October 22, 2010

Clinical Terminology Dictionary to be Available

Kaiser Permanente announced a few weeks ago its 75,000-term clinical terminology database, the Convergent Medical Terminology dictionary (CMT), to become freely available through HHS. Including maps to additional clinical vocabulary sets, including SNOMED-CT, the database enables links to ICD-9, ICD-10 and other code sets. Many millions of dollars and 16 years in development, the CMT will be freely distributed by the Department of Health and Human Services. Watch here for more information as the dictionary becomes available.

October 19, 2010

Three More EHRs Make the Certified List

Three more electronic health record products have received certification under the federal program: RxNT EHR from Networking Technology, PrimeSUITE 2011 from Greenway Medical Technologies, and a system designed for use in behavioral health, the Avatar 2011 from Netsmart Technology.

PHR-Lite for Medicare Members

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has launched a new "Blue Button" feature on its MyMedicare.gov website. The app makes it possible for the 47 million Medicare members to access, print or download specific medical information. "Having ready access to personal health information from Medicare claims can help beneficiaries understand their medical history and partner more effectively with providers," the agency says. Having access to Medicare claims means having access to a virtually complete record of your healthcare incidents, the next-best thing to a personal health record (PHR), and it's updated for you by the government. Sweet!

October 18, 2010

Website Compares Hospital Quality

Hospital quality dataThe Commonwealth Fund just launched WhyNotTheBest.org, described as "a free resource for health care professionals interested in tracking performance on various measures of health care quality." Basically, you select some hospitals, choose some measures, and view the report. My first report (see the graphic) showed me that my local major hospitals fell somewhat below the national Top 10 bar, but scored rather well overall. My graphic here shows only an abbreviation of the actual report, which is downloadable in Excel or PDF format.

The site includes measures of hospital quality from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website, Hospital Compare. The data will be updated quarterly. Nearly all U.S. hospitals are included, over 4,500.

Oops: EHR Final Rule Gaffe

If you downloaded the EHR vendor guides from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), you'll want to download the fixes. The original releases did not include technical descriptions to enable electronic health records to exchange symptom surveillance data. They were “adopted in error” in the final rule for the initial standard for electronic health records, says ONC. As a result of numerous complaints since the flawed rule's release in July, an interim final rule "fix" has now been published in the October 13 Federal Register, to take effect November 12.

What's the flap all about? The rule didn't cover enabling EHR users to “electronically record, modify, retrieve and submit syndrome-based public health surveillance information,” according to language in the interim final rule, stating that the "purpose is to facilitate the electronic exchange of de-identified nationally notifiable conditions." The spec gave public health agencies methodology for reporting conditions, but no guidance on designing EHRs that could meet the standard.

If you liked the final rule, you're gonna love the sequel! Get the interim final rule here.

October 14, 2010

Physician Shortage Predicted To Grow Dramatically

Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projections indicate a shortage of 62,900 physicians in five years and 91,500 by 2020. The AAMC's projections, larger than earlier estimates, were pinned on growing healthcare demand from the boomer generation and expansion of coverage as a result of federal health reform measures. (All I know is I still can't afford health insurance under the current system. Too few doctors will be better than no doctor at all.)  Read the AAMC report.

Ingenix Buys Even Deeper Provider Position

Nobody much thinks of Ingenix as a provider-centric company. As one of the cleverest helpmates to the payer side, providers might wonder at the company's sincerity in the provider vendor space. But a look at recent Ingenix acquisitions over recent months reveals a striking shift. Acquiring four companies serving the provider health IT market, Ingenix further expanded a portfolio that has been growing more provider-side for over a year now. The company claims that about 50% of its revenue now comes from the provider market, making it a significant provider vendor, despite its ownership by UnitedHealth Group. The recent acquisitions include A-Life Medical, Picis, Axolotl and Executive Health Resources. Over the past year, QualityMetric and CareMedic fell under the Ingenix umbrella. SaaS-based ambulatory EMR vendor LighthouseMD, now marketed as CareTracker, was purchased in 2007.

October 13, 2010

Marketing: Coupons For Healthcare

Healthcare providers are getting into social marketing, using newer electronic content forms to reach new patients. For their part, consumers don't see much of a problem cashing in a coupon with an unknown provider, at least for some types of procedure.
Responding to a promotion for optometrist and optician services, one customer says that "The timing was right so I jumped on it," referring to an offer through Groupon, a daily coupon emailed to tens of thousands of people in the Baltimore region and millions more nationwide. "I'd be more cautious about laser surgery or hair removal. That would take more research. But this worked out..." Groupon's "Deal of the Day" targets consumers who sign up for the daily offers, which tend to promote restaurants, hotels, spas, and the like. But healthcare providers are gradually learning to use the new promotional venue, and with good results reported so far. I myself wear glasses -- glasses that I purchased through a coupon from a provider I had never visited before. Read an article in the Baltimore Sun...

October 11, 2010

$727 Million to Health Centers

The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration announced $742 million from HHS will go to community health centers nationwide to build new medical clinics and bring technology in older clinics up to speed. This is in addition to the more than $2 billion already allocated to health centers from stimulus funds.

October 8, 2010

New Web-based Tool Improves Chronic Care

Say you're a physician caring for diabetes and heart disease patients. Would you like to have a tireless chronic care expert elf poring over your patients' records every night, comparing their care with evidence-based practices, looking for things you might not notice? Kaiser Permanente's lead author of an American Journal of Managed Care study, Adrianne Feldstein, MD, thinks maybe you should. "Patients in the U.S. receive only about half of the preventive and follow-up care now recommended by national guidelines," says Dr. Feldstein. A new web-based Panel Support Tool (PST) extracts information from the electronic medical record and compares it to care recommended by national guidelines. Read the article in Healthcare IT News.

Software List Released by Feds

The Office of the National Coordinator (of health information technology transformation) has released the first list of certified EHR systems. “Only those EHR technologies appearing on [our list] may be granted the reporting number that will be accepted by CMS for purposes of attestation under the EHR incentive program,” says the federal office in charge of certifying electronic health record systems. What does the wonk-speak mean? Only the listed EHRs will qualify physicians and other heathcare providers for Medicare and Medicaid incentives under the HITECH act - worth substantial reimbursement boosts to providers who have installed the systems. Not on the list = no bonus bucks. The certified EHR products are listed here.

Primary Care Providers' Role in Mental Health Increases

Reaching the mental heathcare provider may mean casting a wider net. The Center for American Progress published a study last month finding that more than 50% of patients treated for a mental illness are being treated for part of their condition by a primary care provider. The study, reported by the Associated Press, shows that more than a third of mentally ill patients in the health system are going only to primary care providers. Read the article...