EMR and HIPAA

October-29-2014

19:04

CCHIT announced that it was ending 10 years of service.

Today, the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) announced that it is winding down all operations beginning immediately. All customers and business colleagues have been notified, CCHIT staff is assisting in transitions, and all work will be ended by November 14, 2014.

Alisa Ray made these comments in the announcement:

“We are concluding our operations with pride in what has been accomplished”, said Alisa Ray, CCHIT executive director. “For the past decade CCHIT has been the leader in certification services, supported by our loyal volunteers, the contribution of our boards of trustees and commissioners, and our dedicated staff. We have worked effectively in the private and public sectors to advance our mission of accelerating the adoption of robust, interoperable health information technology. We have served hundreds of health IT developers and provided valuable education to our healthcare provider stakeholders.”

“Though CCHIT attained self-sustainability as a private independent certification body and continued to thrive as an authorized ONC testing and certification body, the slowing of the pace of ONC 2014 Edition certification and the unreliable timing of future federal health IT program requirements made program and business planning for new services uncertain. CCHIT’s trustees decided that, in the current environment, operations should be carefully brought to a close”, said Ray.

The announcement also said that CCHIT would be donating its remaining assets to the HIMSS Foundation. Makes sense since HIMSS kind of gave them a partial home the past few months as they tried to save the jobs of the many who worked at CCHIT. Credit should go to Alisa Ray for all she did to try and give those who worked at CCHIT a soft landing.

Long, long time readers of this blog will remember my long blog posts talking about CCHIT and the lack of value that they provided the EHR industry. I believed then and even now that EHR certification was more of a tax on the industry than it was something that provided value to the market. They told me it provided some assurance to the purchaser of the EHR, but I never saw such assurances.

Once EHR certification was made part of meaningful use and the HITECH act, it basically made CCHIT irrelevant. Although, I still think that EHR certification in its current state doesn’t provide value to organizations and I’d love to see it go away. Sadly, there’s some legislation which is pushing the opposite direction.

While I disagreed with CCHIT’s approach to EHR certification and the value they provided, I do think there were good people who worked there that had good intentions even if we disagreed on the approach. I hope they all land somewhere great.

October-28-2014

12:27

I recently sat down with Walter Houlihan, Director of Health and Information Management and Clinical Documentation at Baystate Health, and Steve Bonney, EVP of Business Development and Strategy at RecordsOne to talk about the CDI (Clinical Documentation Improvement) program at Baystate Health. In the video below Walter and Steve talk about the savings that Baystate Health has received from their CDI program including how Walter has used dashboards, metrics and quality to convince senior management to increase Walter’s CDI staff from 4 FTEs to 10 FTEs so that they can review 100% of patients.

Steve and Walter also talk about how they use technology to make those 10 employees more efficient and make it possible for their CDI employees to work remotely.

How is your CDI program working? What technology are you using to make your CDI efforts more efficient? Have you had the success that Walter has had getting buy in from senior management?

October-27-2014

19:50

Everywhere I turn I’m reading articles and tweets that talk about the shift of healthcare towards the patient. All the EHR vendors are touting various patient focused features. Supposedly, a new engaged patient is getting involved in their healthcare and doctors are having to focus much more on the patient that they’ve ever done before. The drum beat of patient focus is being beat in so many places.

Is this really happening or is this just the topic du jour?

Some might argue that things like meaningful use’s patient engagement requirements are pushing this movement forward. However, those who have worked to meet those requirements know very well that meeting the meaningful use patient engagement measures doesn’t look very much like true patient engagement. The concept was interesting, but the actual implementation leaves a lot to be desired.

I have recently seen some patients start to care a little bit more about their health than they did before. This is driven largely by the high deductible plans. It’s amazing how getting people to pay for their care will change their attitude. Although, even then it hasn’t made people want to care about their healthcare. It’s just made them more informed on the price of the healthcare they receive.

Has the healthcare system really turned towards the patient? Are we any more focused on the patient now than we’ve ever been before? I don’t think we are. For all the talk, I haven’t seen much action and I can’t think of something that’s really going to dramatically change things.

I’d love to hear if people disagree. Do you see a shift of focus towards the patient? Have we always been focused on the patient, and so it’s not really a shift at all? Are there things we should be doing to encourage a shift to the patient?

October-24-2014

14:00

It’s been a tumultuous few months for ONC and it’s just gotten even more tumultuous. We previously reported about the departures of Doug Fridsma MD, ONC’s Chief Science Officer, Joy Pritts, the first Chief Privacy Officer at ONC, and Lygeia Ricciardi, Director of the Office of Consumer eHealth, and Judy Murphy, Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) from ONC. Yesterday, the news dropped that Karen DeSalvo, ONC’s National Coordinator, and Jacob Reider, ONC’s Deputy National Coordinator, are both leaving ONC as well.

Karen DeSalvo has been tapped by HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Wanda K. Jones as assistant secretary of health which oversees the surgeon general’s office and will be working on Ebola and other pressing health issues. I think DeSalvo’s letter to staff describes it well:

As you know, I have deep roots and a belief in public health and its critical value in assuring the health of everyone, not only in crisis, but every day, and I am honored to be asked to step in to serve.

DeSalvo’s always been a major public health advocate and that’s where her passion lies. Her passion isn’t healthcare technology. So, this change isn’t surprising. Although, it is a little surprising that it comes only 10 months into her time at ONC.

The obvious choice as Acting National Coordinator would have been Jacob Reider who was previously Acting National Coordinator when Farzad Mostashari left. However, Reider also announced his decision to leave ONC:

In light of the events that led to Karen’s announcement today–it’s appropriate now to be clear about my plans, as well. With Jon White and Andy Gettinger on board, and a search for a new Deputy National Coordinator well underway, I am pleased that much of this has now fallen into place–with only a few loose ends yet to be completed. I’ll remain at ONC until late November, working closely with Lisa as she assumes her role as Acting National Coordinator.

As Reider mentions, Lisa Lewis who is currently ONC’s COO will be serving as Acting National Coordinator at ONC.

What’s All This Mean?
There’s a lot of speculation as to why all of these departures are happening at ONC. Many people believe that ONC is a sinking ship and people are doing everything they can to get off the ship before it sinks completely. Others have suggested that these people see an opportunity to make a lot more money working for a company. The government certainly doesn’t pay market wages for the skills these people have. Plus, their connections and experience at ONC give them some unique qualifications that many companies are willing to pay to get. Some have suggested that the meaningful use work is mostly done and so these people want to move on to something new.

My guess is that it’s a mix of all of these things. It’s always hard to make broad generalizations about topics like this. For example, I already alluded to the fact that I think Karen DeSalvo saw an opportunity to move to a position that was more in line with her passions. Hard to fault someone for making that move. We’d all do the same.

What is really unclear is the future of ONC. They still have a few years of meaningful use which they’ll have to administer including the EHR penalties which could carry meaningful use forward for even longer than just a few years. I expect ONC will still have money to work on things like interoperability. We’ll see if ONC can put together the patient safety initiative they started or if that will get shut down because it’s outside their jurisdiction.

Beyond those things, what’s the future of ONC?

October-23-2014

17:48

If a picture is worth a thousands words, the above picture is worth about 10,000. I think this picture is best summed up by saying that the medical device industry is a heavily regulated industry. You can see why EHR vendors don’t want to be regulated by the FDA. It would get pretty crazy.

This image also illustrates to me why a company that’s built an FDA or medical device compliance capability has something of real value. Navigating the process is not easy and it helps if you’ve been there and done it before.

As to Dr. Wen’s comment on the tweet. There are a lot of challenges when it comes to medical device security. Definitely no antivirus and many are running on old operating systems that can’t be updated. We’re going to have to put some serious thought into how to solve problems like these in future medical devices.

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