What’s the purpose of health IT? Is it to make healthcare operate more efficiently? Yes, to an extent.
Is it supposed to keep the cash flow rolling in for providers? Let technology developers get a lucrative piece of a $3 trillion annual industry in the U.S.? A lot of people seem think so, but the answer to these two questions is unequivocally no.
Interoperability of health information systems is a centerpiece of Stage 2 of the federal Meaningful Use incentive program for electronic health records – a phase that began a full year ago for some hospitals – but as the thousands of providers struggling to make the jump from Stage 1 are finding, achieving the vision of an interoperable, nationwide network of EHRs is proving to be elusive.
News broke last night that CareFusion CFN +22.92% Corp., maker of patient safety-focused medical devices like smart infusion pumps and automated medication administration cabinets, was being acquired by medical equipment manufacturer BD (formerly Becton Dickinson & Co.) for $12.2 billion.
The majority of U.S. hospitals have achieved Stage 1 of the federal electronic health records incentive program known as meaningful use, meaning they have installed and activated many basic EHR functions, including electronic prescribing and rudimentary levels of clinical decision support. But few have progressed to Stage 2, which calls on hospitals and physicians to increase their adoption of advanced technologies such as integration with medical devices and interoperability with other healthcare organizations.
Every CIO has picked up a copy of Time or Newsweek on an airplane in the last couple of years and “had an epiphany about big data,” according to Philip Loftus, CIO of Aurora Health Care. But what do analytics and “big data” really mean, and can they really help healthcare organizations deliver better, safer and lower-cost care?
Stage 2 of the federal incentive program for “meaningful use” of electronic health records, the wider spread of high-deductible insurance and competition from nontraditional healthcare providers have created an imperative for health systems to get people involved in their own care and start viewing patients as consumers.
The 2013 WTN Media Digital Health Conference, the 11th annual, was the largest to date, covering nearly two full days in a main conference after a daylong first-time event, the Start Me Up Emerging Healthcare IT Meetup that brought together entrepreneurs and potential investors and customers.
The 250 attendees who packed the Fluno Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus listened to entrepreneurs and established vendors, venture capitalists, healthcare CIOs, IT consultants and others on a wide range of health IT topics.
It should come as no surprise that a top physician behind IBM’s efforts to adapt its Watson supercomputer to healthcare believes that advanced analytics will lead the transformation of healthcare. But analytics and data alone will not fix all that ails this $2.8 trillion segment of the American economy, Dr. Martin Kohn, chief medical scientist for care delivery systems at IBM Research explained.
Coming up with an idea for a business is tough enough. Making a sale is a whole different ballgame, particularly when it comes to health IT and a rapidly consolidating market filled with massive healthcare systems. “We actually get hundreds of approaches every day from vendors trying to sell us something,” said Philip Loftus, CIO of Aurora Health Care, a 15-hospital organization based in Milwaukee.
Some critics of the Meaningful Use incentive program to get hospitals and doctors to adopt electronic health records (EHRs) have complained that the federal government has set the bar too low to qualify for bonus payments and spent too much money — $14.6 billion through the end of April — for minimal progress toward a safer, more efficient health system. Others, particularly healthcare providers, want to mature into the tougher standards.
At last week’s WTN News Digital Healthcare Conference in Madison, Dr. Shannon M. Dean, medical director of inpatient informatics for UW Health and American Family Children’s Hospital noted an interesting paradox: Her 18-month-old daughter can use an iPad, but many highly educated physicians continue to shun computers or at least avoid making them a central part of clinical practice.
Health IT vendors wishing to partner with electronic health records giant Epic Systems should understand that the closely held, Verona, Wis.-based company does things differently than many of its competitors.
Epic does not purchase any other development nor does it embed others’ software into its systems. It does not have third-party resellers, either, in part because Epic’s architecture is complex.
If healthcare organizations truly want to protect patient privacy and earn public trust regarding electronic health records (EHRs), they need to let go of the notion that institutions control individual data and look for technology that lets patients take charge of information flow, a well-known healthcare privacy advocate told a Madison audience Tuesday.
The Midwestern health IT startup community doesn’t get the press of its counterparts on the coasts, but it appears to be thriving and, in some cases, tackling more realistic healthcare problems than those in other parts of the country.
Eight emerging companies showcased their wares Monday to an audience of potential investors, potential customers in the form of healthcare CIOs and fellow entrepreneurs during the first-ever Start Me Up Emerging Healthcare IT Meetup Day, prior to the start of the 11th annual WTN Media Digital Health Conference in Madison. Most were beyond seed funding and were seeking Series A venture capital, and none came from farther away than Minneapolis.
Want to have a successful digital health startup? Be honest. Understand the market. Know your capabilities in terms of innovation and technological and human resources. And, above all, focus on the people you have and the problems you are trying to address.
“The biggest issue is focus,” Dr. Barry P. Chaiken, Boston-based CMIO at enterprise software developer Infor and a veteran of clinical transformation through health IT, said Monday in Madison, Wis. “Don’t get distracted,” Chaiken explained. “You’ve got to know when to pivot and you’ve got to know when not to pivot.”
There are few places with such a high concentration of conceited, arrogant know-it-alls than Washington, D.C., but Silicon Valley may best even the Beltway gang. I’ve seen a lot of bluster, a lot of unearned publicity, plenty of buzzwords and, in many cases, little actual success in winning over customers or addressing a real problem in healthcare.
Consumerism hasn’t completely caught on in healthcare, but it has gained a bit of a toehold. Consider two statistics that were highlighted on Monday at the Healthcare Unbound conference in San Diego.
Attendees at the ninth annual WTN Media Digital Healthcare Conference got the sense that health IT has finally turned the corner and been accepted as underpinning the future of healthcare. Take, for example, Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care, which has built a strong, interdisciplinary partnership between the clinical staff and the IT department—something that might have seemed impossible when WTN staged its first healthcare conference eight years ago. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Van Cleave said that clinical leaders have moved away from merely advocating on behalf of their own departments and toward collaborating with IT to improve the overall experience for patients.
As healthcare providers nationwide install and upgrade electronic medical records (EHR) systems in hopes of capturing their share of $27 billion in federal incentive money for “meaningful use” of EHRs, those who manage the underlying IT infrastructure are hard at work trying to manage all the new electronic data being generated. As attendees of WTN Media’s ninth annual Digital Healthcare Conference heard earlier this month, EHRs, data governance and business intelligence are all intertwined.
Is the federal “meaningful use” standard a floor or a ceiling for electronic health records?
That was the question put to the closing panel at WTN Media’s ninth annual Digital Healthcare Conference in Madison last week by conference chair Dr. Barry Chaiken. There was no consensus, but plenty of lively discussion about the $27 billion Medicare and Medicaid incentive program for embracing EHRs in order to improve the quality and efficiency of patient care.