About Khal Rai

Khal oversees the Software Engineering, Business Analysis, Quality Assurance, and Product Management teams at SRS. His 17+ years’ experience in software development and healthcare IT have resulted in a true passion for collaborating with customers, then translating their needs into innovative solutions and better service experiences. He believes that motivated employees and satisfied customers are keys to maintaining business success. He has a B.S. degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, and an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University.

Will Robots Replace Healthcare Providers?

robot-blogLeveraging interpretive intelligence in clinical workflows

Automation has been making human workers superfluous for centuries, but until recently, workers whose jobs required high-level cognitive skills have been able to rest easy, confident no machine could possibly replace them when it came to making nuanced decisions based on the evaluation of complicated, sometimes contradictory data.

But that was before Artificial Intelligence (AI) came along, stepping out of the pages of science fiction and into our daily lives. It now seems possible — even probable — machines will replace many mid-level knowledge workers and the question arises whether someday robots will replace doctors and nurses.

It’s a provocative question, certainly, but not the most interesting one facing our industry. A more critical question is will the healthcare ecosystem — the vendors and the solution providers — be able to survive without AI? I ask this because I believe doctors and healthcare administrators will increasingly demand answers to questions, and solutions to the challenges, that are difficult, if not impossible, to solve without the aid of AI-driven solutions.

These questions will range from practical issues of practice management to vital questions of patients’ health. For example:

  • How much will it cost to treat this patient?
  • How much and how fast will I get paid?
  • Is medication or surgery the best treatment option for this particular patient?
  • Where and/or when should I schedule this surgery?
  • When will this patient be able to return to his/her normal routine?

Some of these, of course, are the perennial questions that have always faced healthcare practitioners, but the truth is recent changes in technology have made innovative solutions possible in a way never before imaginable. For example, all kinds of data are now readily available in consumable (discrete) forms — from PHI to financials to protocols — and storing and managing this data is getting cheaper every day.

Additionally, healthcare providers are beginning to understand the shift from service to value-based care and are seeing how it can work for them, both clinically and financially. Finally, the healthcare practitioners themselves are changing: computer- and technology-savvy clinicians who got their medical education and training in the 1990s and early 2000s (the so-called Generation X and Y) are now entering into leadership positions where they can affect change.

In other words, there is both a greater supply of data than ever before and a greater demand for it. However, this demand isn’t simply for large data-dumps of undigested information. What’s necessary is for healthcare providers and administrators to have the critical data they need, and only the data they need, when and where and in the form they need it. This is where AI can help make critical decisions about amalgamating and filtering data.

There’s enormous potential for AI (or “smart solutions”) to optimize clinical protocols by drawing on a huge pool of evidence-based results. As we move toward a value-based environment, AI will be increasingly necessary to proactively and dynamically manage patient outcomes. This, in turn, will optimize the treatment experience, leading to greater patient engagement — and this greater continuity of care will promote both healthier patients and healthier practices. Clinicians will also gain insights into how to manage risks, which leads to lower costs and better margins.

Will robots replace healthcare providers? It seems unlikely, but care teams will start to leverage interpretive intelligence in daily clinical workflow. Machine learning, along with AI, will become an integral part of the healthcare mix because the vast resources of critical data will only be truly available when clinicians have tools to track real-time data embedded in their daily workflows resulting in better patient care at a lower cost.

As seen in Health IT Outcomes.

The Year’s Innovations – Wrap-up & What’s to Come!

2017-lightbulbsDepending on your point of view, 2016 was either a year to remember, or one to forget—just look at the nominations for word of the year. Pundits have proposed everything from “surreal” (Merriam-Webster’s) to “post-truth” (Oxford Dictionaries) to “unhinged” (NPR’s books editor Petra Mayer). Which is just to say, it was a year when conventional expectations were overthrown. And 2017 promises to be just as full of surprises.

For all the uncertainty, though, some trends seem sure to continue, at least in healthcare. The movement toward value-based payment is unlikely to reverse itself, which means that the optimum long-term strategy for medical practices remains the same as last year—cut costs by increasing efficiency, maximize patient base by identifying and standardizing successful treatment approaches, and stay limber by not getting locked into a cumbersome, inflexible software system.

Over the years, we have worked closely with our clients to learn what they needed from us, and to gain the sort of specialty-specific expertise that ensures that our solutions are designed around our clients’ workflows, rather expecting them to tailor their workflows to our design.

This past year, however, has been particularly transformative. We have made a quantum leap forward by upgrading our EHR into something far more—an intelligent, data-focused solution that responds to today’s industry challenges and lays a solid but flexible groundwork for the future. It’s a unique, best-of-breed, specialty-focused approach that gives users the power to define and collect whatever data points are relevant to their success while still maintaining their preferred clinical workflow options.

What we have achieved so far – 2016 recap

We entered last year determined to expand our physician-centric approach to include all stakeholders in the outpatient healthcare delivery system. Because we put our clients’ requirements first, we had to take a fresh look at what their needs actually were in this changing landscape. The biggest need? Tools to capture the data they wanted, but only that data, without anything unnecessary that would distract from their primary focus. (Click here to read my other post about how we do data differently.) We realized that, to meet those needs, we had to transform our offering into more than just an EHR.

We achieved this by creating a  connected software system that lets practices distribute the data-collection process over the entire treatment encounter—before, during, and after the patient visit—in whatever way is most efficient and sensible for them. Here is what we have delivered:

  • Flexible Data Platform (FDP) – Discrete data collection and reporting, free from a forced template-based environment.
  • Smart Workflows (SWF) – Guided workflow to help practices optimize their daily schedules by letting them determine who does what best, where and when.
  • Patient engagement platform – A patient-portal solution that seamlessly engages the patient pre-visit. Success is measured by higher patient compliance, lower check-in costs to practices, and greater patient engagement in their own health post-patient visit.
  • Interoperability – An Application Program Interface (API) that allows for efficient data exchange between systems, and that gives practices the flexibility to choose the best solution to any given problem (e.g., clinical, financial) without sacrificing cost and/or productivity.

What’s next? – Even more data!

We have already laid the foundation for what is required today and tomorrow. The next step is to ensure that we maximize the value of what we offer by providing the following additions to fulfill our vision:

  • Regulatory compliance – Prepare clients to understand, comply, and succeed while retaining productivity and efficiency focus (e.g., MU / MIPS, AMC, PQRS reporting).
  • Outcomes – Invest in solutions and technologies to help practices drive, improve, and document clinical outcomes to improve patient care and increase reimbursements
  • Data and AI – Continue to optimize SRS’s recently released SWF and FDP solutions to leverage data and artificial intelligence to optimize clinical workflows.

We understand that no two practices are alike—they all have different rates and style of data collection. One practice may need to automate everything immediately, while another may only automate elements that will drive down costs, and decide to keep other processes manual. Our solution is designed with this level of flexibility in mind—to satisfy each practice’s requirements for today while having the functionality to support their evolving needs in the future.

Wrapping it up

The underlying SRS strategy is a physician-centric approach we call “practical innovation.” We are more than just a solutions vendor . . . we focus on finding a solution to the specific challenges facing specialists. We partner with practices to solve their actual business problems—we help them stay independent, drive revenue growth, lower costs, stay compliant with regulations, and demonstrate clinical quality.

If you’re looking for a partner who will really listen to you and understand your needs, who will help engage your patients and produce better clinical outcomes, who will keep your practice competitive in a changing environment, then SRS is your partner of choice—for today, and for whatever unpredictable tomorrow awaits us down the road.

Data Done Differently

data-funnelAs I mentioned in my previous post, The Truth Is Stranger Than Friction, some physicians are so dissatisfied with their EHRs that they wish they could return to the days of paper charts. The main culprit is the data collection process, which causes friction between doctors and patients. I argued that workflows should, first of all, adapt to each doctor’s style so that doctors can concentrate on patients rather than technology, and, second, enable seamless data collection during patient interactions so that doctors don’t waste time recording data later. Traditionally, EHRs have been vendor-led in how they were built rather than being designed around how clients wanted to use them.

The role of an HCIT vendor is to understand its clients’ and prospects’ requirements. This step is often overlooked. We are seeing huge dissatisfaction in practices’ experiences with their current EHR solution. This can be seen with the impact these solutions have on the doctor-patient relationship; many practices have seen a reduction in the amount of face-to-face time with patients, as well as a decrease in the number of patients they can see.

According to a recent Medscape study, 45% of patients made complaints either occasionally or frequently about lack of eye contact, excessive questions, or providers focusing more on the equipment than the exam. On top of that, a recent article on Healthcare Scene reinforces that doctors are frustrated by using EHRs because they don’t match their workflows, feel clunky, and require too much time for documentation. The article goes on to say that these frustrations lead to both physician burnout and a decrease in EHR use.

However, is technology the culprit? No. I believe these problems are not a reflection on the technology. We see in other industries how technology has been optimized to improve business operations and improve customer satisfaction. I would argue that the fundamental problem with EHRs is a lack of understanding of what challenges practices face, and how to accommodate and plan for both today and tomorrow’s needs. This lack of understanding usually results in a poor implementation plan that is set up to fail from day one. Unfortunately, with the move toward a valued-based model, this misunderstanding is likely to cause even more problems.

What is needed is not only a way to capture and share relevant data, but a way to do this without disrupting the physician’s workflow. This is especially important for specialty practices with a high-volume of patients. Workflows should be personalized so they fit around the physician’s way of working rather than interfering with it, and a crucial part of this is cutting out the clutter and showing only relevant information as defined by the physician and practice.

Our team’s philosophy has always been to put the clients’ requirements first in everything we do. We work closely with clients to understand their workflow, and then we provide a solution that improves their operations in a way that makes sense to them. Our years of experience in providing best-of-breed specialty solutions to ambulatory practices has given us a strong appreciation of the importance of designing an agile solution that effectively handles a high-volume patient intake and put through while improving practices’ bottom line.

When it comes to data, we feel just as strongly, if not more so! We want to enable seamless data collection during patient interactions, so that doctors are not spending hours recording data later. We want to empower practices to determine who should capture the data they want, when and how they want, in the context of patient encounter. This means providing a flexible solution that is future-proof, leveraging mobile platforms and predictive technologies, while incorporating Outcomes and Analytics that not only keep up with busy specialists, but actually help move them forward.

That is what we mean by data done differently.

Frictionless Product Delivery

upgradeWhat if I told you that software deployment could be simple? You’d likely accuse me of smuggling Kahlua into my morning coffee. It seems like only yesterday that installations required CDs and that every workstation needed hands-on attention. Once you got to a particular unit, you would be greeted with an array of screens and prompts that could conceivably require hours of monitoring. Allow me to assure you that those days are over!

The term “innovation” is usually applied only to product development, but at SRS, we have pushed this approach to all facets of what we do, including procedures and processes. One of our many innovations this year has been the incorporation of a software deployment tool, which silently installs applications without user interaction.

While I would love to take all of the credit for this major advancement, I can’t. We first heard about it during our IT Round Table collaboration session at our User Summit last year when we were discussing the tools IT professionals use for software, patches, and file deployments across their infrastructure.  All were pleasantly surprised by the ease of use, consistency, reliability, and advanced options offered by this software deployment tool, and they all agreed that it was much more reliable than Group Policy deployments and other well-known software deployment tools on the market. We took this feedback and did our homework.

How does this Software Deployment Tool benefit you?

  • Quick and easy deployments – only one resource needed to create and deploy a package across multiple sites without any user interaction
  • Deployments scheduled at your convenience
  • Detailed report provided in real time during and after the deployment is completed
  • No prior technical knowledge required

In some cases, the workstation deployment time of an SRS upgrade has been reduced from 3.5 hours to 20 minutes. That is an outstanding 90% improvement! A simple adjustment to your process can have a dramatic impact on both the time and cost spent in the deployment process.

You must be wondering, “There has to be a catch!” I assure you, there isn’t! Perhaps the best part is that there’s no need to review a complex manual. At SRS, we provide training and testing, and have confirmed that non-technical users can configure the deployment and re-use it without our assistance—it’s that easy!

Whether your focus is software development or deployment, or sales or marketing, innovation designed to remove friction will always lead to increased efficiencies and better results!

What is HCIT Friction?

wheelThe Truth Is Stranger Than Friction

I just returned from two eye-opening experiences: HIMSS, the largest health IT event in the industry, and AAOS, the country’s largest orthopaedic conference. Of course, I heard about the amazing benefits of many new technological and medical breakthroughs . . . But what really got my attention was hearing some physicians say that when it comes to productivity, they wish they could return to the days of paper charts.

What? Since when do medical professionals want to turn back time on medical technology advancements like productivity solutions? All of those innovations were designed with an important goal in mind: to help doctors have more time to help more patients. However, due to many reasons, the data collection process is getting in between doctors and patients. That friction is rubbing both parties the wrong way—and the need to get beyond that friction was the clear message I took away from both HIMSS and AAOS.

Friction isn’t inherently bad: it is the force that allows our tires to grip the pavement, lets us steer the way we want to go, and enables our brakes to stop us from crashing. However, excess friction hinders movement and wastes energy: that’s what’s happening right now in the world of EHR solutions. What we need are systems that work with—not against—physicians while they perform their very important work. By creating smarter solutions, we can transform friction into traction: positive momentum that takes us where we want to go, faster—in a way that enhances, instead of interferes with, the doctor-patient experience.

In order to really help advance healthcare, the next generation of EHR solutions must do more than just capture data. They must be intelligent technologies that go beyond frictionless, creating the traction to:

  • Operate in the way that best supports each doctor’s work style, so that physicians can concentrate on patients, not iPads
  • Enable seamless data collection during patient interactions, so that doctors are not spending hours recording data later
  • Leverage mobile platforms and predictive technologies that not only keep up with busy specialists but actually help move them forward

Turning meaningless friction into meaningful traction is the driving force behind what we are calling Smart Workflows. Living and practicing in the Information Age, the only way to go is forward—not to reduce the technology involved, but to reduce its intrusiveness by developing software that easily captures required data while actually prioritizing the physician’s role in medicine. That’s something no EHR has ever done—nor any paper chart, for that matter.

To frictionless and beyond!

~ Khal Rai

Can Innovation Be the Cure?

clock-blogTechnology has revolutionized almost everything. From the way we consume music to how we engage in commerce, the entire experience has been dramatically transformed to make our lives better, more efficient, and in some instances to provide us with services that we could only have imagined just a few years ago. Consider how we currently use GPS in our cars versus how we navigated to our destinations just a decade or so ago. However, Healthcare Information Technology (HIT), and EHR in particular, has been one of the few industries that has not taken full advantage of the digital revolution.

Despite this, I believe that all is not lost. Although EHR solutions remain highly inefficient, I am convinced that many real, practical problems that couldn’t otherwise be solved in the analog world—such as identification of drug interactions, clinical-decision support, and machine learning to identify result-driven workflows—are now ripe to be addressed by digital technology.

Why now? The answer might surprise you—it can, at least partially, be credited to the meaningful use regulations. Don’t get me wrong, the negative unintended consequences of the MU programs have been well documented, from the inefficiencies and overhead burdens it has created for healthcare professionals, to the consolidation of the EHR industry, to the commoditization of EHR. There are plenty of cons to go around, but there are pros that, if leveraged properly, could form the foundation that the industry needs to achieve the ultimate goal of better outcomes and reasonable costs for everyone. What are some of these advantages? Patient charts are finally in some type of digital format, information sharing is beginning to be a reality, and interoperability among various systems is not just a buzzword that you read in articles and blog posts and hear at conferences—vendors are now allocating big dollars towards achieving it.

Make no mistake: healthcare professionals will always be at the center of the decision tree when it comes to how you and I are treated for medical issues, but leveraging advancements in computer science such as artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive algorithms can support more informed decision making. With AI, the abundance of data, and the right tools to analyze it, workflows can be better adapted to each professional’s specialty and needs, patients can engage in their healthcare, and treatment plans can be better optimized.

Today, many healthcare professionals hate their EHRs, and over 40% say that “EHRs interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.” It’s time we take on this issue. If providers, vendors, and patients join forces, we might be able to unleash the next generation of solutions and supercharge the healthcare digital revolution. I believe innovation is the just the cure we’ve been searching for!

What innovators are you looking for? What HIT innovation would you like to see?