A blog about healthcare IT for those who use it

Off to Orlando

PatientKeeper will exhibit at HIMSS17 booth #2333Next week at HIMSS17 in Orlando, PatientKeeper is excited to offer the healthcare industry a sneak peek at our forthcoming “innovation platform” – technology intended to advance the use of computers by physicians and care teams, and make them indispensable tools for 21st century clinical care. Our goal is ambitious: to transform healthcare IT into an accelerator of effective inpatient care, rather than the encumbrance that many physicians view their EHRs as today.

This is no small task. PatientKeeper’s new platform integrates third-party apps and data from multiple EHRs, embeds advanced clinical decision support (CDS) capabilities in a truly useful way, and provides an individualized experience for each user. We will illustrate the capabilities and versatility of our innovation platform through a range of demonstrations. Please stop by our booth (#2333) to see them.

The healthcare industry is changing faster than ever before, so it is critical that IT becomes a catalyst for clinical progress, rather than a hindrance to provider productivity. Today’s EHRs are stuck in a first-generation attempt to automate workflows.  The focus must now shift to making computers invaluable to all who provide clinical care and to future-proof those systems so that new capabilities can be integrated into providers’ workflow painlessly.

We think we are well on our way to accomplishing this. Please check out our demo at HIMSS and let us know if you agree.

Tick, Tock Goes the Clock

Most of the software applications office workers use in business every day are second nature by now; many people have been using them for years, perhaps decades. In fact, it’s hard to remember when these applications were new and users had to receive formal training on them.

Not so in the world of healthcare, however. Physicians are saddled with using EHR systems that in many cases require considerable training.

What if every week you had to attend a lengthy training class for one office system or another? Imagine how that would hamper your productivity.

If office software was like EHRs, users would need extensive training just to write a memo or send an email






Physicians, as avid users of mobile devices and self-evident apps, have no more patience for non-intuitive software than anybody else would. More importantly, when doctors are in IT training classes, they are not doing what they should be doing: caring for patients.

The era of complex EHRs that require massive investments of time and money in physician training needs to end, and soon.

See previous entries in our “What If” animation series.

Say What?

Every industry has its unique jargon and acronyms. Business people are used to it. But what if whenever you wrote an email you were forced to communicate with unfamiliar codes instead of words?

All businesses have their jargon, but nothing as obscure as the ICD-10 codes physicians have to use






This is a daily challenge for doctors who are required to use arcane ICD-10 codes – there are nearly 70,000 of them – when recording their patients’ diagnoses in their clinical notes and charges. Fortunately, every physician doesn’t have to memorize all 70,000 codes; specialists may only use several dozen routinely. More fortunately, technology exists that allows physicians to use familiar medical terminology in their notes and charges, which the computer then automatically translates into the appropriate codes.

Even so, American office workers should be grateful that their business communications are conducted in English rather than in code.

See previous entries in our “What If” animation series.

Over and Out

Collaboration among workers is expected and necessary in most business offices. Colleagues collaborate every day to advance their work through well-established business processes; it is standard operating procedure.

Collaboration also is required to deliver high-quality medical care; indeed, effective communication among members of a patient’s care team is essential.  However, quickly comprehending each patient’s medical condition and treatment plan is a daily challenge for doctors in hospitals during hand-offs between providers.

To appreciate the physician’s problem, what if every morning as you walked into the office you received a large stack of someone else’s work from the previous shift to decipher and handle?

What if every morning as you walked into the office you received a large stack of someone else’s work from the previous shift to decipher and handle?






The potential for confusion is great when too much information is communicated, or the information is poorly organized. For doctors using hospital EHR systems, the problem can be more than an inconvenience; it can affect decisions about a patient’s clinical care. Which is why intuitive documentation and sign-out tools are so important for physicians in a hospital setting.

See previous entries in our “What If” animation series.


Most of us learned to take notes in school when we were kids, and it’s a practice we carried forward into our business lives. Note-taking styles vary widely — some people scribe every word of a meeting, while others jot down a thought or phrase to jog their memory afterward.

But what if you were required to write down every interaction you had with your boss or co-worker as you went about your day?

Notes are a daily challenge for doctors and other clinicians, who must continually record all of their patient care actions






Notes are a daily challenge for doctors and other clinicians, who must continually record all of their patient care actions. (This is because clinical notes facilitate generation of a bill and they document providers’ assessments, actions, and plans to treat patients, in order to ensure clear communication with all members of the patient’s care team.)

Unfortunately for healthcare providers, EHR systems frequently make clinical notes less comprehensible, not more, partly because too much historical data gets crammed into notes – just because it’s there and easy to include.  The industry at large and health IT vendors in particular still have a lot of work to do to streamline clinical documentation and end physicians’ notemares.

See previous entries in our “What If” animation series.

When Will Interoperability Be a “Given” in Health IT?

Fortunately, basic interoperability among general office systems was achieved long ago. It is now hard to imagine not being able to exchange emails or documents easily with a colleague inside or outside your organization.

But what if you could not successfully send an email, note or even conduct a quick phone call with someone in another office because your systems were technically incompatible? This is a daily challenge and frustration for physicians, many of whom to this day are unable to share information between hospitals and health practices due to a lack of interoperability among EHR systems. It looks and feels a bit like this:

Lack of interoperability among EHRs poses a problem for physicians trying to get complete patient data






With some prodding from the government, health IT vendors now are working to resolve this thorny problem. Of course, PatientKeeper has long had a core competency in integration, so users of our systems have always been able to access and act on patient information from a wide array of EHRs and departmental systems. Just as office workers don’t give interoperability a second thought, physicians and other clinicians shouldn’t have to, either.

See previous entries in our “What If” animation series.

This is What “Alert Fatigue” Might Feel Like in a Non-Medical Office

It is difficult for non-physicians to appreciate just how frustrating using EHR systems can be for physicians.

So imagine this: What if you (a white-collar professional working in an office in any business) were interrupted by intrusive, on-screen alerts every time you sent or received an e-mail, or did anything else on your computer?

Animated graphic depicting the scourge of unnecessary alerts






Such unproductive disruptions are a way of life for users of many EHR systems, who are constantly being alerted by the computer to even the most routine patient care activities they have done thousands of times. Unnecessary alerts hinder physician productivity and patient care. That’s why it is imperative that hospitals optimize their EHR with an eye to eliminating “alert fatigue” and streamlining physician workflow.

See previous entries in our “What If” animation series.

How About Some Empathy for Physicians Who Use EHRs

EHRs cause a lot of physician frustrationMany of the frustrations physicians experience day-to-day using EHRs would seem downright bizarre in the business world. There are countless, simple tasks that many of us take for granted as we go about our workday, largely because technology has made it easier and faster for us to get things done. For physicians, on the other hand, EHR technology has made some basic tasks more time-consuming and, in many cases, far less intuitive.

We talk about this a lot, but as the age old saying goes, you can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. So, in an effort to spread some understanding — and perhaps a few laughs – we have created seven animated graphics depicting office workers attempting to complete tasks within constraints physicians often confront when using their EHR system.

“A Sticky Situation” — What if you couldn’t jot a simple sticky note to remind yourself about something important at work? Notes are a way of life in the office, as they are in medicine, but writing them in an EHR system can be a challenge for physicians. A recent Annals of Internal Medicine study revealed that for every hour physicians spent with patients, nearly two additional hours were spent on EHRs. That wouldn’t fly in any other business.

What if you couldn’t jot a simple sticky note?




Transition in Washington – and in Health IT

2017 is a year of transition in Washington, and in health ITAs the administration that gave the healthcare industry Meaningful Use and MACRA makes way for a new one in Washington, D.C., uncertainty looms large. Still, amidst the transition, who can resist the temptation to offer predictions about what 2017 may bring. So we have dusted off our crystal ball, and here is what we see.

In 2017, hospitals and practices will begin to deploy and adopt IT tools that will actually provide doctors an advantage in doing their jobs caring for patients. This should not be a radical concept, but it is, because to date most IT has been imposed upon physicians by their organizations (often motivated by government carrots and sticks) mainly for billing and reporting purposes. These new, physician-centric IT tools will help providers to diagnose illnesses more accurately; to predict and avoid potential adverse health events based on known risk profiles; and to allow physicians to spend more time caring for their patients and less time in front of a computer.

For the first time, we are talking about computers adding value to clinical care delivery, not just automating hospital or practice operations. Sure, EHRs have largely eliminated paper, but that’s just table stakes. We are poised now to begin seeing the real value of computerization in healthcare delivery and patient care.

From a revenue cycle management perspective, the conversation and forward planning will be predominantly around risk- or value-based revenue models; in contrast, revenue will remain mainly fee-for-service-based. Therefore, hospitals and other provider organizations will need to devote a portion of their IT effort to readying their technology infrastructure for a hybrid world. Accurate and timely physician charge capture will remain a priority (albeit more challenging with the expanded ICD-10 code set); so will charge analytics. Quality reporting will become more complex as MIPS phases in.

Check back with us in 12 months to see how accurate our predictions have been. And in the meantime, we wish all our readers a prosperous and productive 2017.

Thanks, Docs

Offering thanks to physicians this holiday seasonIn a year most noteworthy for reports of professional dissatisfaction and burn-out among physicians, the MACRA final rule, ICD-10 expansion, and a brutally contentious presidential election with uncertain implications for healthcare policy, what exactly ought we in the healthcare industry to feel thankful for?

Here’s a suggestion: Let’s just be thankful for physicians.

Regardless of where one sits in the healthcare industry ecosystem or one’s proprietary business interests, we all should express our thanks to physicians. After all, they’re the ones who care for patients every day in an effort to make or keep us well; and who do so while wrestling with often counterproductive technology “aides” and increasingly complex regulations governing where and how they document their patient care activities and charge for their services. Mind you we’re talking here about physicians practicing in the U.S. under some of the most favorable conditions in the world. If you think about doctors working in Aleppo, Syria and other war zones, it makes the “challenges” noted above seem insignificant to the point of irrelevancy.

So this holiday season, we’re thankful for all physicians. And we say, “Thanks, docs.”