What is all this talk about “The Cloud?”

cloud-gears-blogOver the past several years, you probably have heard people talking about “The Cloud.”  It sounds very exciting and mysterious! You may have thought:

What is The Cloud?
Am I in The Cloud?
How can I use this whole Cloud thingy?
I want to be in The Cloud!

Let’s see if we can ’demistify’ Cloud-computing and put your mind at ease. In its simplest form, Cloud computing is the centralized sharing of applications, services, data, and resources from a variety of computing devices. What that means is, anything you do on your device is stored somewhere other than in the device itself. Think of The Cloud as a central repository for e-mail, photos, videos, and other data that you can access using the Internet. A Cloud computing company is keeping your data safe and sound for you, so you don’t have to carry around bulky hardware or worry about setting up security solutions. The Cloud also allows you to share or collaborate.

Still confused?

What if I told you that you probably use The Cloud all day, every day? Some simple examples of Cloud- computing include applications like Facebook and LinkedIn, services like Gmail and Twitter, resources like Wikipedia or Google, and all kinds of data. For most of us, every time we snap a selfie, it is stored in The Cloud. All of these aspects of Cloud computing are available to us on almost all of our devices. We can share our personal pictures, videos, and e-mail on all of our laptops, tablets, smartphones, and even our watches!

So how does SRS use The Cloud?

You may be surprised at the answer. Every time you load your main dashboard, shared Cloud resources put together the screen to display your requested data. Every Rx transaction is routed through the SRS eRx Pipeline to be analyzed and submitted for the patient and communicated with the pharmacy. Every ICD-9, ICD-10, or HCPCS code is selected from a shared Cloud data resource. Patient data files are transferred through a routing system called CCX. The SRS Patient Portals are complex Cloud applications offering data to patients whenever and wherever they request it. The benefits of Cloud computing are endless.

So the next time someone mentions “The Cloud” you can confidently respond: “I am all about The Cloud!”

CMS Offers Welcome Relief for Transition to ICD-10

reliefIt’s time for those still advocating a delay of ICD-10 to abandon the fight—but they can take heart in the recent concessions offered by CMS. The AMA, concerned about the complexity of ICD-10, has asked for some measure of protection from potential adverse financial impacts of the transition to the new code set, and CMS recently agreed to a one-year compromise.

Recognizing the challenges for providers, CMS has agreed:

  • Not to deny claims based on the (lack of, or incorrect) specificity of the ICD-10 code, as long as the reported code is a valid code from the right family of codes.
  • Not to subject providers to penalties under 2015 quality reporting programs, (Meaningful Use, PQRS, or the Value-Based Payment Modifier), as long as a valid code from the right family is reported for the measure(s).
  • To create an ICD-10 Ombudsman to help negotiate solutions to ICD-10 related problems.

CMS has also acknowledged realistic challenges on its side, and is insulating providers from resulting financial harm by agreeing:

  • To authorize advance payments if Medicare contractors are unable to process claims in a timely fashion (as defined by CMS) due to problems with ICD-10.
  • Not to penalize providers under MU, PQRS, or the V-BPM if CMS “experiences difficulty calculating the quality scores.”

You can read about the above in CMS’ own words in its FAQ document.

Notwithstanding the above, it’s time to get serious about preparing for the transition to ICD-10, if you have not already begun that process. Fortunately, there are some ICD-10 solutions embedded in EHRs and PM systems that make code selection easier than others, but regardless of the particular system you employ, there is a learning curve for physicians, clinical teams, and billing staff members.

PQRS and Prada: The Importance of Building Your Quality Wardrobe

prada-blogWith summer now in full swing, I’m going through my summer attire and have found myself questioning my fashion style. I feel like it’s time to trade in my classic look for something more stylish!

I see a similar trend when I talk with clients about PQRS reporting—they are looking to revamp their reporting style. With more providers subject to penalties under both the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and the Value-Based Payment Modifier (V-BPM) programs, there is more riding on quality reporting—so it is important to ensure you are dressed for success.

Why building the right quality reporting “wardrobe” is important to your revenue:

If not reporting PQRS in 2015:

  • All PQRS-eligible providers are subject to a 2% PQRS penalty in 2017 and
  • An additional Value-Based Payment Modifier penalty based on group size:
    • 2% for Solo practitioners and groups of 2-9 providers
    • 4% for groups of 10 or more providers

If reporting PQRS in 2015, practices will be evaluated on quality and cost:

  • Solo practitioners and groups of 2-9 PQRS-eligible providers could see a potential increase of up to 2% in 2017
  • Groups of 10 or more providers could receive between a 4% penalty and a 4% incentive

Select the option that’s the best style and fit for you from the list below:

This chart summarizes the PQRS reporting options. The definitive source of requirements is: www.cms.gov/pqrs.

This chart summarizes the PQRS reporting options. The definitive source of requirements is: www.cms.gov/pqrs.

Are you dressed for quality reporting success? Let us know what ensemble fits you the best!

Cultivating Innovation – One Hack at a Time

HackathonNo lazy hazy days of summer for SRS. This week SRS is hosting its inaugural annual Summer Hackathon. What is a hackathon? A hackathon is an event for computer engineers, programmers, designers, and other creatives from across the company to collaborate in the design and build of new products and/or features within a finite amount of time. The word hackathon is a portmanteau of the words “hack” and “marathon.” “Hack” is used in the sense of exploratory programming activities, and “marathon” is used to convey the intensity, competiveness, and focus required to deliver a working solution in a short period of time.

So why hack? These intense tech benders create a venue for self-expression, creativity, and innovation leveraging technology and collaboration. It allows us to approach challenges differently, which can result in innovative ideas and solutions to existing and future problems in healthcare. In fact, hackathon ideas often turn into real-world products and features.

The theme for this year’s Summer Hackathon is based on healthcare productivity. We received over 40 ideas from across the organization—ranging from existing product line enhancements to new product lines based on emerging industry trends. Out of all the ideas submitted, the product development team has selected 15 ideas to pursue. Each team will demo their concepts in a “science fair” style format at the conclusion of the event. Prizes and recognition will be awarded based on presentation, creativity, and impact on healthcare productivity.

The team is very excited about our first hackathon. We believe investing in innovation is paramount to our clients’ success, and leveraging tools like hackathons to foster and cultivate innovation will ultimately provide premier creative solutions that will drive value for our clients and their patients.

It all starts with an idea… any ideas to share?

Patient Engagement Pride: We All Can Use a P.E.P. Talk!

cheerleaderPatient engagement has become a confounding challenge in the world of healthcare. It isn’t enough to simply offer a portal; in order to successfully meet the requirements of Meaningful Use, patients actually have to participate. I mean, c’mon, what kind of tomfoolery is this?

Terms such as “obstacle,” “necessary evil,” and “setup for failure” were commonly uttered in conversations about this engagement initiative. Many were asking, “Why would a patient log-in to our portal?” and “How am I expected to drive adoption?” Therein lies the rub. There is a direct correlation between practice engagement and patient engagement. If a practice is willing to make a few adjustments to their attitude and behaviors around this initiative, it can be beneficial for all involved.

Remove Meaningful Use from the equation
You must be thinking, “Huh?” Forget about it. Engagement isn’t about meeting a government requirement, it is about better serving your patients. Though your practice specializes in medicine, you are in the service industry. Take pride in that. Your goal should be to create the best possible patient experience and outcomes. This will create a loyal patient base that will allow the business to thrive in an ever changing market.

Create value for your patients
Remember to make this about them. They need to know why it’s worth their time to create another user name and password. This is about translating features into benefits.

Feature: Availability of on-line forms
Benefit: Eliminates the need to show up 30 minutes prior to the scheduled appointment. You’ll have more time to spend on things that you like to do.

Feature: Secure messaging
Benefit: Avoid sitting on hold, playing phone tag, having your message lost or having your message improperly relayed. Your message will end up in the hands of the person that can best serve you.

Feature: Availability of medical record
Benefit: You have detailed medical information available 24 hours a day. If you can’t remember the name of that really effective medication that you recently took, it is only a few mouse clicks away.

Feature: Online Bill Pay
Benefit: I can pay from anywhere, at any time without having to search for a check and stamp.

Feature: Education and Care Compliance
Benefit: With the movement towards paying physicians for their outcomes, it is increasingly important to engage patients in their health and make it easier for them to comply with the care plan the physician prescribed.

Practice what you preach
Verbalizing value is one thing, ensuring that it exists is another. Make it a point to reply to messages quickly and do not be shy about using the portal to initiate conversation. Be mindful of the data that you’re entering in your EHR. If you’re taking shortcuts, the patient will know. If the patient has made you aware of pertinent medical data, ensure that is represented properly in their medical record.

Think about the possibilities
Now take a moment to think about how nice it would be for you if…

  • You had less congestion in your waiting room because intake forms were on file in advance
  • You had fewer repetitive phone calls from patients wondering why you haven’t returned their call(s)
  • You had fewer requests for miscellaneous medical details
  • You had faster turnaround times on payments due to on-line bill pay
  • You were able to see more patients but still leave on time

I’m personally challenging you to become engaged with engagement. By emphasizing its value and taking practice-wide pride in making your patient portal a success, you too, will see just how powerful of a tool it can be.

Doctors: Not a Jack of all Trades… A Master of One!

Doctors: Not a Jack of all Trades… A Master of One!As the leader of a high-performance marketing team, I strive to stay abreast of the latest developments and best practices in the HIT industry and my chosen profession. But, no matter how prepared I am, I cannot be successful at what I do if I am expected to be an expert in every aspect of marketing. My expertise in leadership, building teams that excel, and developing professionals to reach their highest abilities, does not prepare me to be successful at writing HTML code, or designing graphics in the latest style. I need a team of experts to contribute their individual talents if we are to succeed.

This is even more apparent in the medical profession. In today’s world doctors are expected to not only be experts in their particular medical field, they are also expected to be experts in human resources, business management, and a plethora of other disciplines that serve their practice needs and government requirements. Besides earning an M.D., they practically need an M.B.A. in order to run a profitable and growing business. They also have to be policy analysts and experts to even have a chance of understanding the volumes of regulations the government has enacted and with which they’re expected to comply. In addition, they are expected to be IT specialists in order to meet data exchange and interoperability demands. And don’t even get me started on the statistical analysis required to understand outcomes and value-based reimbursements.

I expect that one of the reasons that doctors chose their profession in the first place was because they had a passion for science and service. So, to focus on the profession for which they have been educated and prepared, doctors need to find other experts to support them by focusing on the business of medicine.

It all comes down to one thing… the patient. In order to best serve your patients’ needs you must spend your time mastering the art of medicine, while letting your team of experts master the art of your business.

A final prognosis: building a strong team of experts will ensure the health of your patients and practice.

Where is your focus directed?

90-Day MU Reporting: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Rules & RegulationsJust as physicians were considering abandoning Meaningful Use and surrendering to future Medicare penalties, CMS issued a proposed rule for 2015 that breathes new life into the program. If full-year reporting was perceived as the insurmountable obstacle, the proposed reduction to a 90-day reporting period should recapture interest.

Although a proposed rule is not final until it is codified as a final rule—not anticipated until August—past experience has demonstrated that the major structural features typically survive as proposed. The shortened reporting period was announced as CMS’ intention in January and formally proposed last Friday. I think it is fair to say that one can be reasonably confident in this particular provision of the rule.

As for the other features of this proposed rule: In a former EMR Straight Talk post, I wrote, “Even more intriguing to me than the change in reporting period is . . . the intention to “modify other aspects of the program to match long-term goals, reduce complexity, and lessen providers’ reporting burdens.” CMS has come through in this regard and proposed changes for 2015 through 2017. The revisions encourage a focus on the advanced use of EHR technology to support health information exchange, consumer/patient engagement, public health reporting, and quality improvement. This is the narrowed focus that stakeholders, (including SRS on behalf of physicians), have been demanding since the program’s inception.

The following are some other highlights of the proposed rule for 2015 through 2017:

  1. Reporting would be streamlined: Many Stage 2 measures would not be individually reportable, particularly the paper-based or box-checking measures. Caveat: this does not, however, mean that the data would no longer be required–the information would still be necessary for the patient portal, for the summaries exchanged between providers, and for CQM reporting.
  2. Patient engagement measures would be dramatically revamped:
    • The threshold for “VDT”, (View, Download, or Transmit), would be reduced from 5% to “one patient.”
    • Secure messaging would have to “be enabled,” but there would be no threshold to meet.
  1. To simplify the overall MU structure for practices that have physicians in different stages, all physicians would report on the same measures—a modified set of Stage 2 requirements. Stage 1 providers, however, would be able to exclude measures which go beyond the requirements they were expecting to report.

If you want to ensure that the above changes are included in the final rule, submit a comment to CMS by June 15. CMS receives plenty of comments opposed to particular components of its rules, but specifically asks for positive comments on the features that stakeholders do support.