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.

 

When Splitting Up is for the Best

Centralizing. One-stop-shopping. Consolidating. Sole sourcing. Streamlining. All of these actions have one common denominator; unifying a set of activities under one umbrella. Why not? It’s easier, more convenient, and should be cost effective, right? Maybe, but perhaps not when it comes to hospitals, labs, and physicians needing their lab orders to be routed to more than one testing laboratory for various legit reasons.

Ordering lab tests can be a complex process, even within a health network. Oftentimes a single lab order should be divided into two or more requisitions. The reasons can be many. The physician’s office can perform one or more of the tests in the office. The insurance company requires the separation. It’s most cost effective to send one of the tests to an outside lab. The order needs to go to a third-party subcontracted by the first lab. The provider prefers to bill insurance companies directly in order to obtain markup revenue, regardless if test is or is not conducted in their office. Hence, this is definitely an instance when splitting up is for the better.

Since test results from labs due influence nearly 70% of all healthcare decisions made today while representing only 2% of total healthcare costs, hospitals, labs, and physicians should have the choice and flexibility of splitting a requisition when needed. But let’s throw another monkey wrench, so to speak, into the mix while we’re at it. Does the hospital, lab, or physician office have an existing electronic health record (EHR) system in operation to automate and streamline the clinician’s workflow, reduce any errors and offset costs? What happens when there is an EHR system in place? What happens when there isn’t? How does an EHR system facilitate splitting an order? Better yet, how do you split a requisition without an EHR system?

Questions, questions, and more questions. Well, here are some answers.

The best action is to provide hospitals, labs and physician offices with a simple way to divide a single lab order into two or multiple, with or without an EHR system. A foolproof method to automatically split orders right from the start, during order entry and based rules on sample type, storage temperature, testing location, test type, order location, billing status, CPT code, order choice priority or type, insurance, physician preference and/or other measures.

Halfpenny Technologies (HTI), a leading provider of healthcare connectivity and integration solutions, offers hospitals, labs and physicians the means to split a single lab req into two or more requisitions with or without an existing physician EHR system. This capability is not only priceless, but essential as most physicians utilize multiple labs and route their test orders in accordance with the patient’s insurance, type of tests required, billing practices, or their own preferences.

Here’s how Halfpenny generates split requisitions. With an EHR system, Halfpenny receives the lab order from the EHR and automatically splits it according to rules controlled by authorized users and then prints specific labels, requisitions, and/or manifests as needed and routes the orders to the correct testing laboratory based on the hospital or physician’s workflow requirements. When the results are received, Halfpenny re-bundles and forwards them into the appropriate patient record within the EHR.

When there is not a physician EHR system, Halfpenny will implement one of its own proprietary solutions, ITF-Portal® or ITF-GoDoc® MobileOE, to facilitate the order entry directly and split the req utilizing the same rules described above. Either way, the split successfully occurs and the results can be combined and incorporated into an EHR system if available or viewed within one or both of the HTI solutions.

Splitting up a req to be routed to the correct testing laboratory is not only in the best interest of hospitals, labs, and physicians, but in the long run it’s also in the best interest of the patient who receives better care and better patient services. It saves valuable time, unnecessary costs and precious manpower. If you are still sole sourcing your lab orders to one facility, look a little further to the many benefits and advantages of splitting up a requisition. You might realize that breaking up is not so hard to do after all.