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The Cloud and Dr. Kaufmann

October 19, 2012
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Using the cloud for Medicare’s Annual Wellness Visit

Even though in many ways cloud computing in healthcare is still a developing concept, providers have used it to do a variety of different things in patient care. Just in the past year or so, Healthcare Informatics has highlighted how the cloud has been used to support a diffuse radiology practice, manage diabetes, save money, share medical images, and much more. According to a recent report from MarketsandMarkets, the global healthcare cloud computing market will be worth $5.4 billion by 2017.

In the past, I’ve written about how many CIOs from major hospital and healthcare systems are expressing doubts about how cloud computing can be used to provide better care while saving money. While a level of pessimism is definitely there, people like Robert Kaufmann, M.D., from the Kaufmann Clinic, are making me realize the path to that $5.4 billion may be paved with smaller providers, more willing to take a leap into the clouds for efficiency purposes.

I recently talked with Dr. Kaufmann about how his busy one-physician practice was using cloud-based software from Senior Wellness Solutions to service Medicare beneficiaries for their Annual Wellness Visit (AWV). The AWV is one of lesser known, but important nonetheless, facets of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It allows Medicare patients who have been enrolled for more than 12 months to visit yearly to, among other things, ensure they are caught up on vaccinations, be checked for various cancers, and get a personalized prevention plan from their physician.

With 40 percent of his patients enrolled in Medicare, it’s easy to see why Kaufmann would use the cloud when it comes to conducting AWVs. Quite simply, he says, it makes his life easier and more efficient. It uses an electronic health risk assessment to analyze and detect a patient’s history and risk factors, it creates a personalized prevention plan from an automated system, comes with various information resources, indicates tests, and tells them whatever else the provider needs to do to complete the AMV. The data is stored in the cloud and it can be used on any computer in the practice setting.

 “It works out really well,” Kaufmann says. Furthermore, he says, it can be used by non-physicians practitioners (such as a physician’s assistant or a nurse practitioner), allowing him to focus more on the patient during the short visit.

The information Kaufmann gets from this AWV can be used to better a patient’s care treatment and ultimately save money down the line. This differs from the previous system where certain tests could not be explored based on risk factors.  Kaufmann says he is not the most tech-savvy person and implementation of the cloud came down to those two overwhelming factors: efficiency and ease-of-use. “I don’t use anything on the cloud, except for this. It’s real simple to use. Our nurse practitioners, it takes them less than a day to get trained,” he says.

In this regard, Kaufmann made the point to me that it’s a nice scenario for small practices, especially ones that have mid-levels that can help you with it. Our chat reminded me that it’s easy to have blinders on, and look at things from the sole perspective of a large hospital or healthcare system. Yet, for a technology like the cloud, the place where it may make the most sense is at your local doctor’s office where efficiency and ease-of-use are keeping the Kaufmanns of the world moving forward.