Ahhh, the age old question. Can (or should) tasks that humans can do very well, but perhaps not very efficiently, be automated with technology? While the views on this topic would vary greatly from an abstraction service provider to a low-budget medical research project manager, there are perhaps a few things that could be defined to help one decide what is best for their particular medical record abstraction situation. Consider these ideas:
The year is now 2017 and we have been a digital society for quite some time, but if you talk with people in the healthcare industry, you will find that paper is still floating around. In 2016, we worked with two major hospitals and you would be amazed by not only how prevalent paper documents are, but how these paper medical documents get copied and moved to different people through the hospital, this is what we call the “Paper Shuffle”.
Your clinical staff must refer to paper, faxed, and/or scanned documents because clinical data found within these documents are not found in the EHR. Your interruptions to the workflow, that was carefully designed into the EHR, costs time, money, and frustration and it may even insert errors into the healthcare decision making process.
I worked at Epic for 12 years and I'm a big fan of what they do to innovate their products to meet the needs of clinicians. However, no matter how good the Epic EMR software is, implementing an infinitely complex piece of software in an infinitely complex industry brings with it many short-comings.
A few that I saw the most during my tenure at Epic were:
The System Improvement Agreement (SIA)
In our previous post, we discussed what happens when your program receives a letter from either the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) or the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and your program's initial response. Today we will focus on what happens if CMS does not accept your mitigating factors application.
I recently spent three days driving across the northern Midwestern States and through a good part of Canada with a longtime friend as we headed to a once-in-a-lifetime wilderness adventure. As you might imagine our conversations spanning those 72 hours took as many twists and turns as did the roads we traveled. However, one saying my friend repeated several times stood out among many insightful remarks he’d made, “Your judgement is only as good as your information.“
Despite massive adoption of electronic medical records over the past several years, the promise of easy and nearly effortless chart abstraction from electronic medical records enabled by an interconnected web of interoperable EMRs sharing standardized data has yet to be fully realized. You need to look no further than the media tab to see the evidence that we have yet to arrive at this Utopian future.
What I know for Sure:
Discrete, trending data is the bread and butter of a specialty clinic.
Hunting and pecking through the media tab to track down information on a patient is infuriating! And not only for the doctors. For nurses. For abstractors. For the patient! Trending a post-transplant patient's drug levels alongside their medication doses, rejections, infections, transplant history, UNOS data, procedures, and relevant transplant-related scores is of paramount importance to a clinician and is very time sensitive. Getting all patient data into the EMR is the holy grail when it comes to specialty medicine.
Specialty clinics, especially transplant clinics, are mini-ACOs.
When you are treating an acute, chronic disease it is critical that everything about the patient is known regardless of where they are being treated on a daily basis. Luckily, we now live in a world of Care Everywhere, CCD documents, and reference labs…BUT, despite what everyone wants to believe, these things are not a panacea.
Paper is very much alive and well in the healthcare world.
Sometimes clinicians are "closet paper users," other times they just lay it out there. But don't make any mistake about it…they are using. In the transplant world, you may be familiar with the "wall chart." Also known as "the flowsheet" or "the flowchart." You know the one. The monstrous grid that is the holy grail for the transplant clinic, but is the disdain of the HIM team and the project team trying to migrate clinicians to the EMR. But there are good reasons for this chart and the other paper being used. Many hospitals have not implemented effective document management strategies that classify documents in useful ways. And many hospitals don't have the resources to support entering (and QAing) important data discretely as it comes in from external sources (or even internal sources such as the pathology lab).
Specialty clinics are crazy busy.
There were times during my tenure at Epic that I felt stressed. That I felt my days were busy. That I felt it was hard to create work/life balance. And then I'd go onsite and spend a week in a transplant department. Wow. My workday was like a walk in the park! The chaos that is the life of a person in a specialty clinic is very hard to explain or quantify. It seems there is not a moment to breathe. And this isn't just for the doctors and nurses. Even the folks doing data entry are getting calls, being pulled into other things, being tapped on the shoulder constantly. It is nearly impossible to give something 100% of your attention.
Extract's products can help.
I'm a passionate person. I don't back something I don't believe in and I don't work for companies whose product doesn't excite me. When I first encountered the Extract product I was very skeptical. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) with clinical data? Fuggettabout it! However, I've been able to peel back the curtain. The magic isn't in the OCR, it's in the rules, logic, and processing that Extract has fine-tuned while working with numerous healthcare organizations. I've seen it in action. I've seen the product improve with features that allow more reliable mapping to patients and existing orders. I've seen it process large documents and auto-classify subsections of that document and route them accordingly (think referral packets, transplant folks!). I've seen it work. I believe in the product and think it can improve data quality, care quality, data entry efficiency, EMR user happiness, and much more.
Extract's products aren't restricted to specialty clinics.
Yes, it is very easy to see the benefit of using the product to discretely enter lab results or split/file referral packets in a specialty clinic. But once you've seen it in action, it's very hard not to let your imagination run wild. Have an HIM department that is backlogged and needs some help classifying and discretely filing data? Have a natural speech recognition engine that needs some intelligent processing and filing after the output is generated? Have Care Everywhere but wish that you could get some more discrete data from it, such as labs? Still have paper DNR, release forms, or patient surveys coming in and want them to be discrete?
Have any other ideas?
We want to hear them! You can email me directly to discuss your ideas further.
About the Author: Rob Fea
He has spent 12 years partnering with IT teams and clinicians at major hospitals and clinics worldwide during his tenure on the technical services team at Epic. For the vast majority of his time at Epic, Rob supported Epic's Phoenix product, playing a major role in project kickoffs, installation, data conversions, ongoing support, and optimization. During his tenure at Epic, he watched the Phoenix customer base expand from 0 to 55 live and installing transplant organizations. It was a terrific experience and he loved every minute of it. It gave him expansive insight into the healthcare world, especially the solid organ transplant industry. Rob has spent countless hours on the floor in transplant departments observing multidisciplinary visits, committee review meetings, data entry, data trending, reporting, medication dosing, and more.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or, reduce medical errors through better documentation. Which one of these expressions do we tend to remember? In healthcare we hear quite a bit of talk these days on reducing medical errors. Of course this is with good reason. When getting data into the EMR, errors such as inaccurate or delayed results, can negatively impact patient health and lead to extended hospital stays, unnecessary treatment or worse. As a matter of fact, many healthcare organizations are now striving to eliminate mistakes and streamline efficiency by adopting principles such as Six Sigma and other business practices which are designed to continuously evaluate and improve best practices.
In our last post in this series, we talked about the challenges of getting ready for the selection committee meeting. As a transplant coordinator, the selection committee meeting is your opportunity to advocate for your patient that you have been nurturing from the initial evaluation until this upcoming meeting. Now that your patient has completed the pre-transplant evaluation which I covered in the first post in this series, the decision of whether or not to add them to the waiting list must be made.
Healthcare Informatics recently published an article most of us can relate to—that if you want to remember something important, it helps to write it down. Information is only useful if available. According to the article, Research: Access to Docs’ Notes Increases Medication Aherence, researchers at Geisinger Health System found that patients who had access to their doctor’s notes demonstrated an improved adherence to a medication regimen. [medical record software and information accessibility
Transplant Evaluation Process Part 3 in a 6 part blog series
Once the transplant evaluation visit has been completed, the required testing and other consults that were ordered or deemed necessary need to be completed. Frequently, this is the most time consuming segment of the evaluation process and where automation can be most useful.
The Initial Evaluation
The evaluation process is really the lifeline of your program. If not done properly, your program will lack good candidates for transplant or will have insufficient patients to transplant. This is a critical topic! In our first blog of this series, we focused mainly on what happens when a new patient is referred to your program.
You have successfully set up your outreach program and established a strong local presence (please check out my 4 previous posts on this topic). What now? In order to achieve sustainability, you will have pressures to improve efficiency, reduce costs and demonstrate value. It is important to have in place a methodology by which you track your activity from both a quantitative perspective as well as to be sure that the quality delivered matches the quality of your main program.
In our first three blogs of this series, we discussed how educational outreach can lead to opportunities to facilitate more effective patient care locally and strengthen relationships with referring providers. We have focused on the structure of these efforts; now we will focus on the provision of these services and how to differentiate your efforts from others to ensure your investment pays dividends.