we see other physicians adding as their demographics shift: facial aesthetic services, leg vein treatments, weight management, and other typically cash-only services. It will be interesting to see how their strategy has evolved when I meet up with her again at a conference we’re scheduled to attend in April. Hopefully by then her social media habits will have matured enough that she’s not obsessing over every “like.”
I returned home to a day in the patient care trenches, which made it seem like I was never on vacation. Work has a way of sneaking up on you like that, and since I was training a new physician assistant as well as keeping my eye on a couple of new patient care techs, it was more stressful than usual. We’re gearing up for a busy pre-holiday week and are starting to see increased volumes from out-of-town visitors. Add in the extra patients from primary care offices that are closing or working shortened hours this week and it will only get busier. Since I don’t travel for Thanksgiving, I usually work multiple shifts around it to allow my partners who do travel to have some breathing room. I’m sure by next Sunday I’ll be dragging, although hopefully some leftover Turkey and dressing will keep me fueled. Our practice has tripled in size over the last two years and there don’t see any signs that things will slow down anytime soon.
I closed out the weekend with some online training for an analytics startup that asked me to do some work. They’re looking for independent review of their overall approach but also of their training curriculum and whether outsiders think it will be as easy to implement as they have convinced themselves that it will be. Although the training was solid, there are definitely some holes in their workflow since they’re making the assumption that everyone in the office will be using the solution at the point of care. The problem is that it’s not embedded in the EHR, so it’s yet another one of those “one more place to go for data” destinations that clinical users struggle to reach. For small practices that don’t have dedicated care coordinators or care managers, the idea of analytics is daunting enough on its own. Add in the assumption that physicians should be doing it while they’re seeing patients and I think it becomes a bit of a non-starter.
I’ll complete my write-up for them later this week and then will have a debrief with their marketing team and training team next week. I’d rather have a debrief with their strategy team and CMIO, but we’ll just have to see where my preliminary findings take us. The startup’s leadership seems pretty convinced they’ve nailed it and I’m not sure how open they are to receiving feedback that isn’t 100 percent in line with their expectations. I’ve been in the startup space before and I know I’d rather receive critical comments from internal and external testers rather than from clients whose expectations we missed.
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