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5 Questions With Jon Challen, Director of IT, Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates

Jon Challen is director of IT at Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates. Seven hundred staff members care for 1,300 patients on a daily basis across the practice’s 40 locations in the metro Atlanta area and North Georgia. The practice, which uses Greenway’s EHR and MyHealthRecord.com’s patient portal, has attested for Meaningful Use for each of its physicians for the last four years and plans on participating in MIPS. “We feel we are well-positioned to submit 90 days of data,” Challen says, adding that automating data flow for such initiatives has been an ongoing initiative. AGA signed on to GaHIN – Georgia’s statewide HIE – earlier this year in an effort to connect the organization to a wider network of providers.


What was the impetus for connecting to GaHIN? What value/benefits do you hope to realize from plugging into the HIE?
Our physicians have long desired better integration of data with hospital systems. However, given the large number of hospitals we work with, setting up individual interfaces with each hospital was unwieldy. GaHIN provided an opportunity to share data with multiple hospitals and other healthcare providers with a single connection. We hope that our participation in GaHIN will simplify data sharing between providers, reduce unnecessary duplication of testing, and allow us to provide better and more cost-effective patient care.

Did you encounter any IT hiccups along the way? How did you overcome them?
Any kind of interfacing or data sharing comes with its share of challenges, but our integration with GaHIN was one of the smoothest I have experienced in my career. The team at GaHIN and Truven are complete professionals and have a great deal of expertise. Additionally, vendor support from Greenway was top-notch. The team at Greenway had recently completed a similar integration with Truven in another region of the country. This integration provided a template for both parties to follow, which greatly simplified the process of AGA integrating with GaHIN.

You added pediatric care several years ago. Did you have to alter your IT systems in any way to accommodate the needs of your younger patients? If so, did your EHR vendor assist, or did you go out to the market to look for new tools? What did you end up implementing?
Fortunately, Greenway has a great deal of experience in pediatrics, so beginning to care for infants, children, and adolescents went very smoothly, and no additional software was needed. Internally, we have deployed a number of pediatric-specific documentation templates for our pediatric physicians to use. Greenway was an ideal partner for this new venture.

As a large practice, what would you say your biggest challenges are right now – health IT or otherwise?
The consolidation in healthcare over the past few years has created a lot of IT challenges. The growth we’ve experienced here at AGA, both organically and through acquisition, has been astounding. Keeping up with that growth is always a challenge, and we have strived to bring new providers and practices into the AGA fold as quickly and seamlessly as possible. I feel we’ve been very successful at this, but each new provider and acquisition brings with it different challenges relating to IT systems, especially regarding data integration.

Aside from connecting to GaHIN, what health IT projects are underway?
We are constantly looking for ways to improve process efficiency and provide better patient care through the use of technology. We just launched a Direct Access Colonoscopy program, which includes a patient-facing informational website and questionnaire to determine if a screening colonoscopy is appropriate for the patient. It allows the patient to schedule a very important screening test for colon cancer, all from the convenience of any Internet-enabled device. It’s available at www.screen4coloncancer.com. We’re also currently testing a comprehensive, patient-focused self-scheduling portal that will allow patients to schedule an office visit with any of our physicians without requiring a phone call.

What advances in healthcare technology are you excited about right now? What’s on your HIT shopping/wish list?
The current trend of wearables in technology has amazing promise for healthcare. Patients are now wearing devices that monitor vital signs and other data constantly. Tying this data into existing healthcare systems and having the capability to analyze the data for physicians in a meaningful way is very exciting. It is an opportunity to improve patient care in very big ways!


Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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5 Questions with Cara Farooque, Practice Manager, Craft Behavioral Health

April 11, 2017 5 Questions With No Comments

Cara Farooque is practice manager of Craft Behavioral Health in Northeast Florida. The provider of outpatient psychiatric and therapy services employs, in addition to Farooque, one full-time psychiatrist, five part-time psychotherapists and two front-desk staff to care for a highly variable rate of patients. “Our therapists set their own schedule,” Farooque explains, “so some days there are four of them on site in addition to the MD; other times, it is just one. Many of our patients are dependent on public transportation, so weather also has a large impact on our no-show rate. The beginning of the month, when everyone who gets paid on a monthly basis receives their paychecks, is generally quite a bit more busy than the end.”

The practice has spent the last year backing up all of its paper charts and transitioning to Kareo’s EHR and billing platform. “Our clinicians seem pleased so far,” Farooque says, “and the crossover between EHR and billing is seamless. One of our major focuses now is making sure that all patients have follow-up care and remember their follow-up appointments. Culturally, this is sometimes a challenge, as things exist in a ‘here and now’ context rather than in a ‘week from now.’ The automated follow up emails, texts, and calls have made a huge impact on our no-show rate.”

When it comes to federal programs, CBH is in the process of transitioning from Meaningful Use to the Quality Payment Program. Quality measures have already been implemented, as well as some of Advancing Care Information and Improvement activities. A full roll out/transition is expected by April 15.


How has healthcare technology helped to improve patient access and outcomes since the practice launched in 2010?

I am encouraged just by the QPP measures versus the MU Standards. The QPP measures are actually selected by us, and have meaning to us and our practice. Patients can access selected portions of their charts through the patient portal. The reminders have helped improve our no-show rate and helped patients stay compliant with their medication.

Are you encouraged by the increased focus the industry seems to be placing on using health IT to better integrate primary and mental healthcare?

Currently, the industry is focusing on primary care and preventative medicine. With the new leadership and the proposed changes, I’m afraid we may see some drastic changes and people who finally got coverage as a result of ACA are going to be right back where they were before – underserved and uncovered.

What challenges do mental health providers face when it comes to finding and adopting healthcare technology?

Always vetting the security. What exactly does “HIPAA compliant” mean? I read an article recently that basically said “HIPAA Compliant” wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. Everyone claims they’re HIPAA compliant yet no one has a standard definition for it yet.

What advice can you offer other mental health practices when it comes to selecting and implementing healthcare technology?

Do your research, check with other providers, get what you need. Don’t think that because it is a standard EHR it can’t be tailored to fit a mental health practice. It is actually the best that way – you can either develop your own templates or work with the vendor to develop templates to suit your practice. Make sure they meet all documentation guidelines, and then the templates are uniquely yours.

What’s next up on your health IT shopping list? How do you hope that this will benefit your patients and staff?

I would love to upgrade all the computers, with all the scanning, eligibility checks, etc. If they don’t empty their cache several times they need to re-start. Upgrading everything from Win8 to 10. I think the facial recognition and fingerprint scanner would really give us another layer of security on both the patient and staff check-ins. Tablets – I would really like to go totally paperless for increased efficiency, as the form would upload straight into the EHR and we wouldn’t have any paper floating around as a potential HIPAA violation. That’s my wish list.


Jenn, Mr. H, Lorre

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