The Case for Centralized Quality Reporting: A Perfect Example

The Case for Centralized Quality Reporting: A Perfect Example’ TimeQuality measure reporting is one of the 3 basic tenets of the EHR Incentive Program—the other 2 being ePrescribing and data sharing (interoperability)—as identified in ARRA, the program’s defining legislation. It is a key component to improving the quality of patient care. In a recent EMR Straight Talk post—“A Waste of Physicians’ Money and Vendors’ Time”—I proposed a more cost-effective method of analyzing clinical quality measure (CQM) data that would deliver more useful information for quality improvement than the approach currently in place for meaningful use. I suggested that rather than requiring each of the 472 vendors of certified EHRs to program the same CQMs (no longer 125 as initially proposed, but still a burdensome 64), EHRs should simply collect and report the data, and CMS or its designate should provide the analytics. Such a centralized approach would not only be more efficient, but it would produce more consistent and reliable data. Most importantly, it would allow for the immediate implementation of any changes to measure specifications as necessitated by the availability of new medical information.

Recently, I confronted a perfect example of the ineffectiveness of the current system and the opportunities that a centralized approach would afford. A physician informed me that a new CVX (immunization) code was created for the influenza vaccine—CVX code 144. While I told this client that we could easily add this code to the EHR for his use in documenting vaccinations (which we did), these vaccinations would unfortunately still not be reflected in the numerator for NQF 0041 (Preventive Care and Screening: Influenza Immunization for Patients over Age 50)—a fact validated by CMS. New electronic specifications for CQMs will not be implemented until 2014, and the current specifications remain in force for 2012 and 2013.

As an EHR vendor, I certainly appreciate the fact that we are not subject to the expectation that we will reprogram measures off-cycle. That would wreak havoc with our development roadmap and resource planning. Furthermore, changing the calculations to accommodate the new codes would compromise data comparability. So now we have comparable—but incorrect—data that does not reflect actual vaccination status. Under this system, how will we ever stay current as medicine constantly evolves?

Just imagine if everyone could begin using the new CVX codes immediately because the electronic specifications were updated in one centralized location with one effort. This is just one example from a potential 64 CQMs. How much more value would we derive from all the work that we demand of physicians in capturing the CQM data? How can we accelerate healthcare improvement if we are always 2–3 years behind?

EMR Ratings: A KLAS Act (Part 2)

Last week, I discussed the merits of the new KLAS Performance Report that categorizes EMR ratings based upon practice specialty. The industry has responded very positively to this major step forward, and I suspect that KLAS has received many requests for access to the publication.

One of the obstacles that KLAS faced in reporting by specialty was a lack of sufficient data in many of the categories and for many of the vendors. This data limitation leads me to several initial observations and raises important questions:

  • While there are 27 vendors rated in the primary-care section and 20 in family practice, there are only 2 vendors in ophthalmology, 3 in orthopaedics, and 5 in cardiology with sufficient volume to merit inclusion. Why is that? EMR vendors have been marketing to the specialty physicians for well over a decade. Does this confirm that traditional EMRs have only had real traction in primary care after all these years?
  • A disclaimer by KLAS says that vendors may be excluded from a category due to insufficient data points, yet I know from my own company’s sales experience that there are vendors who claim a large number of installs in specialty practices. Why are these practices not included in the survey results? Did they de-install their EMR? Did the implementation fail, or are the providers not really using the EMR so they chose not to respond to KLAS? Did vendors not supply KLAS with a sufficient number of specialists due to such problems? Whatever the reasons, the lack of responses from specialists is not surprising, given the dearth of specialists’ testimonials or EMR success stories on vendor websites and on industry and government blogs.
  • Some of the vendors that are not rated highly by clients in the specialty categories received significantly better KLAS ratings from their primary-care clients. This data validates the tremendous difference between the EMR needs of specialists and those of primary-care physicians, as I have discussed in numerous posts. The fact that traditional EMRs are designed to meet the needs of primary-care physicians was a concern echoed by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in its EMR Position Statement, which said that the primary-care focus “can limit the utility of EHRs for specialty surgical practice.” Force-fitting an EMR designed for primary care into a specialty practice is what has resulted in the historically high failure rate of EMRs among specialists.

Limitations of the data notwithstanding, one conclusion is inescapable: The KLAS report is a great first step in providing specialists with considerably more information than they had prior to its publication, but the burden still remains on the specialists to do their due diligence to identify an EMR with proven success in their specialty.

EMR References: Cast a Wider Net

Client references and site visits can be a rich source of valuable information when you’re shopping for an EMR—but only if approached critically and after conducting your own due diligence. The graph below illustrates the limitations of relying on vendor-supplied client references to make an informed EMR purchase decision.

Impact of EMR on Physician Productivity

This graph represents the effect of EMR adoption on physician productivity, given the acknowledged 50–80% failure rate of traditional EMRs—specialists being on the higher end of the range. Immediately upon adoption, physicians experience a significant reduction in the number of patients they can see, and over time, they hope to regain their productivity. Some are able to achieve their pre-EMR levels, and a small number see an increase above that level—the latter are the physicians in the orange-shaded section. These are the physicians whom vendors will identify as references and whose practices will be offered for site visits.

Every vendor will have a few good references and can take potential customers to visit a “show site” client, but this is not necessarily representative of the experience of the majority of users—the experience that you can likely expect.

If this graph instead portrayed the results of a clinical trial for a new drug, would a physician prescribe this medication based on the fact that 100 (of the 1,000) patients in the study showed positive effects? Clearly not!

Ask the vendor for—and insist on—at least 10 to 15 references of practices in your specialty and at least a few that are close in size to yours. If a vendor cannot provide this, there is reason to question whether its EMR is right for your practice. Call a physician of your choosing in the reference practice(s)—selecting at random from the group’s website is most likely to yield an objective evaluation. Don’t be fooled by one reference, one hand-picked physician, or one “show site” visit.

Here’s Proof: Your Time is Worth More Than You Think

When I speak with physicians and share with them this calculator, they are astonished to see the true value of their time.

Physician productivity is a major driver of practice revenue and profitability. Today’s rising practice costs, a more challenging reimbursement environment, the looming payment reform, a physician shortage, and the aging baby-boomer population make productivity increasingly critical. Whether you are comparing an EMR to paper charts, one traditional EMR to another, or a point-and-click EMR to a hybrid EMR, seconds count.

Last week, I suggested benchmarking to compare the relative effects on productivity of the different EMRs a practice might be considering. My EMR Reform plan includes “click” comparisons as a “report card” measure of efficiency. It may sound trivial—a few clicks more or less, or a few seconds here and there, couldn’t have much of an impact. But they do.

Consider this: approximately 80% of clinical workflow consists of the repetitive performance by physicians and medical assistants of 20% of their tasks. If generating a prescription requires 8 clicks in one EMR and 3 clicks in another, and each click takes just one second of a physician’s time, every prescription written has a potential impact—positive or negative—of 5 seconds on physician productivity. Add in the differential for other common workflows such as reviewing chart notes, sending a message, or reviewing and signing a test result (number of clicks, number of screens that must be navigated, etc.), and it is reasonable to assume that you can increase—or decrease—productivity by 30 seconds per exam, depending on the technology you choose.

For a typical orthopaedic surgeon who generates $1.1 million in revenue by seeing 125 patients per week, conducting office hours 20 hours per week, and taking 5 weeks of vacation, this 30-second-per-exam increase in productivity would enable this physician to generate an additional $57,000 per year (or $285,000 over 5 years). Conversely, an EMR that decreases productivity by 30 seconds per exam would cost this physician $285,000 over 5 years. Because this represents marginal revenue, it goes straight to the bottom line as almost entirely profit (or loss).

Point-and-Click EMR: See What Can Happen

Rather than post a narrative commentary this week, I thought we could all use some levity! Every time I see this clip from “I Love Lucy,” it evokes an image of how a physician must feel when he uses a click-heavy EMR and struggles to keep up with his waiting room full of patients. See if you agree.
I Love Lucy – The Candy Wrapping Job

If this video is not viewing properly, please click here.

Life After De-installing CCHIT

Our recent announcement regarding a practice that has decided to de-install their existing CCHIT-certified EMR and replace it with the SRS hybrid EMR has been referred to as “gutsy” in the HISTalk blog and has generated a tremendous amount of interest. The determination to move away from a CCHIT-certified product may seem surprising in light of the Economic Stimulus Plan, but this is just the most recent in a series of de-installs/conversions that we have successfully completed.

SRS has been approached by an increasing number of practices interested in replacing their traditional EMRs with a hybrid EMR. This trend is dominated by high-performance, high-volume practices, even in the face of the government’s apparent interest in CCHIT-type EMRs.

These practices share a number of common experiences. They selected and purchased their EMR with high expectations and confidence that it would be implemented successfully throughout their practice and deliver a substantial ROI in a reasonable timeframe. Despite their best efforts to make it work, they have been frustrated by the inability to achieve universal adoption and to realize the anticipated benefits.

Although individual physicians within the practice may have been successful in using the CCHIT EMR, the majority have not embraced the technology. In almost all cases, the practice has not eliminated its transcription costs or changed its coding, which had been the driving forces for the purchase of an EMR initially. Physicians are still dictating their notes, refusing to be forced into productivity-sapping templating of patient exams.

In addition, practices are experiencing one of two things. They are either running simultaneous paper and EMR chart systems, experiencing the worst of both worlds, or they are using their EMR as a crude document management system. In many cases, they are still overrun with paper and the accompanying costly filing demands. Anticipated ROI has not materialized.

As our clients who found themselves in this position have testified, transitioning to a hybrid EMR can be accomplished relatively quickly and easily. Our hybrid EMR is built on a non-proprietary, OpenPath™ foundation, which allows for an easy, one-time transfer of data from the CCHIT EMR to the hybrid EMR. The transition to the hybrid EMR can be accomplished without repeating the protracted implementation process experienced by these practices with their first (and sometimes second) CCHIT EMR. Physicians quickly adopt the hybrid EMR and the practices quickly move toward realizing a true ROI.

What Is a Hybrid EMR?

The continued success of hybrid EMR has prompted extensive debate about what actually constitutes one. While the Internet is now filled with discussions about EMRs, the number of conversations regarding hybrid EMRs has exploded. People are always asking me what it is that makes hybrid EMRs work so well and how they are different from traditional (CCHIT-type) EMRs. This is the first in a series of 3 discussions that will address this subject.

A hybrid EMR is a high-performance EMR that is successful in high-performance practices.

In 1997, SRS created the first hybrid EMR, concentrating on performance-driven practices, where high-volume physicians demanded unencumbered productivity. As others have followed our lead, hybrid EMRs continue to be designed with efficiency and speed in mind. This emphasis on performance criteria contrasts sharply with traditional EMRs. As a reading of the CCHIT criteria reveals, traditional EMRs are constructed for lower-volume, primary care practices where speed is not a primary driver.

SRS has built the largest national network of high-performance practices that successfully use an EMR. Our development process is driven by these practices and we work to facilitate the sharing of best practices among them.

In the next segment of the series, I will share my thoughts on a key defining characteristic of high-performance hybrid EMR—high usability.