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Written by Madelyn Young from CareCloud

“Software vendors are just not playing well in the sandbox together.”

That point was recently posited by SearchHealthIT writer Don Fluckinger in a post that asked a very timely question on the state of the healthcare information technology industry: “Are HIT Vendors Selfish?”

The answer seems to be a resounding “Yes.”

It’s becoming clearer every day that healthcare needs to be a connected industry. The future of healthcare must be one in which the sharing of health information is secure and streamlined. That means whether data is shared from a nurse to a patient, from a primary care doctor to a specialist, or from the system of one HIT vendor to that of another, the process should be seamless.

Exchanging healthcare data or medical billing information in today’s healthcare environment, though, can be a huge challenge, thanks to the pervasive lack of interoperability among most of the major IT players in the industry.

Technology exists that can easily connect medical establishments to one another online, enabling secure communication and data exchange, but many healthcare IT vendors are slow to adopt it.

Despite remarkable advances in cloud computing, most HIT vendors are continuing to rely on the outdated client-server software model and failing to develop more advanced platforms that are capable of interacting with outside systems.

The medical industry wastes over $700 billion annually on avoidable, identifiable issues like administrative inefficiency, lack of coordination, unnecessary care and provider errors. Outdated technology and non-interoperable systems contribute significantly to that total by making the exchange of digital patient data an unnecessarily difficult and slow process.

Despite the fact that 57 percent of office-based physicians use an EHR or EMR system, the fact remains that in this age when you can easily do everything from buy your movie tickets to file your taxes online, medical chart transfer requests are still usually handled via fax machine and snail mail.

HIT non-interoperability is largely the reason for that. So why are vendors refusing to cooperate?

“In the health care IT world there is a perception – an incorrect one – that the key to profitability and long-term relevance is a hoarding of information, despite the open-source economy that grows exponentially each day,” wrote Jonathon Scott Feit, MBA, MA, the co-founder and CEO of Beyond Lucid Technologies, in a piece on Forbes.

Simply put, established HIT vendors have long-believed that growing to a large client base and becoming the technological “owner” of each of their customers’ data strengthens their position in the market.

That exclusivity-focused position is shortsighted, since the technology existing to serve the healthcare industry is advancing at a rapid pace. Try as legacy vendors have to “corner” the market, consumers and analysts recognize that connectivity and collaboration are critical to the future of the practice of medicine.

By keeping their data siloed and failing to engage in interoperable information exchange with other vendors, the client-server players in the market are causing mass inconvenience and administrative spending to clog up the overall healthcare system.

This is one of many reasons that a modern, up-to-date system that operates in the cloud and is designed for data exchange can better serve the evolving needs of a twenty-first century medical practice.

The core of the CareCloud philosophy is to connect healthcare, so our solutions were created to work together as a complete digital ecosystem, but were also developed with the ability to integrate with the products and services of other IT vendors. The CareCloud Central practice management system, for example, can interface with specialty-specific EHRs to easily manage patient data at every step of the claim process from scheduling to collections.

This interoperability is one reason CareCloud’s services are available “a la carte” via software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. Practices can choose to go on the CareCloud platform at the level they need – whether for appointment and patient administration, for electronic health records, or for full back-office revenue cycle management outsourcing – without losing connectedness to their other systems.

As more and more Meaningful Use dollars are doled out, healthcare providers are continually faced with the choice to contract with the most advanced technological systems to best serve their practices or invest in outdated technology that isolates their data.

As Jonathon Scott Feit put it in Forbes, “When companies realize that there is more money to be made in solving problems than building firewalls, health care information will flow like honey, and the cost to access vital data will drop.”

Until the old-school vendors accept an interoperable future, a cloud-based system with the capability for data exchange will be the most financially sound, connected choice for clinicians, their businesses, and their patents.

About CareCloud:

CareCloud’s mission is to create a digital ecosystem by leveraging cutting-edge technology to connect a disjointed healthcare industry and, ultimately, to improve the healthcare experience for patients, providers and healthcare professionals. We’re disrupting the status quo and giving medical practices sleek, easy-to-use software solutions to increase profitability and productivity.

Our web-based software represents a new standard in medical practice management that focuses on enhancing the user experience – a drastic improvement over the inefficient, overpriced, outdated and complicated technology traditionally sold by legacy software vendors. There is a better way to handle healthcare IT, and CareCloud delivers it.

 This second part interview podcast, HIT Consultant speaks with Cameron Deemer, President at Dr First provides an overview of their several offerings as part of their integrated HIT platform. This is part 2  of a 3 part podcast series with Cameron Deemer. Part 2 Key highlights include:

  • Medication Reconciliation overview
  • Patient Innovations overview
  • EPCS Gold 2.0 Overview
  • Partnership with EHR Advisor
  • Interoperability vs. Fragmentation in the HIT Industry

LISTEN NOW USING THE PLAYER BELOW OR CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD PODCAST   This podcast is also available at our iTunes store to listen/download HIT Consultant Podcast

Don’t have iTunes, click HERE to listen and download previous podcasts

About Cameron Deemer:  As President of DrFirst, Mr. Deemer is responsible for driving the development, strategy and management of the company towards exponential growth and success. Mr. Deemer brings more than 12 years of healthcare industry experience to this position. He joined DrFirst in 2005 as the Director of Product Management and most recently served as the Senior Vice President and General Manager, where he managed the company’s tactical operations. Since joining DrFirst, Mr. Deemer has played an instrumental role in formalizing and driving improved business processes, while developing new technology strategies to leverage the benefits of e-prescribing for payers, hospitals, and health systems. He has also been a strong proponent of promoting interoperability in the eHealthcare industry by sharing prescription data between disparate systems. Prior to joining DrFirst in 2005, Mr. Deemer was Assistant Vice President of Product Management for PCS Health Systems/AdvancePCS and also led the e-prescribing and practice management product strategy for NDCHealth/Per Se (currently the RelayHealth division of McKesson).

The following is a guest post from Jane Sarasohn-Kahn’s Health Populi blog reflecting her thoughts on last week’s HIMSS12: The record attendance at HIMSS12, in terms of both attendees (numbering some 38,000) and exhibitors, illustrated just how hot health information technology has become in the 20 years since I first began attending this meeting — when it was only a few thousand hospital computer geeks and materials managers picking up pocket protectors and calculators from vendors. At this year’s conference, the major concerns were when Stage 2 meaningful use details would be revealed. HIMSS communications leadership in the press room thought it would be Tuesday, then Wednesday. Finally, it was Thursday the 23rd of February when Farzad Mostashari, National Coordinator for Health IT at the Department of Health and Human Services, said to a press conference of HIT reporters that the regs were, “At the Federal Register; they are having formatting issues….(the regs) are going to get promoted; I think people should just chill.” Chill? The questions surrounding what would be included, downplayed, or enhanced for Stage 2 was a main topic of conversation all week at HIMSS. Of course, business was transacted without these details as the heavy lifting (or implementing, as it were) continues on adopting electronic health records and using them in ways that will ensure providers win their fair share of incentives flowing from the HITECH Act included in the stimulus bill (ARRA). EHRs alone won’t bend the national health care cost curve or improve population health. To get to those grand goals will require connectivity and Big Data, and these were two major themes at HIMSS 2012. We used to talk about “interoperability” in the David Brailer days of the Office of the National Coordinator. In 2012, it’s about connectivity, based on the PR and market positioning of dozens of large HIT vendors who are trying to walk the talk of openness and iPod-like platforms for plugging in heterogeneous applications. Connectivity then enables data bits and bytes to move through the health ecosystem, beyond a single institution through the cloud — and it was cloudy all over the HIMSS convention floor, both among large Big Iron vendors as well as the smaller up-starts who are providing some of the more novel and nimble applications that can help physician practices move from “here” to “there” in getting to meaningful use and connectivity. Big Data and data analytics are also important news at HIMSS 2012 as we move from fee-for-services payment (outside of Kaiser, Group Health, Geisinger and VA) toward paying for performance, outcome and value. To do so requires real-time utilization management — the ability to identify people before they get too far downstream as high-cost high-risk patients. But patient care isn’t a one-way street: patient engagement can help get people more involved, responsible and active in their own care — and that’s when outcomes improve and costs (year on year) fall in aggregate. In meaningful use Stage 1, patient engagement is prominently featured. Thus, patient portals were all over the HIMSS convention floor. They came in a broad range of look-and-feel, but most that I kicked tires on weren’t as well designed as I would have liked. We are in the nascent era of patient portals, with miles to go to get to something remotely engaging. Only the most activated patients would cotton onto the portals I viewed. I respect the hard work that’s gone into the dozen+ I dove into…and offered constructive comments to every vendor with whom I met. I am no patient portal maven — after all, we’re in the First Phase of such tools — but I’ve been schooled at the foot of Edward Tufte, Juhan Sonin, Michael Graves, and Ikea ; )  As Sonin told attendees of his talk on health IT and design, “software is a visual medium.” And so many portals’ pages looked like literal photocopies of medical forms — without videos, engaging graphics, or gamification. Still, this phase of patient engagement is about availability and access to data — this is a journey, not a destination, I tell myself. But innovative design clearly is prescribed for the patient portal, v2. In the “that’s what I’m talking about” vein, check out Tonic Health for its fresh approach to patient-centered design and engagement. What’s promising on the patient engagement front are the many applications available to people at-home via remote monitoring and on-the-go via mobile applications. This year at HIMSS, the Qualcomm Life and 2net hub included many patient-facing tools from HelloHealth, Asthmapolis, AirStrip, and iSonea, among 40 such offerings.  This section of the conference was a nice bridge from the Consumer Electronics Show to the B2B meeting that is HIMSS. I was very happy to see it as health engagement is critical to optimal patient outcomes. With accountable care payment regimes, these tools will be useful complements to inpatient and ambulatory care — keeping patients healthy on-the-go, and safe and well at home to stem readmissions to hospital. Remote devices and patient engagement are addressed in Eric Topol’s important book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine, which I read enroute to/from Vegas. Every attendee at HIMSS should have been given a copy at check-in. Health Populi’s Hot Points:  I find the lyrics from Elvis’s iconic song, Viva Las Vegas, to reflect my post-HIMSS 2012 reflections: Demonstrating meaningful use to earn Stage 1/2 incentives: Bright light city gonna set my soul Gonna set my soul on fire Got a whole lot of money that’s ready to burn, So get those stakes up higher The hard work ahead How I wish that there were more Than the twenty-four hours in the day ‘Cause even if there were forty more I wouldn’t sleep a minute away The risk and opportunity cost Oh, there’s black jack and poker and the roulette wheel A fortune won and lost on ev’ry deal All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel How I wish that there were more Than the twenty-four hours in the day ‘Cause even if there were forty more I wouldn’t sleep a minute away Oh, there’s black jack and poker and the roulette wheel A fortune won and lost on ev’ry deal All you need’s a strong heart and a nerve of steel Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas. Health care in the U.S. is at a crossroads. HIMSS being sited in Vegas provided a sobering lens about where health IT in the US could go: if momentum drives adoption, meaningful use, and data analytics that can inform care decisions in real-time getting patients the right care at the right time, then we say, in Todd Park style, “Viva health IT!” If, on the other hand, the scenario turns out to be a growing chasm between the health care provider “have’s” and “have not’s” (especially community physicians), then the nation will have placed a bet, and lost. And that will not be so much about a few billion dollars; that will be the opportunity cost of moving America’s public health outcomes into a leading place on the league table of other OECD nations. Next year, HIMSS will be hosted in New Orleans — two years in a row in cities that tout good times, not so much Healthy Cities milieus. While no one likes to laissez les bons temps roulezmore than me, I wonder if that’s what we’ll feel like doing reflecting over the 2012-13 year of HIT implementation. Here’s hoping we’ll toast to progress… View Jane’s column titled, “From Volume to Value: Connectivity, Big Data and Sustainability Shape HIMSS12" at iHealthBeat that was published today here:http://www.ihealthbeat.org/perspectives/2012/from-volume-to-value-connectivity-big-data-and-sustainability-shape-himss12.aspx

About Jane Sarasohn-Kahn:

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn is a health economist and management consultant that serves clients at the intersection of health and technology. Her clients include all stakeholders in health, including providers, payors and plans; companies in biopharma, medical devices, financial services, technology and consumer goods; non-profits and NGOs. Jane’s lens on health is best-defined by the World Health Organization: health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Please visit her blog at:http://healthpopuli.com/ Twitter:http://twitter.com/#!/healthythinker