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.

 

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.

Back to the Past with a New Exploding Market

What is the most closed hospital information system (HIS) system available today? Who are open vendors? Sunquest, Cerner, McKesson. Do they have a proprietary integration engine? No, they partner with vendor neutral solutions. Will they coexist with competitors solutions, or allow the hospital to make best in class and best in service choices without penalty?

Historically, open systems architecture and service philosophy has been the topic of many tradeshow seminars, not to mention the promise of most vendors in the HIS market today. It wasn’t always that way. Why? Their constituency wanted the ability to choose specific solutions that best fit their departmental or enterprise needs without bias.

It is a rare hospital that buys all of its IT from a single supplier. Many will argue that a single supplier just does not exist that can competently supply all. Therefore, their clients want a fundamental ability to simply choose and an ability to interoperate without bias. Popular terminology then and now includes ‘best in class,’ ‘best in suite,’ ‘best in service’ or ‘open architecture.’ Can you imagine all the hundreds of vendors trying to work out how to integrate with each other? This is just one of the reason HL7 gained adoption.

Users wanted their systems to work together efficiently, with full functionality and without the penalty of high costs of proprietary integration. From this desire or requirement, open tools were developed to promote this concept of open systems, called integration engines. These engines currently sit in the middle between systems to transfer data allowing all systems equal access and could even conformed to specific formatting requirements. They work very well within this environment and nearly all hospitals have one. They are the clinical, administrative, and ADT information highway within a hospital, and they are open to all applications capable of connectivity.

These engine vendors, not surprisingly, were and are NOT owned by the major HIS vendors. Why? It would be a clear and loud conflict of interest. Would a major HIS vendor be incented to invest in connectivity to its competitors? Absolutely not! An engine vendor that is vendor neutral is very incented; in fact, that is how they make money. It is fundamental to their value. So, many forward-thinking HIS vendors partnered with engine vendors, like McKesson, who used ITC or DataGate for example.

So what is happening now? It is sort of ‘Back to the Past!’ There is a new exploding market, with nearly 400 different ambulatory EHR vendors and growing. Market adoption is going from 20 to 80% in the near term future, an astounding rush to connect with suppliers of clinical information. So the value and promise of an EHR is gained, not to mention stimulus money, but the vendor tactics are as old as the hills!

It seems every vendor with a bias, or ax to grind, wants to control/own the information highway. EHR vendors are developing HIEs that work well with their EHRs but not with others. Big surprise, insurance companies are buying HIE companies. Now this is scary and service providers for laboratory are also trying to own the highway to the physicians EHR. How open are they going to be if they allow another laboratory service provider to play on their highway they lose money? It is fundamental.

But who loses the most? The physician receives one choice free and clear, however, the other choices, if available at all, will come at a penalty, of time, money availability or choice. To trade with other service providers, they will be strapped with multiple point-to-point interfaces that, when evaluated individually, may be cost prohibitive or the expense of operating on multiple highways, which is actually a lot harder than it sounds.

Even though the service providers, out of the goodness of their hearts, are offering to put their proprietary infrastructure in place, it may not be worth it. It reminds me of a Trojans bearing gifts. Don’t be fooled. A service provider who is recommending an open solution is listening and taking a broader view of the market. Look for suppliers who are promoting open systems architecture and mean it.