Digital health & insurance: perfect partners?

The BMA is claiming at their annual conference today that GPs are struggling with workload. Once upon a time, everyone thought digital health alone was one answer to reduce that workload. However until we have better algorithms to sort the signal from the noise, many doctors claim that more data is contributing to the problem rather than solving it. So how to get patients to use digital health data to take more responsibility for their own health? In technical terms, how to raise their patient activation measure (PAM)?

One way of improving the effectiveness of digital health might therefore be to add incentives to become more activated; insurance could provide such an incentive. The Royal Society of Medicine has therefore put together, as a ‘first’, an event on 1st June to explore this combination (disclosure: organised by this editor).

The speakers have been chosen to cover the full spectrum of participants in this field. Beginning with the software, Caty Ebel Bitoun from the Netherlands will describe software she builds to support health insurers, and Justin Lawler from We Savvy in Ireland will describe how that software can be configured to deliver maximum benefit.

Guy Gross will explain how careful segmentation of insured populations by PAMs can substantially reduce (more…)

A diagnosis of why digital health startups die–an old (and new) story

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]For years now, your Editors have championed integration of data and system interoperability–search on these terms and you’ll find a wealth of articles and views. This Editor also included how data is integrated in patient records as the Fifth Big Question (FBQ) in 2012 [TTA 8 Aug 13]. Many digital health companies, not just startups, have failed at the data integration (and security) tasks, whether with EHRs, hubs, billing and practice management systems or with other devices. (Let us not forget that the initial impetus for Continua back in 2007, the US state/regional HIXs and for HL7 now, was to have common data and interchange standards.)

So there’s no real element of surprise here by John Sung Kim’s pleading in TechCrunch re ‘integrating into legacy systems’ and the troubles his own startup DoctorBase encountered in what he tactfully puts ‘political and technical hurdles’ encountered. But then the velvet gloves come off about EHRs and their less-than-scrupulous idea of ‘partnerships’. (more…)

EHRs can’t exchange patient records? $$ in workarounds.

Some of the Excedrin/Panadol Headaches (#11, #14, #23 and #54) in healthcare are around the very ‘miracle technology’ that was supposed to make it all seamless, non-duplicative, time/cost-effective and coast-to-coast–EHRs. The exchange of patient records between hospitals, within health systems between sites and with medical practices plus vice versa–works haltingly if at all. It works best within well-established, highly integrated delivery systems –the VA, DOD, Mayo Clinic, Kaiser, Geisinger, Intermountain Healthcare. But once you’re away from it–good luck. Where are the problems? The closed standards of the major hospital EHRs–Epic, Cerner, Allscripts, McKesson and brethren; the extreme customization most health systems demand (nay, a major Epic selling point!); structured versus unstructured data and how handled; a lack of a secure interoperability standard are but a few. Where is the gold? Getting patient health records exchanged, accessible and transportable, among systems that were essentially designed not to speak with each other. (more…)

Systems sharing data, still behaving badly

A straight-shooting article in Healthcare Technology Online provides a overview of the EHR and Health Information Exchange (HIE) mess in the US. Essentially our major EHR systems (Cerner, McKesson, athenahealth, Greenway, Epic) don’t interchange data well, if at all–and the 600-odd practice EHRs were built on siloed designs, existing software and used proprietary formats, often in a rush to take advantage of Federal subsidy programs in Stage 1 Meaningful Use–as HTO’s EIC Ken Congdon stated, “electronic filing cabinets”–and heavily outsourced. Well, it’s now ‘uh-oh’ time as a key part of Stage 2 MU is interoperability. Basically we now have a set of what this Editor would term ‘paste ons’ and ‘add-ins’ to facilitate data exchange between systems that speak different languages (Editor’s emphasis):

direct protocol (a standards-based method for allowing participants to send authenticated and secure messages via the National Health Information Network), as well as those developed by HL7 (Health Level Seven), a nonprofit global health IT standards organization, provide EHR users with the building blocks for exchanging data. Blue Button, an application developed by the VA that allows patients to download their own health records, is also being adopted and manipulated by EHR vendors and independent developers as a way for providers to exchange data between systems. Moreover, regional and state-run HIEs offer healthcare providers in several parts of the country a network they can join (and technology infrastructure they can leverage) to share health data with other HIE members.

Some systems work well–EHR and pharmacy systems seem to. However, EHR to EHR interfaces are up to the provider and are expensive. Sharing/translation does not mean that all information makes it over without getting ‘bruised’ or having to be reentered manually.  HIEs, acting as a focal point for data exchange, are also generally non-profit; the exchange platforms cost millions to develop and further millions to maintain–and buy-in is low, as the article states. Fixing The EHR Interoperability Mess (free registration may be required)

(Updated 8/7 pm for Editor Donna’s POV) This is what happens when you rush adoption and development processes that should take years in order to gain quick subsidy money, and non-healthcare entities (that is you, the US Government) encouraged this, distorting the process. The private and public waste of scarce healthcare funds is appalling, and the disruption to the healthcare system is unforgivable–especially in practices where doctors and managers in many cases have been sold a bill of goods, and they are revolting by changing EHRs, going back to paper or retiring. And the Government should look to itself first. Look no further than to the multiple failures of two branches of the US government, Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, which have the responsibility for current and veteran members of our Armed Services. They have failed spectacularly in serving Those Who Have Served not only the integration of their two EHRs but also in updating their basic architecture [TTA 27 July ‘Pondering the Squandering’… and 3 Apr ‘Behind the Magic 8 Ball’ both review the sad details.] The belief that HIEs with limited funding will solve the interoperability problem is Magic Thinking. At least one move in this direction makes sense: the CommonWell Alliance of six EHR heavy hitters to work on ‘data liquidity’ [TTA 5 Mar announced at HIMSS], but this may be another ‘uh-oh’ and face saving.

With basic, necessary health and patient information stuck in systems and getting lost in translation, how can anyone rationally expect that personal data from telehealth devices will be integrated anytime soon, in any meaningful way? Does this mean that parallel, separate systems and platforms will continue to develop–and yet another wave of integration?