Friday, December 12, 2014

Women in Healthcare IT

When it comes to attaining IT leadership positions, women have come a long way — but there’s still a ways to go. According to a recent study in the Journal of Healthcare Management, women make up 74 percent of the healthcare workforce, but are only represented by 24 percent of the senior executive team. It’s a statistic that comes of no surprise to our panelists — Mary Alice Annecharico, Bobbie Byrne, MD, Jane Loveless, and Sue Schade — four influential leaders who have defied the odds and, in doing so, serve as role models for young women and men who aspire to become leaders in the field. In this four-part series, the four CIOs share their thoughts on the barriers that still exist for women — and how they can be overcome; why mentoring is so critical; the many benefits of women’s professional networks; and how technology can be leveraged to improve work-life balance. They also speak about their own career paths, the tough choices they’ve had to make, and the power of self-confidence.

Mary Alice Annecharico, SVP/CIO, Henry Ford Health System
Bobbie Byrne, MD, System VP & CIO, Edward Elmhurst Healthcare

Jane Loveless, VP/CIO, Grand View Hospital
Sue Schade, CIO, University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers

Women, in general are making some strides in breaking the "glass ceiling" In general  women are becoming more prominent in medicine, than previously.  In 1968 when  I graduated from medical school there were only 8 females in a class of 108. Today most schools enroll close to 40-50% of the class with women.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

ONC Chief tapped to help

ONC Announces Health IT Challenge 

The ONC launched this week its latest prize challenge to spur innovation and promote real-world use of health information technology.  According to a blog post, nearly $700 million was invested in health technology in the first quarter of 2014 - an 87 percent year-over-year growth. The ONC is looking to support start-ups that are having difficulty connecting with pilot partners to test innovations such as web and mobile applications. To that end, the Market R&D Challenge calls on health innovators to partner with providers, clinics, or hospitals to develop a pilot proposal and run the pilot for 6 months.  The program will select up to six teams to implement the pilot, conduct a rigorous evaluation, and disseminate its findings in collaboration with ONC.   

ONC will award $25,000 when the teams are selected, and another $25,000 following completion of the pilot and evaluation.  The ONC will be holding matchmaking events In January 2015.  Proposals for the challenge are due March 2, 2015 and teams will be selected in April.  For more information, visit

Other news about the Office of The National Coordinator for HIT.

The ONC’s COO Lisa Lewis will serve as the agency’s acting national coordinator.

HHS spokesman Peter Ashkenaz told THCB:
“HHS Secretary Burwell asked National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo to serve as Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, effective immediately. In this role she will work with the Secretary on pressing public health issues, including becoming a part of the Department’s team responding to Ebola. Dr. DeSalvo has deep roots and a belief in public health and its critical value in assuring the health of everyone, not only in crisis, but every day.
Lisa Lewis, ONC’s chief operating officer, will serve as the Acting National Coordinator. However, Dr. DeSalvo will continue to support the work of ONC while she is at OASH.”
The transition comes at a time when critics are asking tough questions about the government’s Meaningful Use program and providers’ lackluster progress qualifying for Stage 2.
Moving Karen Desalvo to the Ebola crisis places her expertise with the team working on Ebola containment.  A smart move.
Karen DeSalvo, who was appointed acting assistant health secretary Thursday, will continue to hold her current role as director of the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology as she serves in her new role for the Department of Health and Human Services.
ONC released an update on DeSalvo’s new responsibilities Thursday and said she will continue to work on “high level” policy issues for the office and remain as chair of the Health IT Policy Committee.
She will also lead work on the development and finalization of ONC’s Interoperability Roadmap and co-chair HHS’ cross-departmental work on delivery system reform, ONC said.
Lisa Lewis, chief operating officer and acting director of ONC, will oversee the day-to-day operations of the office and served as acting principal deputy national coordinator before DeSalvo joined ONC.
DeSalvo joined HHS to help with the department’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

- See more at:

When Is An Impatient Physician Disruptive ?

 Sometimes disruptive behavior can be a good thing.  Not all disruption is due to  technological changes, such as electronic health records.  And some technical disruptions often spur other developments and growth in other industries, perhaps even creating a whole new niche.

Has the healthcare industry gone too far in cracking down on disruptive behavior? Is it okay for doctors to be rude, dismissive and act like jerks if they have superior surgical skills?
Hospitals have long struggled with how to handle disruptive behavior among doctors, sometimes turning a blind eye, other times disciplining or firing them. Getting rid of disruptive docs has become a popular approach as the industry rewards organizations for high patient satisfaction scores.
The biggest problem with disruptive workplace behavior is the negative impact it can have on the patient, FierceHealthcare reported earlier this year. In many instances, the bad behavior distracts the healthcare team, which can lead to medical mistakes.

But aarticle by Becker's Hospital Review calls into question the "zero tolerance" movement and why disruptive docs may not be so bad after all. While some surgeons may be cold and abrasive, they may also be better doctors than their kinder, gentler counterparts, according to the article. Yet the doctors with the better bedside manners are rewarded because they have higher patient satisfaction scores even though they have poor patient outcomes compared to their meaner counterparts.

"In trying to shape our trainees to be all things to everyone ... we run the risk of creating a workforce caught somewhere in the middle, not doing anything well," Shen says.
So how does the industry balance the need for happy patients and skilled clinicians? One way is to recognize that satisfaction--how positive a patient feels about an encounter--is just one part of the patient experience, writes Jason A. Wolf, president of The Beryl Institute, in a blog post for Hospital Impact.

There are divergent opinions as to what effect disruptive behavior can have..

The Joint Commission clearly states,  "disruptive behavior is a sentinel event"

The preceeding quotes are attributable to FIERCEHEALTH

Another point of view, from The Health Care Blog

lawyerdoctor says:
Kudos to Dr. Gunderman for his thoughtful, and analytical evaluation of our current “quality morass.”
We used to have people who were responsible for providing “quality health care.” They were called DOCTORS. If someone didn’t do the right thing, they may or may not have received a butt-chewing. The most powerful incentive for the hospital to provide quality care to the patient was likely the surgeon, whom everyone respected and likely feared a little bit.
One of the most powerful experiences of my medical education was being fortunate enough to spend some time under the tutelage of a small-town general surgeon. He was the most scholarly, genteel, polite, and skilled physician (or person) I think I have ever met. He was so revered and respected in the community that one day he almost made the Director of Nursing break into tears from one simple courteous statement. It was during an operation wherein the staff had forgotten to supply an important surgical tool, and we stood there in sterile scrub, hands folded across chests, for what was about 10 mins (but seemed an hour).
The surgeon said kindly: “Nurse X, you understand that WAITING – is the thing that I do LEAST well.”

I thought the entire nursing staff was going to faint. The item was produced forthwith.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Grass Roots HIT in the Hospital and Clinic

Clinicians are an innovative group. From physicians, nurses, pharmacists, administrative personell, all are users of mobile apps at home and/or work.

mHealth News reports that there are some "apps that clinicians can't quit". Patients at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) might wonder why their nurses are always on their smartphones — until they learn those nurses are actually sending secure messages to everyone on a patient’s care team.
It’s part of a highly successful pilot that began more than a year ago, and one that caregivers don’t ever want to see end.
What made this pilot unique is that it was grassroots-driven,” said Neha Patel, MD, one of the pilot’s developers.
Patel, an assistant professor of medicine at HUP, partnered with the information systems department at Penn Medicine to develop an mHealth strategy that would not only improve communication among a patient’s care team, but also save clinicians time.
Patel and a colleague will discuss the pilot at the upcoming mHealth Summit in December outside Washington, D.C.
For the pilot, which began in May 2013, residents, faculty physicians, pharmacists, social workers and discharge planning nurses were provided with iPhones or iTouches in four of the hospital’s departments: three general units and one surgery outfit. They used a secured-messaging mobile application called Cureatr to communicate everything but emergency messages with a patient’s entire team. As shifts changed, the phone was passed on. Communication remained fairly seamless, Patel said.
Now, nearly a year and a half after the pilot started, staff at HUP refuse to let go of their phones or Cureatr. When house staff rotate to units that don’t use the app, Patel explained, they complain that communication is “archaic.” 
It’s no wonder. A HUP time-motion study showed residents were spending about 20 percent of their day communicating with other healthcare providers, either face-to-face or on the phone
Another home-grown application, Connexus.(Connexus®, the Education Management  an app that allows providers to pull up patient data on their smartphones.

System(EMS). Connexus has been adopted by various user groups for purposes beyond the original design scope:. “Anesthesiologists, for example, are using it for pre-op evaluation, ancillary providers to follow the ‘thinking’ of the primary team, and consultants to quickly evaluate a new patient.".
The lesson is that iit does not take a million dollar investment to design HIT solutions for the hospital, or clinic. Individual initiative and grass roots trials are often more creative and functional than a poorly designed commercial medical app

Sunday, November 2, 2014

AMA Calls for Design Overhaul of Electronic Health Records to Improve Usability

Much controversy has arisen regarding the usability and loss of efficiency when electronic health records were introduced and then incentivized as a mandatory component of physician practice. Electronic records have been in existence for 15 to 20 years, however most are woefully inadequate when it comes to usability.

ref: HITECH Answers

While AMA/RAND findings show physicians generally expressed no desire to return to paper record keeping, physicians are justly concerned that cumbersome EHR technology requires too much time-consuming data entry, leaving less time for patients. Numerous other studies support these findings, including a recent survey by International Data Corporation that found 58 percent of ambulatory physicians were not satisfied with their EHR technology, “most office-based providers find themselves at lower productivity levels than before the implementation of their EHR” and that “workflow, usability, productivity, and vendor quality issues continue to drive dissatisfaction.”

When EHRs are compared to other business software, and mobile applications they deserve a "FAIL"  Physicians have been coerced (read extorted) to acquire the obsolete software by a combination of inadequate incentives // penalties, if not used and according to a format that encourages analytics.

Standards for interoperability  are in place, however adoption remains a barrier. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) stimulated the development of such a standard for EHR to insure interoperability between disparate EHR software.  While the standard is encouraged by incentives and penalties, adoption is slowed by lack of financial models.  

Different regions of the country use different health information exchanges and some have none. In addition, even those who have formed exchanges, there may be poor participation resulting in inadequacy.   Challenges remain, including user buy-in, lack of interest and/or need. Another challenge is the financial model for sustainability. Several different models exist.

Despite numerous usability issues, physicians are mandated to use certified EHR technology to participate in the federal government’s EHR incentive programs. Unfortunately, the very incentives intended to drive widespread EHR adoption have exacerbated and, in some instances, directly caused usability issues. The AMA has called for the federal government to acknowledge the challenges physicians face and abandon the all-or-nothing approach for meeting meaningful use standards. Moreover, federal certification criteria for EHRs need to allow vendors to better focus on the clinical needs of their physician customers.

Building on its landmark study with RAND Corp. confirming that discontent with electronic health records (EHRs) is taking a significant toll on physicians, the American Medical Association (AMA) called for solutions to EHR systems that have neglected usability as a necessary feature. Responding to the urgent physician need for better designed EHR systems, the AMA released a new framework outlining eight priorities for improving EHR usability to benefit caregivers and patients.
“Physician experiences documented by the AMA and RAND demonstrate that most electronic health record systems fail to support efficient and effective clinical work,” said AMA President-elect Steven J. Stack, M.D. “This has resulted in physicians feeling increasingly demoralized by technology that interferes with their ability to provide first-rate medical care to their patients.”
“Now is the time to recognize that requiring electronic health records to be all things to all people — regulators, payers, auditors and lawyers — diminishes the ability of the technology to perform the most critical function — helping physicians care for their patients,” said Dr. Stack. “Physicians believe it is a national imperative to frame policy around the desired future capabilities of this technology and emphasize clinical care improvements as the primary focus.”

To leverage the power of EHRs for enhancing patient care, improving productivity, and reducing administrative costs, the AMA framework outlines the following usability priorities along with related challenges:
  • Enhance Physicians’ Ability to Provide High-Quality Patient Care
  • Support Team-Based Care
  • Promote Care Coordination
  • Offer Product Modularity and Configurable
  • Reduce Cognitive Workload
  • Promote Data Liquidity
  • Facilitate Digital and Mobile Patient Engagement
  • Expedite User Input into Product Design and Post-Implementation Feedback

Monday, October 13, 2014

Why the Government Prejudice regarding Specialty Electronic Medical Records

The past decade saw the development of electronic medical records, both in number and level of sophistication During this decade there was a steep learning curve by vendors with frequent and arbitrary regulations regarding EHRs.

Successfully Choosing Your EMR: 15 Crucial Decisions 

                                                                   Purchase on Amazon

EHR development has been overly influenced not by it's functionality but by parameters of HHS and CMS in regard to data structure and interoperability.

The regulations included a mandate for interoperability and items called 'meaningful use'.. The term 'meaningful use' is a misnomer.  Meaningful use in their terms only had to do with it's utility in garnering information from an EMR which may or may not be useful for it's designed purpose.

The following statement from Ophthalmology Management specifies some items:

"Switching electronic medical records (EMR) systems is a big decision, even if you feel like throwing your existing system against a wall. So don't ditch your EMR system before you download the paper that includes an eight-question assessment to help you decide - and to protect you from making the same mistake twice.  (this statement is from Ophthalmology Management and is a quote from EMA, a specialty EHR for ophthalmology.)"

In many specialties there are fields and specific information unique to that specialty. Clinical work flow must be considered, since a poorly designed software can radically alter efficiency and disrupt the clinic volume and income. Numerous studies have revealed that efficiency can be reduced for several months by a factor of 20-30%.

Medical practices chose to accept incentive payments for consenting to meet meaningful use criteria with their EHR.  This occured by an angst of 'not being left behind' despite serious reservations and advice for HHS and ONCHIT. Several deadlines have been delayed and doubts remain about the implementation of MU Stage III.

Many medical practices have invested in EHRs. Some installations were obsolete at the time of purchase.

Some medical practices decide to purchase a new system despite the added costs, preferring to write off an older system with accelerated depreciation. These decisions are supported by a record of decreased patient volume.  Most physicians report an additional hour of work each day and a reduction in patient volume.

Many physicians have expressed their extreme unhappiness with their electronic health records. Management surveys continuously confirm dissatisfaction. Despite this, EHR use has grown.  Imagine using a defective hammer to drive in a nail. Regulators have taken their eyes "off the ball" ignoring patient care, and equating paperwork with 'quality of care'.  This has become a fundamental failure of the entire American health care system.  Poor patient care can easily be disguised if all the information which is entered is designed to thwart the 'required entries' to proceed, or satisfy an algorithm for a complete medical record.

There are several certifying standards, the most onerous are those mandated by CMS and regulated by  

Adding to this frustration is that many large organizations will select a vendor whose reputation has been built upon usability for primary care and/or internal medicine/pediatrics.  Population Health has become a new 'buzzword" in the HIT workspace.  A large or medium sized multispecialty group may select a system which their specialists can not use.  Interoperability has become a deserved design requirement.

When designing or selecting an EHR, every department must have input on decision making. Some IPAs and loosely organized primary care groups have offered to 'give' an EHR to their specialists t
o encourage acceptance of a group EMR.  This in many instances has been disastrous.

Their are other choices.

1. Utilize a specialty specific EHR based upon:

     User testimonials
     Site visits
     Demonstrated user functionality and efficiency in actual operations.

2. The requirement for interoperability are clearly defined by ONCHIT which should make disparate systems interoperable.

3. The realities however are quite different from a vendor point of view, leaving users holding the proverbial 'bag'.

Does your EHR need a tweak or a trashing?

How to tell if your system is already in need of a major goose.


Need an EHR plan?

Whether it’s your practice’s first foray into EHRs or your practice is upgrading to a new version of the software or a new system, the HealthIT.govwebsite provides ophthalmology practices valuable insight. This includes these six steps:
    1. Assess your practice readiness
    2. Plan your approach
    3. Select or upgrade to a certified EHR
    4. Conduct training and implement an EHR system
    5. Achieve Meaningful Use
    6. Continue quality improvement

On the website, each step is a link that users may click on for a detailed explanation.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Value Based Care

The concept of "value" has now firmly taken root.
These demands for greater value in the use of increasingly precious resources are producing effects across all sectors of healthcare-related products and services. For example, value-based delivery system reimbursement continues to advance and is increasingly supported by more robust measures of quality and cost-effectiveness.
Transparent reporting of performance is reaching critical mass, although not without controversy in some physician communities. Encouragingly, the "Choosing Wisely" campaign led by several medical societies, and supported by influential patient advocacy organizations, does signal recognition by clinicians that evidence-proven wasteful practices require serious attention.
Value-based reimbursement is also becoming aligned with value-based health benefits and value-based technology assessment. Taken together, these three initiatives are gaining a critical mass effect.
Value Based Care:   for  whom ?
Where is the value assigned, the provider who works tirelessly to see all his patients, finish his paperwork, save for retirement, support a family, pay health insurance premiums?
So, don't insurance companies gain with value based care, expecially if they assign the value based upon increased, or at least stable profits.
For patients it is the matter of do you know what you are buying, and how much does it cost?