Annual IHIT Report: The Voice of Healthcare IT in Georgia

A comprehensive look at the top challenges facing Georgia’s hospitals, physician practices and healthcare IT vendors.

Each year, the Institute for Health Information Technology™ (IHIT) — an independent, non-profit organization focused on advancing the needs of Georgia’s healthcare IT community — conducts an industry survey to document the latest healthcare IT issues that are impacting our citizens, care providers and businesses.

Consistent with previous annual reports, IHIT commissioned Porter Research to conduct the online survey.  Porter received feedback from qualified healthcare professionals, including clinicians, nurses, doctors, administrators, as well as IT experts, such as business leaders and computer programmers.

Key Findings & Common Ground

While each group may have reported slightly different priorities in terms of market conditions and key challenges, there was much common ground on which hospitals, physicians and vendors can stand, and subsequently work together to drive improvements in Georgia.  To view the top five areas that all respondent groups agreed were important, click the Annual IHIT Report:  The Voice of Healthcare IT in Georgia.

2017 State of the Industry: Technology in Georgia Report

The Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) recently released its eleventh annual State of the Industry: Technology in Georgia Report.  The findings come from a survey of more than 300 in-state technology decision-makers to get their valuable insights and forecasts about Georgia’s technology economy as it relates to talent, capital and innovation.

This year’s survey, led by Porter Research, included sector analysis that also focused on some of Georgia’s leading technology industry clusters, including Healthcare, Communication Services, FinTech, and Digital Media & Entertainment.

In the survey results, participants provided a lot of important information about Georgia’s technology sector, including topics related to capital investments, employment and wage growth, and perceived gaps in talent and skills.

Interactive Data Charts

The 2017 report is partially presented within an interactive format that allows you to select and compare data options in order to create custom charts based upon your preferences.  Click here to access the online key findings charts of the  2017 State of the Industry:  Technology in Georgia Report.

Healthcare Consumerism Study Shows Patients Need Financing Options

Where patient satisfaction was once solely measured from a clinical standpoint, patients now regard the financial side of the house as an important part of the overall experience.  Increasingly, they’re judging and rating their satisfaction with healthcare organizations by the amount of repeat business and referrals they bring.

A study we recently conducted to measure awareness, loyalty and satisfaction with consumer-friendly patient loan programs and the role they play in creating a positive hospital experience for patients reveals some not-so-surprising insights.

The second annual Healthcare Consumerism Study was built on an effective model established in 2015 by the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego State University.  This year, healthcare market specialist Porter Research designed and administered the survey.  In addition, the advice of the CFO from a major health system was also solicited in this year’s study.

The survey was completed by more than 2,700 patients, representing a 78 percent completion rate.  This statistically significant response rate provides the survey data with a 95 percent (+/-2%) confidence rate.

Among respondents, healthcare cost is undeniably a concern:  79 percent say it is a factor when selecting a physician, and 81 percent confirm the same when choosing a healthcare provider.

Relative to their cost concerns, 91 percent of survey respondents regard healthcare as a “big ticket” expense that requires financing or some sort of payment plan of 12 months or more.  In fact, one out of every three consumers would delay care if a loan program wasn’t made available to them.  This is an increase from our 2015 Healthcare Consumerism study, when 26 percent of respondents said they would delay care.  Moreover, the finding compares with a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund, which shows 40 percent of adults with deductibles equal to 5 percent or more of their income said they would not seek care due to cost.  Experience shows that most patients are willing to pay their portion of care.  They just want options to make repayment affordable.

One survey respondent said, “It’s helpful not to have to pay a large, unexpected medical bill all at once.”

Loyalty is an important barometer of future business.  According to The Advisory Board Company, patients who return to a healthcare organization within 18 months generate six times more revenue for that provider.  Making care affordable through a loan program is a clear benefit that will enhance goodwill, loyalty and referrals within a healthcare provider’s consumer and community base.  According to the survey, 90 percent of respondents likely will return to the healthcare provider that offers a loan program, and 88 percent would likely recommend the healthcare provider to friends and family.

“I’m happy there’s a reasonable payment method to manage medical debt versus being turned over to a collection agency,” said a survey respondent.

Each interaction during a patient episode is an opportunity to create a longer-lasting relationship.  It’s important to remember that an episode isn’t solely made up of the patient’s experience inside of the hospital’s four walls.  Your outreach to patients before service and your follow-up for reimbursement are activities that impact their decision to return to your facility in the future.

For more information on consumer-friendly patient loan programs please contact Bruce Haupt, President and CEO, ClearBalance at bhaupt@clearbalance.org or Cynthia Porter, President, Porter Research at cporter@porterresearch.com.

Source: HFMA’s First Illinois Chapter Newsletter, October 2016

Health Plans’ Survival Could Depend on Customer Service

Insurers are facing more pressure than ever to meet customer demands or lose those customers to competitors.

A recent survey, conducted by HealthEdge and Porter Research, of 2,500 health plan members across the U.S. indicated that health plans must quickly tune their offerings and provide service levels that match or exceed members’ expectations.

Consumers expect organizations in their healthcare ecosystem to more effectively communicate with them and supply information and services in a way that is as convenient as their experience in other industries.  For example, 88% of survey respondents said their health plan could be doing a better job of communicating their total financial responsibility.

Additionally, survey respondents indicate that members care in their health plans lag in “tech-savviness”.  More than half, 57%, said their confidence in the health plan’s ability to provide effective coverage and benefits would be adversely affected by the knowledge that outdated technology is being used.

To read the full article, click here at Health Plans’ Survival.

Source:  HealthLeaders Media, October 21, 2016

HIT Workforce Needs for Georgia Hospitals, Healthcare Systems

The Institute for Healthcare Information Technology (IHIT) commissioned Porter Research to conduct a study to get insight from Georgia hospitals and healthcare systems about IT workforce readiness and their unique challenges related to IT job fulfillment.  This most recent study continues to build onto the research performed in 2014:  Georgia Healthcare IT Workforce Readiness Survey and Georgia Healthcare IT & Education Working Together.

This year’s study included reaching out to more than 3,000 key professionals employed at healthcare providers located throughout the State of Georgia to participate in an online survey.  Participants — mainly comprised of C-level executives, administrators/directors and managers — had the opportunity to share information about their organization’s IT budgetary spending & priorities, as well as about their current and future job fulfillment needs, the required education and skills that are sought after, and their job recruitment strategies and challenges.

A couple of the key survey findings include:

•   More than 80% of respondents stated their IT budget will increase over the next five years, with the top priority areas for IT spending being:
– Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)
– Cyber Security
– Medical Device Integration

•   72% of survey participants stated they have up to 50 healthcare IT jobs currently open.  And the overwhelming majority (94%) indicated that they expect to have healthcare IT jobs available in the next one to five years.

•   The most mentioned jobs that are expected to be difficult to fill over the next five years were:
– Informatics
– Security
– Clinical

•   In response to, “How confident are you that your organization will be able to fill your healthcare IT jobs over the next five years?”  Here are the perceptions of the surveyed hospitals and healthcare systems…

Confidence of Filling IT Jobs in Future
42% of respondents have doubts that they will be able to fill these
projected IT positions over the next five years..

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The surveyed hospitals and healthcare systems also had the chance to submit any recommendations that they had about changes the education systems in Georgia need to implement to improve training for the healthcare IT workforce.  To find out what the top workforce recommendations were and to review the complete survey findings, look for the Georgia Healthcare IT Workforce Needs for Healthcare Providers whitepaper that will be available soon on the IHIT website at www.InstituteforHealthcareIT.org

HHS’ ICD-10 Code Deadline Arrives

With the arrival of October 2015 come changes beyond the color of the leaves, as it signifies the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) deadline for hospitals, physician practices, other healthcare providers and payers to have completed the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases, Revision 10) coding systems.  ICD-10 provides more granular coding during a patient’s medical treatment, generating specific data that is expected to improve healthcare delivery.  Benefits of the more advanced coding include the ability to:

  • Develop a more detailed patient history
  • Better coordinate patient care across providers and over time
  • Improve quality measurement and reporting
  • Detect and prevent fraud, waste, and abuse
  • Gain more accurate metrics for Federal or private insurance reimbursement

Additionally, since ICD-10 coding includes more complete information on the medical conditions that providers treat, the level of data capture and analytics is expected to allow for more advanced surveillance of public health and quality reporting on a national scope.

For all of these benefits of implementing a more complete medical coding system, it has been a process fraught with difficulties…particularly for healthcare providers and insurers.  They have had to shoulder most of the financial responsibility for the operational upgrades necessary to be able to track, code, store and share the data-heavy ICD-10 coding system that is required to participate in reimbursement programs.

Porter Research – a Billian Company – has been working with many healthcare organizations over the past few years leading up to the ICD-10 deadline to develop research programs that would provide key metrics of what was taking place in the healthcare marketplace, as providers scrambled to fund and implement these changes within their business model to achieve regulatory compliance.

“I recently attended the AHIMA [American Health Information Management Association]trade show, and there was a lot of optimism going around about the kickoff for ICD-10, and how well things were going,” said Cynthia Porter, president of Porter Research.  “But there’s also the lingering question about what happens if claims don’t get paid in 30 days-time.  I think there is an undercurrent of nervousness about the potential for claims to be denied for some unexpected reason.  In the end, only paid claims will start alleviating the concerns held by healthcare providers and payers.  Training and workflow challenges associated with the ICD-10 transition will continue well past October.”

Navicure, a provider of cloud-based healthcare billing and payment solutions, commissioned Porter Research to conduct a recent national survey of healthcare organizations to gauge their preparedness for the ICD-10 transition.  The August 2015 Healthcare Organization ICD-10 Readiness Survey revealed a mixture of confidence along with apprehension from survey participants, the majority (58%) of whom serve as physician practice administrators or billing managers.  Some key survey findings include:

  • 85% of respondents stated that they are optimistic about ICD-10 preparedness
  • 94% of respondents anticipate an increase in their claims denial rate
  • Over 50% of respondents anticipate a negative impact on their organization’s finances, operations and staff morale as a result of the transition to ICD-10.

“The ICD-10 Readiness Survey that Porter Research conducted helped Navicure understand what was important and needed in the marketplace to meet the HHS deadline.  This insight from key healthcare industry stakeholders allows Navicure to better understand the market realities of what is actually taking place during the transition,” stated Phil Dolan, Navicure’s Chief Marketing Officer.  “Thankfully, it appears that the ICD-10 deadline arrival has been uneventful so far, as we enter into October.  I think this level of preparedness indicates how hard providers and vendors have worked together over the past few years in order to reach this point.”  To view the complete survey key findings and action items, visit survey results

Navicure has been working with healthcare providers to assist them through the ICD-10 transition process, to ensure that their day-to-day business operations avoid unnecessary disruption.  The IT solution company even offers free access to ICD-10 transition tools that include online correction of rejected claims, expanded claim tracking, and ICD-9 to -10 mapping for any payers that turn out to be unprepared for the change.  Navicure’s ICD-10 resource webpage is available at click here

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced earlier this year that non-compliant ICD-10 Medicare claims would be accepted during the 12-month period past the deadline date.  However, this does not extend to Medicaid, BCBS and commercial plans. Additionally, the CMS is working with the American Medical Association (AMA) on a series of proactive initiatives [ For more details, click initiative ] to help physicians and other healthcare providers that are struggling to achieve regulatory compliance.  The two agencies – representing governance and the medical community – realize the need for addressing the individual challenges faced by healthcare providers beyond an inflexible deadline date as the healthcare industry modernizes its coding system nationwide.

Practical Applications of NLP in Healthcare: Enhancing the Value of Electronic Data

Approximately 65 percent of hospitals plan to spend an average of $1.9 million on analytics in 2015, according to a survey conducted by CDW Healthcare. By applying complex algorithms to massive volumes of electronic data, analytics work to lower costs, improve care, predict outcomes, and manage population health. Many experts believe analytics drive the true return on investment of EHR technology.

However, 80 percent of the data that resides in EHRs remains in an unstructured narrative format, making it virtually inaccessible for analytics purposes. Furthermore, healthcare data is spread across multiple hospital systems—disjointed and unintegrated. Disparate systems capture the same information, but in different formats, nomenclatures and terminologies. One multi-hospital health system reported 67 different ways to identify patient gender during a recent data clean-up project.

Faulty, redundant and unstructured information within hospital systems impede the healthcare industry’s progress toward effective, data-driven decision making. This article explores how natural language processing (NLP) is being used to address one of these data disparity issues: unstructured data.

NLP Provides Antidote for Unstructured Data

NLP technology taps into the power of unstructured data. NLP is used within and atop existing systems and technology applications to support better data-driven decision making in five key operational areas: ICD-10 coding, speech recognition, core measure reporting, research/clinical trials, and clinical documentation improvement.

NLP generates key data points from electronic, text-based documents. Once identified by the NLP rules engine, the data points can be analyzed and manipulated in a variety of ways. NLP allows organizations to perform tasks such as case identification, real-time patient monitoring, and data gathering for national quality reporting. Without NLP, traditional data analytics tools simply wouldn’t work with unstructured data.

NLP is also often in the background of more visible technologies that make work easier for physicians, coders, case managers, and many others who rely on clinical data within an organization. For example, computer-assisted coding (CAC) and speech recognition vendors use NLP’s rules and engines as the underpinnings for their applications. Without NLP, these technologies wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

Four Specific Use Cases for NLP

Let’s take a closer look at how organizations are using NLP to get at the heart of clinical data in the EHR.

    1. Create opportunities for clinical documentation improvement (CDI) efficiencies. NLP helps CDI specialists perform comprehensive data mining in a matter of seconds. Instead of reviewing hundreds of cases, CDI specialists use the NLP-generated work list to focus exclusively on cases with identified documentation gaps and improvement opportunities. The ability to automate case finding will become even more critical as organizations improve the granularity of clinical documentation for accurate coding and billing under ICD-10.This data-driven workflow improves query rates and overall efficiency, and it allows CDI specialists to focus on fixing documentation rather than searching for certain diagnoses. Greater efficiency, in turn, improves financial outcomes through increased review rates.

 

    1. Expedite patient identification for clinical trial enrollment. NLP helps organizations quickly identify patients who may be eligible for immunotherapies, clinical trials and medical research. Automated case finding ensures patients are informed about all possible care options early in the disease process versus post discharge thereby making clinical trials more efficient and effective.

 

    1. Comply with core measures. Using NLP, organizations assess documentation immediately upon admission so close monitoring can occur. Quality reviewers spend more time reviewing cases instead of sifting through charts. NLP also allows for faster review of progress notes and problem lists, helping quality reviewers identify patients as soon as they fail criteria in the ED so prompt action can be taken.

 

  1. Provide real-time data about patients. Hospitals use NLP concurrently to monitor patients while they are in the hospital receiving treatment. For example, as physicians document certain diagnoses or procedures (e.g., insertion of urinary catheter), NLP generates alerts and reminders so providers monitor these patients frequently to mitigate the risk of urinary tract infection—one of many hospital-acquired conditions identified by CMS.Another example is using NLP to track sepsis patients. NLP helps uncover the symptoms immediately rather than retrospectively. Physicians can then direct their attention toward these patients and reduce the likelihood that they will be readmitted.

HIT Vendors Successfully Leverage NLP

Vendors (i.e., overlaying applications) are also using NLP in a variety of ways. Consider the three most common applications of NLP in healthcare: coding, EHRs and speech recognition/dictation.

Computer-assisted coding (CAC)
CAC instructs the underlying NLP engine to find clinical problems and procedures within terms and phrases of documentation. It also delineates the current from the past as well as personal from familial. In addition, NLP associates certain descriptors with the appropriate nouns/diagnoses, such as associating “exacerbation of” or “acute diastolic” with the term “heart failure.” Once CAC has obtained this structured data, it can apply unique clinical ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes that a medical coder subsequently reviews and validates.EHR systems
When embedded directly within the EHR, NLP automatically converts a physician’s free-text comments as well as digital narrative text-based content into discrete data. Some vendors combine speech recognition technology with NLP to prompt physicians to elaborate on or clarify certain documentation elements as they dictate – known as Computer-Aided Physician Documentation (CAPD).

Speech recognition/dictation
Unlike speech recognition, which simply converts spoken word into digital text, NLP infers meaning behind the words. Physicians continue to dictate and/or speak their reports while NLP engines convert this information into work lists for CDI professionals, discrete data for the EHR, or quality measure compliance reports.

It’s All About the Data

NLP will continue to play an important role in data analytics and population health management. As more organizations implement EHRs, NLP will be the foundation for abstracting valuable narrative information and turning it into actionable data that can make a big difference in terms of healthcare outcomes and efficiency.

Faulty and redundant data issues will remain a problem in healthcare and must be addressed through stronger information governance programs. In the interim, organizations and technology vendors should use NLP to eliminate one major electronic information hurdle—unstructured data.


About the Author:
Steve is responsible for business development and product strategy at RecordsOne. Since joining in 2007, he has guided the company from a dictation and transcription technology vendor to a complete clinical documentation solutions provider. He has worked with multiple hospital and clinic organizations to assess, improve and automate revenue cycle processes and workflows through technology.

Steve is a national author and speaker on the use of natural language processing technology in healthcare. He works hand in hand with hospitals to identify new and innovative uses for NLP within coding, clinical documentation improvement, quality reporting and reimbursement. Steve is an active member of AHIMA, ACDIS, HIMSS and WEDI with most recent speaking sessions at AHIMA’s National Data and CDI Summits in late 2015 as well as the AHIMA national convention.

Survey Gauges Medical Practices’ Attitudes toward ICD-10

NueMD recently released findings from their April 2015 survey exploring small and mid-sized medical practices’ attitudes towards the pending transition to ICD-10, a more granular disease and diagnosis classification system.

With the October implementation deadline fast approaching, NueMD surveyed 1,000 medical practice professionals and billers about their stress levels, areas of concern, the general sense of preparedness regarding switching to the new coding standards.

When asked how confident they are that their employees will be trained by the ICD-10 deadline, only 11.4% of survey respondents indicated feeling “highly confident,” with the most common response being “Not at all confident” (35%).

nuemd_icd-10_survey

View NueMD’s ICD-10 survey findings report to learn more about survey participants’ attitudes, concerns, expectations and preparedness related to ICD-10 adoption.

About NueMD
NueMD is the leading provider of cloud-based medical practice management software for small practices. Powered by Nuesoft Technologies, Inc., NueMD offers practice management, electronic health record and medical billing software and services to help physicians maintain the clinical and financial well-being of their practice. For more information please visit www.nuemd.com.

Georgia Healthcare IT & Education Working Together

The Institute for Healthcare Information Technology (IHIT) commissioned Porter Research to perform a follow-up project stemming from last year’s “Georgia Healthcare IT Workforce Readiness Survey”, which involved a statewide survey of healthcare IT service providers (vendors) and practitioners (hospitals, clinicians) to gauge the status of their plans to expand and hire from within the state, as well as their perceptions of how well-equipped Georgia’s educational institutions are to provide qualified healthcare IT job candidates.  The Workforce Readiness project produced a whitepaper, highlighting the research findings, that IHIT shared with state leaders and educational representatives.  It was decided that follow-up research was needed to collect more granular insight about specific areas of industry perceptions as it relates to the state’s educational system.

Consequently, IHIT in collaboration with the Technical College System of Georgia, the University System of Georgia, and Emory Continuing Education conducted a series of interviews and discussions with top executives from a random selection of 10 healthcare IT companies, of varying sizes, located in the Metro Atlanta area.  Unlike the earlier, larger-scope statewide research project, this follow-up effort was designed as a face-to-face meeting with industry leaders in order to get feedback beyond a Q&A session.  The in-person format allowed for every company to be presented with the same set of open-ended discussion topics in the hopes of starting a dialogue between all parties.  The meetings were also held to help evaluate current educational offerings as well as proposed future initiatives that could be developed to “bridge any gaps” that may exist between the job demand and the educational supply to foster growth for Georgia’s healthcare IT industry.

The newly-released “Georgia Healthcare IT & Education Working Together” whitepaper covers the interviews with healthcare IT executives, their suggestions for developing an educational “orientation” curriculum to better prepare students, and the responses from healthcare IT educators.  The Working Together whitepaper, along with the earlier Workforce Readiness whitepaper, can be downloaded here.

IHIT is an Atlanta-based non-profit organization founded for the purpose of connecting resources and leveraging strengths of the healthcare IT industry within Georgia and the Southeastern U.S. to expand technology throughout the nation’s healthcare system.