Article | November 7, 2019

Collaboration Between Providers And Vendors Is Key To Combating Healthcare IT Misinformation

By Dr. Heidi Jannenga, WebPT

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Our current healthcare environment—with its continuously evolving regulations and billing mandates—can be difficult to navigate. Thus, providers often have more questions than answers when it comes to ensuring they’re remaining compliant—and effective. To further compound the issue, many EMR and health tech companies have capitalized on this widespread confusion by using manipulative tactics and fearmongering to sell those providers technology solutions that they don’t even need.

Although we should be ready to accept the strides the government is attempting to make in healthcare with moving toward a more value-based system with programs like the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), it’s imperative that, as a community, we work together to make this shift in a way that’s transparent—and beneficial to all stakeholders. To that end, it’s critical for healthcare IT vendors to operate with integrity. After all, when they take advantage of providers with the sole intent of lining their own pockets, vendors not only create a toxic environment of distrust, but also add to the overall cost of healthcare. On the flipside, when EMR and technology companies seek to actually help providers achieve greatness in practice, everyone benefits.

Misinformation Is More Than Misleading — It’s Destabilizing

Misinformation is one of the biggest hurdles the healthcare community currently faces—and it spreads like wildfire. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of misleading information going around our industry—specifically when it comes to MIPS, a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) program that is part of the industrywide push to deliver more valuable care. In fact, there are healthcare market vendors that spread misinformation out of ignorance about Medicare’s latest reporting initiative—particularly to providers like physical and occupational therapists, who are new to MIPS— and sometimes with the objective of convincing those providers to purchase their products and use their services.

In reality, the American Physical Therapy Association estimates that only 10 percent of physical therapists will meet the 2019 criteria for mandatory MIPS participation. And for those who aren’t mandated to report but choose to opt in, there's a chance the incentive earned won't even cover the cost to collect and submit the data. Because MIPS is a budget-neutral program, the incentive payouts are wholly dependent on the penalties collected from participants who perform poorly—and the more high-performing providers there are, the less incentive each one will receive.

Yet, companies are failing to communicate this critical information, and, in some cases, clearly stating the opposite: insisting that providers should—or even must—participate to earn a “guaranteed” payout and/or remain in Medicare’s good graces. The confusion and inaccuracies surrounding MIPS will not only have financial implications for providers if they get it wrong, but it will diminish the profession as a whole. To this end, advocacy armed with accurate information is vital, especially in today’s healthcare environment where providers rely on their technology partners to help them do their jobs and care for their patients. It’s more critical than ever that vendors and providers collaborate to build strong, mutually beneficial partnerships to improve the industry and best serve all the people in it.

The Key To Identifying The Right Technology Partners Is To Be Informed

In the era of value-based healthcare, there is no room for deceit or siloed agendas—and that holds true for providers and vendors alike. Providers must keep abreast of the regulatory changes happening within the profession as part of their ongoing clinical education. When it comes to choosing technology partners, providers owe it to themselves to be even more discerning, not only to ensure the health of their own bottom line, but also to position themselves as valuable, effective, patient-centered care professionals. So, how can providers navigate misinformation in the healthcare IT field in order to find technology solutions that support value-based healthcare? Here are three strategies to do just that:

1. Scrutinize The Data Behind The Marketing Claims. Vendors will always attempt to present themselves in the best light. Many will provide details on why they are the right choice for you and your work—and some will even up the stakes by feeding you information that may not be true in hopes of pressuring you into buying their services. To protect yourself, your company, and your patients, it’s perfectly acceptable, appropriate, and even expected that you ask them to back up their claims. Ask where they got their information; if their resources aren’t up-to-date or reliable, that should be a red flag. With the pace of healthcare regulatory change, it should be expected that vendors have a dedicated Compliance Officer to keep track of the information as its unfolding.

Ultimately, vendors that use questionable tactics to push providers into a purchase—or those that can’t back up their claims—aren’t going to be the best long-term partners for any practice. Just like any other industry, providers should be voting with your dollars. This is a huge reflection on the vendor’s integrity—and integrity should be a must-have for any company you choose to do business with.

2. Seek Unbiased Reviews And Recommendations From Other Providers. In addition to digging into a potential software partner’s marketing claims, do some research on other providers who are using the same service. If you feel comfortable enough, reach out in person to ask them about their experience as a customer. If that feels a bit out of your comfort zone, scour the internet for online reviews from unbiased sources, such as the 2019 Best in KLAS: Software and Services Report. To develop its reports, KLAS evaluates several software vendors on strengths and weaknesses in the areas of culture, operations, product, relationship, loyalty, and value—and it’s all based on objective feedback from real customers.

Researching credible sources is a critical component to vetting potential technology partners and determining whether they’re a true fit for your practice.

3. Compare Values. Arguably, one of the most important things to consider when entering into a new partnership is whether your values align. Compare your own findings to the values the vendor claims to uphold. Does everything seem to match up? And do the vendor’s true values jibe with your organization’s?

Misalignment of values will wear on the core foundation of your partnership and may even undermine the culture your practice has worked so hard to nurture and maintain. If this component of your relationship disintegrates, it will detract from the overall goal of raising the bar on healthcare standards of practice.

Ultimately, if the healthcare industry remains fragmented and intra-competitive, no one wins. And misinformation remains one of the biggest factors contributing to the destabilization of our industry. We will always encounter change and encourage competition—that is inevitable and fair play. However, if we continue to meet change without honest and open discussion—but rather, with underhanded and self-serving motives—we will have lost not only our integrity, but also the respect and trust of the people we aim to help. Conscious companies know that it’s about rising tides—when the providers and patients win, so do the vendors supporting them.

About The Author

Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC, co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer of WebPT