Guest Column | February 17, 2017

Physicians Maintain Independence By Harnessing The Power Of Clinical And Operational Data From Healthcare IT Ecosystem

Scott Ciccarelli, CEO, SRSsoft

By Scott Ciccarelli, CEO, SRS Health

EHRs used to be document management systems. Now, they are focused on data intelligence. Specialists need help in the new world of value-based care to maintain their independence and stay profitable, and they need the right partners to help them advance patient engagement, achieve better clinical outcomes, and realize operational efficiency.

How will they do it? By harnessing the power of clinical and operational data in their EHR and supporting business applications, working together as a healthcare IT (HCIT) ecosystem. For years, businesses in other sectors — finance, government, and retail for example — have analyzed data to measure overall industry performance. Without metrics to highlight what is driving costs and business prosperity, physician groups cannot understand what needs to change to maximize productivity. It is a common challenge specialty physicians must tackle to improve their bottom line and secure their future.

Unfortunately, physicians typically are not data scientists. However, the next wave of HCIT systems can bring that data science element to specialists and their groups.

Challenges On The Horizon
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), 171,000 physicians who did not collect and use data to comply with government regulations are looking at 3 percent Meaningful Use penalties in 2017. Taken together with the rising tide of value-based care requirements playing a critical role in care and outcomes, these medical groups need to upgrade data tools to comply.

Data focused HCIT solution providers can prepare specialty practices for these coming changes. They help collect and examine data to implement improvements that ensure effective treatment plans at lower costs. In the end, this helps to improve patient health and satisfaction.

Today’s HCIT systems are evolving into business tools that help specialists understand the data and reveal insights to use for better decision making. Popular big-box HCIT systems try to be all things to all providers yet are tailored to hospitals and primary care physicians — many who typically see far fewer patients in a day than specialists. This puts an onerous burden on specialists who need different clinical and operational data to help maximize patient throughput.

Specialists, such as orthopedists, may see up to 60 or more patients a day — some screening for hip and knee replacements, some for follow-ups after surgeries, and others for all the intermediate steps between. Many HCIT systems cannot accommodate this appointment volume with the template-based systems. In fact, those systems make data entry inefficient and do not enhance clinical workflows, let alone track business-critical metrics.

Workflow Makeovers Start With Data Insights

Specialty HCIT systems apply data of all types to help practices learn about and improve their performance. Data can help practices identify clinical protocols that result in the best outcomes for their patients, and then standardize them across their organizations. Operational data can lead to insights, such as understanding how to deliver the best patient care at the lowest cost, thereby delivering optimal outcomes and increased patient satisfaction levels.

EHRs and other HCIT solutions have to be customizable and deliver an outstanding user experience — they cannot be barriers to efficiency. Specialists should take an honest and critical look at their current EHR and determine if it will help them achieve their goals rather than being a workflow roadblock.

Executing On Insights From Actionable Data For A Better 2017

Next-generation HCIT systems can help independent groups maintain their freedom. By blending operational and clinical data, top-performing groups can identify what’s holding them back and creating unnecessary costs. Groups can improve physician and staff productivity by having them adopt best practices in the group, which can result in a healthier bottom line for all.

The shift toward rewarding quality requires the right HCIT system to manage such change. These data systems must do more than simply store the data — they must be usable, flexible, and contain the data most relevant to analyze practice trends. Demands on medical practices have become even steeper, and the main path followed by big-box HCIT vendors geared toward hospital and primary-care practices won’t help specialists reach their goals. When specialists are empowered to take control of the data capture process instead of being held hostage by it; they will become fans of HCIT, not frustrated by it.