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Survey: Majority of Patients, Healthcare Pros Have Positive Perception of EHRs

October 5, 2017
by Heather Landi
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On average, patients who received better instruction on accessing EHRs accessed them more than twice as frequently
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The majority of both patients and healthcare providers view the use of electronic health record (EHR) systems positively, according to a recent survey. However, the survey also reveals that switching to an EHR has only saved medical professionals an hour a week on the time they spend on paperwork.

SelectHub, a Denver, Colo.-based provider of technology selection management solutions, surveyed more than 1,000 patients with access to EHRs and over 100 medical professionals who use the system about their opinions on EHRs.

When it came to the sentiment of medical professionals regarding the use of EHRs, responses were mostly positive, which counters many other surveys and studies about clinicians’ frustration with EHR systems. Eighty-six percent of medical professionals feel that an EHR system makes their job of providing service and care to patients easier. And, 85 percent of those surveyed believed EHRs make it easier to share patient data with other healthcare providers and organizations.

When comparing survey responses from health care professionals and patients, both groups showed a strong positive sentiment toward EHRs. Patients had a slightly lower overall positive sentiment at 80.1 percent (positive and very positive) compared to health care professionals’ over 87 percent approval of EHRs (positive and very positive).

Key findings from the survey were: On average, patients who received better instructions on accessing EHRs access them more than twice as frequently; medical professionals feel that the use of EHRs increases productivity, decreases clerical errors, but were divided on how EHRs impact financial expenses; and switching to EHRs has saved medical professionals only one hour a week of the time they spend on health records.

Medical professionals also had other positive sentiments about EHRs, according to the survey: makes an average workday easier (81 percent); makes identifying potential issues or errors in patients’ medical records easier (80 percent); helps with managing patient billing (77 percent) and makes communicating with patients’ insurance providers easier (72 percent). Only 63 percent feel that EHRs help them communicate directly with patients with more ease.

When broken down by facility type, those working in a group practice had a full approval rating (100 percent) of EHRs, followed by hospital staff at 92 percent and those working in private practice at 86 percent. Those working in a clinic, urgent care or ambulatory surgery center averaged 71 percent of respondents with an overall positive opinion of EHRs.

The survey results also were broken down by occupation: administrators/administrative staff, medical laboratory scientist and specialist medical practitioners had the most positive sentiment toward EHRs, with a 100 percent approval rating, followed by nurses at 95 percent and technicians at 88 percent. Clerks or office receptionists had a 75 percent approval rating and physician assistants had a 71 percent approval rating.

The survey also included comparing the ease of use of EHRs to traditional methods of record keeping. The survey results indicate that those who frequently used the EHR system were more likely to see its benefits than those who seldom used the system. For those who used an EHR system “a great deal,” 93 percent felt it was easier to use than traditional record-keeping methods. Of respondents who used the system moderately, 86 percent found the use of EHRs easier as well.

Additionally, for the medical professionals who switched to an EHR system, the number of hours per week dedicated to working with health records decreased only from 19.7 hours to 18.6 hours.

Health care professionals were also asked how the use of EHRs affected the workplace, including overall productivity, facility expenses, and cases of clerical errors. Regarding general workplace productivity, 81 percent felt EHRs increased productivity, compared to only 4 percent who felt productivity decreased.

An effect of EHRs medical professionals seem divided on is its impact on a facility’s financial expenses; although 38 percent said EHRs reduced the expenses of their health care facility, 34 percent said costs neither increased nor decreased and 29 percent believe the use of EHRs increased expenses.

Finally, 68 percent of those surveyed felt clerical errors decreased when EHRs were used, as opposed to the 25 percent who saw no change in errors and 7 percent who felt errors increased due to the utilization of an EHR system.

Patient Perceptions

The survey found that 64 percent of patients feel it is very or moderately important to have access to their electronic health records. What’s more, the majority of patients (76 percent) feel that their doctor’s utilization of an EHR has a positive effect on the health care they receive. This also seems to run counter to other studies that have found that doctors may spend nearly half their time documenting and performing administrative tasks rather than having face-to-face time with patients.

The survey also indicates that patients feel medical providers do an overall good job at explaining how patients could access their EHRs. Of the patients studied, nearly 59 percent felt their medical provider adequately explained how to access their records. However, this still leaves some room for improvement, as over 28 percent of patients feel their medical provider explained the process poorly or very poorly, and almost 13 percent were not given any explanation at all on how to access their records.

On average, patients who received better instruction on accessing EHRs accessed them more than twice as frequently. Those who felt their provider explained the EHR system very well accessed their records an average of 8.5 times a year. For those who felt it was explained well, they accessed their EHRs 5.1 times annually. Conversely, patients who felt accessing their EHRs was explained very poorly only accessed their records 2.5 times in a given year.

When asked about which health care facilities granted them the greatest EHR access, participants identified hospitals at 48 percent, while 45 percent were given noteworthy access by a private practice, and 31 percent received EHRs each from a group practice and clinic, urgent care, or ambulatory surgery center. Less common responses were the pharmacy or drugstore and medical laboratories and research facilities at 13 percent each, and medical nursing homes or hospice facilities at 1 percent.


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Allscripts Sells its Netsmart Stake to GI Partners, TA Associates

December 10, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal, Managing Editor
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Just a few months after Allscripts said it would be selling its majority stake in Netsmart, the health IT company announced today that private equity firm GI Partners, along with TA Associates, will be acquiring the stake held in Netsmart.

In 2016 Allscripts acquired Kansas City-based Netsmart for $950 million in a joint venture with middle-market private equity firm GI Partners, with Allscripts controlling 51 percent of the company. With that deal, Allscripts contributed its homecare business to Netsmart, in exchange for the largest ownership stake in the company which has now become the largest technology company exclusively dedicated to behavioral health, human services and post-acute care, officials have noted.

Now, this transaction represents an additional investment for GI Partners over its initial stake acquired in April 2016, and results in majority ownership of Netsmart by GI Partners.

According to reports, it is expected that this sale transaction will yield Allscripts net after-tax proceeds of approximately $525 million or approximately $3 per fully diluted share.

Founded 50 years ago, Netsmart is a provider of software and technology solutions designed especially for the health and human services and post-acute sectors, enabling mission-critical clinical and business processes including electronic health records (EHRs), population health, billing, analytics and health information exchange, its officials say.

According to the company’s executives, “Since GI Partners' investment in 2016, Netsmart has experienced considerable growth through product innovation and multiple strategic acquisitions. During this time, Netsmart launched myUnity, [a] multi-tenant SaaS platform serving the entire post-acute care continuum, and successfully completed strategic acquisitions in human services and post-acute care technology. Over the same period, Netsmart has added 150,000 users and over 5,000 organizations to its platform.”

On the 2018 Healthcare Informatics 100, a list of the top 100 health IT vendors in the U.S. by revenue, Allscripts ranked 10th with a self-reported health IT revenue of $1.8 billion. Netsmart, meanwhile, ranked 44th with a self-reported revenue of $319 million.

According to reports, Allscripts plans to use the net after-tax proceeds to repay long-term debt, invest in other growing areas of its business, and to opportunistically repurchase its outstanding common stock.

The transaction is expected to be completed this month.

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Study Links Stress from Using EHRs to Physician Burnout

December 7, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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More than a third of primary care physicians reported all three measures of EHR-related stress
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Physician burnout continues to be a significant issue in the healthcare and healthcare IT industries, and at the same time, electronic health records (EHRs) are consistently cited as a top burnout factor for physicians.

A commonly referenced study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2016 found that for every hour physicians provide direct clinical face time to patients, nearly two additional hours are spent on EHR and desk work within the clinic day.

Findings from a new study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association indicates that stress from using EHRs is associated with burnout, particularly for primary care doctors, such as pediatricians, family medicine physicians and general internists.

Common causes of EHR-related stress include too little time for documentation, time spent at home managing records and EHR user interfaces that are not intuitive to the physicians who use them, according to the study, based on responses from 4,200 practicing physicians.

“You don't want your doctor to be burned out or frustrated by the technology that stands between you and them,” Rebekah Gardner, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School, and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “In this paper, we show that EHR stress is associated with burnout, even after controlling for a lot of different demographic and practice characteristics. Quantitatively, physicians who have identified these stressors are more likely to be burned out than physicians who haven't."

The Rhode Island Department of Health surveys practicing physicians in Rhode Island every two years about how they use health information technology, as part of a legislative mandate to publicly report health care quality data. In 2017, the research team included questions about health information technology-related stress and specifically EHR-related stress.

Of the almost 4,200 practicing physicians in the state, 43 percent responded, and the respondents were representative of the overall population. Almost all of the doctors used EHRs (91 percent) and of these, 70 percent reported at least one measure of EHR-related stress.

Measures included agreeing that EHRs add to the frustration of their day, spending moderate to excessive amounts of time on EHRs while they were at home and reporting insufficient time for documentation while at work.

Many prior studies have looked into the factors that contribute to burnout in health care, Gardner said. Besides health information technology, these factors include chaotic work environments, productivity pressures, lack of autonomy and a misalignment between the doctors' values and the values they perceive the leaders of their organizations hold.

Prior research has shown that patients of burned-out physicians experience more errors and unnecessary tests, said Gardner, who also is a senior medical scientist at Healthcentric Advisors.

In this latest study, researchers found that doctors with insufficient time for documentation while at work had 2.8 times the odds of burnout symptoms compared to doctors without that pressure. The other two measures had roughly twice the odds of burnout symptoms.

The researchers also found that EHR-related stress is dependent on the physician's specialty.

More than a third of primary care physicians reported all three measures of EHR-related stress -- including general internists (39.5 percent), family medicine physicians (37 percent) and pediatricians (33.6 percent). Many dermatologists (36.4 percent) also reported all three measures of EHR-related stress.

On the other hand, less than 10 percent of anesthesiologists, radiologists and hospital medicine specialists reported all three measures of EHR-related stress.

While family medicine physicians (35.7 percent) and dermatologists (34.6 percent) reported the highest levels of burnout, in keeping with their high levels of EHR-related stress, hospital medicine specialists came in third at 30.8 percent. Gardner suspects that other factors, such as a chaotic work environment, contribute to their rates of burnout.

"To me, it's a signal to health care organizations that if they're going to 'fix' burnout, one solution is not going to work for all physicians in their organization," Gardner said. "They need to look at the physicians by specialty and make sure that if they are looking for a technology-related solution, then that's really the problem in their group."

However, for those doctors who do have a lot of EHR-related stress, health care administrators could work to streamline the documentation expectations or adopt policies where work-related email and EHR access is discouraged during vacation, Gardner said.

Making the user interface for EHRs more intuitive could address some stress, Gardner noted; however, when the research team analyzed the results by the three most common EHR systems in the state, none of them were associated with increased burnout.

Earlier research found that using medical scribes was associated with lower rates of burnout, but this study did not confirm that association. In the paper, the study authors suggest that perhaps medical scribes address the burden of documentation, but not other time-consuming EHR tasks such as inbox management.


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HHS Studying Modernization of Indian Health Services’ IT Platform

November 29, 2018
by David Raths, Contributing Editor
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Options include updating the Resource and Patient Management System technology stack or acquiring commercial solutions

With so much focus on the modernization of health IT systems at the Veteran’s Administration and Department of Defense, there has been less attention paid to decisions that have to be made about IT systems in the Indian Health Service. But now the HHS Office of the Chief Technology Officer has funded a one-year project to study IHS’ options.

The study will explore options for modernizing IHS’ solutions, either by updating the Resource and Patient Management System (RPMS) technology stack, acquiring commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions, or a combination of the two. One of the people involved in the analysis is Theresa Cullen, M.D., M.S., associate director of global health informatics at the Regenstrief Institute. Perhaps no one has more experience or a better perspective on RPMS than Dr. Cullen, who served as the CIO for Indian Health Service and as the Chief Medical Information Officer for the Veterans Health Administration

During a webinar put on by the Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance (OSEHERA), Dr. Cullen described the scope of the project. “The goal is to look at the current state of RPMS EHR and other components with an eye to modernization. Can it be modernized to meet the near term and future needs of communities served by IHS? We are engaged with tribally operated and urban sites. Whatever decisions or recommendations are made will include their voice.”

The size and complexity of the IHS highlights the importance of the technology decision. It provides direct and purchased care to American Indian and Alaska Native people (2.2 million lives) from 573 federally recognized tribes in 37 states. Its budget was $5.5 billion for fiscal 2018 appropriations, plus third-party collections of $1.02 billion at IHS sites in fiscal 2017. The IHS also faces considerable cost constraints, Dr. Cullen noted, adding that by comparison that the VA’s population is four times greater but its budget is 15 times greater.

RPMS, created in 1984, is in use at all of IHS’ federally operated facilities, as well as most tribally operated and urban Indian health programs. It has more than 100 components, including clinical, practice management and administrative applications.


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About 20 to 30 percent of RPMS code originates in the VA’s VistA. Many VA applications (Laboratory, Pharmacy) have been extensively modified to meet IHS requirements. But Dr. Cullen mentioned that IHS has developed numerous applications independently of VA to address IHS-specific mission and business needs (child health, public/population health, revenue cycle).

Because the VA announced in 2017 it would sundown VistA and transition to Cerner, the assessment team is working under the assumption that the IHS has only about 10 years to figure out what it will do about the parts of RPMS that still derive from VistA. And RPMS, like VistA, resides in an architecture that is growing outdated.

The committee is setting up a community of practice to allow stakeholders to share technology needs, best practices and ways forward. One question is how to define modernization and how IHS can get there. The idea is to assess the potential for the existing capabilities developed for the needs of Indian country over the past few decades to be brought into a modern technology architecture. The technology assessment limited to RPMS, Dr. Cullen noted. “We are not looking at COTS [commercial off the shelf] products or open source. We are assessing the potential for existing capabilities to be brought into “a modern technology architecture.”

Part of the webinar involved asking attendees for their ideas for what a modernized technology stack for RPMS would look like, what development and transitional challenges could be expected, and any comparable efforts that could inform the work of the technical assessment team.




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