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Readers Write: What Physicians Want From Their Medical Software

December 29, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

What Physicians Want From Their Medical Software
By Charles Settles


Physicians looking for medical software have many options. With hundreds of healthcare IT vendors and bloated feature sets, making a decision can be difficult. Especially when purchasing a system for the first time.

Many physicians are skeptical of vendor claims (especially regarding workflow efficiency) and healthcare IT in general. Additionally, learning a new system can be a daunting task for busy providers who have spent years managing patient encounters with paper charts. Some providers are opting out of healthcare IT entirely and are accepting reimbursement reductions or taking early retirement in order to avoid electronic health records and other systems.

Conventional wisdom (and the marketing material from vendors) would lead healthcare IT buyers to believe that Meaningful Use incentives are the number one reason to buy medical software. Based on responses we’ve received, fewer than 10 percent of physicians care whether or not their electronic health records system is certified for Meaningful Use. The latest data from CMS would seem to confirm this; less than 1.5 percent of physicians and organizations that attested for Stage 1 of the program have successfully attested for Stage 2.

The biggest factor for most physicians is effective document management. This should come as no surprise. It is difficult to achieve the goal of a paperless office without such tools. Despite requirements for health information exchange, interoperability between medical systems remains difficult. Many providers still use fax machines to coordinate care and share notes. An electronic health records system with built-in fax capabilities allows providers to bypass this. Additionally, the role- and user-based access capabilities provided by these systems keep health information secure in a HIPAA-compliant manner.

The second-most requested feature for medical software is template-based progress notes and orders. Despite concerns with upcoding or indecipherable template-based notes, most physicians want to be able to use customized templates to save time during encounters. One otolaryngologist said he performed “the same three procedures for over 90 percent of patients.” Using a template makes the most sense for providers who find themselves in a similar situation. Primary care providers were the only specialists to show an aversion to template-based notes, which makes sense, as a primary care provider is likely to deliver a much wider variety of care than a specialist.

Other features are less of a surprise: a patient portal, e-prescribing, and tablet or mobile-based access round out the top five most-requested features by providers using our service. Also, despite security and uptime concerns with cloud-delivered systems, it’s worth noting that fewer than 15 percent of providers asked for medical software that could be installed on their own server; 56 percent of providers requested cloud-based software; and the rest had no preference.

Despite the trend of providers opting out of the Meaningful Use Incentive Program, the market for electronic health records and other medical software systems remains significant. With estimates of healthcare IT adoption rates rising above 80 percent, many of these purchasers are replacing an existing system. This could explain some of the feature preferences, especially the significant preference for strong electronic document management capabilities.

Charles Settles is a product analyst at TechnologyAdvice.

Readers Write: Review of the mHealth Summit

December 17, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Review of the mHealth Summit
By Norman Volsky


Last week I attended the mHealth Summit in Washington, DC. I met with 25 vendors over a two-day period and came away with several takeaways regarding mHealth industry trends and the companies that correspond to each.


Changing Patient Behavior

Many companies are trying to change a patient’s behavior and inspire them to participate in their own rescue. If you can change a patient’s behavior that resulted in them getting sick (eating unhealthy, not exercising, smoking, etc.), that patient has a better chance of staying healthy.

  • Telcare. Mobile diabetes solution that allows patients to manage their condition more effectively by providing them with timely and actionable information. Their enterprise glucose monitoring solution enables the entire care team to be connected so they can make a difference.
  • Propeller Health. FDA-cleared asthma and COPD management vendor that helps patients and physicians better manage chronic respiratory conditions. Digital products that have therapeutic benefit.

Reducing Cost and Readmissions

These two themes go hand in hand. Health plans, ACOs, and employers are looking to treat patients outside of the four walls of a hospital. Telehealth in the form of online doctor visits is helping reduce cost significantly for the healthcare system. Monitoring patients remotely and making sure the entire continuum of care is informed can prevent readmissions, reduce the cost of care by treating patients in the appropriate care setting, and prevent catastrophic events.

  • MDLive. Consumer-focused telehealth vendor that provides concierge connected care for customers of all socioeconomic backgrounds. MDLlive has the potential to become the Uber of telehealth by providing a fully integrated end-to-end solution to its customers.
  • Twiage. Communication platform that improves clinical workflow and outcomes by allowing first responders to deliver real-time data from an ambulance to an emergency department physician.
  • Ideal Life. End-to-end remote patient monitoring vendor that has been in the space for 12 years. Allows patients to self-monitor using a wearable device.
  • TruClinic. Medical Skype on steroids. Telemedicine services vendor that allows physicians to use the same workflows they are already using daily.
  • Wellpepper. Patient engagement vendor that provides personalized mobile care plans to patients. Reduces cost by using video capabilities that reduce need for multiple physical therapy visits.
  • SnapMD. Telemedicine vendor that enables doctors (particularly specialists) to develop a digital practice in addition to their core business. Leverages built-up trust with a patient’s personal physician.
  • Lively. Personal emergency response vendor that provides non-invasive wearable device and activity sensors that monitor an elderly person’s behavior and alerts family members if their behavior changes to prevent falls and emergencies.

Managing Risk Effectively

Government regulation has changed how patient care is being paid for. The healthcare industry is morphing from a fee-for-service to a pay-for-performance environment. If a health system can effectively manage risk, they are much better positioned in the new environment.

  • Wellbe. Guided episode management vendor that helps organizations manage risk more effectively and transition into value-based care and bundled payment environment.
  • Acupera. True population health management vendor that created unique workflow engine that guides physicians on a minute-by-minute basis and assigns tasks to the appropriate care team members.

Communication, Interoperability, and Secure Messaging

Patient information is extremely sensitive and confidentiality is paramount. HIPAA compliance is required. Companies have used secure texting, communication, and interoperability to improve medication adherence, referral management, clinical workflows, and many other issues in the healthcare market.

  • CareSync. Facebook for your health. Mobile health platform that helps build a unified patient record and a common care plan. Allows doctors, family members, and friends to monitor a patient’s chronic condition and overall health.
  • Memotext. Medication adherence vendor using a secure messaging platform and behavioral questionnaires to improve patient compliance to medication regimens.
  • Health123. Patient engagement platform that allows HIPAA-compliant communication.
  • Carevia. Telecommunication platform that helps organizations with interoperability.
  • Doc Halo. True mobile health platform that improves workflows and reduces readmissions by enabling secure communication throughout the continuum of care.
  • Mobile Health One. Communication platform that allows validation at the point of registration. Solution has real-time fluidity that improves clinical workflows.
  • Shift Health. Mobile patient engagement platform that addresses survey fatigue by customizing surveys for a healthcare facility.
  • Zoeticx. Sells a middleware solution that addresses patient medical information flow. They help improve outcomes and workflows by overcoming the problems of effective health information exchange and poor EHR interoperability. Their mobile platform has care coordination tools as well as a secure messaging platform that is triggered based on events.

Miscellaneous Emerging Technology

There were several vendors I met with that were doing some unique things that did not fit into the above industry trends.

  • VisualDx. Specializes in diagnostic clinical decision support. They differentiate from other clinical decision support vendors because they are using visual diagnostics to help physicians arrive at the correct diagnosis. They also have a search tool to isolate common infectious diseases based on specific countries. The recent news surrounding misdiagnosed cases of Ebola has moved this type of technology to the top of mind of C-levels at hospitals.
  • Validic. Industry-leading digital health platform that delivers easy access and actionable data that healthcare companies can analyze effectively. It is a back-end solution that provides maintenance and integration for the entire digital health ecosystem.
  • J Street Technology. Scheduling software that automates the process of backfilling cancelled appointments. Securely texts patients to confirm appointments and makes sure doctors’ schedules are optimally filled.
  • Care Connectors. Back-end integration vendor that provides bi-directional communication and coordinated care solutions to enable the healthcare ecosystem.

Overall, I saw a lot of awesome technology. This is a growing, exciting space and I am very fortunate to talk to interesting people throughout the industry daily. It is not surprising that private equity and venture capital firms are investing heavily in the mHealth market and I think they will continue to do so for many years to come.

Norman Volsky is director of the mobile healthcare IT practice of Direct Recruiters, Inc. of Solon, OH.

Readers Write: Automate Your Informed Consent Process: Lessons Learned from the Joan Rivers Tragedy

December 10, 2014 Readers Write 4 Comments

Automate Your Informed Consent Process: Lessons Learned from the Joan Rivers Tragedy
By Tim Kelly


A number of errors have recently come to light in the investigation of the tragic death of Joan Rivers. The endoscopy clinic that treated the 81-year-old comedian was cited by the New York State Department of Health for numerous deficiencies, including failing to obtain informed consent for each procedure performed. Organizations should review the following processes and ensure that they are in place to avoid deficiencies such as those cited at Yorkville Endoscopy.

  • Append the consent to the electronic medical record at the time it is executed. A recent study published in JAMA Surgery found that signed consents were missing for 66 percent of patients at the time of surgery, resulting in delays for 14 percent of the cases. It is clear that Ms. Rivers agreed to a specific treatment when she presented at Yorkville Endoscopy on August 28. It also appears that the documentation of that consent may not have been adequate to address all aspects of the procedures that were ultimately attempted.
  • Ensure that the informed consent document states the exact procedure(s) or treatment(s) to be performed. Many hospital consents are one-size-fits-all consents or fill-in-the-blank consents. The former are of little value in verifying the patient’s understanding of the planned procedure if the document is reviewed retrospectively. The latter are frequently flawed by illegible handwriting or abbreviations. An analysis of the Rivers case suggests that consent may have been obtained for an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) but not the two nasolaryngoscopy procedures that may have resulted in complications that in turn may have contributed to her death. Automated systems can force the clear delineation of planned procedures while also documenting possible treatments and interventions that may be pursued intraoperatively.
  • Identify and confirm the providers who will perform the treatment or procedure. Many organizations employ electronic credentialing systems to identify which providers have privileges to perform certain procedures. Yorkville Endoscopy was cited for allowing a physician who was not privileged at the facility to participate in the treatment of Ms. Rivers. Automating the consent process, and integrating that process with a credentialing system, ensures that only providers authorized to perform the contemplated procedures are documented on the consent form. This practice can mitigate the potential for deviations involving non-credentialed providers.
  • Obtain the patient’s permission for observers and photography. It is vital to teaching organizations to allow for the presence of observers and sometimes the recording of surgical procedures. It is also essential that the patient give his or her permission to the presence of observers and use of photography. It appears in the Rivers case that unauthorized observers were present and unauthorized photographs were taken during the procedure. Automating documentation of consent, including allowance for observers, authorization for photography, preferred disposition of tissue samples, and similar permissions, allows for those preferences to be communicated to other HIT systems. This practice can help ensure that patients’ wishes are followed.
  • Leverage the consent in the time out. Yorkville Endoscopy was cited for not following an acceptable time out procedure. Review of the consent form immediately prior to the start of a surgical procedure is a key component of the Joint Commission’s Universal Protocol. Significantly, verification of informed consent documentation – documentation that lists the procedures and well as the surgical site – has been found to be the most effective mechanism for avoiding wrong person / wrong procedure / wrong site surgery.

It should be noted that informed consent documentation alone cannot correct all of procedural deficiencies that were identified by the Department of Health in the Joan Rivers case. However, a well-prepared, procedure-specific consent can serve as both a contract and a roadmap for how a procedure or course of treatment should be performed. When the consent process is facilitated electronically and that process is integrated with other HIT systems, including the EHR, the risk of deviations or errors may be minimized.

Many of the findings in the New York State Department of Health report were not that policies were lacking; it was determined that established policies were not followed. Automation, by its nature, helps ensure compliance with an organization’s policies and procedures.

An excellence policy on automating the informed consent process has been developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Tim Kelly is director of marketing of Standard Register Healthcare of Dayton, OH.

Readers Write: The Case for Smarter Clinical Workflows

December 10, 2014 Readers Write 2 Comments

The Case for Smarter Clinical Workflows
By Sean Kelly, MD


The practice of evidence-based medicine can promote patient safety, increase quality of care, and improve clinical outcomes. Providers are increasingly being held accountable to abide by regulatory standards, Meaningful Use guidelines, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services incentive and penalty programs.

The move toward measuring quality and patient safety as key performance indicators in healthcare makes sense, but accomplishing these goals relies in large part upon improving efficiency. Unfortunately, inefficiency is inherent in many of today’s clinical workflows, which detracts from the patient care process by bogging down providers and disrupting the care team’s collective thought process.

The answer is to implement technologies and processes to enable smarter clinical workflows that promote efficiency while also improving quality of care.

Take, for instance, clinical communication. As an emergency physician, I see firsthand the need for faster, more effective communications. If I am able to quickly receive information, share with colleagues and coordinate next steps, I can better care for patients. Unfortunately, relying on pagers and other outdated technologies creates barriers that can delay care and can have significant impact on patients, especially in critical care situations.

Consider a heart attack patient. It is essential that providers are able to diagnose and treat the patient as quickly as possible to ensure that no permanent damage occurs. In cases of ST elevation myocardial infarctions (STEMIs), streamlining clinical workflows to speed the time from door to balloon — the time from patient arrival to catheterization of the coronary arteries to alleviate the occlusion—can mean the difference between complete recovery and a life of struggling with congestive heart failure … or worse.

Cath lab activation is a coordinated effort which may involve many different care providers and care teams. This makes the workflows vulnerable to the negative impacts of inefficient communications. In this situation, invaluable time is potentially wasted from step to step, time that could substantially impact the patient outcome.

This scenario highlights the need for—and benefits of—a smarter clinical workflow. For example, if the care team could use secure communications solutions to send group messages to the care team, coordination and activation of the cath lab would be far more efficient. In this scenario, the smarter clinical workflow includes technology that allows:

  • Immediate, synchronous, bi-directional secure messaging with the ability to send high definition images to assist in rapid diagnosis and collaboration over best treatment option (resuscitate and open up the cath lab).
  • Direct integration into scheduling and on-call systems to facilitate tracking of team members, complete with read receipts, send receipts, and auditability to enable accurate, rapid messaging capabilities (ensure that the correct people are on call, aware they are on call, and rapidly respond when called, complete with escalation if any delays in response).
  • Group messaging capabilities to send code team activation directly to multiple devices so team members get alerted more quickly, simultaneously, and messages and responses are easily tracked and acted upon, instead of multiple pages (and waiting for callbacks).
  • Multi-site communication systems to allow the notification of other clinicians needed for complete care delivery, such as the patient’s primary care physician, specialist, or case manager, to provide notifications about the patient’s condition and follow-up instructions for care (which could also prevent unnecessary readmissions).

This is just one of many examples of how more efficient communication can impact the healthcare continuum. Giving physicians, nurses, and other care providers the tools to do their jobs more effectively can help hospitals meet quality and patient safety goals, support accountability, and most importantly, improve the overall quality of patient care.

Sean Kelly, MD is chief medical officer at Imprivata and emergency physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Readers Write: Summary of RSNA and My Takeaways

December 8, 2014 Readers Write 2 Comments

Summary of RSNA and My Takeaways
by Mike Silverstein


I just returned from the 100th Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) conference at McCormick Place in Chicago. It was my fifth time attending this show. It is always well attended given the core importance of diagnostic medical imaging within the healthcare provider community.

I was particularly paying attention to the messaging of the vendors in the room and the value propositions they put forward given the budget constraints within healthcare IT.

  • RSNA is international. As opposed to HIMSS, AHIMA, MGMA, etc., RSNA is populated by vendors from all over the world. As such, the attendees include large contingents of representatives specifically from hospitals in Europe and Asia in addition to North America.
  • If you have never attended the show, more than half of the exhibits (if not more) are focused on large pieces of capital diagnostic equipment: MRI, CT scan, monitoring etc. As a result, some of the booths (Siemens, GE, Agfa, Fujifilm etc.) are huge. I’m talking multiple city blocks.
  • Unlike HIMSS, where there is an annual influx of new companies with net new technologies, RSNA is similar from an exhibitor perspective year over year. There is still a tremendous number of companies talking about PACs, RIS, and CVIS, although when I spoke with a number of the executives at those booths, the market for standalone imaging systems is stagnant.
  • The buzz in the room was primarily centered around image sharing technologies like vendor-neutral archiving, enterprise imaging, cloud-based image storage, multi-site reading interoperability, and other technologies focused on breaking down silos and disparate systems. The focus of these firms is helping hospitals, imaging centers and the like to leverage and get more usability and flexibility out of their existing PACs, RIS, and CVIS systems. Vendors such as Mach7 Technologies, SCImage, Merge, Agfa, Acuo Technologies (now a part of Perceptive Software), Accelerad (aka seemyradiology.com, now a part of Nuance), and others highlighted the groups focused on flexible image interoperability systems.
  • There was a good deal of activity as well at the TeraRecon and Vital Images (now part of Toshiba) booths. Both of these vendors have historically been known for their capabilities in 3D and 4D imaging, but both are trying to educate the market on some of their new enterprise imaging capabilities.
  • There were other workflow vendors focused on speech recognition and other complimentary diagnostic tools such as MModal with its Fluency product, Nuance with its Powerscribe 360 product set, and Dolbey with its Fusion product, which was Best in KLAS the last couple of years. These booths had good activity too.
  • Another well-represented area that should continue to grow is the teleradiology segment. Reading of remote images has been going on for years, but as we focus on providing better quality of care to remote areas and the fact the telemedicine as a whole is on the rise, these companies in my opinion are still a good bet.
  • Lastly, there was a new vendor that I thought was very interesting called MedCPU, which recently deployed at the Cleveland Clinic. They have solution that operates behind the scenes of an EMR, RIS, or any other clinical documentation system that can read and comprehend unstructured notes, text, test results, speech (from a Nuance or MModal), and any other clinical information. The solution analyzes this information and cross checks it against compliances guidelines and clinical best practices and identifies variances in real time to alert the clinician of medical errors. They incorporate a combination of natural language processing and other homegrown technologies. After viewing their demo, I think they are a company to watch out for.

All in all, RSNA was well attended this year, but I think that the general consensus is that the large vendors need to figure out how to move the needle while helping CIOs keep costs down and get more out of their existing imaging systems. This will be a challenge for some of the big, publicly traded players, but the future looks bright for the nimble enterprise imaging interoperability companies who are gearing up for Meaningful Use Stages 3 and 4 that require the incorporation of medical images into the EMR.

Mike Silverstein is a managing partner of Direct Consulting Associates of Solon, OH.

Readers Write: 10 Talent Trends to Watch in 2015

December 3, 2014 Readers Write 1 Comment

10 Talent Trends to Watch in 2015
By Anthony Caponi


The entirety of my career has been spent in the healthcare staffing industry. Consequently, I have been at both ends of the spectrum. There were tough times in 2008 and 2009 as the nation’s economic recession spilled into healthcare hiring. Then, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, numerous jobs were created with the promotion of EHR adoption.

The healthcare IT industry is absolutely on the rise. However, we will also see some obstacles, including a talent and skills gap. Below is a list of 10 increasing trends for 2015.

Increasing Mergers and Acquisitions

Healthcare reform is becoming a powerful catalyst for the consolidation and integration trend in the hospital industry. A study conducted by Kaufman Hall found that hospital mergers and acquisitions increased 10 percent in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the same time frame the previous year. Overall, studies indicate a continuation of several trends, including increasing numbers of acquisitions. These mergers and acquisitions that are taking place are resulting in a number of highly qualified CIOs in the job market.

Big Data Employment Boom

The data economy needs dedicated people — 4.4 million of them by 2015 in the IT field alone, according to a Gartner Research analysis. In the U.S., a McKinsey & Company report projects a shortfall of between 140,000 and 190,000 big data professionals with deep analytical skills by 2018. Additionally, the impact of big data on employment goes far deeper than the deep analytics and IT fields. Companies need professionals at all levels that are not necessarily educated in deep analytics but are nevertheless big data-savvy.

New C-Level Positions

The chief data officer (CDO) is a new position coming into play in the healthcare IT industry. Hospitals are using the role to try to "leverage data as a strategic institutional asset … It’s about how to transform data into information, how to transform information into better-informed decisions," according to Seattle Children’s Hospital CDO Eugene Kolker.

Another position that is becoming more popular in the healthcare IT space is the chief nursing information officer (CNIO). According to a Modern Healthcare report, about 30 percent of hospitals and health systems now have a CNIO and that number is expected to grow. CNIOs are helping hospitals implement their EHRs and other healthcare IT projects because of their expertise in how nurses use patient data.

Growing Job Market

The healthcare sector is poised to add 5 million jobs by 2020, according to a report by AMN Healthcare. The increased use of technology for healthcare applications is the primary factor for the growing job market. Healthcare job growth averaged 26,000 positions per month between March and September of this year, jumping significantly in the second quarter and continuing into the third quarter, according to the Altarum Institute’s Center for Sustainable Health Spending.

More Interim Executives

The number of interim executives is growing and the demand for interim talent has become apparent. This trend will become a growing part of the employment movement, especially in healthcare IT-related roles like CIOs and CMIOs. With the expected sizable number of baby boomers retiring, combined with the number of independent delivery networks and hospitals in the U.S., it’s easy to see that the demand will grow. This means that there will likely be a shortage of experienced healthcare executives in 2015, which means demand for interim healthcare executives will only grow over time.

Talent Shortage

As baby boomers retire in record numbers, the healthcare IT industry is feeling the pain of a talent shortage. In an article in InformationWeek.com, Asal Naraghi, director of talent acquisition for healthcare services company Best Doctors, says she “absolutely” sees an IT talent shortage. Tracy Cashman, senior VP and partner in the IT search practice of WinterWyman, also says she sees a genuine talent shortage. "There are more jobs than people who are skilled," she says. While she’s starting to see an uptick in engineering graduates, "we’ve been feeling this since the [dot-com] bubble burst," Cashman says, when college students were worried that all IT jobs would move to India. "And we’re still fighting that," she says.

Universities Offering Healthcare IT Degrees

Cloud computing, big data, mobile technology — three of the biggest trends in IT are changing the way the healthcare industry deals with information and creating a big need for trained healthcare IT professionals. Thus, colleges and universities have started offering healthcare IT as a major, where students learn what it takes to function as a fully capable software developer in any professional environment, but specifically tailor their skills to the rapidly expanding healthcare IT field.

Specialists in Demand

Today’s IT shops don’t just want experience, they want deep experience. “IT organizations are under intense pressure to deliver projects faster than before — and that need for speed necessarily influences IT hiring. The IT generalists, and even some topic generalists, such as infrastructure managers, have found their roles left by the side of the road, as project leaders hire for deep experience in specific niches, such as cloud security, DevOps, and data analysis and architecture.”

McGraw-Hill Education CIO David Wright says, "More and more, the hands-on coders, we’re looking for people who are just really deep in whatever discipline we’re trying to hire." And he isn’t the only one advocating for specialization; Asal Naraghi, Director of Talent Acquisition for healthcare services company Best Doctors, also says, “The trend has gone into more specialized skill sets."

Video Interviewing and Skype More Popular

The use of remote yet face-to-face interactions such as video interviewing and Skype is on the rise. Advanced technology is giving people a way to present themselves with depth and personality to hiring managers and recruiters. In addition, new hires meet the team before they even step in the office.

Interview Process Becoming Lengthier

The interview and hiring process have become more elongated in recent years, a trend that we can expect to see more of in 2015. According to Anne Kreamer, a journalist who specializes in business and work/life balance, “Data compiled for the New York Times by Glassdoor found that an average interview process in 2013 lasted 23 days versus an average of 12 days in 2009. And time-consuming assignments and auditions for candidates … are the new normal.”

Anthony Caponi is vice president of healthcare IT of Direct Consulting Associates of Solon, OH.

Readers Write: HIE Encounter Notification Solutions and Meaningful Use

November 19, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

HIE Encounter Notification Solutions and Meaningful Use
By Rob Horst


I joined esteemed colleagues from Johns Hopkins Community Physicians (JHCP) in presenting an HIStalk webinar on November 12 titled “3 Ways to Improve Care Transitions Using an HIE Encounter Notification Service.” Some of the attendee questions during and after the webinar required more insight into how ENS helps Eligible Hospitals (EHs) meet Meaningful Use Stage 2 (MU2) and the Transitions of Care (TOC) Measure.

In the way of background, EHs and critical access hospitals (CAHs) that transition or refer a patient to another setting of care are required to provide a summary of care record for more than 50 percent of transitions of care and referrals. This MU2 measure has proven challenging for many organizations to achieve. The method of getting a summary of care record to the right destination and then calculating the number of summary of care records that are actually received is imprecise.


On September 22, CMS issued FAQ 10660, clarifying that a third-party organization that plays a role in determining the next provider of care and that ultimately delivers the summary of care document can count in the measure’s numerator for EHs.

Part of the challenge of meeting the TOC measure is that EHs/CAHs and providers must clearly identify the intended recipient of the transition or referral and verify that the summary of care was received by the intended recipient via one of the allowed transport methods. ENS has a unique capability that can help EHs/CAHs meet the TOC measure.

ENS is capable of sending a C-CDA summary record using the same logic that it uses to send EHs/CAHs encounter notifications to subscribers. Using the patient demographic information in the header of the C-CDA, ENS is able to match the patient with the subscriber’s patient panel and send the document with the same accuracy and predictability that it does with encounter notifications. Once the C-CDA is sent to the subscriber, ENS logs the acknowledgement of when it was accessed and is able to provide a report back to the C-CDA sender with the critical metric needed to calculate the numerator for this measure.

We received these questions during and after the webinar that might provide clarity for those considering their options.

How does ENS help EHs/CAHs satisfy the TOC requirement?

EHs/CAHs, primary care physicians, and specialists submit panels (patient rosters) to ENS. When a patient is discharged from the EH/CAH, the EH/CAH generates a C-CDA from their Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT) and sends the C-CDA to ENS via one of the allowed transport methods. ENS uses the patient data in the C-CDA header and the patient rosters to identify the correct PCP or specialist and automatically send a summary of care document to the receiving provider.

How does ENS help provide relevant metrics for the EH/CAH to use in its numerator calculation?

ENS will provide a report to the EH/CAH that includes data elements such as the patient identifiers, receiving subscribers, and time of receipt of the C-CDA. These data elements can be used in calculating the numerator.

Does ENS have to be CEHRT?

No. ENS is not the technology that is creating and transmitting the C-CDA and therefore does not need to be CEHRT.

Rob Horst is a principal with Audacious Inquiry of Baltimore, MD.

Readers Write: Leveraging Technology for Communicable Disease Care

November 19, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Leveraging Technology for Communicable Disease Care
By Paul J. Caracciolo


The Ebola crisis has been another wake-up call for healthcare providers to get prepared for national and global medical emergencies. Experts agree that it is only a matter of time before the world experiences another pandemic, such as the flu of 1918 that killed many of millions worldwide.

The recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa and subsequent spread to the US has caused providers to re-examine how they handle sick (and potentially infected) patients, but we don’t have to use Ebola as the example. The seasonal flu still has a significant impact on health and many deaths occur each year. This past year has also seen the rise of enterovirus D68, sickening many hundreds of children across the country, resulting in several deaths.

The proper care of patients with communicable disease is a concern. We want to ensure that patients receive appropriate care, but at the same time, we need to take precautions around the containment and spread of disease. Recently, CNN News reported statistics that approximately 4.5 percent of reported Ebola cases in West Africa are infected caregivers. In the case of Ebola, disease management is further complicated considering the 21-day incubation period, with possible imposed isolation and continuous monitoring of potentially infected patients during this time.

Solutions can be implemented now that could make a huge difference in not only increasing the quality of patient care, but also protecting caregivers from prolonged or unnecessary exposure to sick patients.

Telehealth / telemedicine. It would be beneficial to have this capability in sick patient rooms to control access. This would allow remote consults with disease specialists, primary care providers, ancillaries, or whoever needs direct access to these patients and their caregivers. This solution could be expanded to include two-way audio and video with nursing staff and HD video conferencing between the patient and their families. Or in the case of isolation for potential infection, patients could communicate with their loved ones, employers, benefits providers, or anyone else on the outside.

Virtual patient observation. This solution includes video equipment, network integration with nurse call, and intelligent software that can be configured to be sensitive to patient movement. A monitoring console can be presented at a nurse station computer or accessed mobile from tablets. Several patients can be monitored from one station, or select rooms can be monitored. Coupled with two-way voice communication, this can be a powerful tool.

Alert and alarm management, workflow enhancement. This middleware that can capture relevant patient data from monitoring devices and lab results and then present this data to caregivers on mobile devices. Staying with the theme of patient and caregiver safety and more efficient workflows, this technology can streamline communications. Alarms from biomedical equipment in a patient’s room can be triaged by the configured system, thus preventing alarm fatigue for caregivers and focusing attention on critical alarms. Additionally, these applications can use push notification technology to send out critical lab test results, with related information, to the mobile devices of clinicians Secure text messaging, typically another feature, can streamline communications and record the information and send it to the EMR to complete the care record and maintain compliance.

Care team collaboration applications. Having the ability to share patient related data is key to keeping care teams on the same page. Access to the EMR may not be feasible for all caregivers involved. The ability to share documents, notes, lab results, and images (and imaging) among care team members wherever they may be is powerful. Even caregivers who are suspected of being infected (and in isolation) could still be part of a productive care team with these applications. Cloud applications could be used on demand and are easily scalable to fit emergency scenarios.

Hospitals can take action now to be better prepared to deal with outbreaks. Although many hospitals may not have formal isolation rooms, they may want to designate and prepare certain rooms that could be used in a more formal manner if needed in emergencies. For instance, specific nurse wards, floors, or group of rooms could be outfitted with these technologies. In time of emergency, the emergency protocol would kick in, with technology in place and workforce trained. These technologies can also be used on demand for triage or isolation tents, with portable versions of telemedicine and virtual patient observation solutions.

Paul J. Caracciolo is chief healthcare officer of Nexus – A Dimension Data Company of Valencia, CA.

Readers Write: A Practical Response for Ebola Relief

November 5, 2014 Readers Write 3 Comments

A Practical Response for Ebola Relief
By Paul Molingowski


The noise surrounding the current Ebola outbreak is tremendous, with a Google search producing 385 million results. Hospitals, clinicians, NGOs, and governments around the world are scrambling to develop effective responses and put preventive measures in places.

Despite all of the attention – or perhaps because of it — there have only been four confirmed Ebola cases in the United States. Compare that to Sierra Leone, which has 3,778 confirmed cases (5,338 suspected) in a population of only 6 million people.

My point in writing this article is to help shed light on an overlooked problem that is a terrible side effect of Ebola: starvation.


I was blessed to be able to travel to Sierra Leone early this year. It is a wonderful country. We know many men, women, and children who have been impacted by Ebola. Our group’s scheduled departure was just as the first Ebola cases were being diagnosed. Our friends in Sierra Leone with literal boots on the ground have done a tremendous job with limited resources to provide education, medical supplies, basic healthcare, and village support.

There is still a huge need for food for the suspected Ebola victims and their families who are quarantined. Normally in Sierra Leone, hospital food is supplied by the families of patients. Since the patients are isolated and often treated with fear, this sometimes means they are not fed.

When families are quarantined in their homes for 21 days, they are surrounded by armed guards and left with little food or water. Some escape to avoid starvation, spreading the disease to other villages. Also, the already fragile economy of Sierra Leone has been hurt by the epidemic, causing food prices to rise dramatically. Simply put, providing food to starving victims will help stop the spread of Ebola.

Other big needs are for medical supplies and effective transportation. Hospitals and treatment centers do not always have the resources to provide gowns and do laundry, so patients who are sick are often left dirty and naked to fend for themselves.


I can personally attest to the poor condition of the roads in Sierra Leone. Most are dirt, which means they are severely rutted and can become almost impassable in the rainy season, making it very difficult to deliver aid. Motorcycles are a great way to get around and we are providing more.

The practical response is to donate to Ebola relief efforts.

Paul Molingowski is sales director of Skylight Healthcare Systems of San Diego, CA. He is on the board of EduNations, which builds and operates schools and digs wells in Sierra Leone.  One hundred percent of donations go directly to food, medical supplies, and motorcycles.

Readers Write: Answering Your Questions about Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances

October 29, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Answering Your Questions about Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances
By David Ting


Last week, Imprivata sponsored a webinar with HIStalk about electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) during which we reviewed the DEA requirements, the benefits, and the scope of work involved in implementing an EPCS solution. I was joined by Sean Kelly, MD, an emergency physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and chief medical officer at Imprivata, and William Winsley, MS, RPh, the former executive director of the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy.

The webinar was very well attended. We received a number of excellent questions. Here are a few of them.

Q: Which two-factor authentication method is most often used for EPCS?

A: This depends on the clinical workflow requirements, but we are finding that many customers want to use a combination of solutions. For example, in high-traffic, high-use areas of the acute care hospital, many customers are opting for fingerprint biometric identification combined with passwords for ease of use. However, many prescribers also want the ability to e-prescribe outside the hospital walls, so customers are also enabling the use of one-time password (OTP) tokens for EPCS.

Q: Is there a process one must follow to register as the person who will credential and enroll prescribers for EPCS?

A: The DEA allows hospitals that are DEA registrants to do this on their own through their credentialing office. This is referred to as institutional identity proofing. Private practices must undergo individual identifying proofing. In this case, the designated physician works with a third-party Credential Service Provider (CSP) to obtain the necessary approvals to receive the proper credentials for EPCS two-factor authentication.

Q: Does the DEA allow EPCS signing in batches?

A: Yes, by patient. A provider can sign multiple prescriptions for a single patient simultaneously whether they are controlled or non-controlled substances. Many EMRs and prescribing systems will separate controlled and non-controlled substances, so if a provider is prescribing controlled substances, it will automatically prompt them to enter the necessary two-factor authentication credentials.

Q: The DEA ruling is “interim.”Is it likely to change?

A: Although the DEA ruling allowing EPCS is “interim,” it is unlikely to change. The DEA and other agencies have a number of rules that have been in interim status for quite some time, and in this case, the DEA has not given any indication that it will change anytime soon if at all. This is especially true for the two-factor authentication requirements.

David Ting is founder and chief technology officer at Imprivata. The webinar recording can be viewed here.

Readers Write: Stuff Doctors Leave on Workstations in the Doctor’s Lounge Late at Night (And Other Times)

October 29, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Stuff Doctors Leave on Workstations in the Doctor’s Lounge Late at Night (And Other Times)
By anotherdoctorgregg


The image above caught my eye when I sat down at a workstation in the doctor’s lounge. I bet whoever left it there thought he or she was making a completely anonymous search, though I could see everything, including visited hyperlinks. We do try to teach our medical staff about using shared workstations, but there is a strong feeling of anonymity even as we are told there is no privacy at work.

One of our gastroenterologists is unhappy with his current employment, at least as judged by the number of versions of his CV on various workstations, complete with cover letters to other institutions. I don’t know whether he is unaware his CV and job hunt letters are on not only one, but multiple workstations, or if he is making a not-so-subtle statement about his job satisfaction to his current employers. I have also seen bankruptcy documents, child custody agreements, wrong-headed letters of complaint to Audi dealerships, and adorable pictures of kids dressed up for prom.

If you think you can’t be tracked and you are not leaving a trail of the most personal information on semi-public workstations, you are probably wrong. In 1997, a graduate student was able to identify Massachusetts Governor William Weld’s health information — even though the state medical database was supposedly de-identified — by correlating the elements of the medical database with voter registration rolls in Cambridge. Although this was probably a fluke, re-identification in a doctor’s lounge might be easier.

We do try to clean up the desktop screens of hospital workstations, mostly so it is easy to find the icons that we want to be found. In a parallel effort to raise awareness about not leaving personal (sometimes very personal) information on workstations through saved files and browser histories, I collected a little data.

The doctor’s lounges require keycard access, so the workstations in there are used almost exclusively by physicians. The information I gathered came from the histories of Internet Explorer (purged every couple of days) and other browsers (Chrome and Firefox) installed by users as non-administrators. With those disclosures, here is a sampling of what doctors look at, at work.

There were 1,052 entries over three days. The first thing to notice is the complete absence of porn. Overall, searches were at worst only mildly embarrassing, with nothing to trigger HR’s attention.

Forty-eight percent of visits were to a practice portal or billing system, 21 percent were to sports sites (cricket scores beating football scores, which either speaks to our physician demographics or penetration of the ESPN mobile app), and 13 percent were visits to medical sites (UpToDate and Medscape being the most common.) The remainder were visits to Google and foreign language and news sites that reflected our demographics.

There were a few visits to the county probate court, checking on malpractice and divorce cases (the search terms are displayed if you reopen the window from the history). One person Googled, “I have water coming into my basement right now.” I know it was a she since she discussed night call plumber’s fees at lunch the following day.

I could also identify my plumber-needing friend by her search history. Users leave sequences in their histories like <foreign language site><another site><same foreign language site>, narrowing the presumptive visitors to just the doctors who speak that language. Also, site visits bracketed by practice EMR portal visits linked the sites in between to specific individuals if you look at the call schedule. The call schedule will generally narrow down the potential users to just one.

Overall, I estimate about 40 percent of the browser history in doctor’s lounges can be associated with a specific person. This is an estimate since I only asked a few directly. The message is that even an otherwise anonymous Google search can probably be linked directly back to a hospital user, even by non-administrators, so surf accordingly.

Readers Write: Hospitals Move to Define Role of Secure Texting in Clinical Alarm Management

October 27, 2014 Readers Write 1 Comment

Hospitals Move to Define Role of Secure Texting in Clinical Alarm Management
By Todd Plesko


In 2010, The Joint Commission identified improvement in staff communication as a National Patient Safety Goal. A recent Spyglass survey found that 67 percent of hospitals, despite forbidding the practice, report that nurses are using personal smartphones to support clinical communications and workflow because they are dissatisfied with the options provided by hospital IT.

Of those exchanging data, 80 percent of the messages are not secure nor HIPAA compliant. Hospitals found guilty of a data breach can be fined $1.5 million per incident, so it’s not surprising that hospitals are acting swiftly.

There are more than 70 vendors today competing to solve this need. They are primarily segmented by the markets and users they are targeting; e.g. physician-to-physician, physician-to-nurse, physician-to-patients. These single-function secure text messaging apps were initially an attractive fix to HIPAA anxieties because they are cheap and quick to implement, but their myopic view of communications often contributes to the burgeoning problem of alert and alarm fatigue.

As of July 1, hospitals seeking accreditation from The Joint Commission are required to prioritize clinical alarm safety. Even though the new National Patient Safety Goal recommends that hospitals begin with the largest offenders – patient monitors and medical devices – forward-thinking hospitals are taking a closer look at the full gambit of interruptions experienced by front-line nurses and asking how solutions designed to address alarm fatigue will impact overall clinical workflow.

Alarm fatigue is rooted in more than just patient monitors and medical devices. It is the result of multiple systems communicating alarms, alerts, text messages, and phone calls simultaneously without regard to priority or urgency. Really, “interruption fatigue” much more accurately describes today’s care environment.

Hospitals have traditionally viewed alarm fatigue and secure text messaging as two unrelated pain points with separate solutions. This has resulted in an accidental architecture embodied by multiple solutions with overlapping functionality that have become increasingly difficult for hospital IT and users to manage.

Single-purpose integrations often lack sophistication and the intelligence necessary to serve as the traffic cop between multiple systems that compete for attention, interrupt workflows, and contribute to alarm fatigue. They are concerned with the singular goal of delivering the alarm, alert, or text message they were designed to transmit.

Consider that most clinically relevant communications originate from a patient event: a nurse call alert, a smart IV pump, a patient monitor alarm, a bed exit, critical lab, or stat order alert. When a clinician is texting about a patient, they must ensure that the subject of the conversation is properly identified, an important feature that single-function texting apps are incapable of providing automatically. All text messaging apps targeting healthcare are secure, but few are centered on the patient and their role in the overall communications workflow.

If a healthcare provider organization is going to be successful with patient-centric text messaging, then this is only possible with an enterprise platform that delivers relevant information with patient context along with the alarm, alert, or text message that the recipient receives. Optimally, alarms and alerts would include a dynamically-generated list of possible staff members to call or message about the patient event to further enhance communications. Patient-centric messages need to be displayed properly based on priority level and integrated into the overall communications workflow to ensure that the recipient is able to identify and respond effectively to the most critical needs first.

Hospitals are beginning to recognize that identifying improvements in staff communications and managing the interruptions generated by alarms, alerts, and text messages are twin problems that should be addressed as a single project. A next-generation alarm safety and event response platform is required to support this level of clinical collaboration.

Todd Plesko is CEO of Extension Healthcare of Fort Wayne, IN.

Readers Write: Navigating EHR Disillusionment: Strategies for Maximizing Value

October 27, 2014 Readers Write 1 Comment

Navigating EHR Disillusionment: Strategies for Maximizing Value
By Joel French


EHRs are a necessary but small component of what provider networks require to financially prosper in competitive markets being rapidly transformed by narrow networks, contracting reimbursement rates, and risk-bearing payment arrangements. As digitization proliferates, acute and ambulatory providers have become more vocal with EHR criticisms, including a lack of interoperability, workflow disruptions, and adverse impact to physician productivity. Many physicians now view themselves as data entry clerks.

Research from the American College of Physicians, Deloitte, and Physician’s Foundation finds that physicians have mixed opinions on EHRs, with significant downside sentiment. In the Deloitte study, 75 percent of physicians say EHRs are not cost-effective and do not save time.

One might assert the US health industry is suffering from Gartner’s Trough of Disillusionment regarding EHRs, defined as the period when “interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver.” This disillusionment exists because individual and organization expectations of EHRs exceed what they were actually designed to do. History abounds with examples of beliefs that were widely (if not universally) viewed as true, only to be later disproved by practical experience or fuller knowledge.

The point of view that integrated EHRs should be central to a health systems’ competitive strategy is one common view that is easily disproved by examining this assertion under the lens of basic business logic. By definition, a competitive advantage gives an organization an edge over its rivals and an ability to generate greater value (value is generally expressed in terms of market share growth, profitability, or enterprise value). The more sustainable the competitive advantage, the more difficult it is for competitors to neutralize the advantage.

As it relates to EHRs, once most or all hospitals in a geographic market have implemented such a tool, that tool itself ceases to be a competitive advantage. It should be better understood as a fundamental business input or asset, not materially dissimilar to facilities, medical equipment, or business licenses. Table stakes, as some might say.

Executives who have invested in EHRs hoping to derive investment returns above their cost of capital must first come to grips with the following truth: EHRs were designed to solve specific problems within the confines of a health system, but nearly all incremental revenue and contribution margin opportunities originate outside health systems in care communities. Trying to retrofit or adapt EHRs designed for use inside the walls of an enterprise for use outside the walls and across a community is fraught with risk and tantamount to believing the world is flat.

In 1837, Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale, now widely known, called “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The metaphorical point applies to any situation wherein the overwhelming majority of observers willingly share in a collective ignorance of an obvious fact, despite individually recognizing the absurdity. The notion that implementing the same EHR as your competitors or peer group would somehow provide a sustainable competitive market advantage is completely devoid of classical business logic any first semester college freshman understands.

Today, an increasing cackle of honest voices are murmuring that the Emperor is naked. Those voices will only get louder as more organizations experience bond rating downgrades or executive removals attributable to expensive and unsuccessful EHR experiences.

To be sure, EHRs are necessary and are typically superior to the analog predecessors they replaced. They can be effective tools for clinical documentation, intelligent alerting, retrieval of patient data, and order entry/results return within the setting for which they were intended – the hospital or the clinic. Their deficiencies are exposed when care teams need to coordinate across not just physical settings, but differing organizational boundaries.

The migration to value-based care is accelerating, requiring fundamentally news ways of working to increase revenue while simultaneously keeping populations healthy. Nearly all at-risk payment models – such as episodic bundling, avoidable readmission penalties, Medicare Shared Savings, and ACOs – require better orchestration of care transitions across organizational boundaries. Successful health systems in the new health economy must therefore utilize technologies to integrate electronically and economically with scores of market trading partners, many of whom will have heterogeneous technologies and fragmented corporate ownership.

To grow, health systems must exploit all their channels – not just employed physicians, but also independent providers and other stakeholders – in order to access new referral sources, effectively coordinate care for patients with chronic conditions, and reduce unit costs. There are key EHR deficits critical to health system business objectives. These will require supplementary tools to bridge functionality gaps.

With average revenue from inpatient admission volumes down 4.9 percent in 2013, health systems need a technology strategy to support outpatient revenue growth. Health systems will live or die based on their ability to find technology solutions beyond the EHR, enabling them to uncover the economic value of independent providers in their communities by delivering differentiated value to those practices.

Introducing a network layer that smartly aligns the hospital’s capacity with the community’s demand for services is not only possible, but necessary. Today’s cloud-based tools for functions such as referrals, scheduling, and analytics can create attractive investment returns against EHR cost centers that some have come to view as permanent sink holes.

These tools extend the life of EHRs and introduce accretion by supplying what they lack – the ability to quickly grow outpatient volume, curtail network revenue leakage, and lift contribution margins. Integrating these tools with EHRs adds new value to the EHR, potentially creating the investment returns originally hoped for at the time of purchase.

The industry is still a long way from experiencing Gartner’s Plateau of Productivity with EHRs, but progressive health system executives are realizing limitations of EHRs and are increasingly turning to complementary cloud technology solutions that complement them and unlock value. Health systems that survive and thrive will be those that innovate to meet industry demand, which at this point requires thinking beyond EHRs. 

Joel French is CEO of SCI Solutions of Campbell, CA.

Readers Write: Driving Interoperability by Putting People at the Center of Health Technology

October 27, 2014 Readers Write 3 Comments

Driving Interoperability by Putting People at the Center of Health Technology
By Joseph Frassica, MD


During a recent earthquake in Charlottesville, VA, people heard the news of the earthquake long before they actually felt the tremors. In healthcare, even getting information to travel across departments in a hospital, or from a hospital to a primary care physician, can sometimes be challenging.

Many healthcare organizations present “interoperability” as the silver bullet that will resolve an organization’s data problems. But how can the industry implement effective, interoperable solutions that allow clinicians to get the information when they need it most, and no matter where they are?

I see three key steps the healthcare industry must take in order for information to travel securely and seamlessly to improve interoperability:

  1. Embrace collaboration. As a first step, the healthcare industry – including hospitals, specialists, practice groups, vendors, home health agencies, and so on – needs to work together to provide the best possible care for patients. For too long, we kept our blinders on and treated patients when they entered into the hospital domain. Instead, the industry needs to change its mindset to think of the patients’ journey throughout the health continuum and work with other caregivers to make that process seamless. Accountable care models are already helping usher in this important change.
  2. Encourage openness. Vendors of all types and sizes must work toward openness and subscribe to open standards. Vendor-agnostic and flexible technologies allow critical patient information to travel faster and get where it’s needed. By embracing open standards wholeheartedly, the industry can begin to lay the foundation necessary to drive innovation in healthcare technology and in patient care. Open standards can enable providers to share EMRs securely and can also provide greater access and insights.
  3. Think beyond the EHR. Hospitals and health systems have made big investments in getting their EHRs up and running, and the technology is important for modernizing health care. But EHRs are not the be-all and end-all of patient data. They barely scratch the surface. To improve population health, healthcare organizations need to think beyond data collection and more about how this data can be used to improve patient outcomes across the health continuum. Healthcare systems need to think about how this data can be analyzed to present a more comprehensive, complete, and integrated picture of a patient and their medical history. Providers can then begin to use this data for predictive analytics, which will enable them to identify and manage trends across a population. By analyzing this data, physicians can make more confident diagnoses and develop preemptive treatment plans.

As healthcare becomes more and more connected, the amount of data and information entering the healthcare picture will only increase, and will become even more critical to realize the promise of interoperability as time goes on. By taking steady steps toward interoperability, the healthcare industry can fully liberate and share data seamlessly, giving physicians the quality insights they need to predict, prevent, and treat disease with better results.

Joseph Frassica, MD is CMIO/CTO, Patient Care and Monitoring Solutions, of Philips Healthcare.

Readers Write: What Healthcare Revenue Cycle Leaders Can Learn from Apple Pay

October 20, 2014 Readers Write 2 Comments

What Healthcare Revenue Cycle Leaders Can Learn from Apple Pay
By Joshua Silver


It often feels like the healthcare industry is just as much about patience as it is about patients. Waiting for final regulations to be approved; waiting to be seen in a doctor’s office; waiting for new EHR systems to be rolled-out; waiting for the final, final, final ICD-10 rollout deadline; just plain waiting.

The waiting game spills over into the consumer technology space too, especially when it comes to mobile payments. Despite the media popularizing the notion of replacing a traditional wallet with a smartphone-based digital wallet nearly a decade ago, mobile payments have yet to become mainstream.

As I watched the recent announcement about Apple Pay, I couldn’t help but think to myself that we might finally be at the tipping point for mobile payments. The payments platform, which Apple bundled into the latest iPhone and iOS 8 operating system, allows consumers to easily pay using their phone in brick-and-mortar retail stores, as well as securely pay for digital goods.

Apple has a proven track record of taking existing consumer technology and repackaging it in such a way that it’s adopted by the masses. When they launched the iPod in 2001, portable MP3 players had already been commercially available for several years, but weren’t widely popular. A few years later, in 2007, when they brought the mobile Web to millions with the iPhone, Apple was building on BlackBerry’s 10-year history in the space. The question remains: can Apple do for mobile payments what it’s done for MP3 players and smartphones?

Additionally, the timing is key as the payments processing industry is poised to transition from magnetic swipe credit cards to “Chip and Signature” EMV-based credit cards. (Visa and MasterCard regulations mandate the switch for nearly all merchants by October 2015.) This macro industry change, coupled with Apple’s long list of banking partners, means that already nearly more than 220,000 stores are equipped to support Apple Pay.

As Apple Pay launches nationwide in October 2014, it’s time for healthcare providers to drop their patience and help their patients by supporting new, consumer-friendly payment technologies. Historically, the healthcare industry has largely taken a “wait and see” approach when new technologies hit the market. However, as healthcare providers face the daunting (and expensive) challenge of getting patients to pay, there is perhaps no other industry that can benefit as much from the recent developments in payment processing technology.

As the options for patient payments continue to diversify and become increasingly complex (nowadays, there is online bill pay, Apple Pay, EMV credit cards, PIN debit cards, eChecks – not to mention the more esoteric options like BitCoin), it’s more important than ever that healthcare providers focus on their core competencies (providing great medical care and a simple billing experience) rather than trying to learn the ins and outs of payment processing. Healthcare providers should look to partner with market-leading vendors who offer comprehensive patient payment platforms. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s rarely the banks.

It’s absolutely critical to use a platform that consolidates all payment types (credit, debit, eChecks — even paper checks) into a single posting report and, if possible, one that will combine all payment types into a single reconciled daily deposit. There is enough complexity in the business office without adding the burden of reconciling additional daily deposits.

With all of the recent news about mega-breaches of cardholder information (Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, etc.), consumers are beginning to question the status quo of payments, digging deeper into the security of their payment data, and holding the merchants responsible. The last place they expect to find payments innovation is in healthcare. Now is a great time to wow them and get ahead of the market. 

Joshua Silver is VP of product development of Patientco of Atlanta, GA.

Readers Write: Digital Patient Engagement Tools to Achieve “Top Box” Medication-Related HCAHPS Scores

October 20, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Digital Patient Engagement Tools to Achieve “Top Box” Medication-Related HCAHPS Scores
By David Medvedeff, PharmD, MBA


Improving HCAHPS performance is a never-ending struggle for hospitals, one that has taken on greater urgency as results are linked to CMS’s Hospital Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) program. The HCAHPS Survey is the basis of the “Patient Experience of Care Domain” under VPB, which makes up 30 percent of a facility’s total performance score.

A particularly thorny problem has been improving patient communications regarding medication, which is measured based on HCAHPS responses to three questions:

  1. Before giving you any new medicine, how often did hospital staff tell you what the medicine was for?
  2. Before giving you any new medicine, how often did hospital staff describe possible side effects in a way you could understand?
  3. When I left the hospital, I clearly understood the purpose for taking each of my medications.

In the most recent published results, 36 percent of reporting hospitals failed to achieve “top box” scores, which reflect the most positive responses to questions related to patient experience with communications about medications. Improvements in patient education and health literacy can go a long way toward boosting these scores, as well as medication adherence post-discharge.

Consider this: a study by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that just 12 percent of the more than 19,000 respondents demonstrated proficient health literacy. Another study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that 79 percent of patients misinterpreted one or more of the 10 most common prescription label instructions they encountered.

To combat the grim reality of poor health literacy, hospitals must account for all aspects of medication adherence. For example, the CDC highlights the “access to care and patient education material” as two of the largest problems in medication adherence, as well as the “inability to access or difficulty accessing the pharmacy.”

Digital patient engagement solutions address these issues by delivering medication information to patients when and where they most need it. For example, videos outlining proper usage, expected benefits, and potential side effects can be embedded into the hospital’s website. Links to prescription-specific videos can then be sent to patients via text or email for viewing on any computer, tablet, or smartphone. Videos can also be supplemented with text reminders to take or refill prescriptions to further enhance compliance.

It is crucial that video content be comprehensive and current to ensure all pertinent information is included. Content should also be based upon trusted information, such as guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as patient packet inserts, medication guides, and consumer medication information.

Ultimately, digital patient engagement solutions remove the barriers that complex text often puts in the way of comprehension and medication adherence. Convenient access via multiple channels also means patients are never without the information they need to successfully and properly administer their medication, improving HCAHPS scores while reducing the risk of medication error and improving care outcomes.

David Medvedeff, PharmD, MBA is CEO of VUCA Health of Lake Mary, FL.

Readers Write: The Elephant in the Room: Provider Validation

October 20, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

The Elephant in the Room: Provider Validation
By Miranda Rochol


I’ve seen and heard a lot of discussion about EHRs and identity proofing – the process of verifying that a provider is who he or she claims to be. Identity proofing has been a hot topic in healthcare for years, starting with the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) of 2003, when e-prescribing was promoted as a vital part of reducing prescription errors and enhancing patient safety. Prior to that, e-prescribing was a novel concept. 

Today, the majority of office-based physicians (73 percent) send e-prescriptions and nearly all community pharmacies (95 percent) receive them. This wouldn’t have been possible without EHRs or identity proofing. Equally important but less talked about is the critical step of provider validation, which happens before identity proofing.

The concept of provider validation grew in importance when the DEA issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) and made legal the electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS). Strict regulation of controlled substances now means that validation of DEA numbers is more than just protocol — it’s critical. Because some providers are only authorized to write prescriptions for certain controlled substances, EHRs must ensure that their systems are equipped to validate provider DEA (and other credentials) in real time.

The most logical time to validate a DEA number is when a provider actually writes a prescription for a controlled substance. Since DEA numbers expire or become invalid, a provider’s DEA number should be verified each time he or she writes a prescription. This is the most effective way to ensure compliance with federal regulations and verify that a prescriber is legally authorized to write prescriptions for particular substances.

Failure to validate providers for e-prescribing of controlled substances is serious. EPCS is subject to the same laws that govern written, oral, and faxed prescriptions of controlled substances. Providers who illegally distribute or dispense controlled substances could have their license suspended or revoked and are subject to imprisonment for 5-15 years and fines from $100,000-$2 million.

EHRs should care about this for a number of reasons. The EHR space has become incredibly crowded and competitive. Adoption rates have skyrocketed, but customers have more vendor choices. What’s important to healthcare providers and organizations today are cost, usability, and compliance. Provider validation is a vital part of the compliance equation.

Beyond meeting Meaningful Use requirements, EHR companies must also start thinking strategically about their customers’ long-term needs and how to elevate their position from “vendor of the day” to “services partner of tomorrow.” This is where providing value-added services like provider validation and partnerships with data providers are key.

Lastly, EHRs with provider validation and other functionalities that meet both clinical and compliance needs could attract new fans among hospitals and health systems. Having an EHR that meets both clinical and compliance needs is one way healthcare organizations are attracting physicians, whose adoption of new technologies is integral to improving patient outcomes and public health.

Miranda Rochol is VP of product and strategy for Healthcare Data Solutions (HDS) of Irvine, CA.

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