USF Health and Allscripts initiate a pilot program called Paperfree Tampa Bay that aims to convert 100 percent of physicians in the Tampa Bay area to electronic prescribing. Program leaders view this as a first step toward the implementation of EHR in the region and is expected to create 100 jobs in the region.
We caught up with Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman and asked him for more details on the initiative.
So, what is in it for Allscripts?
First of all, let’s talk for one minute about the opportunity. What we see happening here is President Obama’s vision of an electronic, inter-connected health system is becoming a reality in Monday in Tampa Bay. This is really a pilot, if you will, for what can happen in the rest of the country. That’s important when you think about what could happen in the rest of the country. We have lined up wholes series of communities who are doing their own particular take on this. The take on this in Tampa is: “Let’s start with electronic prescribing, let’s get a coalition of organizations, including major hospitals, physician groups, the mayor. Let’s get Congressional support – and there is strong Congressional support: Congresswoman Castor, Congressman Young, and Senator Nelson are all strongly behind this – and let’s drive this forward.” What’s makes this unique is they are hiring 100 electronic “ambassadors” is what they are calling them, that are going to visit the 8,000 offices and train them on electronic prescribing, and then they are going to introduce them to the stimulus benefits for acquiring an electronic health record. And, hopefully they’ll see the market for the adoption of electronic health records. So, #1 it creates jobs for new-hires who, #2, are going to be trained by a curriculum designed at the University of South Florida, who was one of the original NEPSI members and who has already rolled out an electronic health record. They are designing a curriculum to train these people and presumably others. Then these people will start doing the office-by-office work. Dean (Stephen) Klasko calls its “changing the DNA of physicians, one office at a time.” Which I kind of think is a really brilliant analogy because physicians do require that. By the way, it’s a very interesting contrast to just yesterday, Wal-Mart comes out and says we are going to have this thing in the store, a physician will show up and spend 25K, take it back to their office and implement it. Those aren’t the physicians we know because we have been doing this 10 years. Physicians aren’t likely to do that. We say we know what model works and we are going to be out there doing it.
So what’s in it for Allscripts? When people ask as us about the NEPSI, our answer then and our answer now is getting physicians to adopt the tools is good for healthcare long-term, and good for patients and good for Allscripts. Why is it good for Allscripts? Well stage one is electronic prescribing and they will get that free. What we hope follows from that is the adoption of electronic health records. Once a physician is comfortable using electronic prescribing, we believe they will conclude they should quickly move to electronic health records. At that point, given we are the market leader, we should benefit. Will we get all those? Of course not. But we think we’ll get our fair share, maybe more than our fair share of that. The real goal, first and foremost, is to address this absolutely key patient safety issue that is saving lives and saving money by getting physicians to use electronic prescribing. And if that was all that happened I would be happy. Because imagine being a part of something where you can say, “This isn’t about making money. This is being able to say we helped make this happen in Tampa Bay.” If this works, we will absolutely save lives in Tampa Bay. Remember, every year 7,000 Americans are dying from preventative medication errors, and a million and half are injured every year. It cost billions of dollars, it has an enormous quality impact on people’s lives, and we can stop it, and we are going to do it now in Tampa Bay, beginning Monday. Very quickly thereafter In Hartford, Connecticut, Iowa, Pittsburgh, in HoagHospitals in Newport Beach. We have leaders coming up from all around the country who are saying, “We are going to do it and we are going to do it now under President Obama’s leadership, and the standards that CCHIT has set, and the substantial incentives that have been provided.” The CMS incentive of $3,000 to $5000 for electronic prescribing is available today as of January 1 of this year. The PQRI incentive of $3,000 to $5,000 is available right now, and of course, the $44,000 that’s from the stimulus package, $18,000 of which will come available next year if you are using a total electronic health record right now. Imagine if you are a physician in Tampa Bay and someone comes to the office and says, “Let me get you up and operating on this tool. If you use it you will qualify for between $3-5,-000 of funding from CMS and it is highly likely your own payer has additional incentives for you. What does it cost me? It doesn’t cost you anything. Pretty good deal. Now there’s someone standing there, an energetic, committed person who says, “I will help you do it.” That is how we will change healthcare, change the DNA of healthcare and the physician. One office at a time. As the rest of the communities see that there are going to say, “Wow, not only does it work, there is a good chance we might even get stimulus dollars to help us do these types of programs.” In Tampa Bay, Stage 1. In other communities they are saying, “We are going to push the development of the full electronic records and we are going to connect them.” Hartford is saying, “Connected Hartford,” instead of “Paperless Tampa. What does that mean? We have enough hospitals and major practices already using Allscripts that we are going to connect them all together connect very quickly and very cost effectively. We are committed to interoperability. We are happy to connect everybody. We are ready to start very quickly with demonstrations that will connect huge parts of the market. Why? Because it is safer for patients, more convenient for patients. That is the program. Not that I’m not excited about it…
What do you estimate Allscripts’ out of pocket costs will be for the Tampa Bay project?
From our perspective, #1, they are using NEPSI software, which is already based in all our numbers. And, #2, in terms of people commitment and the like, we will be deploying members of our teams, our e-prescribing teams, our connectivity teams, and, obviously used some of our promotional people, creative people. It is not about a dollar commitment per se. The big expenditure will come as USF and other members of this coalition hire people, and we are hopeful that this will in fact be one of the many programs that HHS and the Secretary decide to support through the HITECH provisions of the stimulus act. Remember that the government has basically said that we want to support programs that are furthering the aims of the HITECH act and the President’s objectives, but, we don’t them to be green-fields. We want them to be programs up and operating that we can see. All 100 people won’t begin Day 1. We are beginning to hire people; we are beginning to train people. Initially, some of our folks will fill some of those roles. Some of USF people will fill some of those roles. As we move forward, we have the commitment from the representatives in that area to take the Paperfree Tampa Bay program and present that as one of the many pilot programs that the Secretary may be interested in funding. If the Secretary chooses to fund the program, that will accelerate it. It will go forward under any set of circumstances. Whether it gets accelerated will in part be determined by the Secretary. But there is a commitment from the participating partners to move the program forward in any case.
So, there is hope that there may be some amount of funding that will filter down to fund some of the initiative?
To the initiative, yes. To Allscripts, no. From the initiative itself, there is no benefit from that. The benefit is longer term, to the extent that physicians decided to buy electronic medical records. Imagine the impact if every community says, “Hey, this works.” Take the top 100 communities, they each hire 100 people who are trained to talk to physicians about electronic prescribing, and also about the benefit of using a full electronic health records. Talk about the full benefits. Now you have 10,000 evangelists going out to convert these. Imagine the impact that would have, not just for us but also all our competitors. That’s what’s so exciting about this pilot program.
So the initial 100 people will be paid for by a combination of USF and Allscripts?
No, we will start with a smaller number of people that will be funded though a combination of USF, Allscripts, and the other constituents which will be announced on Monday. Those will include some state programs already focused on electronic prescribing. A variety of different participants will all be contributing people. The longer term goal is to have new-hires. We’re hopeful that our people will not have to be there longer term. But, we are committed with USF, with Baycare, and the other participants.
I hope you share with us the excitement of what this could mean. Do that math. Imagine if the top 50 communities in the county each hired 100 people, and you had all those people visiting physician offices. Imagine that kind of effort and what kind of change would occur. It would all be terrific for the industry. Hopefully this drives that kind of change, and we think it will.