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Wisconsin Health System Beefs Up Quality Reporting Efforts

July 13, 2014
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UW Health Partners Watertown automates processes to bolster reporting, population health management

UW Health Partners Watertown Regional Medical Center (WRMC) in Wisconsin has been ahead of the curve in terms of being ready for meaningful use stages 1 and 2. And it has earned “Most Wired” recognition for several years running for its health IT infrastructure. But WRMC, which has a 75-bed community hospital and seven primary-care clinics, has still struggled with gathering and reporting data for value-based contracts with insurers and for its own population health efforts.

“Right now, when we want a report on quality data regarding patients, we have to call a person in IT, tell them the parameters of what we want and they have to code a report for us,” said Mike Nordness, director of primary care for the health system, a clinical affiliate of UW Health at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. All that is about to change on July 21 as WRMC goes live with a web-based population health and patient engagement platform from Phytel.

The biggest challenges in gathering and reporting quality data are the manual processes. “You need someone to go into the EHR and push the data. That takes a lot of time and effort,” Nordness explained. And although insurers do have some overlapping quality measures, each one asks that the reporting be done a little differently. The Phytel tool will help by mapping the data to flow from the Meditech EHR into reports without all the manual data pushing.

WRMC chose a solution from Phytel because it had a good experience working with the company’s automated patient engagement tools. Making sure they were mapping all the data accurately took about 90 days, including a series of verifications matching up the manual extractions to the automated ones.

Nordness said there are lots of companies promising to ease quality reporting and population health management. Pulling, sorting and using healthcare data constructively is a huge thing now, so companies are jumping into that sector, saying they have a product that can help, he noted. “But if it isn’t accurate, you will lose the buy-in from physicians, administrators and staff very quickly," he said. "That was what we felt about some of the solutions we looked at: they just were not in-depth enough. Basically, if it seems too easy, there is probably a reason.”

Besides quality reporting, the new tools also are expected to help providers with pre-visit planning, and population health management efforts. “The front-line staff members are excited because they believe it will help them with their work flow,” Nordness said. “With pre-visit planning they check to make sure the patient is up to date on all their screenings. Previously we had to look in several different places for that information. So one patient’s pre-visit planning could take 20 minutes,” he explained. “Now there will be one screen we can go to. That pre-visit planning could now take 5 minutes to do, so that is a huge time-saver.”

An all-payer, all-EMR patient-centered registry will provide access to integrated data across all of WRMC's providers, locations, medical groups and conditions. Using data visualization tools, administrators and clinical leaders will be able to create their own customized reports to see, for instance, all the system’s diabetic patients to look at how providers are doing on diabetic measures. “We can look at it by provider or by clinic or even by individual patient,” Nordness said.

He suggested we check back in six months to hear more about the impact of the new tools on Watertown’s documentation, reporting and population health efforts in response to the shift to value-based care. I'll have to remember to do just that.