News 1/10/13

January 9, 2013 News No Comments

A mere 16 percent of providers met PQRS requirements in 2010, with those using registry reporting systems more likely to receive bonuses than those using claims-based reporting. Researchers from the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute say more physicians will need to improve their documentation and reporting practices in order to meet PQRS requirements and avoid lower Medicare reimbursements in 2015.

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Prospira PainCare selects athenahealth’s PM/EHR as the standard platform for its network of pain management physicians and rehab specialists.

The Family Health Care Clinic, an FQHC in Pearl, MS, selects McKesson Revenue Management Solutions for billing and A/R management services.

Demand for CRNAs, midwives, NPs, and PAs continues to rise, with medical groups reporting a 17 percent increase in these positions over the last 12 months.Two-thirds of organizations say salaries for advanced practice clinicians (APCs)have risen over the last year and 53 percent intend to increase their APC workforce in 2013.

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The Chicago HIT-REC selects SA Ignite’s MU Assistant to automate MU reporting and achieve one-click attestation.

More evidence that practices should not skimp on training: a Health Affairs-published study finds that primary care physicians receiving sustained and extensive technical assistance were more likely to demonstrate improvement on measures of care.

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Advanced Data Systems and EyeMD EMR Health Systems integrate the MedicsPremier PM system with EyeMD EMR.

MTBC announces an upgrade program for Allscripts MyWay users and resellers that includes free data migration, implementation, and training costs for practices adopting MTBC’s ChartsPro EHR or the Practice Pro EHR/PM/RCM platform.

Something new to your right: a Tweet box that includes live Twitter updates from HIStalk Practice sponsors. The feed  includes links to a plethora of interesting and relevant HIT information so a big thank you to sponsors for providing the great content. Speaking of sponsors, when is the last time you checked out details on a new product and service? By click on a few of our sponsors’ ads you will be instantly linked to a vast world of HIT offerings. Who knows, you might happen upon something you really need. If nothing else, you are bound to impress uninformed co-workers with your vast industry knowledge.

The former owners of a billing service and physicians from four pathology groups agree to pay the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office $140,000 to settle allegations that they improperly disposed of thousands of medical records found in a public dump.

MDLIVE adds 2,300 ER, internal medicine, and pediatric specialists to its telemedicine network as part of a new partnership with ECI Healthcare Partners Telehealth.

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News 1/8/13

January 7, 2013 News No Comments

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Athenahealth announces plants to buy Epocrates for $293 million in cash, which represents a 22 percent premium over the January 4 closing price.  Athenahealth views the acquisition an opportunity to increase its name recognition among the 340,000 physician users of Epocrates. CEO Jonathan Bush took to the airwaves Monday to discuss the purchase.

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Passport Health Communications acquires California-based Data Systems Group, a provider of revenue cycle software solutions.

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The 25-provider Orthopedic Associates of Dutchess County (NY) implements Sectra’s PACS.

Physician recruiters say job opportunities for physicians will be more plentiful and varied in 2013 and hospitals and groups will offer bigger incentives to entice prospective candidates. One reason for the increased demand: physicians are seeing 17 percent fewer patients than they were five years ago and working about six percent fewer hours.

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The AMA and about 40 national physician organizations urge CMS to stop the implementation of the ICD-10 code set for outpatient diagnosis coding, saying the burden of the transition “will force many physicians in small practices out of business.” AMA estimates the move to ICD-10 will cost physicians between $83,290 and more than $2.7 million, depending on practice size.

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Medline’s 1,100-member sales force will co-market NextGen Healthcare solutions to Medline’s customer base of physician practices and hospitals.

The Office of the Actuary at CMS estimates 2011 healthcare spending grew at 3.9 percent in 2011, which is identical to the spending growth rates for 2009 and 2010. The growth in personal healthcare spending was largely driven by increased utilization of healthcare goods and services.

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News 1/3/13

January 2, 2013 News 3 Comments

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PE firm Thoma Bravo, LLC, which holds equity in Hyland Software and Mediware, invests an undisclosed sum in SRS Software.

Athenahealth reports that it will deliver 30 percent revenue growth for 2012, also stating that it added as many providers to its network in Q3 than in all of 2011.

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Pain Clinic of Northwest Florida files a lawsuit against Allscripts, claiming the company misled it about the quality and functionality of MyWay. The complaint sounds a bit over the top at times, saying that MyWay “never worked well” and that instead of confessing its “shortcomings and inherent defects,” Allscripts “concocted a story that it decided to discontinue MyWay” to encourage customers to upgrade to the more complicated Allscripts Professional. The clinic seeks to have its suit certified for class action.

Providers are feeling increased pressure to engage patients at deeper levels because of the urgency surrounding Meaningful Use and accountable care, according to a KLAS report on patient portals. Provides most often select patient portals based on convenience and vendor relationships. Third-party portal vendors earning strong satisfaction scores include Jardogs, RelayHealth, and Intuit.

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Galen Healthcare Solutions releases eNotify, a plug-in for Allscripts Enterprise EHR that sends providers EHR task updates directly to any PC or smartphone.

The eight-provider Family Practice Care (MI) chooses iPatientCare EHR.

Congress averts the fiscal cliff and a 26.5 percent Medicare pay cut for physicians, though several professional healthcare organizations chastise Congress for not enacting a permanent fix. AMA President Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD notes that the patch “alleviates the problem,” but urges Congress to fix the problem permanently:

“This last-minute action on the part of Congress is a clear example of how the Medicare program is increasingly unreliable for physicians and patients. This instability stalls progress in moving Medicare toward new health care delivery models that can improve value for patients through better care coordination. Physicians want to work with Congress to move past this ongoing crisis and toward a Medicare program that ensures access to care and the best health outcomes for patients and a stable, rewarding practice environment for physicians.”

Nuesoft publishes a parody video highlighting the ICD-10 code set and some of the more interesting new codes.

We are accepting nominations for the annual HISsie Awards, so take a moment to let us know who and what should be on the ballot. Some of my favorite categories include the industry figure with whom you’d most like to share a beer; smartest and stupidest vendor moves; and industry figure most deserving of a pie in the face. Nominations accepted here.

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From the Consultant’s Corner 1/1/13

December 31, 2012 News No Comments

The Election is Over. Now What?

With the reelection of President Obama following on the heels of last summer’s Supreme Court decision, it’s clear to me that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and all its ramifications are here to stay. In my opinion, physician practices can no longer delay; they must figure out how to successfully navigate the numerous changes coming to healthcare.

For one thing, reimbursement levels will continue to decline. As politicians hash out how the country will avoid the “fiscal cliff”—a collection of drastic tax increases and spending cuts slated for January 2013— I think the topic of cutting Medicare and Medicaid funding is sure to come up. And history tells us that when public programs reduce reimbursement, private payers follow suit.

In addition, the whole manner in which physician practices get paid is changing. In chatting with many of my clients, I can see that the fee-for-service reimbursement model is quickly fading as outcomes-based programs, such as pay-for-performance, value-based reimbursement, accountable care, and the like gain more popularity. With these new models, I think small practices will be forced to take on more risk and assume responsibility for larger patient populations. This will certainly be challenging, and many practices will seek partnerships with other practices or hospitals to become part of a larger entity that’s better able to absorb increased risk.

I also believe that patient access is going to be an issue to contend with, as the number of patients with insurance increases. Patients will have more choice as to where they want to receive their medical care, which I believe will drive up competition. Small practices will need to expand access and gear up marketing efforts to hold on to their current patients, and perhaps seek out new markets in which to grow the business.

One common element associated with all of these coming trends is the need for accurate and comprehensive data. For example, in order to receive full reimbursement, I think practices will need detailed information to demonstrate the quality of care they provide. If I ran a practice, I would also want to leverage data to identify areas where cost reductions and efficiencies could be gained—not to mention enhancements to patient care.

To ensure data availability, I have noticed many practices already starting to eye their current IT systems to see whether they’re able to support the necessary information sharing and transparency for the post-ACA world. A lot of my clients are starting to shift their focus from having multiple “best in breed” systems that handle different aspects of the practice (e.g., medical records, billing, practice management) to having an integrated IT platform.

At the end of the day, I think practices need to take a strategic approach to IT selection and look beyond just the costs of a system, examining how the technology will prepare the practice for a future that depends on data. I feel it would be wise for practices to think about how an integrated IT system might support better coding, greater efficiency, reduced liability, improved quality and enhanced safety. All these things can further reduce costs and help the practice thrive long-term.

Although the future is not certain, things are much clearer than they were before last month. If I were to make one recommendation for the coming year, I would suggest that practices start thinking strategically about how best to leverage technology to realize a successful future.

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Jeff Wasserman is VP of strategy and executive leadership services for Culbert Healthcare Solutions of Woburn, MA.

DOCtalk by Dr. Gregg 12/28/12

December 28, 2012 News No Comments

An EHR in Every Pot?

As 2012 — the second full year of Meaningful Use — winds down, perhaps a little reflection on the whole drive toward digital data from the “grunt in the trenches” perspective is in order. (Well, if not ordered, at least I’ll try to keep from being disordered.)

If you saw any of or heard much about the recent ONC 2012 Annual Cheerfest … er … Meeting, you know that lots of people across all parts of healthcare’s realm have been busily adopting and implementing and cashing in MU checks. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan. I’m not knocking the whole hoopla that ONC orchestrated to showcase the progress that MU incentives have helped drive forward. The meeting was a bit cheerleader-ish, sure, but with so many folks questioning what has come from this enormous investiture, it was probably warranted as a “team” rally, as a way to spotlight what has come forth from all the HITECH seeds that have been sown.

Healthcare appears to have crossed the tipping point for digitization. And, there is a fair case to be made that MU incentivization was one of the prime successful drivers pushing us over that peak. Lots of people – from providers to vendors to political appointees – are cheering all the way to the literal or figurative bank about this fact.

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However, not everyone is rooting “Rah, Rah” for EHRs, especially not in the small grunt trenches. Recent numbers have shown that the drive toward digital has been prompting a provider exodus from private and smaller independent practices. Regulations and costs, many related to HIT adoption, are being blamed as primary causes for the 57 percent to 39 percent decline in the number of docs in private practice over the past 12 years.

Of course, there are still a number of providers out there who are refusing to let go of pen and paper. Many of them are nearing the end of their careers and the daunting challenge of transitioning from decades of ingrained workflow habits just doesn’t make sense. (Personally, I get that. Those folks should be allowed to finish their careers in pressed wood pulp peace.)

But there is also a reversal of sentiments for some as regards EHRs and MU incentivization. Providers may be buying EHR systems, but driving through to MU is another matter. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has noted that while attestation for MU has risen dramatically this year, the gap between registration and attestation is significant. By October 2012, of the 225,000 Medicare EPs registered, only some 88,000 had pushed through to attestation. Jason Mitchell, MD, assistant director of the Center for Health IT at the AAFP, says that many family docs have stopped trying to obtain MU incentives “because the hoops they have to jump through are so onerous."

And then, there’s the recent tale I read of a group practice that had gone fully digital only to drop the stylus and revert to pen and paper. They felt their professional satisfaction and provider-patient relationships were far better off without a computer intermediary. (I’ve searched high and low to find the link to this recent story, but have lost it – sorry. If you know of it, I’d love to have you forward the URL.)

While a short term “we can practice better and feel better about how we practice” sentiment can be attained by staying with or reverting to paper and pen, I think this is short-sighted and selfish. Mountains of paper, with often illegible data, obstruct the advance of healthcare knowledge and insights. Going digital is essential if we, as a health system whole, want to improve the healthcare system for all.

Many of you who read the HIStalk family of web pages are more “big guy” oriented as vendors, medical institution affiliates, or larger group practice members. Sometimes when I read HIT blogs and news, there almost appears to be a single-mindedness about EHRs and MU attainment that encompasses large- and medium-sized provider groups. The little guys don’t seem to be nearly so well considered. Maybe that’s because it’s easier to consider the larger organizations because, overall, that space is easier to address. Going digital is never easy, but it is definitely more doable en masse.

But remember, there’s still a large portion of healthcare being delivered by small, independent providers, and these folks are finding the EHR parade and MU bandwagon difficult to join. The stressors are driving some away from independence, some away from digital, and some — though they are going digital — are forgoing the incentives to MU.

Personally, I don’t want to see all the small practices subsumed by ACOs or every provider owned by a health system conglomerate. I believe there’s value in the variation and that some care is better handled outside of a corporate structure. And I believe all of us will be best served once everyone can truly share health data. That is when there will be true meaningful use, incentivized or not.

But the little guys need better solutions, solutions that fit their situations and that aren’t just trimmed down versions or barebones models of systems designed for bigger players. I’m not just talking HIT solutions. They need easier entry to the EHR world and fewer hoops through which they must jump.

Will there eventually be an EHR in every pot, so to speak? Yes. Not yet, but it will happen. I just hope it happens before too much backlash and too much frustration drives to extinction the small, independent provider practices. The care they provide is valuable to many, many folks who enjoy the more intimate setting and services they provide.

From the trenches…

“…Put the proverbial ‘chicken in every pot.’ And a car in every backyard, to boot.” – Republican National Committee advertisement, 1928 (Herbert Hoover never actually made such a promise, though he often receives attribution.)

Dr. Gregg Alexander, a grunt in the trenches pediatrician at Madison Pediatrics, is Chief Medical Officer for Health Nuts Media, an HIT and marketing consultant, and sits on the board of directors of the Ohio Health Information Partnership (OHIP).

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