Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Real Debate in DC

In the future, we may look back at February 2010 as a key month for healthcare. There is significant news being generated on almost a daily basis, including the potential reorganization of the CMS office and HHS's repot on organizations reporting breaches of healthcare information.

While we will cover these topics in future posts, it is imperative that we address the event in D.C. this week, which will include discussion on healthcare by some the leading experts in the field.

No, not the Bipartisan Summit. I’m referring to the lesser promoted, but more educational, Managed Healthcare Business Forum.

While President Obama and legislators will be holding a televised forum on healthcare reform and how to make it more accessible and affordable to more people, true insight on the healthcare issues will be made at a similar event that is happening in D.C at the same time.

The Managed Healthcare Business Forum will bring individuals from across the country together to learn about best practices from people that live-and-breath the healthcare industry. It will include keynotes from Manitoba Blue Cross CEO Andrew Yorke and Kaiser Permanente Senior Vice President Christopher Ohman; insight into how state governments are dealing with the administration and implementation of healthcare guidelines; and workshops covering automated health information networks and next-generation network contracting.

We recommend you watch the bipartisan debate on the numerous news stations and/or websites that will stream it. There will be information shared that is important, including remarks from the President and party leaders, followed by an “open and moderate discussion on four critical topics: insurance reforms, cost containment, expanding coverage, and the impact health reform legislation will have on deficit reduction.” While these are key policy points that are in need of decisions, they are too broad to matter to the average person, and because of the players and politics involved, it is nearly impossible to get any specific results on any issues that will truly affect the public. To get honest insight on topics that really matter, look into outcomes of the event that will be happening across town.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

You've got rxMail

Last week we presented a broad discussion on physician’s use of the technology and the transition towards EMRs. As a follow up to provide further evidence, we dig down a little deeper into how electronic communications is being utilized in the medical profession.

Doctor / patient confidentiality. It is a phrase that is ensconced in our society, to the point where it is a staple in nearly every crime show on television. So critical is the concept though that the use of any new communications methods (i.e. any medium invented in the last 20 years) has been deemed too unsafe to be trusted.

However, this notion may be changing. Manhattan Research recently completed a survey comparing physician specialties with their willingness / comfort / proclivity towards using electronic means to communicate with their patients. Published in their Physicians in 2012: The Outlook on Health Information Technology Report, they determined that use of electronic communications means has risen 16%, specifically in the use of emailing, secure messaging, or instant messaging to patients.

While some veterans of the medical profession would consider this a risk to patients, it should be noted that patients themselves are using electronic means – even social networking – to determine symptoms, health risks and testimonials.

With all this being said, because physicians are held to a higher standard on this matter, the means in which they communicate electronically – similar to the means in which they should be storing information electronically – have to be beyond reproach.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Continued Evolution of EMRs

In a broad ranging survey published in May, less than a third of physicians documented drug changes in their patients by both hand and electronically. While this seems disconcerting on the surface because the chance of miscommunication, a further look into the reasoning makes this a good sign in the continued evolution of electronic medical records (EMR)

Entitled, “The Research Comparison of Information Content of Structured and Narrative Text Data Sources on the Example of Medication Intensification,” the outcomes from the comprehensive study are explained this way:

“A large fraction of medical data is contained in narrative documents. As electronic medical record (EMR) systems grow more prevalent, narrative information is increasingly being entered in digital format and thus becomes amenable to computational extraction. Since the late 1990's, a large number of tools have been successfully developed for this purpose.”

It is clear that the transition phase for EMRs still exists, but it is getting better for two key reasons:

1. The quantity of doctors that are comfortable using technology to document information is steadily increasing because of both education and the overall societal acceptance of technology.

2. EMRs are the future. Too much time and money has gone into this endeavor for it to be considered anything other than that. Healthcare professionals rebelled for a bit, but overall, most are coming to this conclusion.

The strike against EMRs is the security and trust issue, but human error will always be a constant no matter what form information is transferred. Therefore, the EMR industry members will have to be the variable that determines the role that human error plays in the success of the technology.