What Are Specialists Faced With Today? Uncertainty and Change!

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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Changes AheadRecent Nobel-recipient Bob Dylan wrote “The Times They Are A-Changin’” in 1963—a time of growing social upheaval reflected in the song’s lyrics, which called for listeners to acknowledge and embrace the transformations taking place around them. As I listened to this song over the past weekend, I couldn’t help but draw a correlation to the radical transformations we are currently experiencing in our industry. The past several years have epitomized the term “change” as the nation has taken big steps to transform the delivery of healthcare.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed in 2009 by President Barack Obama, was one of the catalysts for this transformation by requiring the “meaningful use” of digital systems in healthcare. Since then, change has been the only constant that we have been able to count on. Government regulations, payment models, and product innovations have continued to evolve in disruptive ways—both good and bad. As soon as we become comfortable with one wave of change, another wave is already threatening to drench us to the bone (for us, the next big one is MACRA & MIPS).

So, coming off nearly a decade of constant uncertainty, what’s next? Well, you guessed it—more change! Starting in 2017 we will have new policy leaders in place who have promised to significantly restructure the incumbent’s healthcare programs. President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Tom Price as the head of HHS may be indicative of the changes on the horizon. Price, a 6-term congressman from the Atlanta, Georgia, area, was formerly an orthopedic surgeon. Will a specialist at the helm help make government programs, that have typically been focused on primary and in-patient care, more meaningful for specialists?

Time will tell, but the one thing that is certain is that, as the song says, the wheel is still in spin. In other words, the times they are still a-changin’.

The Hills Are Alive…With the Sound of a New SRS!

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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mountain-blogI love that our annual event is called the SRS User Summit – because this year, the news was so good that I wanted to shout it from the top of the tallest mountain! (Or, maybe sing it, but I’m no von Trapp family member…) Every member of the SRS team felt the same way. Thankfully, after hearing our big news, so did the clients who attended.

Here’s the shout-worthy news: SRS has completely transformed into an intelligent data-focused solutions provider. Our days of being a document management company are behind us. And rather than tweaking existing template-based systems as many of our competitors have chosen to do, we pioneered a specialist-oriented solution that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere. We have invented a new approach to data that is totally revolutionary – balancing speed, efficiency, data collection and sharing.

Why? Demands on medical practices have become even steeper, and the main path followed by other HCIT vendors won’t help specialists reach their goals. That’s why SRS is carving out new trails in order to provide the level of partnership that is needed today and tomorrow. Together, we will achieve:

  • Better patient engagement
  • Better clinical outcomes
  • Better operational efficiency

I know that’s a lot to claim. That’s exactly why I was so excited to unveil the new SRS at the User Summit: because as someone with a high say/do ratio, I’m thrilled to say that we can back up every claim we are making! Here are a few examples of what’s available now, and what is coming soon:

TODAY

  • Patient Engagement Platform– streamline the registration process by enhancing the digital intake experience and reduce appointment “no shows” with automated reminders. Influence patient behavior through meaningful engagement in both pre and post visit by customizing patient forms to practice requirements, and leveraging patients to complete forms online before their appointment.
  • Smart Workflows –our revolutionary patent pending Smart Workflows allow you to collect more data and quickly document patient encounters with customizable workflows, provide standardized care efficiently through protocols, drive compliance with regulatory and quality improvement initiatives, and demonstrate the value of your services through analytics and outcomes.
  • Data Interoperability – capture then share discrete clinical data with other information systems across all parts of the healthcare network through the use of our APIs.

TOMORROW

  • Flexible Data Platform –capture the data you want, when you want, and how you want with our data capture platform. It empowers users to drill down and capture and report on any discrete data point that is truly relevant to them.
  • Integrated Best of Breed – enjoy the seamless user experience of our tightly integrated healthcare IT ecosystem—including EHR, Practice Management, Patient Portal, and Transcription—each selected for their ability to serve high-performance specialists and to easily integrate with your practice’s other HCIT solutions.
  • Patient Population – improve patient outcomes through tailored outreach campaigns that educate them post encounter, as well as setting up reminders and sending out surveys to collect more relevant data.

Of course, some things about SRS remain the same – and we promise, they won’t change! For example, we will continue to guide you through regulatory compliance, thanks to our own governmental Sherpa, Lynn Scheps, who has already dug into the 2,398 pages of the new MACRA rule released a week ago.  Plus, the superb client service for which we are known will continue to be core to the SRS experience.

We understand that the future will continue to be an uphill climb. But with SRS by your side, you’ll have the right tools on the right paths. Now that is something to sing about!

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

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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.

Securing Your Business: Disaster recovery – do you need backup or a business continuity plan?

bouncer-blogAs an MSP specializing in healthcare and security, StratX IT Solutions is often asked,

“Is there a difference between backup and business continuity plans for disaster recovery?”

Many believe that data backup and business continuity plans are one in the same but they are not! One allows you to recover your files, and the other enables you to continue operating your practice regardless of the severity of the outage or your physical location. They are complimentary solutions and you need both in order to secure the business of your practice.

With estimates that 70% of data outages are caused by human error (eg, opening emails with viruses*) and the Gartner Group study which predicts that 25% of PCs will fail each year, asking “IF” you need a disaster recovery plan for your systems has become moot. What is critical is “HOW”.

But let’s backup for a minute (bad pun intended). Let us explain what data backup and business continuity plans are, and what StratX recommends to our clients as the most failsafe combination.

It all starts with data backup. It is the foundation for disaster recovery and business continuity – no backup means no business continuity.

But, not all backup solutions are created equal.  Remember when tape backup was the only option? Data protection is a fast-evolving market, and solutions that were put in place a decade or so ago are no longer suited to meet today’s regulatory and requirements.

What is required is a robust, viable foundation for ensuring secure, HIPAA compliant data backup and retention. Backup products fall into three (3) basic categories:

  1. Onsite backup (data stored on hardware kept physically in your office)
  2. Cloud backup (data stored on hosted hardware via the internet)
  3. Hybrid onsite-cloud backup (combines the first two categories)

Onsite backup works well when a quick restore of lost or damaged files is required. The data is onsite and, it’s fast and easy to restore to its original location. But what happens if:

  • The power goes out?
  • If the device fails?
  • Or if the equipment is stolen or fails?

You might think the cloud looks more attractive due to onsite backup’s “what ifs,” but cloud-only backup is risky too.

  • What if you lose connectivity to the internet?
  • Restores tend to be difficult and time-consuming.
  • And, after all, the cloud can fail, too.

What is a hybrid onsite-cloud solution?

  • Your data is first copied and stored on a local device and your data is also replicated in the cloud.

StratX recommends that our clients purchase and use a hybrid onsite-cloud backup solution. By using onsite backup to mitigate the risks of the cloud, and using the cloud to mitigate the risks of onsite backup your data will be available to you in case of an emergency and allow you to put your business continuity plan into action.

Furthermore, we recommend our clients use a hybrid onsite-cloud solution which gives them the ability to work virtually. The backup contains full server images (vs. only files or data) which can be restored or activated as servers in a disaster and allow you to work as if the original servers were still functioning – this is where a business continuity plan comes into play.

Business continuity, the ability to keep daily operations running, isn’t a product that you purchase per se, it’s the action plan that is designed and managed by your IT staff or vendor.

The plan lays out how you will access your server, software, applications and data when disaster strikes and also sets a timeline to achieve that access. It should also have provisions to have your IT support continually test the process before you are faced with an issue. It’s better to troubleshoot failed “test” restorations than to lose days, weeks or even months reinstalling and configuring your systems.

The only safe way to head-off downtime of your systems, regardless of the cause, is to be informed and prepared. Do you have a clearly outlined plan in place for your practice?

It’s critical that you are prepared, ask your IT staff:

  • How quickly can my business be up and running in the event of disaster?
  • Do we have documented backup, security and a business continuity plan in place which meet our regulatory requirements?
  • Is all of our critical data backed up daily, or more frequently?
  • How fast can we get our systems up and running to a pre-disaster operating state?
  • Have we done a real world test our backup and business continuity plan?

 

Jack Mortell

SRSsoft guest blogger: Jack Mortell of StratX IT Solutions

* Print our “email safety guide” for your staff. It describes the key signs they should look for to identify and avoid opening malicious emails.

Frictionless Product Delivery

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

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

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

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

How does this Software Deployment Tool benefit you?

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

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

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

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

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”.

The ABCs of APIs

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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APIIt seem that everywhere you look in today’s tech industry, you hear the term APIs, and healthcare IT is no exception. Healthcare has recently joined the frenzy by promoting emerging interoperability standards like FHIR. Regulators believe that APIs will support this interoperability so much that APIs are included in meaningful use Stage 3. So, you might now be asking, what are APIs, and why are they so important?

In the simplest terms, APIs are a doorways that allow developers to create bridges between different applications. API stands for Application Programming Interface. APIs are sets of rules that govern how one application can communicate with another. APIs do all this by “exposing” some of a program’s internal functions to the other developers in a limited capacity. This makes it possible for products to share data and take actions on one another’s behalf without requiring developers to share all of their software product’s code.

APIs have been around for decades, so why all of the publicity now? Over the last 10 years companies have started to make their APIs publically available, which has been a catalyst for the spin-off of new business models, innovative solutions, distribution channels, and synergies between business partnerships.

A recent example of this can be found with your smart phones. What do you think fueled the recent app revolution? If companies like Apple and Google did not provide APIs, app developers would not be able to use the functionality found on your phone. Ever wonder how SnapChat has access to your phone’s camera? You guessed it, APIs!

In the end, APIs are a wonderful tool that provides you with flexibility and complete control over your healthcare IT ecosystem.

Now that you know a bit about APIs, how do you see your organization leveraging them in the future?