Universal Precaution Mode – The New Normal?

universal_precaution_modeWe’ve been inundated with information about how an EHR might have failed for the Ebola crisis currently enveloping the nation. In my opinion, EHRs are only as good as the processes and procedures that they are meant to follow. All too often, we blame the technology,  rather than what was the process in place for this event and can we do something to correct it.

Then, we recently found out through an article recently from Healthcare IT News that National Coordinator for Health IT, Karen DeSalvo, MD, is moving into a new position within HHS where she has been drafted to focus on Ebola by Secretary Burwell to serve as Acting Assistant Secretary for Health. The changes within government I’m sure have the healthcare IT provider community concerned with the lack of stability in the National Coordinator position of late.

In being able to develop a plan for containing the spread of this infectious diseases, the ED has become the front line against this war on Ebola. What I have heard healthcare provider IT organizations are working on to prepare for Ebola is associated with screening patients or other individuals that they may have come into contact with who have traveled to one of the West African countries that have been heavily impacted by the Ebola virus.  If the travel screening questions are positive, the EHR triggers a series of BPAs (Best Practice Alerts) associated to symptoms/chief complaints.  If the travel screen and symptoms are met, this triggers a droplet isolation order when Infection Control takes over.

Bear in mind that based on a recent article at Healthcare IT News, 87 percent said their hospital has not provided education specific to Ebola, 33 percent noted insufficient supplies of personal protective equipment such as face shields, goggles, and fluid resistant gowns, nearly 40 percent do not have plans to equip isolation rooms with necessary plastic covered mattresses and pillows and more than 60 percent responded that their hospital lacks a plan for reducing the overall number of patients to make room a patient that needs to be isolated.

If US Healthcare provider organizations had implemented ICD-10 as scheduled, we would also be able to better identify the level of specificity of symptoms that infectious diseases such as Ebola display and would give us better information on the fight against this virus. This, unfortunately did not come to pass. The new normal though will get better. Our organizations have proved this to us with more and more organizations focused on achieving HIMSS Analytics Stage 7 like the 3 organizations we presented awards to on October 24th at the CSO HIMSS Fall Conference in Cincinnati. TriHealth, Mercy Health and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center all received awards for their commitment to the community. A wonderful thing for the community and further proof that provider organizations are focused on getting better, faster and more efficient. An inspirational way to end this post for sure.

On the Doorstep of a Healthcare Analytics Utopia

What is Data Good for?In understanding the vast amounts of data that healthcare organizations have at their fingertips, is to understand the meaning of life! Vast amounts of unused and unfiltered data that is being stored and has been stored since the advent of information technology in healthcare is phenomenal.  Using this data is where the opportunity lies for the future.

Operations and IS&T departments will be asking themselves questions such as “What kind of quality of care is the organization delivering and what is the cost of that quality? What kind of engagement is the patient experiencing and is does that call for a different kind of skill sets that we need to bring in (e.g. a Chief Experience Officer)? What kind of safety protocols do we have and have any of them been compromised in our delivery of care to a patient? How many physicians do we need to enroll in our tap badge enrollment so that we can comply with board of pharmacy regulations?”

These days, we see many organizations outside of healthcare leverage such things as predictive analytics. That and ‘Big Data” seem to be the buzz words of the day for healthcare. To me, making sure that we build the appropriately followed process that is not difficult to follow is the key to any clean and efficient system. Nobody goes into any organization thinking “How complicated can I make this process?”

Healthcare’s “Paradigm Shift” continues to play a large part in why we are now able to analyze and predict patterns than we were in the past. While leveraging the vast amounts of time, money and human resources experience spent on implementation of EMRs, that investment is now expected to pay dividends in understanding the ways that patient populations need to be treated.

During our upcoming Central & Southern Ohio HIMSS event on October 24th, 2014 at The Drake Center in Cincinnati (csohio.himsschapter.org), we will focus on analytics as the core of why all of the implementation and upgrade activities that have taken place over the last few years due to MU1 & 2.

Ultimately, we want to be able to predict, utilizing our billions of dollars of investments, what will be the outcomes of certain procedures and understand what course of action a provider wants to take based on those predictions. These are some of the applications that IBM’s “Watson” was going to focus on and my understanding is that they have been partnering with certain healthcare payer organizations for just this type of thing. Time will tell us whether all of the data that has been accumulated for these predictions pay off. Clean data is required as the predictions are only as good as the underlying data that powers it. The continued stride towards following process and procedure, collaboration and interoperability will be the key in making this analytics utopia a reality.



The Day that could have been. ..One More Year to Go!

Today, would have been the day for ICD-10 Go Live if Congress had not been swayed by the plans of the minority of healthcare providers. Instead, we have (hopefully if someone else doesn’t do the same thing) we are looking at October 1st, 2015 as the new Go Live date.

Be ready. I’m sure many people will start planning mid way through April; 6 months prior to go live. Until then, there will be a build up of managers, analysts and IS teams wondering what their year will be like and what impact ICD 10 will have. Good luck to all of you. You’ll need it!