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ONC Brief: Half of Patients Offered Online Access to Health Data in 2017

April 17, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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In 2017, half of individuals nationwide reported they had been offered online access to their medical record by a healthcare provider or insurer, according to an April data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

Of those patients who were offered online access, more than half actually viewed their medical data, representing about 28 percent of individuals nationwide who were offered access to and looked at the health data within the last year. About one-quarter of individuals were offered access to an online medical record but did not view their record within the past year.

About eight in 10 individuals who accessed their online medical record reported that it was both easy to understand and useful. In all, individuals’ access to online medical records increased by almost one-quarter (24 percent) between 2014 and 2017, according to the data brief. 

The data came from the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), which has been conducted since 2003. Complete data were collected from 3,191 respondents, with a 32 percent response rate.

What’s more, the ONC brief found that individuals who were encouraged by their healthcare provider to use their online medical record were nearly two times more likely to access their online medical record compared to those who were not encouraged.  And, at least three-quarters of individuals who accessed their online medical record within the past year reported that it included laboratory test results, current list of medications, and summaries of their office visits. The least frequently reported type of information included in an online medical record was clinical notes.

Further, the top two reasons cited by individuals for not accessing their online medical record within the past year were their “preference to speak to a provider directly” (76 percent) and “perceived lack of need” (59 percent). Another 25 percent of people said they were concerned about the privacy/security of an online medical record.

And among individuals who accessed their online medical record, about eight in 10 viewed test results, while less than one in five downloaded their online medical record, and only about one in 10 electronically transmitted their healthcare data from their online medical record. Less than 5 percent of individuals transmitted their health record data to a service or app.

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Study: Many U.S. Hospitals won’t Reach HIMSS Stage 7 Until 2035

August 14, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Unless the healthcare IT ecosystem experiences major policy changes or leaps in technological capabilities, many hospitals will not reach Stage 7 of HIMSS Analytics’ Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model (EMRAM) until 2035, according to new research.

The study, published in the August edition of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, analyzed Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Analytics’ EMRAM data from 2006 to 2014.

HIMSS Analytics is the research arm of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). HIMSS Analytics developed the EMRAM in 2005 as a methodology for evaluating the progress and impact of electronic medical records on health systems around the world. Tracking their progress in completing eight stages (0-7), hospitals can review the implementation and utilization of information and technology applications culminating with Stage 7, which represents an advanced electronic patient record environment. Other Stage 7 requirements include: leveraging an external HIE (health information exchange); use of a data warehouse; and having robust data analytics functions.

The researchers of this study noted that the meaningful use (MU) program has promoted electronic health record (EHR) adoption among U.S. hospitals. And while studies have shown that EHR adoption has been slower than desired in certain types of hospitals; generally, the overall adoption rate has increased among hospitals.

However, the researchers continued, these studies have neither evaluated the adoption of advanced functionalities of electronic health records (beyond meaningful use,) nor forecasted EHR maturation over an extended period in a holistic fashion. “Additional research is needed to prospectively assess U.S. hospitals’ electronic health record technology adoption and advancement patterns,” the researchers stated.

The HIMSS EMRAM data set was used to track historic uptakes of various EHR functionalities considered critical to improving healthcare quality and efficiency in hospitals. A technology diffusion model was then used to predict the technological diffusion rates for repeated EHR adoptions where upgrades undergo rapid technological improvements. The forecast used EMRAM data from 2006 to 2014 to estimate adoption levels to the year 2035.

In 2014, more than 5,400 hospitals completed HIMSS’ annual EMRAM survey (86 percent of total U.S. hospitals). Back in 2006, the majority of the U.S. hospitals were in EMRAM Stages 0, 1, and 2. But by 2014, most hospitals had achieved Stages 3, 4, and 5, the study noted.

The researchers found that in 2006, the first year of observation, peaks of Stages 0 and 1 were shown as EHR adoption precedes HIMSS’ EMRAM. By 2007, Stage 2 reached its peak. Stage 3 reached its full height by 2011, while Stage 4 peaked by 2014. This forecast indicates that Stage 5 should peak by 2019 and Stage 6 by 2026, according to the data revealed in the study.

The researchers noted, “Although this forecast extends to the year 2035, no peak was readily observed for Stage 7. Overall, most hospitals will achieve Stages 5, 6, or 7 of EMRAM by 2020; however, a considerable number of hospitals will not achieve Stage 7 by 2035.” They concluded, “These results indicate that U.S. hospitals are decades away from fully implementing sophisticated decision support applications and interoperability functionalities in electronic health records as defined by EMRAM’s Stage 7.”

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HHS OIG Fines eClinicalWorks $132,500 For Violating Corporate Integrity Agreement

August 1, 2018
by Heather Landi
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The Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) fined electronic health record (EHR) vendor eClinicalWorks $132,500 for failing to report patient safety issues to the regulatory body as reportable events in a timely manner.

According to the OIG website, eClinicalWorks paid the fine July 18. The EHR vendor is required to report these patient safety issues to OIG as part of its corporate integrity agreement (CIA) with the agency.

eClinicalWorks entered into a CIA back in May 2017 as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve a False Claims lawsuit. According to the DOJ’s case, the company allegedly violated federal law by misrepresenting the capabilities of its software and for allegedly paying kickbacks to certain customers in exchange for promoting its product, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. As part of that settlement, eClinicalWorks also paid a $155 million settlement over the allegations.

The five-year CIA requires, among other things, that the company retain an Independent Software Quality Oversight Organization to assess eClinicalWorks’ software quality control systems and provide written semi-annual reports to OIG documenting its reviews and recommendations. The company must provide prompt notice to its customers of any safety related issues and maintain on its customer portal a comprehensive list of such issues and any steps users should take to mitigate potential patient safety risks.

Further, the agreement also requires eClinicalWorks to allow customers to obtain updated versions of their software free of charge and to give customers the option to transfer their data to another EHR software provider, without penalties or service charges. The vendor must also retain an Independent Review Organization to review its arrangements with healthcare providers to ensure compliance with the Anti-Kickback Statute.

 

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Survey: Physicians Cite EHRs as Biggest Contributor to Burnout

July 31, 2018
by Heather Landi
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A recent survey on physician burnout and stress found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, physicians cited electronic health records (EHRs) as the top factor contributing to stress, followed by dealing with payers and pre-authorization and then regulatory compliance.

Reaction Data, a market research firm focused on the healthcare and life sciences industries, surveyed 254 physicians across the country in a wide variety of specialties about what factors contribute to physician burnout. Twenty-one percent of respondents cited EHRs, followed by payers/pre-authorization (19 percent), regulatory compliance (18 percent) and internal bureaucracy (17 percent). And, these factors all have a common theme: they are time consuming and prevent the physician from providing care for the patient.

Other burnout factors cited by respondents included work/life balance (11 percent) and malpractice risk (6 percent).

Patients, not surprisingly, were only mentioned by 2 percent as causing an undue burden. The survey report cites one orthopedic surgeon who commented, “Our current healthcare non-system needs to be radically changed. Way too expensive and chaotic. Profit must be eliminated.”

Across different specialties, EHRs were consistently cited as a top burnout factor, although, surgeons and physician leadership cited payers/pre-authorization as a bigger burden (22 percent and 24 percent, respectively) than EHRs (20 percent).

When asked how EHRs could be improved to reduce the burden, one-third of respondents (34 percent) cited improving user-friendliness. According to the survey report, one pediatrician suggested that EHR vendors “Create one by and for physicians, not administrators and technogeeks.”

Another respondent, an orthopedic surgeon, commented, “Develop a better and more user friendly EMR. It shouldn’t take 20 minutes to do something that dictation takes three minutes.”

Seventeen percent of respondents would like to see vendors add dictation and scribe features to EHRs, 13 percent would like to spend less time documenting in the system, and 9 percent suggested replacing or getting rid of EHRs. Other suggestions to reduce EHR stress included reducing clicks (7 percent), more physician input (7 percent), focus on patient outcomes (6 percent), improve interoperability (4 percent) and additional training (3 percent).

Overall, the survey results indicate that physicians want an easier system with dictation features that reduces the time required in the system. “They want more face to face time with the patient, rather than staring at a monitor and a keyboard,” the report authors noted.

“The nurses and medical assistants need to be able to put more of the data into the EHR, permitting the doctor to spend more time with the patient,” one gastroenterologist and survey respondent said.

The survey results also indicate that EHR stress appears to know no brand name loyalty. Of those who said EHRs are one of their main causes of stress, 39 percent are using Epic, 18 percent use Cerner, 11 percent use Allscripts and the remaining respondents use athenahealth, Meditech, NextGen, eClinicalWorks and GE.

One respondent, an emergency medicine physician, commented, “EHR seems to be predominantly a billing tool, secondarily a compliance tool. Start over and design EHR for patient care. Too many boxes to click, too many irrelevant alerts, soft or hard ‘stops’ (best practice alerts in Epic), create alert fatigue. Very little useful clinical decision support.”

Physicians also cite regulatory burdens as a contributing factor to burnout and stress. Thirty-seven percent of respondents would like to see fewer rules, 32 percent would like to see more simplification and 15 percent said more physician input was needed.

According to the report, one chief medical officer recommended shifting reporting to an automated system that retrieves data from the EMR rather than manual reporting. A CMIO added, “Get rid of what seems to be unnecessary regs that don’t contribute to patient care or quality of care.”

 

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