Richard Loomis, MD is CMO and vice president of informatics at Practice Fusion.
Tell me about yourself and the organization.
I am a physician by training, trained in anesthesiology with further training in biomedical informatics. Before joining Practice Fusion, I lead informatics for the Southern California region of Kaiser Permanente. I joined Practice Fusion three years ago, ultimately becoming chief medical officer. In that role, I oversee both healthcare informatics as well as medical affairs. I also have had the pleasure of being a participant in the HIMSS EHR Association, more recently as a member of the executive committee. My vice-chair position started July 1st. I’m really looking forward to working with the association’s chair, Sasha TerMaat of Epic, the other members of the EC, as well as our work groups to advance the collective goals and objectives of the association and our member companies.
How do you and your colleagues plan on steering EHRA decision-making in the coming year, especially with regard to interoperability?
We have been very active on the interoperability front. We view interoperability and advancing interoperability as key goals over the next year and beyond. We released a fact sheet last month as part of a congressional staff briefing – that’s one example of how we are working to educate the broader community around interoperability. A couple of areas of specific focus for the coming year include interoperability standards. While they are evolving and maturing, they’ve certainly been a challenge historically. We’re enthusiastic about some of the progress that we have been making on the standards front, but there is still work to be done. The other area of focus is governance; specifically, helping provider organizations work with regulatory bodies and EHR vendors on the governance and policies around health information exchange and clinical data exchange. Those are two key areas of focus.
Generally speaking, we see the shift to various forms of value-based payment models as the most significant driver to advancing interoperability. It aligns the needs of Practice Fusion customers, and emphasizes their need to exchange data to help deliver higher quality care at lower costs.
Putting your Practice Fusion hat back on, what are your customers’ biggest interoperability challenges at the moment? Do they revolve more around technology or workplace culture?
I feel that we’ve been very successful in facilitating interoperability for our customers. We have over 600 connected partners, including labs, imaging centers, and roughly 70,000 pharmacies via Surescripts, along with billing partners and other partners in the industry. We have been very successful in enabling small practices to exchange data with other healthcare services in their community to help them deliver high-quality care for their patients. As I mentioned earlier, we are seeing a shift in payment models that really presents the need for providers in all clinical settings to exchange clinical data, and we are responding to that as part of the 2015 certification that EHRs must achieve to participate in the third stage of Meaningful Use as well as in various programs associated with MACRA.
At the same time, it’s worth noting that, while interoperability is important to our customers, it’s just one of many regulations they’re trying to keep track of at the moment. Our customers are overwhelmed with the changes they’re seeing. It’s certainly a challenge for them to keep up with the steady stream of regulations that impact how they run their practices and how they treat their patients.
Recent Deloitte survey findings show that physicians aren’t as aware of MACRA as they probably should be – only 50 percent of those surveyed had heard of it and only 32 percent say they’ve heard of it but don’t actually know what it is. Where do you think this lack of awareness stems from?
The survey results are certainly consistent with what I’m seeing in our customer base. Providers are simply trying to keep up with all of this change, and, as such, many are not aware of the significant impact that recent legislation, specifically MACRA, will have on them. EHR vendors are often a primary line of communication for delivering information about regulatory change. We feel that in order to enable our practices to effectively use our software, we need to play a role in education and it just so happens that we are in a unique position to do so. On a side note, I think the recent announcement from CMS of additional funding to help small practices meet the changes required as part of MACRA is evidence that they recognize that it is going to be difficult and challenging for these smaller practices to make the transition.
Do you have any final thoughts?
I’d like to emphasize that we would like to partner with others in the industry, including CMS and other agencies, to help educate providers, particularly on the small practice end of the spectrum. We’re committed to helping physicians meet the challenges of MACRA as they unfold.