Is Healthcare Hi-Tech Enough?

Barbara Mullarky

Barbara Mullarky

Director, Product Management at SRS Health
Barbara has had a successful career in the healthcare industry, working for both vendors and healthcare provider organizations. She has held roles in sales, marketing, product management and professional services, working with EMR and department-focused solutions for the laboratory and imaging.

Prior to becoming the Director of Product Management at SRS, Barbara was with GE Healthcare (now GE Digital), where she held the positions of Senior Product Marketing Manager for Centricity imaging products, Product Marketing Manager and Customer Collaboration Leader for what is now Caradigm, and Upstream Marketing Manager for Centricity Laboratory. Barbara also worked at the University of Arizona Medical Center, where she managed a team that was responsible for implementing and maintaining 27 departmental IT solutions, the ambulatory EMR and the patient safety initiatives; Wyndgate Technologies (now Haemonetics); Sunquest Information Systems and Community Medical Center.

Originally from New Jersey, Barbara now lives in Tucson, AZ. She is a graduate of the West Virginia University College of Medicine and is a registered Medical Technologist. When not at work, she loves traveling, taking photographs, watching football and spending time with her two Brittanys.
Barbara Mullarky

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315x236-Devices-med-iconsThe answer to that question depends on what part of the healthcare continuum you look at. When it comes to the actual treatment of disease, few fields can compare with medicine in terms of developing and incorporating new technology. Think of cyber knives, genetically guided cancer therapies, complex new drugs for autoimmune diseases, and the way that surgery has become increasingly less invasive through its reliance on computer imaging and magnification for micro-, laparoscopic, and robot assisted surgery.

On the other hand, when it comes to the use of information technology, healthcare hasn’t been nearly as forward looking as, say, banking, or travel, or even the food industry. How often have you visited a highly respected doctor, located in state-of-the-art facilities, and had to spend half an hour filling out pages of badly xeroxed forms, asking redundant and often irrelevant questions about your personal health history? How often has a member of your doctor’s staff had to spend the time to call you to remind you of an appointment? How often have you wasted time trying to reach your doctor by phone to ask a simple question about your treatment?

Fortunately, the landscape is changing. The industry is starting to engage patients in new ways, using text messaging, video conferencing, and wearable devices to keep patients actively in the therapeutic loop rather than simply at the passive, receiving end. And it’s about time.

According to Pew research:

  • 88% of Americans use the Internet
  • 73% have broadband service at home
  • 95% of us carry a cell phone of some type
  • 62% of those have used their phone in the past year to look up information about a health condition.

Those numbers don’t surprise me. As I write this, I am sitting in O’Hare Airport and almost everyone in the departure lounge has a smart phone in his or her hand. Urban legend has it that people under 55 like to text while people over 60 prefer to make phone calls, but if O’Hare is any indication, the over-60 crowd is just as tech savvy as the younger generation. They’re checking the airline app—this happens to be a really bad travel day fraught with weather delays—so that they can text their families and friends with updates. In 2013, Exerpian Marketing found that adults over 55 send almost 500 text messages a month. I’m sure that number is much higher today.

So why not take advantage of this in your practice? Phones and texting allow you to engage with your patients in a whole new way. You can text them appointment reminders (my hair dresser has been doing it for years), let them know if your office is closed due to inclement weather, or notify them that it’s time to make an appointment to have their eyes checked.

Mobile devices can also be used as an electronic physician’s assistant, with apps to guide care and improve outcomes. Imagine if patients could log onto an app on their phones that reminded them of exercises they had to do that day, showed a video of how to do those exercises, recorded that the exercises had been done as well as the patient pain level and other progress indicators . . . and then automatically transmitted all of this information to the physician to become part of their charts. And that all this happened without the time and expense of the doctor’s staff having to make personal calls.

Even better, imagine that you, as the patient, could see your doctor without leaving your home or office. While video technology has been around for a long time, traditional physician practices have been slow to adopt teleservices. This is partly because state regulations and reimbursement policies have not encouraged it, outside of the few online physician services offering quick and relatively easy consults on a “pay now for service” basis. However, more and more states are passing legislation that allow doctors to establish provider-patient relationships through face-to-face interactive, two-way, real-time communication, or through store-and-forward technologies. In addition, some of the laws call out payment policies, and require that care provided via teleservices be billed the same as an in-office visit. I’d personally love it if my doctor adopted teleservices—it would save me the 30-minute drive to her office, the 10 minutes spent parking, the 20-minute delay because she is usually running late, and the 30-minute drive home. Instead, her office could text me when she’s ready and we could engage for 15 minutes via a telemedicine system. A lot better than the minimum 90+ minutes to do an in-person visit.

The final frontier is when healthcare manages to combine information technology with its existing drive for advanced treatment technology. One university research team is developing a tracking device that could be embedded in a pill; the device would activate when the patient took the medication, sending a message to a receiver app, which in turn would create a record for family members or physicians to review. This may initially sound a little too invasive, but think of the boon for families caring for an elder relative—they could verify that the correct meds were taken without having to hire an on-site care-giver or to make daily trips to ensure compliance.

What’s common to all these new technologies is that they recognize that the patient is at the center of the care team, and the information the patient provides must be incorporated into the therapeutic process in real time. The sooner we engage patients in their own care, the better outcomes we will all experience—and the technology that we are already using every day can help us get there. Is the healthcare you are providing hi-tech enough? What technology are you using now to advance your patient engagement?

Will Robots Replace Healthcare Providers?

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.
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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.

Reimagining a Stable Future

Lester Parada

Lester Parada

Director of Professional Services at SRS Health
Lester Parada is the Director of Professional Services overseeing the Implementation, Training & Consulting and Forms teams. He has a background in business development, product management, project management and client relations. His passion lies in maximizing client value by optimizing workflows and technology.Lester is a certified PMP, SCM and CSPO and has an MBA with a concentration in marketing.
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stable-future-blog-v2HHS Secretary Tom Price, an orthopaedic surgeon, stated weeks ago that he wants to “reimagine” the federal department. I would humbly suggest—and hope—that one of the items he “reimagines” is the process by which policy is implemented as it relates healthcare technology.

Since 2011, the healthcare IT (HCIT) sector has been severely hampered by policy uncertainty. Each year, new guidelines and certification criteria are presented. These usually receive some negative reactions from healthcare providers, and then amended as the timelines extend or change. Many times, the policies have been changed a mere two months before their scheduled start date. For providers, the noise around these policy changes creates an environment in which uncertainty avoidance becomes a priority. That means retiring early, merging with a hospital or a larger group to share risks, putting off expansion plans and capital expenditures, and other strategies. For HCIT companies, it means not funding innovation and being forced to focusing on more and more functionality that customers do not value.

In macroeconomics the term “C bar” refers to “the autonomous real consumption expenditures by consumers but as it relates to their confidence.” In layman’s terms, it is the current outlook that consumers have towards the economy and their own financial situation. It reflects their level of confidence or lack thereof. A good level of confidence increases consumers’ likelihood to spend and borrow (otherwise known as their marginal propensity to consume). A poor level signals economic contraction is ahead. It is affected by many factors in our complex economy like housing prices, unemployment, and inflation. However, nothing affects confidence more than uncertainty! In general, when consumers sense they are not reasonably confident of what the future outcome of something will be, they pull back from the table and wait.

You can see evidence of this exact macroeconomic principle in healthcare today. I would venture a guess that if we tracked healthcare’s C bar, we would see that we are in negative territory and likely have been for years.

What we need is stability and a clear direction forward: setting policy and requirements early, providing sufficient time to implement changes, and then not surprising the industry with last-minute changes or corrections. Once confidence is restored, I believe that both providers and HCIT companies will experience a mini boom as all of the delayed investments and innovations work their way back into the sector.

 

If You Build It, Will They Come?

Luis Marcos

Luis Marcos

Senior Operations Manager at SRS Health
Luis began his tenure with SRS-Health nearly 8 years ago as an Implementation Specialist. In that time, his attention to detail and planning garnered accolades from clients and colleagues alike, making him a star within the department. In 2015, he shifted his attention to organizational project management with an emphasis on operational efficiency while overseeing activities in Professional Services. His focus shifted in mid-2016 and he now oversees the activities of both the Support and Service Delivery Teams.
Luis Marcos

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Let’s take a moment and talk about the ideal development-to-adoption scenario. For the sake of the exercise, you’re Kevin Costner. You hear a whisper about building it. You continue to explore what it is until you realize that you have been asked to build a baseball field. Through hard work and perseverance, the request becomes reality. In no time at all, ghost baseball players emerge from behind corn stalks and play a game.

That right there folks, is the dream of every software developer. They aspire to build what you need and then have you faithfully use their creation. Alas, like Field of Dreams (beautiful film), that aspiration typically falls under the genre of fantasy.

How can that be? Why wouldn’t a user take advantage of an enhancement to their software? Truth be told, there are number of reasons as to why, including, but not limited to:

  1. Lack of awareness.
  2. Aversion to change.
  3. The functionality doesn’t meet your exact needs.
  4. The perceived effort of deploying the change outweighs the benefit.

As an end user, you should want and need to maximize the feature set that your software has to offer. Why is this so important? In the graphic below, I have listed only a few of the ways that software enhancements can impact the bottom-line.

improved-bottom-line-700px

As I challenge myself to seamlessly interject concepts from other cherished feature films, this is where I say, “Help me, help you!” When it comes to your software, aspire to A.C.E. the experience.

Accountability: Appoint an Internal Software Administrator (ISA). This person would be responsible for forging a relationship with your software vendor(s). They need to be familiar with the vendor’s release cycle and understand what each new version has to offer. They would then be responsible for scheduling recurring meetings with key stakeholders to discuss their findings and recommendations. They should also volunteer to participate in any focus groups that your vendor may offer. This is a great way to ensure that your vendor understands the specific needs of your organization and how they fit into the big picture.

Collaboration:  Who are these “key stakeholders” that I mentioned above? They would be your Change Control Board (CCB). This group should be comprised of members of each functional department of your business, as changes may have ripple effects throughout the organization. Affecting change is often easier when the decision is made jointly as initial buy-in will be stronger.

Execute: Assuming the CCB finds value in certain enhancements, develop a plan to implement them. This will often involve initial training, shadowing and follow-up that could span a few weeks. Remember that each implemented change is a deviation to someone’s routine. Depending on the work flow adjustment required, a fair degree of staff coaching may be involved.

In fairness, I realize that I’m making all of this sound really easy. It’s work and it requires commitment. Alas, if it means that you can add to your bottom-line, become more efficient or play a round of catch with “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, it is worth exploring.

Now go A.C.E. your experience!

You Say You Want a Revolution…

Ryan Newsome

Ryan Newsome

Vice President of Software Engineering at SRS Health
Prior to joining SRS almost 10 years ago, Ryan started his career as a software engineer for Map Info/Pitney Bowes. Throughout the years Ryan has been an expert in all things web, interoperability, and in agile leadership. He currently oversees all of product engineering at SRS and has led SRS’ transition to an Agile/Scrum Development Methodology. In his free time, you can find Ryan either skiing, cycling or spending time with his family. Fun Fact: Ryan played Division 1 Soccer at Sienna where he attended on a scholarship. Goal!
Ryan Newsome

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This past February, SRS Health sponsored its third annual hackathon. Hackathons are the proving grounds for new ideas. These events stimulate creativity and encourage risk-taking to develop innovative solutions to new or persistent problems.Hackathon Blog ImageThis year’s hackathon was organized around the theme of Data Revolution, and when you think about it, there’s a revolutionary quality to the very idea of hackathons. The word “hackathon” is a portmanteau of the words “hack” and “marathon,” where “hack” is used in the sense of exploratory programming. It’s this exploratory aspect of hackathons that enables participants to be super creative, push boundaries, think outside-of-the-box and develop revolutionary ideas. We solicit ideas from customers and SRSers that can range from practical enhancements to futuristic solutions for tomorrow’s problems.

At SRS Health, we’ve noticed some strong benefits to running hackathons:

  • Feedback – If our product is going to help solve your problems, we need to know what those problems are. Hackathons allow us to discover problems and explore solutions.
  • Engagement – Hackathons build team and community spirit. Participants have fun, and they get a chance to collaborate with others with whom they don’t typically work with on a daily basis.
  • Diversity – Having a wide range of participants generates a variety of fresh perspectives, both on existing problems and for future possibilities.

The result? An event filled with fun, high-energy, free food, great ideas, engaging presentations and amazingly talented people. There are a number of concepts that we are very excited about and could make its way into future editions of our products.

So, if you have a revolutionary idea that you’d like to see become part of our product—or even just an evolutionary step that fixes a chronic problem—let us know about it. It may be the perfect candidate for our next hackathon. The truth is, we all want to change the world of healthcare, and we’d love to explore and define that future together with you!

 

 

 

The Importance of Flexible Technology in High-Performance Practices

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

flexible-tech-blogAn article posted recently to LinkedIn—about the jobs most and least likely to fall victim to robot replacements—started me thinking about the place of technology in healthcare. One takeaway from the article is that automation is best deployed for tasks that are manually or cognitively repetitive, freeing humans to specialize in tasks that are non-repetitive and non-predictable, ones the writer describes as requiring “human intuition, reasoning, empathy and emotion.”[1]

That was exactly the promise of electronic health record (EHR) technology—routine bureaucratic tasks would be automated, freeing doctors and staff to do what they do best: treat patients. Yet in a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, ambulatory physicians spent an average of a full hour at the computer for every hour they spent face to face with patients.[2] Imagine automating a factory and discovering that workers now worked twice as long, or produced half as much, because of the time required by the new technology that was supposed to reduce their workload.

Paradoxically, with recent advances in technology, it is now more possible than ever for EHRs to fulfill their original promise—and more; the problem is that most of the EHRs being offered to medical practices are simply the wrong technology. In an attempt to meet standardized government regulations, vendors have created standardized EHRs—gigantic, one-size-fits-all behemoths that attempt to meet the needs of all physicians, but end up missing the mark with nearly everyone. Particularly when it comes to specialists. KLAS’ Ambulatory Specialty 2016—One Size Does Not Fit All—Performance Report found that although traditional EHR vendors try to cover all specialties, fields like ophthalmology, orthopedics, and dermatology still lack the functionality required.[3]

This is why one size definitely does not fit all. The right EHR solution for a hospital or general practitioner, seeing a limited number of patents with a wide variety of conditions, will look quite different from the EHR for specialists who see a high volume of patents with similar complaints. And of course, different specialties won’t want exactly the same EHR, either, making flexibility—rather than universal applicability—a major prerequisite.

No wonder that 86% of specialists, according to Black Book Market Research, agree that the single biggest trend in technology replacements these days is the move to specialty-driven EHRs because of the workflow and productivity complications that accompany conventional, template-driven EHRs.[4]

Unfortunately, the problems with inflexible, template-driven EHRs don’t end with the lack of specialty-specific solutions. A secondary, but still significant, concern is the inability of many EHRs to be tailored to the need of individual physicians within the practice. One doctor may prefer taking notes, another inputs her own data, while a third dictates; one may be comfortable communicating through a patent portal, another prefers the phone. True flexibility means that no provider has to change the way that he or she has been practicing medicine simply to satisfy the demands of a generic template.

It also means that, when it comes to increasingly crucial matter of data collection, the decision about how data should be collected—what should be collected electronically and which should remain manual—is left up to the individual practice. In the next blog, I will look at what is called “role-based data entry,” and how this can increase productivity and cut costs.


 

[1] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-jobs-robots-take-first-shelly-palmer

[2] http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2546704

[3] Ambulatory Specialty 2016—One Size Does Not Fit All—Performance Report. KLAS. April 2016.

[4] https://blackbookmarketresearch.newswire.com/news/specialty-driven-ehrs-make-a-comeback-reveals-2016-black-book-11534546

A New Data Has Dawned

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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new-srs-blog-v2As we all prepare for another year of change in the healthcare industry, it is my privilege to share a big change of our own: SRSsoft is now SRS Health!

Why would we change our name, our logo, and our tagline? And what does this mean to our clients?

During our 20 years of innovation, the healthcare technology field has been radically transformed. So has SRS. What began as a document management company is now something completely different. We have reinvented SRS as a data solutions company that can help drive better care and better outcomes for our clients today…and in the future. That’s more than an evolution; it’s a revolutionary change worthy of rebranding.

Our Name                                                                                                                         Why did we add “health” to our name? The new moniker comes from our expertise at supporting your expertise: patient health and practice health. Our flexible data platform and integrated best-of-breed approach allows specialists to utilize HCIT in a way that improves the experience for their patients and their practice.

Our Logo                                                                                                                         The orb shape of the logo represents the continuum of engaging patients before, during, and after their visits. It represents the perfect balance of improved efficiency with proven outcomes.  And it represents the unending dedication of our team to remain in motion as we continue to pioneer the HCIT solutions of the future. The fiery color of our logo represents the passion and commitment of our people to ensure client satisfaction.

Our Tagline                                                                                                                             “Intelligent Data Solutions.” For specialists, these three words simply haven’t gone together in a way that provided the types of benefits that SRS Health offers. That’s because the EHR marketplace caters to generalists. Finally, these focused practices can escape the data dark ages with HCIT solutions that are predictive, connective, and exactly what the (specialist) doctor ordered.

To find out more about what’s behind the new SRS Health, I invite you to watch our new video. I think you’ll agree that it really is the dawning of a new data!

Wishing you SRS Health and happiness in the New Year,

Scott