A blog about healthcare IT for those who use it

What Bears Can Teach Us About Risk

In July, I visited Alaska with my family. If you haven’t visited Alaska or haven’t put it on your bucket list, you should. It is amazing.

One of the things we did when we were there was to go see grizzly bears on Brooks Falls in Katmai. Usually when people say “see grizzly bears” they mean from a long way away, often through binoculars. This was not that – we got closer to the bears than we would otherwise want.

Fortunately, this time of year the bears are focused on eating salmon and largely ignore human observers. We spent a beautiful, sunny day watching bears and salmon. It was one of the best days I have spent in a long time, with lots of time for contemplation in a stunning part of the world.

I took this picture and have shown it to many people.

Grizzly bears fishing for salmon in Alaska












Their reaction has gotten me thinking about how we perceive risk. Most people point to the bear and say something like “sucks to be a salmon” or “watch out for the bear”. Indeed, the bear seems like the biggest risk by far. The funny thing about it is that the bear is almost irrelevant from a total risk perspective. The falls pose a far greater threat to the salmon. Read more

How to Maximize Value from Healthcare’s Digital Transformation

The digital transformation of healthcare

Within a decade, IT will transform the way we think of, deliver and receive healthcare.  As we look ahead toward that digital transformation, here are three foundational building blocks:

IT interoperability. In order to improve patient care decision making and reduce unnecessary costs, it is critical that all systems can communicate and share data with one another. Clinicians must be able to see the full patient picture in order to make well-informed clinical decisions. Similarly, having the ability to share clinical data has become essential for emerging shared-risk payment models. The Fast Health Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard should help to make ubiquitous health data sharing a practical reality. Some additional pressure from purchasers of technology not to accept “closed” systems is likely necessary as well. Read more

It is Better to Give…

Cradles to Crayons logo

A company is part of its local community, even if its products or services are sold elsewhere. In order to feel connected to that community, companies must do more than simply provide jobs and pay taxes; they must somehow contribute to the broader quality of life.

Which is why, for the fourth consecutive year, PatientKeeper employees recently spent a morning working at the Cradles to Crayons (C2C) “giving factory” in Boston sorting, cleaning and packaging donated clothes and toys earmarked for Massachusetts children living in low-income and homeless situations. According to C2C, PatientKeeper’s efforts – working in the warehouse, plus a cash donation of nearly $6,000 – benefited over 900 children.

It is challenging for individuals and companies to decide where to direct their charitable giving – there is so much need locally, nationally, and globally. In the end, it doesn’t matter so much which charity is selected, but that one is supported. After all, both the Bible and science say it truly is better to give than to receive.

PK employees volunteered at Cradles to Crayons in Boston

AMA’s EHR Education Initiative: Technology Orientation for Tomorrow’s Doctors

The American Medical Association logo

A recent AMA initiative to add EHR training to the medical school curriculum is a well-intentioned effort to teach tomorrow’s providers how to use computer technology to enhance care delivery. Doctors-in-training should gain a basic understanding of what EHRs can do, and what physicians are required to do in them.  Important topics include how the computer can assist in diagnosis, security issues with EHRs, documentation issues with EHRs, and how to use alerting to its most efficient/useful capability. Read more

The Real Health IT Prize

Healthcare providers must reach for the real health IT prize

As healthcare providers undertake EHR optimization efforts to incrementally improve their current systems (including making them more usable for physicians) – the top focus of hospital IT spending this year, according to a KPMG survey of CHIME members – it is important that we as an industry consider the bigger and better things that are coming. Read more

Physicians Yearn for (EHR) Independence Day

Physicians seek independence from restrictive EHRs

The Fourth of July fireworks are over for another year, but physicians’ battle for EHR independence continues. To be clear, this is not a fight to rid healthcare of EHRs – nearly every provider acknowledges there are strong merits to digitizing patient records – and turn back the clock to the paper era. Rather, physicians seek to free themselves from the encumbrances of EHR-driven workflows that don’t sync well with patient care. Read more

Let’s Build Upon Healthcare’s Digital Foundation

For all the well-publicized problems of EHRs – and there are many – let’s acknowledge that the glass is half-full. Physicians have seen benefits from technology, too. For instance, not long ago consulting physicians had to spend the night in the hospital just in case their expertise was needed. Then came pagers, and consultants were able to come to the hospital only as and when needed. Fast-forward to 2017, and today’s technology allows providers to completely review up-to-the-second information about a patient and properly triage that patient directly from the provider’s mobile device.

In some specialties, technology is leading to care delivery transformation. As the treatments for stroke have become more sophisticated and effective, for example, it is now critical to have neurologists available immediately 24×7. For many hospitals, this isn’t practical or even possible. With a digital record, neurologists can work remotely and cover many hospitals, enabling more facilities to deliver world-class stroke care.

More creative and focused use of digital technologies also stands to benefit other clinicians and patients directly. Read more

By Any Other Name

There is an odd parallel between consequences of U.S. government policy in the commercial floriculture industry and the EHR business.

There is an odd parallel between consequences of U.S. government policy in the commercial floriculture industry and the EHR businessIt seems for decades the U.S., in an effort to stem coca production, has provided financial incentives for Colombian farmers to grow roses instead of the precursor to cocaine, and has provided a massive market for that colorful Colombian product. A presumably unintended (and ironic) consequence of this policy is that the once thriving California flower industry – now decimated by cheap foreign imports — is turning to (legal) marijuana cultivation to make up for lost revenue.

Similarly, there was a perverse, surely unintended consequence in the government’s Meaningful Use program. Read more

Let’s Cross One Item Off the List of Contributors to Physician Burnout

EHRs are a known contributor to physician burnout

Recently a group of healthcare CEOs co-authored a post in Health Affairs Blog to voice their concerns about the growing problem of physician burnout. It is a complex issue with many causes and implications. The authors of the post write:

“The spike in reported burnout is directly attributable to loss of control over work, increased performance measurement (quality, cost, patient experience), the increasing complexity of medical care, the implementation of electronic health records (EHRs), and profound inefficiencies in the practice environment, all of which have altered workflows and patient interactions.”

The EHR component of the problem is both well documented and particularly unfortunate, as it could have been avoided had healthcare IT innovation been allowed to follow its natural course. Read more

Where We Are, and Where We Aren’t, in Healthcare IT

From the vantage point of 2017, we can say that at least one objective of the 2009 HITECH legislation – widespread EHR deployment – has been achieved. According to ONC, nearly 96 percent of hospitals have moved to using a certified electronic health record. This is a nine-fold increase in EHR usage since the HITECH Act became law.

However, while healthcare has generally “gone digital,” many in the industry are left wondering, “So what?” Has the technology improved care efficiency, streamlined delivery or improved patient outcomes?

> Read PatientKeeper’s new eBook, “Healthcare IT 2017-2022: First Comes Change, Then Comes Value

Numerous studies say “no.” For instance, according to Deloitte’s 2016 Survey of U.S. Physicians, three out of four physicians believe EHRs increase practice costs, outweighing any efficiency savings, and seven out of 10 think EHRs reduce their productivity.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Read more