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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 8/9/18

August 9, 2018 Dr. Jayne 3 Comments

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Throughout my medical training, my early days in practice, and during countless go-lives, I’ve experienced some degree of sleep deprivation. I look forward to weekends when I’m not seeing patients and when I can sleep in, trying to (at least psychologically) catch up on all those “lost” hours. Today my hopes were dashed, with news that sleeping too much might be bad for one’s health. Researchers conducted their analysis using combined data from three million patients across numerous studies. They concluded that sleeping more than the recommended 8 hours can be associated with a higher rate of death. The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, also proposes that poor sleep quality can be associated with cardiovascular disease.

Sleeping for 10 hours was linked to a 30 percent higher risk of death, where the nine-hour threshold was linked to a 14 percent higher risk. The National Sleep Foundation’s guidelines recommend 7-9 hours of sleep for most adults under age 65 and 7-8 hours for the retirement set. It’s not just about the number of hours, though – increased sleep can be associated with underlying chronic diseases that cause fatigue or increase sleep including thyroid dysfunction, anemia, depression, and other conditions. Decreased activity levels and unemployment can also negatively impact sleep, as can social, psychological, and environmental factors. The authors note that clinicians should further explore both duration and quality of sleep when assessing patients.

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I’ve been doing some work with an organization that is considering enhancements to its clinical decision support capabilities. They’re looking at adding some provider dashboards along with peer data transparency as a way to drive adoption of clinical protocols. A recent study looked at how well physicians adhere to guidelines for prescribing certain cholesterol-lowering drugs. The physicians who had visibility into the prescribing habits of their peers showed a significant increase in prescriptions for statin drugs. The authors designed the study to be outside the EHR in order to better measure its effect and to create an ideal design. They did note, though, that although use of dashboards can increase compliance with guideline-based prescribing activities, the dashboards “may need to be designed to better fit within clinician workflow.” They also surmised that there may be better response to communications from physician and practice leaders rather than from researchers.

More frequent reminders or provision of peer data may also make a difference. I worked with a startup a few years ago that used single sign-on (SSO) technology to make that kind of dashboard data visible for individual patients at the point of care, but they had some challenges with overall adoption of the SSO platform that effectively killed the patient-centric display of data. The authors also noted that their approach allowed for physicians to complete the intervention by prescribing medication outside of an office visit. They note the challenge that “physicians with larger patient panels may face difficulties managing these types of decisions outside of their traditional clinic model when they receive a long list of eligible patients at one time without additional support.” They conclude that there may be benefit in delivering regular feedback over a longer period and leveraging “multiple opportunities to address gaps in care for smaller subsets of patients.”

When I was reading the article, I was having flashbacks to the annual “report cards” that a couple of my insurance plans would send to my practice before the days of EHR. They’d have large lists of patients who were identified as missing services. They were created using only claims data, and since they were only sent out annually, there was a high likelihood that they were outdated. The arrival of the reports would send my staff into a mad scramble of chart-pulling and review, followed by outreach to patients to determine whether they had the services somewhere else, paid cash, or attended a free screening. If not, we’d arrange the services. If they did, we’d have to get copies of the data, update the charts, prepare a response to the payer, and get ready to start the cycle over again once the next payer’s packet arrived. Of course, there was no coordination between the cycle on which I received my reports and when my partner received his, or among payers, so it seemed like we were in a state of constant chart-pulling and review. Thinking back, I have to laugh – we could have completed the exercise in the EHR in a matter of hours rather than days, assuming we hadn’t already identified those gaps in care and acted on them ourselves.

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WalletHub released its list of “Best & Worst States for Health Care” this week. The analysis looked at 40 measures of cost, quality, and access across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Hawaii led the list based on aggregate scores; North Carolina, Arkansas, Alaska, Mississippi, and Louisiana round out the bottom. My own state lands somewhere in the middle, which really doesn’t make me feel that much better. There are also lists looking at average monthly insurance premium cost, hospital beds per capita, physicians per capita, and more.

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I’m a sucker for healthcare IT-related headlines, even though they may be clickbait. I was drawn in by mention of a CMS call to put an end to physician office fax machines by 2020. CMS Administrator Seema Verma delivered this challenge as part of a push for digital health information, leading up to the Blue Button 2.0 Developer Conference that starts next week. There wasn’t much more meat on the bone here, but I was suckered into reading nevertheless.

I continue to see fax machines in most of the offices I visit, even those that are live on nationwide data-sharing platforms. It’s not just physician practices that are complicit in the continuing need for “faxes” even if they are generated and received electronically. I recently had a change in my pharmacy benefit manager, which requires that either my physician fax a prescription to them or that I mail in a paper document. I specifically asked about electronic prescribing and the phone agent said no – even though I know they accept it – so giving that message to patients is not helpful. I mentioned to the phone agent that when I order new contacts, I can send a photo of my script to the vendor to speed things along – no such luck for drug prescriptions. I guess I’ll wait the advertised 10-12 days until my script comes in.

When is the last time you used a fax machine? Leave a comment or email me.

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