Why an EHR Solution Is a Must-Have for 2018

Diane Beatini

Diane Beatini

Vice President, Sales at SRS Health
Diane Beatini is the Vice President of Sales. She oversees the Sales, Account Management, and Sales Operations teams. She works to promote the complete SRS product suite of HCIT solutions to medical practices of varied sizes and specialties. Diane’s background includes an MBA in marketing and finance with 15 years of executive sales and customer service management experience in the radiology, medical device, and pharmaceutical industries.
Diane Beatini

Looking back at 2017 as we head into 2018, the resounding theme in healthcare has been the push to bring down costs and drive up quality by increasing efficiency and improving care coordination. As the healthcare landscape shifts and evolves with groundbreaking alliances such as the proposed CVS Health/Aetna partnership, it is interesting to note that the percentage of office-based physicians using an EMR/EHR solution is a significant 86.9%, with only a small percentage of medical practices still using traditional paper charts. (Health IT Dashboard)

Reasons cited by physicians for remaining on paper include failed implementations, fear of a loss in productivity, and security concerns. While these are valid concerns, practicing medicine using traditional paper charts is becoming increasingly difficult as the industry moves to a value-based payment model, with more emphasis placed on patient engagement, interoperability, and shared patient data.

Typically, physicians spend 30–40 hours per week interacting with their patients. In a paper-based office, each patient visit results in approximately 10–13 pieces of paperwork, detracting from the time spent on patient care. (Benefits of Modern EMR vs. Paper Medical Records) Even if the physicians themselves do not handle the paper, their staff must, and a paper-driven staff results in an unproductive office. Since paper charts can only be in one location, clinical and administrative staff spend valuable time locating and providing charts. When there are multiple office locations, the additional chart transport compounds the problem and the practice becomes even more unproductive. Most practice administrators estimate the cost of a chart pull at $5.00 in lost productivity. Multiplied across hundreds and thousands of active charts, the numbers become staggering.

To remain competitive in the ever-changing healthcare environment and to attract patients and physician recruits, an EHR solution is a must-have for 2018 and beyond. As the penalties increase and reimbursements decline year by year, EHRs play a critical role in helping to preserve and drive revenue and reduce costs. Significant benefits of adopting an EHR include:

  • Reduced Administrative Burden An EHR can eliminate redundancies in documentation, provide fast and accurate record transmission, and drive efficiencies throughout the clinic, inclusive of patient intake. This can be accomplished while mimicking the traditional paper chart, which allows for an easy transition from paper to an electronic system.
  • Heightened Cost Efficiencies – An EHR can drive productivity, saving physicians and clinical staff valuable time and reducing the need and/or cost of transcription services, chart rooms, and record clerks. Regulatory resources through a reputable HCIT partner can assist the practice in penalty avoidance and meeting the requirements for MACRA/MIPS.
  • Patient Referrals/Community Presence – A 2006 Harris Interactive Poll reported 55% of adults believed that the use of EHRs would reduce the number of medical errors, and 60% believed the use of EHRs would lower their healthcare costs. (Benefits of Modern EMR vs. Paper Medical Records). Since that time, patients have come to expect electronic access and communication with their providers through the use of a patient portal. In addition to medical records access, secured messaging, and appointment and refill requests, an integrated patient portal embedded in the EHR allows patient-entered information and demographics to automatically populate the chart and the note, saving critical time and expense.
  • Patient Safety – EHRs improve patient safety by providing an organized, all-inclusive electronic chart that houses reminders, messages, and alerts in addition to exam notes, diagnostic images, and medical, medication, and allergy history. Each chart is readily accessible from any office location as well as remotely so providers have the complete information when responding to messages from inside or outside the office.

So why do some practices continue to hold out? The most common reason cited for not making the transition is the inability to obtain a physician consensus—there are differing opinions as to the best EHR, and even as to the best approach, including how much or little interaction they want with the solution, and the degree of elimination of paper from the practice.

Successful adoption of a solution, therefore, can be ensured by working with a vendor who can tailor the implementation to the needs of the practice and its providers, addressing individual physician workflow preferences and providing flexibility and ease of use. Further, practices can ensure that the solution will support their preferred clinical workflows by choosing an established and recognized EHR partner with proven experience in their medical specialty. The right partner will also be able to provide testimonials and client references documenting its ability to implement, train, and transition practices from paper charts without any impact on either patient volume or productivity. Is your practice still on paper and if so, what’s holding you back?

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?

Achieving Value-Based Care – Making the Right Partnership for Success

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

There are many factors that contribute to achieving “value-based care,” some of which your practice may already be targeting—patient engagement, interoperability, outcomes, and efficiency, just to name a few! The reality is that the shift to value-based care has been underway for some time, but the change-over is accelerating with the implementation of MACRA. Whether through Alternative Payment Models or the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), the emphasis is now on improving quality and reducing cost.

For most doctors, of course, delivering quality care has always been a priority, so the question really is how to document that while maintaining practice efficiency, containing costs, and continuing to provide excellent patient care. Let’s look at some of the components of Value-Based Care:value-based-care-infographic

 

Whether you focus on all or some of these components, there will likely be a shift in how you use your EHR. To be effective in your pursuit of value-based care, you need your HIT vendor to be a true partner. Here are some questions to consider as you determine your goals and your technology needs:

  • What am I doing to drive value-based care, and how are my partners supporting me?
  • Where do I need more assistance?

And more specifically:

  • Do I have the capability to effectively engage and maintain communication with my patients—both pre- and post-visit—to better manage their care?
  • Can I track outcomes and set standards of care/protocols?
  • Can my current technology improve my practice efficiency?

Don’t settle for only what is imposed by regulatory requirements—decide what is truly valuable for the care of your patients and then implement it. The right technology partners will help you to develop a strategy for achieving your patient-care goals. Remember: How to efficiently deliver the highest quality patient care is an ongoing conversation—make sure your technology partners are holding up their end of it.

Let’s continue the conversation – tell us what you are doing to drive value-based care.

National Health IT Week and the Ways We Help Patients

i_heart_hitNational Health IT Week is a proud time for all of us at SRS Health. Though we all took different paths to get here, the same overarching urge drove us: to help people. Despite our divergent skillsets and backgrounds, we share a lot in common with the specialists our IT solutions support. We are two halves of the same brain, and the betterment of clinical care is always at the forefront of our minds.

“We can harness data and technology to remove obstacles from the daily work of the people who keep us healthy,” believes Abraham Sanders, Principle Software Engineer at SRS Health. “There is amazing potential to consider. How can medical data be used to improve clinical outcomes for patients? How can the same data be used to help simplify the documentation of a patient visit, freeing clinicians up to focus on what matters most—the patient?”

These questions aren’t just food for thought, they drive every improvement and decision that goes into our HIT solutions. Where others see constraints and barriers, we see opportunities to lend a hand. Not the steady hand of a surgeon, or the gentle hands of nurse, but assistance that alleviates the pressure of paperwork and postage, remembers dates down to the millisecond, and notices the nuances that become patterns. As Hector Martinez, Sr. Implementation Specialist at SRS Health, puts it, “I enjoy the gratification that comes with enabling healthcare professionals to focus on practicing medicine and engaging with their patients. Seeing the clinical and nonclinical staff establish a level of confidence and comfort in their everyday roles is what I strive for.”

“When we suffer from a sickness or injury, we depend on healthcare professionals to get us back into shape,” says Ganesan Solaiappan, Software Development Manager at SRS Health. “Those professionals, in turn, depend on healthcare information technology to be able to do their work. In that way, I think I am helping to improve the quality of life by building and maintaining the systems that clinicians need.” Solaiappan adds, “Healthcare providers look to their IT systems to provide the information they need to make effective clinical decisions, to increase their awareness of innovations in the medical field, and to document and identify patterns. When doctors are able to provide complete and fully informed patient care, it may help to save a life. I’m thankful to be a part of that.”

“I am most proud of the way SRS comes together, cross functionally, to support our clients, even at the most inopportune times,” believes Michael Arbunzo, Technical Support Manager at SRS Health. “Emergency requests never take a holiday, and neither will physicians or the IT staff backing them up.”

To all our colleagues celebrating Health IT Week, especially the SRS Health Family, thank you for your unyielding dedication, hospitality, and warmth.

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

Latest posts by Barbara Mullarky (see all)

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?

We Must Enable Patients to Become Better Stewards of Their Own Care

Conventional wisdom says that people perform better if they have a vested interest in the outcome of a given situation. From experience, employers know this to be true: Employees who are given an ownership stake in their company historically perform better, and enjoy a higher degree of satisfaction from their respective jobs than do their non-stake-holding counterparts.

Recent research has shown that a similar premise holds true in healthcare as well. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), which has expanded its focus on patient engagement each year states, “Patients want to be engaged in their healthcare decision-making process, and those who are engaged as decision-makers in their care tend to be healthier and have better outcomes.” The most commonly cited technologies hospitals plan to add involve patient-generated health data solutions (2016 HIMSS Connected Health Survey). Generally speaking, the greater the engagement of the patient, the better the results, and information technology (IT) can support improved engagement platforms, such as patient portals, secure messaging, social media and other technologies.Graph

Data underscores importance of patient engagement
According to a 2016 New England Journal of Medicine survey of 340 U.S. healthcare executives, clinician leaders and clinicians at organizations directly involved in healthcare delivery:

  • 42% of respondents indicated that less than a quarter of their patients were highly engaged.
  • More than 70% reported having less than half of their patients highly engaged.
  • And to underscore the importance of this result, 47% of those surveyed revealed that low patient engagement was the biggest challenge they faced in improving patient health outcomes.

In addition, a 2017 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report recommends that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “should assess the effectiveness of its efforts to enhance patient access to and use of electronic health information.”

This is not only true for hospitals, but also for specialty care practices, such as orthopaedists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, gastroenterologists and other high-performance specialists. In these environments, it is imperative that practices understand the very specific needs of their patients, and how to best conduct outreach that will increase patient portal access and engagement.

How has your practice encouraged more patient engagement?