Healthcare continues to be overwhelmed with incoming faxes and scanned documents. It burdens administrative staff and clinicians alike.
I keep wondering why healthcare organizations wouldn’t want to streamline this repetitive, manual process and transform these documents into retrievable business-ready data. Think of all of the time, resources, money, and reduction in errors that could be improved upon if their workflow became automated via an advanced OCR solution and Machine Learning.
For example; a typical hospital has...
I was just listening to a webinar by a reputable Health IT vendor the other day on visual security and privacy risks in healthcare. As my company offers many ways to help with the challenges that healthcare organizations face with keeping PHI protected, I was interested in hearing what another solutions provider had to say.
I was rather surprised when the speaker mentioned keeping faxes and print outs further behind the counter so that others cannot easily see or take them.
Once again I had the pleasure of attending the 24th Annual UNOS Transplant Management Forum for my 4th time earlier this year. As always, it was a flurry of learning, knowledge-sharing, networking, and well-deserved awards for leaders in the industry.
It was as apparent this time as it was every time before, that the transplant community is a close-knit group who all struggle with similar things regardless of their geographical location. These struggles span across many areas, including financial, staffing, regulatory requirements, lack of organs, information technology, reporting, managing the constant deluge of paper, and many more. While I can't claim that Extract can help with all of these, there are two specific struggles that we excel at fixing: extracting discrete results from faxed external lab results and intelligently splitting, classifying, and filing large documents (such as referral packets) into patients' charts.
I chose the title for this blog a bit tongue in cheek. You see, there are numerous blog posts about how to “properly” redact PDF files. While all of those other blog posts correctly explain the challenges that makes redacting PDF files difficult and outline all of the steps that one must take to ensure private information is completely and irreversibly redacted, all of those blog posts fail to mention one critical idea that anyone tasked with the important job of redacting electronic documents should be aware of -- automation.
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.“
Do you frequently find yourself searching for and routing documents, whether paper or electronic, to colleagues, care team members or departments that need them? Or, worse do you find yourself waiting for documents to be routed to you? In our work, helping hospitals to automate clinical data abstraction, we're struck by the hours of time lost each day to inefficient workflows involving "loose" records that we often find ourselves helping our customers extract data from.
If you've ever managed an EMR data conversion, you likely know how painful data conversions can be. They require someone with intimate knowledge of the old EMR to write complex queries to extract the data in the format that the new EMR requires it to be in. In addition, at some point in the process you have to transform the old values into the new system's values (assuming they can be mapped at all!). Even if you have experienced, intelligent people and excellent vendor support during this process it is expensive, time-consuming, risky, and can delay your go-live. So, what if you don't have experienced people and good vendor support for your healthcare data conversion? Believe me, it's gonna get ugly.
Critical results reporting or reporting lab results for priority patients from non-interfaced sources is no easy task. A delay in reporting can yield an unfortunate outcome for a patient whose condition is deteriorating. This is especially true for specialty departments that provide continued care for patients from far-flung locales, such as the transplant program. One transplant department receives thousands of these reports over a single patient's lifetime, and often hundreds of these documents for its patient population each day by fax.
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.
Health data challenges are a part of any healthcare organization. Frustration is a natural consequence. This is also a common topic in most healthcare press lately. It often feels like depending on which way the wind is blowing, the consensus is that EMR adoption by clinicians is either improving or getting worse. A recent KLAS report indicates adoption is improving across the globe. The decision to move to an enterprise EMR for most organizations often includes as a factor the goal of reducing the total number of applications supported. Initiatives to improve adoption then becomes a challenge if your department's prized application is removed for something "less than robust". Along with pain and frustration, keeping your clinicians happy is also a challenge
Tracking data in your transplant care software is a key component of QAPI programs, not only for CMS, but now also with UNOS debating the requirement of QAPI programs. One of the most challenging aspects of transplant program management is ensuring that your Quality Assessment and Process Improvement programs are measuring meaningful and actionable items that lead to program improvement.
In my previous post, the fourth in a series of seven blog posts that discuss some of the misconceptions about lab interfaces and intelligent clinical data extraction software, I addressed the belief that if a hospital has an in-house laboratory, all test results will be integrated with the patient record in the EMR.