The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Lester Parada

Lester Parada

Vice President of Operations at SRS Health
As the Vice President of Operations, Lester brings over 10 years of increased management experience in operations and product management to the team having held roles in Product Management, Business Development, and Project Management. Lester often visits clients to ensure their SRS Health experience is positive and that they are optimizing their solutions to meet the needs of their practice. Lester frequently attends conferences and tradeshows where he shares his vast product and industry knowledge to educate, while learning from clients and attendees as well.

Lester earned a BS Finance and Management from Montclair State University and an MBA in Marketing Management from Rutgers. In addition, he is a certified PMP (Project Management Professional), CSM (Certified Scrum Master) and CSPO (Certified Scrum Product Owner).
Lester Parada

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Earlier this month, SRS Health attended the 2018 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Meeting. For us, it is an opportunity to spend time with our clients, make new connections and most importantly keep our finger on the pulse of the industry. Each year, we come back home with a list of hot topics or trends and ensure that we are addressing them. This year however, I felt a sense of déjà vu. So, I went back to the 2017 post-AAOS blog and found that the high level topics were almost identical to what I would have written myself.

  • prescription safety
  • data mining/outcomes;
  • cost reduction/operational efficiencies; and
  • MACRA/ MIPS readiness.

Does this mean there has been no progress in the 12 months since the last conference? Not at all.

Prescription Safety – in 2017 really translated to Electronic Prescription of Controlled Substances (EPCS). In 2018, we find that although 91.9% of pharmacies now support this technology nationwide, only 22.9% of providers are EPCS-enabled. More importantly, in 2018, new complexities have been added as many states now also do or will require checking Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) before prescribing certain medications.

Outcomes in 2017, outside of hospital and research settings, was limited to the basic assessment for the purposes of meeting some requirement like a quality measure, CJR or BPCI. In 2018, adoption by larger groups is starting to gain momentum. Rather than just focusing on the minimum government requirements, practices are beginning to see the value in being able to improve the quality and efficacy of care through evidence and solid data.

Cost Reduction/Operational Efficiencies in 2017 meant actual hard cost-cutting or expanding business lines to bring more of the continuum of care under the practice’s control. In 2018, not only do we see a continuation of those two strategies but more and more practices are looking to justify spending. They are looking at the value of each technology, each partner, and deciding what they can change, combine or cancel.

MACRA/MIPS in 2017 was a transition year and HCIT vendors warned providers not to be complacent. We warned that you should be ready to jump into the program in 2018 and beyond. Well, in 2018 Congress enacted the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. This act pushes out the full implementation, effectively making 2019, 2020, and 2021 three more transition years.

Although change management, especially in healthcare, is often slow, having the right technology to address the challenges and opportunities we face—at the right time—is key to optimizing patient care, practice performance, and population health.

At SRS Health, we’ve developed and delivered a specialized end-to-end solution that addresses the topics above, so that we are ready when you are!

Providers Heard Promises and Warnings at HIMSS

Lynn Scheps

Lynn Scheps

VP, Government Affairs & Consulting Services at SRS Health
Lynn Scheps is a leading resource on MACRA, MIPS, and Meaningful Use. She is the SRS liaison with government policy makers. Representing the voice of specialists and other high-performance physicians, she develops strategies to respond effectively to government initiatives.
Lynn Scheps

I just spent three days in Las Vegas at the annual HIMSS conference, with 43,000 of my closest friends. As the Vice President for Government Affairs at SRS Health, my goal in attending this conference each year is to get a heads-up directly from the leaders of CMS and ONC regarding what the government has in store for physicians. While no secrets are leaked in the sessions or meetings at HIMSS, several government program–related themes clearly emerged this year—topping the list was interoperability and burden reduction.

  • Seema Verma, Administrator of CMS, promised a “complete overhaul” of Meaningful Use, and (I assume) by extension, the ACI portion of MACRA. She was purposely short on details, so we don’t know exactly what that means, but subsequent conversations with her team confirmed what it does not mean: MACRA is not going away; MU3 is not disappearing; and the use of 2015 CEHRT is not off the table. I don’t expect that we will see major changes, but we will have to wait for the details to be revealed in the rulemaking that comes later this year.
  • Interoperability will be the focus going forward, and providers were warned that measures are being developed to identify and prevent information blocking, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act, going so far as to impose fines for willful actions in this regard. Patient data must be shared freely between providers; and it must be made easily—and electronically—available to, and controllable by, the owners of that data, i.e., the patients themselves, through programs like the newly announced MyHealthEData initiative.
  • Promises of regulatory relief and clinical burden reduction were abundant, and were offered within various contexts, including the overhaul of MACRA to reduce the time providers devote to compliance, streamlining documentation for the E&M coding/billing process, and the introduction of the Meaningful Measures initiative to increase the validity and efficiency of quality measurement and reporting. ONC and CMS led several ”listening sessions” in which they sought feedback on burden reduction—I sensed hopeful optimism tempered by healthy skepticism on the part of attendees.
  • The opioid crisis is on everyone’s mind. As one Congressional staffer put it, this is the “issue du jour.” It is being addressed at the national level as well as by the states, the majority of which are already mandating PDMP checking before a physician can write a prescription for a controlled substance. One challenge here will be for HIT and EHR vendors to automate this process so that the problem can be tackled without creating a new task that providers will perceive as yet another burden. 

It will be interesting to see what progress is made in all of the above areas when HIMSS reconvenes in 2019.

Congress Authorizes Changes to MIPS

Lynn Scheps

Lynn Scheps

VP, Government Affairs & Consulting Services at SRS Health
Lynn Scheps is a leading resource on MACRA, MIPS, and Meaningful Use. She is the SRS liaison with government policy makers. Representing the voice of specialists and other high-performance physicians, she develops strategies to respond effectively to government initiatives.
Lynn Scheps

mips-blogHow many times have you heard the expression, “It would take an act of Congress.”? Well, Congress has acted! Had this blog been posted just 2 weeks ago, the message would have been slightly different and a little more ominous in tone. I would have said—and you may have read articles elsewhere where I did—that the MIPS transition period is coming to an end, and providers should begin to prepare in earnest for 2019, when by law, the MIPS threshold would be much higher and the cost category would account for 30% of the MIPS score. These provisions in MACRA were not subject to CMS’ discretion; but apparently, Congress has been persuaded to extend CMS increased flexibility. As part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Congress has pushed out the full implementation of MIPS from 2019 to 2022, effectively making 2019, 2020, and 2021 three additional transition years.

This means that:

  • There will still be winners and losers since budget neutrality remains a requirement; however, CMS is now not obligated to set the MIPS threshold at the mean (or median) of prior performance until 2022. Instead, the threshold will be gradually increased to that level over the intervening years, the good news being that it will not be as challenging to avoid a downward adjustment for a few more years. The consequence of this, however, is that the amount of money available to winners will continue to be less than the maximum provided for in the law, (i.e., 5% related to the 2018 performance year, 7% for 2019, and 9% from then on.)
  • The Cost category does not jump to 30% of the MIPS score in 2019. CMS can hold off on the increase until as late as 2022, with the flexibility to set the rate at between 10% and 30% each year until then and to make it 30% only when the Secretary is confident that the resource use, (i.e., cost), measures are ready for adoption. In addition, the bonus points for year-over-year improvement in this category have been eliminated.

Through these changes, Congress has relieved some of the immediate pressure for providers. However, this does not change the fact that it will become progressively harder to score well as providers gain experience, making MIPS increasingly competitive in the coming years:

  • The Quality and Cost categories will remain distinguishing factors among providers.
    • It will become progressively harder to score well in the Quality category. Benchmarks will be more aggressive as providers build experience. The 2018 benchmarks have been posted on the QPP website, and you can already see differences from the 2017 deciles for some measures.
    • Improving your comparative Cost position is not something you can do overnight; it takes time. So, it’s not too early to address this area more vigorously.
  • MIPS performance has implications beyond Medicare payment adjustments. Your reputation could be impacted as CMS makes more and more performance data publicly available on its Physician Compare website. Consider what you want patients, referring physicians, and payers to see about you when they are researching your practice.

So, don’t let down your guard. Take advantage of the additional transition years to secure your future success.

MIPS 2018 New Year Resolutions

Christine Schiff

Christine Schiff

Government Affairs Specialist at SRS Health
Christine has been with SRS for over 5 years, working in Government Affairs and serving as the HIPAA Privacy Officer. She is devoted to providing excellent customer service, and she translates this passion into the work she does to support government program compliance. She has an expert understanding of MU and PQRS and serves as a valuable client resource.

Prior to joining SRS, Christine worked at NYU for 11 years where she also obtained her Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management.
Christine Schiff

Check out these top 5 tips for starting your 2018 MIPS reporting on the right foot!

  1. Focus on Quality! – 2018 new-years-resolution-mipsrequires full-year reporting. With quality being the highest valued category (50% of your MIPS score), now is the time to review your quality-reporting plan and make sure you are capturing all the necessary data to report successfully. Furthermore, this is the category where providers can really distinguish themselves. It is anticipated that ACI scores will generally be high due to MU experience, and that most providers will earn the full score in the Improvement Activities category.
  1. Understand Your Cost Position – In a change from the original proposal, the cost category will contribute up to 10% of your overall MIPS score. Look for CMS reports later in 2018 to help you understand how cost is assessed and consider ways to reduce the cost of care you provide.
  1. Plan your ACI Reporting Strategy – CMS is allowing the use of 2014-certified software in 2018. Here are your options:
    • Your EHR is 2014 Certified – report the 2017 Transitional Measure Set.
    • Your EHR is 2014 and 2015 Certified – report either 2017 Transitional Measure Set, the ACI Measure Set, or a combination of both.
    • Your EHR is 2015 Certified – report the ACI Measure Set.

Compare the two measure sets and evaluate which set will likely earn you higher performance scores.

  1. Pick Your Improvement Activities – CMS has included some additional Improvement Activities for 2018. Review the list and make sure you will be able to attest to completing them for at least 90 days in 2018.
  1. Strive for Better Performance – Improvement in the Quality (and Cost) category for 2018 over last year will earn you bonus points this year. Review your CQMs and readjust workflows as necessary to support higher performance.



Like Holiday Gifts, “Patient-centric Care” is about Quality, Not Quantity

The end of the December is a time for reflection on the closing year, and for making plans for the new one. It’s a time for top-ten lists and New Year’s resolutions. But for now, let’s focus on one of the top buzzwords of the year in healthcare: Patient-centric care. 

It’s actually been several years now that patient-centric care has been gaining buzz-worthy status, and like most trendy new concepts, it has often been used without a clear consensus on what it actually means. Most recently, for instance, it has become a catchall term for any care that offers a more comprehensive focus on the patient. And that should make us pause and think—how in the world did medicine ever lose its comprehensive focus on the patient? There have been many factors, to be sure, but the primary driver seems to have been physicians’ and practices’ need to align themselves with payment models that rewarded the volume of visits over the value of care.

This has permeated all levels of healthcare for many years. Whether it was the development of healthcare IT strategies, the crafting of EHR systems, the HIMSS stages of adoption and utilization, or the use of performance scorecards and data warehouses and analytics—all the focus was on maintaining high volumes of patient care, while a comprehensive approach to the patient often got lost in the flood of individual symptoms, tests, and treatments.

That is, until the recent sea change in the industry that shifted payment models from rewarding for quantity to rewarding for quality. This was a necessary correction, but the resulting increase in focus on value-based contracts puts healthcare providers at risk for the total cost and quality of care provided.  It has also highlighted significant holes in IT and data strategies that need to be addressed if an organization is successful in this new payment paradigm. At the top of that list of necessary improvements is patient engagement.

How to Engage? 

Patient engagement isn’t something that takes place at one point on the healthcare continuum—it’s a way of reorganizing the care continuum so that patient input and feedback are integral parts of the process at every step. Proper patient engagement aims to:

  • Involve patients in their own healthcare, leading to better outcomes and increased patient satisfaction;
  • Meet patient expectations for better ways to access and engage with their healthcare information and data;
  • Automate patient intake and other processes, helping to secure ROI;
  • Leverage patients to enter data, freeing practice staff to focus on patient care;
  • Improve communication between patients and caregivers;
  • Improve compliance with government regulations; and
  • Provide a global platform for patient access that spans multiple facets of the practice, i.e. physical therapy, urgent care, and other office locations.

This means that, when it comes to IT issues, practices need to choose the right vendor if they want to make patient engagement a reality. They need a vendor who does more than just sell a one-size-fits-all solution; they need a partner in the process of restructuring established workflows for greater efficiency, reduced costs, and better patient engagement. Achieving this is a big enough task on its own, so it’s important to minimize any potential challenges to adoption. The solution has to be:

  • Easy-to-use for both patients and practice staff;
  • Vendor neutral (not limited to the products of a specific manufacturer);
  • Data standardized, so the data can be accurately exchanged between different systems, increasing confidence of both doctors and patients; and
  • Able to connect and communicate with EHRs, HIEs, and ACOs.

As we move from volume- to value-based reimbursement, it is critical to understand how to best utilize the available tools and solutions to get patients actively engaged in their healthcare. Achieving this goal won’t be easy, but we will be creating better outcomes for both patients and for the practices that care for them. Is this at the top of your list for the New Year?

Power of the Patient Interface

patient-powerHealthcare providers have long known that engaging patients leads to improved health outcomes; in a value-based payment world, engaged patients also provide a stronger framework for increased revenues. For this to happen, however, practices need the right patient engagement platform—one that not only empowers patients to become partners in their own healthcare, but that also documents that engagement.

A reliable, cutting-edge patient portal, for example, can enlist patients to provide extensive personal health data outside of the actual healthcare encounter, freeing up caregivers to spend more time with patients. Further, as population health becomes of increasing concern, practices whose patient engagement platform offers the ability to aggregate and analyze these individual health histories will have a head start. Patient engagement is where relevant data on population health begins.

It is equally important that the patient portal supports compliance with MIPS (Merit-based Incentive Payment Systems), enabling practices to comply with government requirements under Meaningful Use and MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program] Reauthorization Act) regulations—this will increase Medicare payments and minimize takebacks.

Finally, the patient portal needs to integrate seamlessly with the organization’s electronic health record, health information exchange, and accountable care organization, if any. The right solution will be flexible enough to adapt to the healthcare facility’s IT system, not the other way around.

ACOs and Triple Aim’s interest in patient engagement

Patient engagement was not initially a concern of accountable care organizations (ACOs), which were born of healthcare reform as a way to redefine the shared responsibility of doctors and hospital staff for coordinating care, improving quality, and lowering costs. That changed when the Affordable Care Act officially codified them into law, and recognized that ACOs could not succeed without patient engagement.

Patient engagement has also been deemed essential for the success of the Triple Aim, a framework developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement for optimizing health system performance by:

  • improving the patient experience (including quality and satisfaction);
  • improving population health; and
  • reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.

According to the IHI, “quality” is defined from the perspective of an individual member of a given population which leads logically to a focus on patient-centric care and patient engagement.

The ideal patient portal should be easy-to-use, responsive, and allow your patients to communicate with your practice on their terms. Practices need to communicate and connect with their patients to improve healthcare.

Do you have the right platform to engage your patients?

I Want My…I Want My VBC

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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Launched with the iconic “I Want My MTV” ad campaign, Music Television was born in 1981 – and the music industry changed forever. For the first time, we could do more than hear music; we could see it being executed in a new visual medium. And the most successful bands were the ones who took advantage of this new opportunity to engage with audiences. Fast-forward to today, and technology has helped our music consumption continue to evolve in ways we could never have imagined.

So why am I talking about the 80s, what does this have to do with our annual User Summit, and how does Value Based Care (VBC) fit into all of this? Yes, we had an awesome 80s-themed party at last month’s summit. (I may or may not have been dressed as Slash, the guitarist from Guns N’ Roses at one point…) But there’s a better reason: we are in the midst of a healthcare revolution – and we are all making history. Together.

“Together” is a key word to tomorrow’s value based success. It’s how SRS Health is going to help our clients prepare for VBC, so they can benefit financially from the data-driven rewards – and more importantly, so they can utilize that data to provide even better medical care. We are continuing the SRS tradition of collaborating with our clients to create agile solutions designed to maximize today’s opportunities and pave the way for value-based success.

How are we doing this? With intelligent data solutions that cultivate the high levels of patient engagement, operational efficiency, and demonstration of quality that are critical to VBC. Working toward improved outcomes benefits your patients, and it benefits your businesses.

Here’s how some of our amazing clients are adding their ingenuity to our flexible data solutions, to provide improved care at lower cost – and create rock star VBC results:

  • Informed Decision Making. Bayview Physicians Group, a multi-specialty practice in Chesapeake, VA, is using data-driven evidence to mitigate the potential reimbursement shortfalls in the Medicare Advantage HCC Program. By developing protocols for various high-risk categories that help justify higher-cost treatments, Bayview is positioning themselves to be ahead of the cost factor curve. Why? Because the data shows that they are only recommending higher-cost treatments when they are medically necessary, which ultimately justifies the expense.
  • Operational Efficiency. Illinois Bone & Joint Institute has been using data to standardize best care practices across all of their physicians to provide the best and most effective results – in both the Medicare Federal Programs and commercial markets. For the past year, they’ve been investigating the factors that most influence orthopaedic outcomes, and how to use outcomes data to drive better care at lower cost. Now they want to combine the power of their EHR and their Outcomes solution to provide real-time evidence-based information at the point of care – and OBERD is on board to help us turn this vision into a real VBC-inspired game changer for them and for the industry.
  • Driving Growth. In South Carolina, Charleston Ear, Nose, and Throat & Allergy is maintaining their competitive edge in a different way. They’re leveraging their center of excellences operational process, IT capabilities and professional organization to expand by offering other practices access to the experience, tools, and solutions required for VBC success. This has led to a group of practices that can negotiate cost savings, better reimbursements and referrals – and it’s helping to create a sort of registry that will provide better data to help inform ENT physicians and improve outcomes in the new healthcare economy.

While VBC may not have the same cache as MTV, it really is something to get excited about. We are on the cusp of an entirely new way of providing healthcare – and with our intelligent data solutions and your innovative medical expertise, we’ve got what it takes to top the charts.

Change is always scary, but it also brings opportunities. And we’re ready to start singing “I want my VBC!” (80s attire optional.)