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Survey: Physician Sentiment Mixed on Benefits of Data, Analytics Tools

December 19, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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A new research report reveals physicians’ continuing dissatisfaction with electronic health records (EHRs) and this frustration with EHRs may slow physicians’ immediate acceptance of new data and analytics tools.

More than half of surveyed physicians say the introduction of EHRs has had both negative and positive impacts. Similarly, 57 percent of doctors say the "introduction of advanced data and analytics tools, population health software and data registries has been a positive and a negative development for practicing physicians."

Across the board, as physicians become active users of population health tools, they report an increasingly positive outlook toward these tools and the value they bring, according to a report by Geneia, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based healthcare analytic solutions and services company.

The report is based on a survey of 300 full-time physicians, and is a follow-up to a report Geneia released in October that revealed a rise in physician burnout. Two-thirds of physicians believe the challenges of practicing medicine in today’s environment have caused them to consider career options outside of clinical practice, an 11 percent increase compared to a similar survey three years ago, according to that earlier report.

According to Geneia’s Physician Misery Index, a tool the company established to measure national physician satisfaction, the physician misery index has increased to 3.94 out of 5, since the January 2015 inaugural survey.

This latest report examines physician sentiment about EHRs and data and analytics tools. Eight-six percent of physicians agree—and 51 percent strongly agree—that "the heightened demand for data reporting to support quality metrics and the business-side of healthcare has diminished my joy in practicing medicine."

Almost all the physician respondents (96 percent) say the amount of time physicians spend on data input and reporting in the last 10 years has increased, and 80 percent say they are personally at risk of burnout. Almost three-quarters (70 percent) of respondents say they know a physician who is likely to stop practicing medicine in the next five years, as a result of physician burnout.

Most physicians, particularly younger ones, accept the potential of and need for data tools, and share some positive views on the possibilities advanced analytics offers. However, physicians’ experience with EHRs may slow their immediate acceptance of new data tools, the report states.

Physician sentiment about EHRs is consistent with Geneia’s inaugural survey in January 2015. Half of all respondents (52 percent) have a mixed opinion about the impact of EHRs in the workplace, and nearly equal numbers have positive (21 percent) and negative (23 percent) views.

EHR integration continues to be a challenge, the survey found. Nearly all physicians (96 percent) believe EHRs should be better designed to seamlessly integrate with the technology systems used by their office and its insurance providers. However, more than half (57 percent) say their EHRs don’t currently integrate.

A significant majority (68 percent) say they lack the appropriate staff and resources to analyze and use EHR data to its full potential, which may be a contributing factor to the frustration they express with the time and quantity of data required.

Physicians with more exposure to data and analytics tools – those who self-identify as current population health users – have a more positive outlook on some of the benefits—64 percent of population health users have a positive view of the ability of data and analytics tools to help "efficiently assess patient history and needs" compared to 50 percent of non-users.

More than two-thirds of physicians (68 percent) say advanced analytics tools are important "when it comes to treating and being compensated for care under value-based care arrangements in today's U.S. healthcare system." Nearly 8 in 10 physicians say they value having a seamlessly integrated EHR analytics tool able to produce predictive analytics reporting on existing data.

Strong majorities of users and non-users of population health tools say value-based care models and the population health tools that support them prove useful in a number of areas—identifying high-risk patients who need screenings or care management; quickly narrowing and flagging patients who need proactive screenings or monitoring; and providing risk assessment data and analytics to stratify patients into low-, rising- and high-risk.

The survey revealed that physicians feel data and analytics tools are most helpful on gathering information and assessing patient history and needs, but the tools fall short on their ability to improve work efficiencies and time with patients. About two-thirds of population health users think data and analytics tools can help “efficiently assess patient history and needs” compared to only half of non-users.

Only about one in four of all surveyed physicians (44 percent) say data and analytics tools help improve quality performance, Medicare Star ratings and HEDIS reporting. Among population health users, this percentage grows to 55 percent.

“We are encouraged that contemporaneously with an increase in the Physician Misery Index, physicians also see the potential for EHRs, data and analytics to help them succeed in value-based care,” Heather Lavoie, Geneia's president, said in a statement. “Nevertheless, there's much more to do to restore the Joy of Medicine to doctors. That's why we're calling on all health IT companies to involved physicians in the design and implementation of health technology products and to measure physician satisfaction.”

 

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AI in Imaging: Where’s the Bang for the Buck?

January 23, 2019
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Over the past year much has been written about the capability of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and what it will mean for imaging services.  At last year’s RSNA, AI was the featured topic and received the lion’s share of publicity. 

The glamorous aspect of AI and Machine Learning has been how AI can assist the radiologist with diagnosis of imaging studies.  A key area of focus has been in chest imaging (https://www.auntminnieeurope.com/index.aspx?sec=sup&sub=aic&pag=dis&ItemID=616828) where there has been some success in triaging abnormal chest images.  The upside of such applications is improved diagnostic efficiency, particularly as healthcare moves toward value-based care.  The downside is that such algorithms require substantial amounts of data to validate, and they will need to go through the FDA approval process, which will take time before they can be fully implemented.

Ultimately, AI imaging applications will pay off.  But, what about the other potentially less-glamorous aspect of applying AI/Machine Learning to the diagnostic process?  By that, I am referring to its use in terms of workflow orchestration.  Aside from interpreting imaging content, AI/Machine Learning applied to workflow orchestration can provide valuable information and assistance in preparing a case for interpretation. 

Take for example Siemens Healthineer’s AI-Rad Companion application (https://www.healthcare.siemens.com/infrastructure-it/artificial-intelligence/ai-rad-companion).  The application provides automated identification, localization, labeling and measurements for anatomies and abnormalities.  Such a capability can improve the radiologist’s efficiency without necessarily employing an algorithm to assess the image.

Other workflow applications can assess the study and mine relevant information from the EHR to present to the radiologist, again with the goal of improving their efficiency and efficacy.  Still other applications match radiologist reading assignments with available studies to improve reading efficiency.  In another twist, one company has demonstrated a capability to further analyze cases, using AI to assign the next appropriate case to a radiologist without the need for a worklist. 

As healthcare providers consolidate, there is a growing need for improvement in resource utilization across facilities.  Smart worklists that can present cases to individual radiologists across facilities can improve the overall efficiency and efficacy of interpretation.  Rule sets that address radiologist availability, reading sub-specialties, location, etc. can help “level-load” reading resources. 

My point is that while AI applications that manipulate images may hold great promise for the future of diagnosis, areas such as workflow orchestration might offer more immediate results in an environment of changing healthcare.  Providers should take a close look at these applications to assess whether they can achieve a more immediate impact on imaging operations.

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National Library of Medicine Creating Scientific Director Position

January 23, 2019
by David Raths, Contributing Editor
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New position will oversee Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications and National Center for Biotechnology Information

As part of a reorganization of its intramural research activities, the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) has launched a search for a scientific director. The scientific director will oversee a group of 150 scientific personnel, developing new approaches to data science, biomedical informatics, and computational biology.

In a blog post on the library’s website, director Patti Brennan, R.N., Ph.D., called the move a big step in revving up its intramural research operation.

One of the 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NLM creates and hosts major digital resources, tools, and services for biomedical and health literature, data, and standards, sending 115 terabytes of data to five million users and receiving 15 terabytes of data from 3,000 users every weekday.

NLM’s strategic plan for 2017-2027 positions it to become a platform for biomedical discovery and data-powered health. NLM anticipates continued expansion of its intramural research program to keep pace with growing demand for innovative data science and informatics approaches that can be applied to biomedical research and health and growing interest in data science across the NIH.

A Blue Ribbon Panel recently reviewed NLM’s intramural research programs and recommended, among other things, unifying the programs under a single scientific director. That shift also aligns the library with NIH’s other institutes and centers, most of which are guided by one scientific director.

NLM’s  intramural research program includes activities housed in both the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications (LHC) and the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). The researchers in these two centers develop and apply computational approaches to a broad range of problems in biomedicine, molecular biology, and health, but LHC focuses on medical and clinical data, while NCBI focuses on biological and genomic data.

But the Blue Ribbon Panel noted that the boundaries between clinical and biological data are dissolving, and the analytical and computational strategies for each are increasingly shared. “As a result, the current research environment calls for a more holistic view of biomedical data, one best served by shared approaches and ongoing collaborations while preserving the two centers’ unique identities, wrote Brennan, who came to NIH in 2016 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she was the Lillian L. Moehlman Bascom Professor at the School of Nursing and College of Engineering.

She added that having a single scientific director should lead to a sharper focus on research priorities, fewer barriers to collaboration, the cross-fertilization of ideas and the optimization of scarce resources.

The new scientific director will be asked to craft a long-range plan that identifies research areas where the NLM can best leverage its unique position and resources. We’ll also look for ways to allocate more resources to fundamental research while streamlining operational support. “Down the road, we’ll expand our research agenda to include high-risk, high-reward endeavors, the kinds of things that raise profound questions and have the potential to yield tremendous impact,” she wrote.

Besides the scientific director, the NLM is also recruiting three investigators to complement its strengths in machine learning and natural language processing.

 

 

 

 

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Survey: Digital, AI Top Priorities in 2019, but EHRs Will Dominate IT Spend

January 22, 2019
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Digital, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) are top spending priorities for healthcare executives in 2019, but electronic health record (EHR) systems will dominate technology spending budgets, according to a recent technology-focused healthcare survey.

Damo Consulting, a Chicago-based healthcare growth and digital transformation advisory firm, surveyed technology and service provider executives and healthcare enterprise executives about how the demand environment for healthcare IT is changing and will impact the industry in the coming year. Damo Consulting’s third annual Healthcare IT Demand Survey also analyzes the challenges for healthcare organizations and the perceived impact of macro-level changes.

The report indicates technology vendors will continue to struggle with long sales cycles as they aggressively market digital and AI. For the second year in a row, the rise of non-traditional players such as Amazon and Google will have a strong impact on the competitive environment among technology vendors while EHR vendors grow in dominance.

Among the key findings from the survey, IT budgets are expected to grow by 20 percent or more, with healthcare executives indicating they are more upbeat about IT spend growth than vendors. All the healthcare executives who participated in the survey said digital transformation initiatives are gaining momentum in their enterprises.

However, the majority (75 percent) agree that rapid change in the healthcare IT landscape makes technology decisions harder and only 58 percent believe there are plenty of viable and ready-to-deploy solutions available today in emerging technologies such as AI and digital health solutions. Seventy-one percent agree that federal government policies have provided a boost to healthcare IT spend this past year.

Top IT priorities for healthcare enterprise executives in 2019 are digital, advanced analytics and AI. Of the survey respondents, 79 percent said accelerating digital health initiatives was a top priority and 58 percent cited investing in advanced analytics and AI capabilities as top priorities. However, modernizing IT infrastructure (25 percent) and optimizing EHRs (21 percent) are also significant priorities.

Technology vendors also see AI, advanced analytics and digital transformation as top areas of focus for next year, as those areas were cited by 75 percent and 70 percent of technology and service provider executives, respectively. Thirty-three percent of those respondents cited EHR optimization and 25 percent cited cybersecurity and ransomware. Thirteen percent cited M&A integration as a top area of focus in 2019.

However, EHR systems will dominate technology spending budgets, even as the focus turns to digital analytics, the survey found. Technology and service provider executives who participated in the survey identified EHR system optimization and cybersecurity as significant drivers of technology spend in 2019. Sixty percent of respondents said enterprise digital transformation and advanced analytics and AI would drive technology spend this year, but 38 percent also cited EHR optimization and cybersecurity/ransomware. One executive survey respondent said, “For best of breed solutions, (the challenge is) attracting enough mindshare and budget vs. EHR spends.”

When asked what digital transformation means, close to half of healthcare executives cited reimaging patient and caregiver experiences, while one quarter cited analytics and AI and 17 percent cited automation. As one executive said, “The biggest challenge for healthcare in 2019 will be navigating tightening margins and limited incentives to invest in care design.”

Healthcare executives are divided on whether digital is primarily an IT-led initiative, and are also divided on whether technology-led innovation is dependent on the startup ecosystem.

The CIO remains the most important buyer for technology vendors, however IT budgets are now sitting with multiple stakeholders, the survey found, as respondents also cited the CFO, the CTO, the CMIO and the chief digital officer.

“Digital and AI are emerging as critical areas for technology spend among healthcare enterprises in 2019. However, healthcare executives are realistic around their technology needs vs. their need to improve care delivery. They find the currently available digital health solutions in the market are not very mature,” Paddy Padmanabhan, CEO of Damo Consulting, said in a statement. “However, they are also more upbeat about the overall IT spend growth than their technology vendors.”

Looking at the technology market, healthcare executives perceive a lack of maturity in technology solution choices for digital initiatives, as well as a lack of internal capabilities for managing digital transformation. In the survey report, one executive said, “HIT architecture needs to substantially change from large monolithic code sets to an API-driven environment with multiple competing apps.”

A majority of healthcare enterprise executives view data silos and lack of interoperability as the biggest challenges to digital transformation. And, 63 percent believe the fee-for-service reimbursement model will remain the dominant payment model for the foreseeable future.

In addition, cybersecurity issues will continue to be a challenge for the healthcare sector in 2019, but not the biggest driver of technology spending or the top area of focus for health systems in the coming year, according to the survey.

Healthcare executives continue to be confused by the buzz around AI and digital and struggle to make sense of the changing landscape of who is playing what role and the blurred lines of capabilities and competition, according to the survey report. When asked who their primary choice is when looking for potential partners to help with digital transformation, 46 percent of healthcare executives cited their own internal IT and innovation teams, 17 percent cited their EHR vendor and 8 percent cited boutique consulting firms. A quarter of respondents cited “other.”

For technology vendors, the biggest challenge is long cycles, along with product/service differentiation and brand visibility.

The rise of non-traditional players, such as Amazon, Apple, and Google, will have a strong impact on the competitive healthcare technology environment, the survey responses indicated. At the same time, deeply entrenched EHR vendors such as Epic and Cerner will grow in dominance.

 

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