EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 7/8/21
It’s always good to hear about true interoperability in action. The Surescripts Clinical Direct Messaging platform has sent over 7 million COVID-19 immunization notifications from retail pharmacies to primary care providers. Now if only we could get health systems to share amongst themselves so that patients could have one cohesive record, that would be great.
I have multiple Epic charts in practices that are literally across the road from each other, but because they belong to competing health systems, they don’t recognize each other’s data. I know that Epic is capable of sharing, but the systems aren’t ready for that. Information blocking, anyone?
The World Health Organization issues its first global report on the use of AI in healthcare. Titled “Ethics and governance of artificial intelligence for health,” it includes six guiding principles for the regulation and governance of AI that are fairly straightforward and frankly are in line with what we should be doing in all facets of healthcare IT:
- Protect human autonomy.
- Promote human well-being and safety and the public interest.
- Ensure transparency, explainability, and intelligibility.
- Foster responsibility and accountability.
- Ensure inclusiveness and equity.
- Promote responsive, sustainable AI.
The report does note that we need to be cautious about overestimating the benefits that AI can provide, particularly if resources are diverted from core investments needed to achieve universal health coverage. I thought it was a nice way of saying, “watch out for shiny object syndrome.” When you’ve got people in the world who lack basic hygiene and sanitation, clean water, and immunizations, it’s sometimes difficult to think about spending millions of dollars on advances like AI.
During the last few weeks, I’ve seen multiple articles looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on various preventive screenings. One article looked specifically at screening test volumes through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer early detection program. In analyzing data from January to June 2020, the authors found that the pandemic reduced screening rates among low-income women covered by the program. This is not at all surprising to those of us who have been in primary care. When push comes to shove and women are under stresses, they tend to put themselves last because they’re busy caring for their family members. The pandemic added extra layers of stress, including economic burdens, distance learning, and greater care responsibilities for elderly relatives or those at high risk for complications due to COVID-19.
Several of my clients have asked me to assist them with campaigns to reach out to patients for preventive screenings. The more sophisticated clients can trigger scheduling of the services through text messages, but some still require patients to call in or access a patient portal to schedule.
Although they’re excited about the capabilities of their patient engagement platforms, I have to keep reminding them that getting the patients engaged and scheduled is only part of the battle. They need to be making operational changes to make it easy to actually have the tests performed. This means leveraging technology investments to streamline in-person registration processes and history updates. The facility where I had been getting my mammograms is one of my clients and my last experience was so unfortunate that I transferred care elsewhere.
What could they do to better serve their patients? First, leverage the EHR. Use the system’s capability to generate pre-populated patient information forms so patients merely have to update their history rather than filling out a bunch of redundant information, including name and date of birth on every page. Use the data already in the system regarding primary care physician, ordering physician, and date of last exam to make it clear that you already know a good chunk of what’s going on with the patient.
Second, streamline the “COVID hygiene theater” processes that are still going on in many medical facilities, including excessive distancing and unwarranted surface cleaning that slow patient flow or create unneeded levels of concern regarding infection control.
Third, figure out how to schedule so that you can run on time. Use the data from your systems to fully understand your throughput so people can have timely testing and get back to their other responsibilities. Getting a mammogram or a pap test shouldn’t be an all-day affair, but in many places, it is, which adds additional barriers for patients in hourly jobs or patients who might not have protected time off.
Props to Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth in Springfield, MO. He tells those who are spreading vaccine misinformation to “shut up.” Even better is the thread where his mother, a 90-year old retired operating nurse, says “I have always told you not to tell people to shut up, but this it is okay.” Ready to rumble, indeed.
I recently heard the phrase “innovation through imitation” used and kind of chuckled at it, but the more I think about it, the more it applies to entirely too many initiatives. The most recent example I’ve seen is the recent announcement that Dollar General plans to jump into the healthcare fray with a push to expand health offerings across rural communities in the US. The press release summarizes the company’s plan to “establish itself as a health destination” by stocking “an increased assortment of cough and cold, dental, nutritional, medical, health aids and feminine hygiene products” in stores. To further this effort, they’ve hired a chief medical officer, Albert Wu, MD, formerly of McKinsey & Company.
I hope one of the first thing Dr. Wu does is to consider bringing the company’s press release writers into the world of inclusive language by using modern terminology such as “menstrual care products” to describe some of the offerings they plan to stock. News flash: transgender men and nonbinary people may menstruate, and the continued use of “hygiene” around menstrual products perpetuates myths that menstruation is somehow unclean. According to the press release, Dr. Wu went straight from his anesthesiology residency to being a consultant at McKinsey, so I’m betting his missed out on the subtleties that many of us learn to appreciate through decades in practice. I’m a little embarrassed on his behalf about the way it was worded, as well as about some of the things in his LinkedIn profile, but I wish him the best in his efforts.
What do you think would be the most helpful strategy for building greater healthcare infrastructure in rural communities? Leave a comment or email me.
Email Dr. Jayne.
re: Cigna payment model/denials - this is not surprising at all. I had a client sue another large national payer…