Challenges in Obtaining Complete Medical Record Data

By Lesley Brown, SVP of Product Management at Halfpenny Technologies

As previously discussed the potential benefits to health plans of compiling a complete picture of their member’s health status are abundant.  The more data and information you have about your members, the better help and guidance you can give them to ensure they receive the most appropriate and best care without redundant replication of services.  And without unnecessary cost!

Being able to obtain a comprehensive medical record for a member from a physician’s practice is one avenue that health plans can take to enrich their member’s health records.  Yet, technical and business challenges aside, being able to gather a comprehensive or full medical record from an EMR can be difficult.  Experience has demonstrated that all too often much of the key clinical information about a patient is missing from the “structured” components of Electronic Health Records.  And this occurs even when data is retrieved using “industry” standard formats such as the HL-7 C-CDA template and document structure.  This missing clinical data ranges from lab result interpretations, medication detail around frequency and dosing, allergy information to physician signatures.  An additional challenge is the inability to distinguish and interpret between actual missing data in a record from “null” data elements such as “no information documented” or “no known information”.  This absent information can be very challenging to find and retrieve from within an EHR system.  Experience has shown that reliance on “industry standards” such as the C-CDA templates isn’t sufficient.  Add in the fact that many different EMR’s are in use today by physician groups and hospitals, and these medical record systems are built in a proprietary way, making the challenge of finding that missing or incorrect information different between EMR systems and hence physician practices.  As a result of these challenges, healthcare providers who would like to gather clinical data in order to compile a more complete picture of their member’s health are faced with a project that is time consuming, extremely expensive, frustrating and can often result in disappointment and incomplete personal health information.

Looking to obtain a complete medical record on your members?  Halfpenny Technologies has been in the clinical data exchange business for more than 15 years and over that time have built reusable interfaces that connect to 90%+ of the top EHR vendors and LIS/HIS systems.  Halfpenny Technologies comprehensive clinical data exchange platform uses a multi-faceted methodology to obtain clinical record data.  We do not rely solely on the use of the C-CDA standard.  Halfpenny Technologies completes a quality assessment at each data retrieval stage identifying how full or complete a medical record is and highlighting missing sections or data elements.  We can then work with our customers to identify ways to ensure that clinical data is being acquired and stored correctly.  Halfpenny Technologies’ vendor agnostic approach allows the receipt of any EHR medical record data format and in return health plans can receive clinical data in the layout of their choice. Our continued investment in innovative solutions has uniquely positioned the company as a national provider of clinical data exchange solutions to the health care industry.

 

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Looking to build a complete picture of your member’s health?

By Lesley Brown, SVP of Project Management at Halfpenny Technologies

The potential benefits to health plans of compiling a complete picture of their member’s health status are plentiful. 

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It really goes without saying that the more data and information you have about your members, the better help and guidance you can give them. You can ensure they receive the most appropriate and best care without unnecessary replication of services.  And importantly… without redundant costs!  For a long time, health plans have been reasonably content with the data that they obtain from medical claims.  But as payers become more engaged in actual care management and strive for value based care for their members, many are realizing that the data from claims offers only a part of this comprehensive picture.  Some of the pertinent detail, such as a lab test value, is often absent from a claim. Some care may not always result in an insurance claim.

The utilization of clinical data, such as that obtained from a continuity of care document (CCD) from a physician’s practice, can help enrich this health record for your members.  And the brilliant thing is – you do not need to wait for that first visit to the doctor with you as their medical insurer to occur.  If the member has remained with their doctor but changed insurance plans, their historical information will still be in their clinical medical record.

Unfortunately, gathering all this clinical data from multiple sources in order to take advantage of it is not as easy as it may sound.  There are many health information systems, such as EMR’s and LIS’s, that are in use by physician groups and hospitals. These medical record systems are built in a proprietary way in order to ensure a market share or niche for the vendor.  As a result, they use different templates and store common data elements in different formats. This is all thanks in part to variations in the interruption of industry standards.  Due to this variation these electronic record systems struggle to communicate with each other, never mind a vested third party that might be looking to take advantage of this goldmine of clinical data.  You’ve heard the term – there is a lack of “interoperability” in healthcare.  As a result, health plans that are interested in gathering this clinical data so they can compile a more complete picture of their member’s health are faced with a project that is time consuming, extremely expensive, and often results in failure.

Looking for some assistance in collecting clinical data?  Halfpenny Technologies (HTI) has been in the clinical data exchange business for more than 15 years. Over that time, HTI has built reusable interfaces that connect to 90%+ of the top EHR vendors and LIS/HIS systems.  HTI’s vendor agnostic approach allows the receipt of any EHR or LIS data format and in return health plans can receive clinical data in the layout of their choice. Halfpenny Technologies’ continued investment in innovative solutions has uniquely positioned the company as a national provider of clinical data exchange solutions to the health care industry.

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What is the state of Clinical Data Exchange for Health Plans?

By: Lesley Brown, SVP Project Management at Halfpenny Technologies

As health care in the U.S. evolves, health plans and other risk bearing entities such as ACOs, have shown an ever increasing desire to acquire clinical data for their members.   This need is fast becoming more than a necessity, as value based care begins to drive reimbursements, revenue adjustment factors and quality performance, to name just a few.   While many health plans already have access to select quantities of clinical data (think Lab results, maybe even ADT data) their appetite is now evolving towards obtaining member Continuity of Care (CCD) data.  CCD is now heralded as the “superset” of clinical data, all the medical history, test results, medications for a member in one document.

Too bad then that the coordination and exchange of this clinical data from physician practice EHRs has become a significant pain point for many health plans and clinical data integration into payer systems has made minimal advancement in the past few years.  The challenges that health plans need to overcome range from technical ones, a lack of real clinical interoperability despite Meaningful Use (MU) Stage 2 and HL7 C-CDA requirements & specifications, to business ones, often a lack of clear business value and use case evaluation can stymie the best of endeavors.

Where and how to start?  Some of the common approaches payers can take for clinical data integration include building out point to point integrations (but who has time or resources for that!), accessing a state or local HIE (this is often limited by HIEs demands for standard data structures as well as a lack of data normalization) or partnering with one of a wide variety of vendors who claim they can facilitate non-claims based clinical data integration (many of whom fall short when attempts to validate data exchange are attempted).  Regardless of the integration arrangement health plans should be advised to start small and stay focused, successful data exchange projects have a value proposition and can demonstrate cost savings or increased revenue.  Examples include, risk adjustment factors that could benefit from the diagnosis list contained in a physician practice medical record or replacement of expensive chart reviews with defined data elements from an EHR.

Halfpenny Technologies (HTI) has been in the clinical data exchange business for more than 15 years and over that time have built reusable interfaces that connect to 90%+ of the top EHR vendors and LIS/HIS systems.  HTI’s vendor agnostic approach allows the receipt of any EHR or LIS data format and in return health plans can receive clinical data in the layout of their choice. Halfpenny Technologies’ continued investment in innovative solutions has uniquely positioned the company as a national provider of clinical data exchange solutions to the health care industry.

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Access to Actionable & Complete Lab & Clinical Results Data Enables Health Insurance Organizations to Improve Care Management

Health_plan_cardThrough truly interoperable lab and clinical data exchange, health insurance organizations (payors) can better manage individual care, support shared savings models, and deliver measurable and actionable outcomes.  Access to complete lab and clinical test results can help health plans drive down the cost of care and ultimately improve population.  Halfpenny Technologies offers comprehensive solutions to empower health plans with the right technology to tackle these initiatives and analytics tools for predictive modeling to address compliance and improve financial outcomes.

“Health plans struggle with the many challenges of health information exchanges and coordination of care,” Halfpenny Technologies President and CEO, Tim Kowalski, said.   “The clinical data integration solutions from Halfpenny Technologies, fuel health plans by giving them more complete access to the critical lab and clinical results data required for effective care management.  This data combined with powerful analytics and modeling tools empowers health insurance organizations to be more competitive and improve financial outcomes.”

Health insurance organizations are further burdened with constant challenges due to a rapidly evolving health care landscape fueled by change from compliance initiatives, health reform and an unstable economic environment.  To tackle these challenges, Halfpenny’s solutions provides access to clinical data and the necessary analytics tools to allow health plans to effectively manage patient risk and ensure better care coordination.  A health insurance organization’s ultimate success will be determined by its ability to:

  • Predict shifts in membership-base
  • Manage the cost of care
  • Collaborate more effectively with providers
  • Increase NCQA and HEDIS quality scores and Medicare Five-Star rating

Address health insurance organization’s need for complete clinical data

All health plans are facing the need to integrate clinical data such as lab results that is currently in disparate data warehouses across the enterprise.  Halfpenny Technologies aggregates, normalizes and consolidates laboratory and clinical test data so it can be seamlessly overlaid with quality report data, disease management data, population health data and claims data to gain holistic insights at the member level.

Tools to support collaborative care and shared savings models

Halfpenny solutions supports both the accountable care organizations (ACOs) and patient-centered medical homes (PCMHs) models to help health plans to drive down the cost of care.  Our solutions toolkits focus on improving quality and controlling cost of care by aligning the interests of health plans, providers and members.  Additionally, Halfpenny Technologies health plan tools:

  • Promote evidence-based medicine
  • Provide comparative effectiveness
  • Enable the seamless exchange of data for better integrated care
  • Offer analytics to support pay-for-performance initiatives

Measure return on investment with Halfpenny Technologies’ analytics tools

Real-time data exchange between health plans and providers is paramount to enable collaborative delivery model operation and measurement.  With Halfpenny Technologies solutions, health plans can analyze outcomes and address compliance through automated reporting for patient centric care analysis & recommendations based on nationally accepted recognized clinical guidelines.

Halfpenny Technologies solutions help Health plans face the challenges in measuring the return on investment of programs that provide “difficult-to-quantify” savings, such as wellness, case, care and disease management.  The clinical decision support, population health and revenue enhancement reports enable health plans to work more closely with providers to coordinate care, develop performance metrics, and implement long-term data tracking systems and processes.

For more information on these solutions, please visit us at http://www.halfpennytech.com/health-plan.html

by Patricia Brown

Director of Marketing

Supporting Shared Savings Models, Care Coordination & the Actionable Exchange of Lab Data with LOINC®

lab_test_tubesOften, when I make a presentation to healthcare executives and lab people, I’m struck by the level of unfamiliarity regarding the Logical Observation Identifier Names and Codes (LOINC®). It is not that all are unfamiliar with it; lab directors and some managers and medical technologists are familiar but, overall, most are not. This is a telling fact about the state of our preparedness for data sharing, coordinated care, and advanced analytics. As a further example, a group of senators recently sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requesting a re-evaluation and “reboot” of the Meaningful Use (MU) program citing, among other things, concerns regarding the program’s ability to achieve meaningful interoperability. LOINC® is part of the solution.

LOINC®: The Cornerstone for Interoperability

The cornerstone of interoperability is the use of standardized data structure and coding schemes. Since clinical laboratory data comprise the bulk of an individual’s medical record and are essential for healthcare decision making, one would expect it to be prominently featured in all interoperability discussions. In the realm of clinical laboratory data exchange, specifically for lab results, two standards come to mind immediately:

  1. The Laboratory Reporting Initiative (LRI) as a structure standard, andLOINC-maooing_CTA
  2. LOINC® as a coding standard.

While both are mentioned in MU regulations and the accompanying Office of National Coordinator (ONC) standards documents, they are not widely recognized as critical for interoperability progress – but they are!

The History of LOINC®

The Logical Observation Identifier Names and Codes (LOINC®) system was created in 1994 at the Regenstrief Institute, associated with Indiana University. Initially focused on laboratory observations (all laboratory categories and Veterinary Medicine), it has also expanded to include other clinical observations made on patients.

  • LOINC® has been endorsed by the American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA) and the College of American Pathologists (CAP).
  • It has been adopted for test reporting by large commercial labs such as Quest, LabCorp, Mayo Medical Laboratories, and MDS Labs; large HMOs including Kaiser Permanente and Aetna; governmental organizations including the CDC, DOD, VA, and NLM.
  • Internationally, LOINC® has been adopted as a national standard in many countries, including the United States, and has been translated into many languages.

Interoperability has two cornerstones:

  1. standardized structure
  2. standardized content.

LOINC® was created to solve the problem of laboratory data interoperability by promoting standardized content. To date, most labs use proprietary order and results codes. In the past, when results were manually transported or faxed, standardization was not an issue. However, in our emerging electronic healthcare setting without content standardization there is no interoperability. LOINC® mapping can help.LOINC_mapping

Facts about LOINC®:

  1. LOINC® is the “new” standard for lab results and lab orders
  2. It is critical for Meaningful Use
  3. It can me key to the success of independent and hospital labs
  4. LOINC® is large and complex – Test dictionary builds and LOINC® mapping are specialty skills that require lab and LIS expertise as well as LOINC® expertise.

The prudent approach by hospital and independent labs is to be proactive and prepare while there is still time. That is why my colleague, Halfpenny Technologies Clinical Data Specialist Jane A. Burke BSMT (ASCP) and I have co-written a white paper positioning LOINC® with respect to care coordination, meaningful interoperability, the exchange of actionable data, and supporting shared savings models. We hope that this white paper entitled, Supporting Shared Savings Models, Care Coordination and the Actionable Exchange of Lab Data with LOINC®, provides the foundation for LOINC® knowledge and offers you the important questions you need to ask regarding LOINC® mapping and test dictionary creation for your organization.

Find a LOINC® Mapping Expert

For those that conclude that they do not have the skill set and/or the infrastructure to support LOINC®, alternatives do exist and should be examined. Most LIS vendors do not offer such services to support their software systems and most labs are left to fend for themselves. However, some third-party vendors offer services for the initial dictionary build, LOINC® mapping, ongoing maintenance, as well as, middleware solutions that can bridge the gap in current capabilities of existing LISs.

Being able to positively answer the above questions or, at least, have a roadmap to achieve them within the first year of the start of MU stage 2 (2014), will prepare the lab for the realities of providing clinical services to physicians in the era of accountable care.

For more information, on LOINC® Mapping and Test Dictionary builds, please contact Halfpenny Technologies at 855-277-9100 or visit us online at http://www.halfpenny.com.

Gai Elhanan, M.D., M.A.

Chief Medical Information Officer

*LOINC is a registered United States trademark of Regenstrief Institute, Inc.

Access to actionable lab data is essential for the success of care management for Health Plans & ACOs

Lab_data_health_plansHealth insurance and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are faced with constant challenges due to a rapidly evolving health care landscape fueled by change from compliance initiatives, health reform and an unstable economic environment.  To tackle these challenges, health plans and ACOs need to develop go-to-market strategies and analytics solutions that define the organization’s future position and answer critical questions surrounding growth, profitability and sustainability. The ultimate success of these organizations will be determined by its ability to:

  • Predict shifts in their customer-base
  • Manage the cost of care
  • Collaborate more effectively with providers
  • Increase NCQA and HEDIS quality scores and Medicare Five-Star rating

Access to actionable lab data plays a significant role in the success.

Health plans utilize care management programs that typically implement a variety of interventions tailored to needs of specific groups of affected individuals.  A model that identifies those individuals who have high risk of complications has the greatest potential to impact outcomes and lower healthcare cost. Complete and real time lab results can help health plans model individuals who have high risk of complications, greatest potential to impact outcomes, and lower healthcare cost.

It is necessary for health plans to access to lab results to help them better determine the effectiveness of care management programs.   Some of the challenges and opportunities regarding lab data include:

  • Health Plans and ACOs typically experience difficulty receiving clinical data from labs.
  • Clinical data can have a significant impact on a health plan’s Medicare Five Star Rating, NCQA and HEDIS quality scores.
  • Health plans and ACOs seek laboratory data to reduce instances of drug contraindications, generate clinical alerts, and populate personal health records.
  • Lab results can demonstrate the efficacy of care management programs.
  • Ability to provide clinical data can be an important factor for a lab to achieve in-network status with a health plan or ACO.
  • Health Plans and ACOs share in a unique position to help a lab understand leakage (testing performed by out-of-network lab).

Health plans and ACOs need a true interoperability solution for lab and clinical data which can better enable their organizations to manage and lead in the coordination of individual care, support shared savings models, and deliver measurable and actionable outcomes that help health plans drive down the cost of care and ultimately improve population health.

Brian Muck is the SVP of Sales & Marketing for Halfpenny Technologies

Interested in more?

Hospitals/Labs Outsourcing EHR Integration is an Emotional Hurdle, Not Financial

Healthcare is the largest industry in our economy, yet it is the last to migrate into the “digital or electronic” age. Healthcare has been last to the party largely because of the incredible amount of fragmentation within the industry. Additionally, the best of breed attitude regarding testing, diagnosis and treatment has resulted in the development of unique systems, equipment and protocols that were never designed to feed into a single or “connected” database.

Many factors are helping to fuel this change, but certainly the biggest factor is the federal government incentives for physicians to implement EHRs in their practices. Over 500 unique EHR vendors are participating in the biggest land grab that the industry has ever seen! While integrating one laboratory information system to one EHR may not present significant challenges, integrating 40 to 50 different laboratory and registration systems to over 500 different EHRs could tax any IT department. To add to the chaos, the hospitals and labs cannot predict or control the demand they will have from a quantity standpoint or from which EHRs.

Most businesses will evaluate their core competencies and decide which functions should be outsourced as opposed to keeping in house. For example, a law firm will probably outsource their printing, but keep their firms legal work in house. Healthcare facilities have been slow to subcontract anything due to the implications and potential effect it might have on patient care. As every piece of medical equipment now provides a digital record, how will facilities react? Should healthcare facilities farm out some of their information technology demands or should they staff up to meet the current peak demands they are experiencing?

Here are some reasons to outsource EHR connectivity:

  • Reduced cost from direct labor as well as general and administrative expenses
  • Move staff to more critical/unique tasks, providing flexibility
  • Allows for erratic demand; do not have to staff for peaks
  • Reduce start/completion time for projects

Outsourcing EHR connectivity is a lower cost alternative than keeping the function in house. Hundreds of facilities across the country have conducted an ROI analysis and determined that subcontracting is the more cost effective path to take. While the argument can be made that if current staff is under-utilized, performing this function in house would not add any incremental cost, few if any healthcare facilities find themselves in this position. Additionally, efficiencies exist when utilizing a team that has a successful track record to complete EHR connectivity projects because that is what they do “all day, every day!”

With all the demands that IT departments have to integrate equipment or systems within the four walls of the facility, by outsourcing EHR connectivity, options exist to be more responsive to those demands. Typically most facilities will put EHR connectivity at the bottom of the priority list, which can have a significant negative impact to growing/maintaining an outreach program.

As external physician groups sift through the 500 EMR vendors to find the right one, they generally do so without consulting their lab providers as to which one they chose or the timing for implementation. Most lab providers find out only when the EHR has been installed and they receive a call from the practice saying, “connect us.” Staffing for the peak is not cost effective and alternatively making the client wait until time is available usually results in a lost business opportunity.

It is very difficult, if not impossible, for an in-house staff to compete with a third-party provider regarding project completion. Constantly being pulled away for “higher priority” projects that will always be more interesting to the internal team can mean that the completion of EHR projects could drag on for several months, when in fact could be completed in a few weeks.

Why then is subcontracting such a huge hurdle for many organizations? Although there are very good reasons to subcontract, many administrations appear to want to internalize EHR connectivity for non-financial reasons that in some cases maybe emotional or “fear based” in nature. Because healthcare facilities are not traditional outsourced, they usually dismiss the notion without giving it a fair evaluation. IT departments, in particular do not want to give up the opportunity to increase their influence and or increase staff, and initially resist outsourcing.

Many in house staffs will embrace the idea of expanding their influence outside the walls of their facility and the challenges that new EHR connectivity projects can offer. What happens next is that they become embroiled in the “perfect storm” of ambulatory physician practices, the myriad of EHR vendors with their various capabilities, and their own clinical or business development staff. IT staffs quickly become disinterested in the repetitive nature of the process to electronically connect their clients, as well as meeting the objectives of all the different stakeholders. IT departments are usually not geared to be able to successfully meet all the challenges that these groups can present. Deadlines are missed, existing or potential clients are lost, and confidence in the internal staff to get things done suffers.

While outsourcing may not be the perfect answer for all, it clearly should be given greater consideration to meet the incredible demands that healthcare facilities will face over the next five years. At a minimum, it could be utilized as a backup strategy to augment internal staff and allow the facility to concentrate on its core competency of delivering the best in patient care. As their trust with the third-party provider grows, and emotion is taken out of the equation, it just might become a critical part of your “connected” strategy.