Data Done Differently

Khal Rai

Khal Rai

Senior Vice President, Development at SRS Health
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.
Khal Rai

Latest posts by Khal Rai (see all)

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.

The Right Tools for Relevant Results

Adam Curran

Adam Curran

Product Marketing Manager at SRS Health
Adam Curran is a Product Marketing Manager at SRS. He oversees marketing intelligence to support the development of strategic marketing plans. Prior to joining the organization, he was a key member of a pharmaceutical software company’s Clinical Development Business Unit, specializing in the clinical data management elements of the drug development lifecycle. He was also the editor for their microsite’s blog. Adam has also held roles at the UK’s National Energy Foundation and Skills Funding Agency.
Adam Curran

surgical-tools-315pxThere is discussion in the industry about the effectiveness of healthcare information technology (HCIT) solutions. And so there should be; although we have seen improvements in HCIT solutions, a significant number of physicians are not happy with their current systems. Perhaps it is because some vendors feel that they know what’s better for their practice, and build the system around their vision at the expense of how the doctor likes to do things. Or maybe it’s because vendors sell practices solutions that aren’t specialized to their requirements—leading to complexity, fatigue and frustration. In either case, doctors are forced to use tools that are inappropriate to their needs and slow them down.

It’s not rocket science: doctors want tools that help them do their job effectively. Like the stethoscope—it’s one of the oldest medical tools still in use today, but it continues to perform an essential task, even in an era of high tech, and there is nothing complicated about it. Although it was originally invented to spare a young physician the embarrassment of putting his ear directly up against the chest of a young woman, it turned out to have enormous diagnostic value. Because of that, the stethoscope quickly caught on with other doctors.

Another good example is molecular breast imaging (MBI). Mammography was a good way to detect breast cancer, but MBI turns out to be three times more effective at finding tumors in dense breast tissue. MBI is simply a tool that has produced better results.

What about laser surgery? Developed at first for eye and skin surgery, it has expanded its range to include different medical and cosmetic procedures, from cosmetic dermatology to the removal of precancerous lesions. Laser surgery allows doctors to perform certain specific surgeries more safely and accurately—again, a new tool that provides better results.

When it comes to HCIT solutions, however, the reception has been decidedly less enthusiastic. Maybe that’s because, in contrast to the examples above, it hasn’t been clear what the purpose of HCIT solutions actually were. To help doctors collect data on patients, or to help administrators collect data on doctors? To make practices more efficient, or to simplify the government’s monitoring of public health? Without a clear task to perform, it’s not surprising that HCIT solutions have produced mixed results. It’s hard to assess the value of a tool when you aren’t sure what it is supposed to do.

It turns out that, like the stethoscope, electronic health record solutions were a tool designed for extra-diagnostic reasons, and then later repurposed. However unlike the stethoscope, the adoption of EHRs has been driven not by doctors who found them helpful, but by hospitals, insurance plans, and government agencies who sought to control skyrocketing costs and standardize healthcare. This disparity has been an underlying cause for ineffective workflows within the systems. And even when EHRs were designed with physicians in mind, they were designed for primary care physicians, leaving the specialist community underserved.

What is clear is that, when an HCIT solution is designed with the primary purpose of helping doctors, the industry does see value in them. According to the latest Black Book survey of specialty-driven EHRs, 80% of practices with specialty-distinctive EHRs affirm their confidence in their systems. The same survey reported that satisfaction among users who had switched to specialty-driven EHRs has shot up to 80%. And finally, 86% of specialists agreed that the biggest trend in technology replacements is specialty-driven EHRs due to specialist workflow and productivity complications.

The statistics show what we already knew; doctors want the technology and tools that give them relevant results. Like earlier great medical inventions, HCIT can play a vital role too. One positive development is that EHRs, like the lasers used in surgeries, have evolved to serve a variety of specific purposes. Just as there isn’t a single type of laser that is used by both ophthalmologists and dermatologists, EHRs are increasingly specialty specific.

This means that specialists are no longer forced to use systems designed for primary care physicians that collect every piece of data that every type of doctor might possibly need. That sort of all-inclusive data collection doesn’t lead to better results; if anything, too much data causes unnecessary clutter, making analysis more difficult. What is crucial is having more RELEVANT data. Specialists need EHRs that collect the data that is relevant to them, and only the data that is relevant to them. They need an HCIT solution that is driven by their specialty, that respects their workflow, and that has the flexibility to handle their practice’s unique requirements.

To find out more about developments in HCIT solutions that are improving patient care, check out our latest whitepaper, “Healthcare: How Moving from Paperless to Frictionless is Improving Patient Care”.

Patient-centric Data Capture—Where Is It?

Adam Curran

Adam Curran

Product Marketing Manager at SRS Health
Adam Curran is a Product Marketing Manager at SRS. He oversees marketing intelligence to support the development of strategic marketing plans. Prior to joining the organization, he was a key member of a pharmaceutical software company’s Clinical Development Business Unit, specializing in the clinical data management elements of the drug development lifecycle. He was also the editor for their microsite’s blog. Adam has also held roles at the UK’s National Energy Foundation and Skills Funding Agency.
Adam Curran

hc-prof-blog-image-v2We all know how increasingly important the patient experience is becoming in clinical trials and healthcare. With more emphasis being placed on quality care and patients’ active participation in their own treatment, it follows that this will have an effect on what solutions and services are required to satisfy consumers in this market. Consumers nowadays have a flood of information available at their fingertips—an amount unimaginable even just 15 years ago. And while the ability to look up symptoms online in the middle of the night has undoubtedly increased the number of hypochondriacs, it has also led to a higher number of truly educated patients, and an accompanying need for specialists to respect and involve them in the diagnosis and treatment process.

But what does it mean to be patient-centric? Our good friend Wikipedia defines it as “support[ing] active involvement of patients and their families in the design of new care models and in decision-making about individual options for treatment.” Not much help, is it really?

The Institute of Medicine defines it as “providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.” The difference in definitions seems to come down to how involved the patient gets in their healthcare. The first definition suggests that the specialist is at the center of decision making, but supports the patient involvement as well. The latter, at least in my opinion, implies that the specialist actively collaborates with the patient by empowering them with the necessary data to make their own treatment decisions.

By either definition, however, data capture is currently falling short of what it takes to be truly patient-centric, despite how far it has come over the last decade. Electronic Health Record (EHR) solutions have been widely adopted in a variety of healthcare specializations, and although the way they collect data can create friction and inefficiencies with specialists’ workflow, they still provide enormous benefits. They streamline access for the specialists to vast quantities of patient data more quickly than traditional paper-based systems, and they eliminate need for patients to fill out the same forms again and again at each specialist’s office.

With the power of technology growing at an exponential rate, new technology solutions are coming out every day, but the challenge is to figure out how to use these technologies to address the real problems that medical practices are facing. In other words, to provide the right technology solution, one that really works for practices. At the moment, more often than not, EHR software interferes with and takes time away from the doctor-patient interaction. However, by giving specialists data-capture tools that allow them to focus on their traditional role of caregivers and that reduce the time and energy that is diverted away from patients, everyone benefits: specialists win, and therefore so do their patients.

There are already good vendors out there who are designing solutions with specialists’ requirements in mind, and some of these certainly help to give specialists more time with patients. However, to achieve a truly patient-centric solution, data capture will need to both predict and adapt to the data being fed into it in real-time. This would give specialists relevant, up-to-date information right at their fingertips, which they could use both to inform their own decision-making process and to educate the patient on their particular condition. The result would be a collaborative, evidence-based plan of care that—because the patient had participated in creating it—would lead to an increased patient commitment to the plan and a better outcome overall.

That’s what providing a truly patient-centric solution looks like.

To find out more about the evolution of data capture and what to expect in the future, you can read our recent white paper on this topic.

What is HCIT Friction?

Khal Rai

Khal Rai

Senior Vice President, Development at SRS Health
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.
Khal Rai

Latest posts by Khal Rai (see all)

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

Have It Your Way

Scott Ciccarelli

Scott Ciccarelli

CEO at SRS Health
Scott Ciccarelli, Chief Executive Officer at SRS, has more than 20 years of diverse management and operations experience garnered as a senior executive at GE, where he headed two of the company’s businesses—most recently, GE Healthcare’s Services, Ambulatory and Revenue Cycle Solutions. His areas of expertise include business strategy, leadership development, operational rigor (Lean Six Sigma), and the delivery of enhanced value for customers through quality improvement and innovation.
Scott Ciccarelli

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Dr. Armstrong's Starbucks CupHalf-Caf, Half-Sweet, Non-Fat, No-Foam… and a Latte EHR Choices for the New Year

In 1974, Burger King changed the face of the fast food world when they rolled out their first “Have It Your Way” commercial. This slogan represented a completely new way of thinking among burger chains: one that revolved around the customer’s needs. “Hold the pickle. Hold the lettuce. Special orders don’t upset us.” Basically, BK was asking their clients to tell them what they wanted—rather than feeling bad for requesting something special.

More than 40 years later, Starbucks has grown an international empire known for serving up exactly what the individual wants. So my question is, in an age when we can satisfy specialized needs for the average Joe, why would we feel that a one-size-fits-all EHR is right for specialist physicians?

The answer is simple: it’s not. HIT solutions created to satisfy the biggest economic verticals—primary and inpatient care—cannot provide optimum productivity for specialist practices. They simply aren’t designed for it. That’s why, according to periodic AMA surveys, 2014 satisfaction rates fell to a staggering low of 34%. Specialists are especially dissatisfied, using HIT solutions that were simply built for someone else—solutions built to serve the masses rather than highly focused specialist practices.

These high-volume, extremely efficient businesses don’t run better by using an EHR focused on capturing maximum data instead of the right data. Specialists are finding that rather than providing greater productivity, generic systems create friction and get in the way of their patient interactions. Outside influences such as government regulations further dictate the development of one-size-fits-no-specialist “solutions” that are based on meeting unnecessarily cumbersome and challenging MU and PQRS requirements.

The good news is, the New Year brings innovative new HIT tools tailored for specialist practices. It starts with taking a new look at what an EHR really is: the hub where all other technologies connect. Just as specialists have a narrow focus, so does a specialist’s EHR. Given the robust ecosystem of different medical technologies needed to deliver the entirety of modern medicine, it’s a challenge for any single vendor to excel at everything. Focused tools provide physicians with the right means to expertly address each protocol.

To tweak Burger King’s famous tagline, it’s time to “practice your way.” Start by asking questions in four key areas:

  1. Evaluate the physician-patient experience. Would your patients be better served by a physician-centric model that allows you to practice the art of specialty medicine your way?
  2. Compare your legacy-model EHR against newer alternatives. Is your current solution optimized for your specialty, or do you find yourself creating workarounds?
  3. Prepare for frictionless data exchange. Does your specialty care really benefit from collecting more data than you need as you work toward a more seamless data exchange and fulfillment of government requirements?
  4. Future-proof your specialty practice. Is your business positioned for future growth in a way that increases your specialists’ productivity, enhances patient care, and takes advantage of innovative technologies?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, perhaps it’s time to place a different order. Perhaps we can talk about it over a cup of coffee?

Send us your special order!

Can Innovation Be the Cure?

Khal Rai

Khal Rai

Senior Vice President, Development at SRS Health
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.
Khal Rai

Latest posts by Khal Rai (see all)

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?