Can you blame providers if they fail Meaningful Use?

I don’t wake up each day planning to be at odds with ninety-eight percent—I’m probably being overly generous assuming two percent of the people are as jaded as me—of the HIT community, maybe I just come by it naturally.

The first time I heard of RECs (regional extension centers) the first thing that came to mind was playgrounds, something akin to what the Police Athletic League might find useful.  Five hundred and ninety-eight million dollars.  They tried 597 and determined it wouldn’t be enough and figured 599 would be too much, but 598 million was just right.  Then Goldilocks made her way over to the porridge—sorry for turning left at the fairy tale ramp.

A large part of the success or failure of reform hinges on the success or failure of EHR.  Accordingly, the government made the egregious decision to manage the process of building and rolling out a national EHR down at the molecular level.  They have involved themselves at the front-end, at the vendor level, and at the back-end.  The more anxious they become, the more money they waste, adding another guise to get the healthcare providers to take their eyes off the ball.  Five hundred ninety-eight million “we’re just here to help you” dollars.

This money could be spent to pay the top EHR vendors to create one set of standards and modify their systems to fit those standards.

Meaningful Use.  Don’t get me started.  How can I fault thee; let me count the ways.  Those tested early for Meaningful Use will be examined less rigorously than those tested later.  This is like the IRS saying that if you file your taxes in February, don’t worry about those silly little math errors.  Healthcare will be the only industry whose software quality assurance check occurs after they pass the fail-safe point, the point of no return.

With good leadership providers should know EHR will pass meaningful use before implementing the system. If they fail to pass Meaningful Use, shame on them.

How the Grinch stole healthcare

Not much has changed since I wrote this two years ago…or has it?

Every Congressman Down in Congress-ville
Liked Health reform a lot…But the Payors,
Who lived just North of Congress-ville,
Did NOT!

The Payors hated Health Reform! The Congressional reform season!
And as everyone’s heard there is more than one reason.
Was it the fear of losing their monopoly right?
Worried, perhaps, that Congress might indict.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that the uninsured took them all to the wall.

Staring down from their man-caves with indemnifying frowns
At the warm lighted windows below in the town.
For they knew every Congressman down in Congress-ville beneath,
Canted an ear to hear Congress gnashing their teeth.

“If this reform passes, they’ll kill our careers!”
“Healthcare reform! It’s practically here!”
Then they growled, the ideologues’ fingers nervously drumming,
“We MUST find a way to keep Reform from coming!”

For, tomorrow, they knew…

…Stumbling home from the tavern at a quarter past two What each Congressman, intern, and page just might just do And then all the milieu. Oh the milieu, the milieu
Which the Payors hated more than their mom’s Mulligan stew.

Then all the Congressmen, the left and the right, would sit down and meet.
And they’d meet! And they’d meet!
And they’d MEET! MEET! MEET! MEET!
Implement full provision; cover pre-existing…how sweet
That was something the Payors couldn’t stand in the least!

And THEN they’d do something Payors liked least of all!
Every Congressman down in Congress-ville, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, their Healthcare bells ringing.
With Blackberrys-in-hand, the Congress would start pinging!

They’d ping! And they’d ping!
AND they’d PING! PING! PING! PING!
And the more the Obligators thought of the Congressman-Health-Ping
The more they each thought, “I must stop reform-ing!
“Why for all of these years we’ve put up with it now!
We MUST stop health Reform from coming!
…But HOW?”

Then they got an idea!
An awful idea!
THE Indemnifiers
GOT A WONDERFULLY, AWFUL IDEA!

“I know what to do!” The CEO Payor laughed in his throat.
And he made a quick Congressional hat and a coat.
And he chuckled, and clucked, “What a great Payor raucous!
“With this coat and this hat, I’ll look just like Saint Bacchus!”

“All I need is a pass…”
The Payor looked around.
Since Congressional passes are scarce, there was none to be found.
Did that stop the old Payor…?
No! The Payor simply said,
“If I can’t find a pass, I’ll make one instead!”
So he called his aide Max. Then he took some red paper
And he dummied up the pass and he started this caper.

THEN
He loaded some bags
And some old empty sacks
On a Benz 550
And he rode with old Max.

Then the Payor called, “Dude!”
And the Benz started down
To the offices where the Congressmen
Lay a-snooze in their town.

All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Congressmen were dreaming sweet dreams of healthcare
When the Payor came to the first office in the square.
“This is stop number one,” The old Warrantist – a winner
And he slipped passed the guard, like sneaking to a State Dinner.

Then he slid down the hallway, Harry Reid was in sight.
Reid was chumming Pelosi, he planned quite a night.
He got nervous only once, for a moment or two.
Then he realized that the leadership hadn’t a clue
Then he found the Congressional stimuli all hung in a row.
“These Stimuli,” he grinned, “are the first things to go!”

The Payor slithered and slunk, with a smile somewhat mordant,
Around the old Cloakroom, looking quite discordant!
There were copies of the bill stuffed in jackets and on chairs, Why, he even found a copy tucked under the stairs
And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Payor, very neatly,
Started humming the jingle from Blue Cross; rather Cheeky!

Then he slunk to the Senate Chamber, the one facing East
He took the Senators’-copies!—didn’t mind in the least!
He cleaned out that Chamber and almost slipped on the floor.
Saw an Internet router, and thought of Al Gore

Then he stuffed all the copies in the trunk of his Benz.
And he thought to himself, “Why don’t I have friends?” “There’s always Tiger,” he said with no jest But TW’s being chased by reporters, those pests.

The Payor spotted the Grinch having trouble with his sacks
And he lent him a hand—he offered him Max Max was quite pleased, for he knew this December,
That the Grinch would become the Payor’s newest board member.

The Grinch was all smiles–he’d made quite a killing
Offering to help pillage if the Payor was willing.
He stared at the Payor and asked, “New glasses?”
The Payor simply smiled, saying “These people are such (You did that to yourself, not me.)

And, you know, that old Payor was so smart and conniving
When he next saw Pelosi he found himself smiling!
“Why, my dear little Nanc’,” the Bacchus look-alike stiffened,
“Botox in this light makes you look like a Griffin.”
“I’m taking these bills home,” he said pointing to the copy.
“There’s a comma on one page that looks way too sloppy.”

And his fib fooled the Griffin. Then he patted her head
And he gave her a wink, and he sent her to bed
And as Speaker Pelosi shuffled off to her army,
The Payor said to himself, “What a waste of Armani!”

The last thing the Payor needed to do,
Was to mess with these records systems, all four thousand and two.
So he drove to HHS, the DOD and the VA,
And stuffed mint jelly in their servers so their networks would not play

And the one EHR, that still worked in the DC
Was the one bought from CostCo and tucked under the tree.

Then he did some more damage
To HIEs, and the N-HIN,
Making the idea of a healthcare network
Just a has-been!

It was quarter past dawn…
None in Congress were his friends
All the Congressmen, still a-snooze
When he packed up his Benz,
Packed it up with their copies of reform in those bags! Stacked to the leather ceiling,
Manila envelopes with name tags!

Three miles away were the banks of the river,
He was poised with the bags all set to deliver!
“Pooh-pooh to the Congressmen!” he was Payor-ish-ly humming.
“They’re finding out now that no Reform is coming!
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
“The all the Congressman down in Congress-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!”

“That’s a noise,” grinned the Payor,
“That I simply must hear!”
So he paused and the Payor put a hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow…

But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Congress-ville!
The Payor popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Congressman down in Congress-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any health reform at all!
The Congress didn’t care, a few were disgraces,
All they wanted, it seemed, was TV with their faces

And the Payor, with his Payor-feet knee deep in the muck,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “Man, there goes my bucks.
It could be about healthcare! It could be global warming!
“It could be Al Qaeda, Afghanistan and desert storming”
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Payor thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Congress,” he thought, “simply needs a free ride.
“Maybe Congress,” he thought…just needs to look like they tried.

And what happened then…?
Well…in Congress-ville they say
That the Payor’s small wallet
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his wallet didn’t feel quite so tight,
He zoomed in his Benz passing through a red light
And he brought back the copies of the bill for reform!
And he……HE HIMSELF…!
The Payor calmed the whole storm!

EHR: the wisdom of crowds

According to National Geographic, a single ant or bee isn’t smart, but their colonies are. The study of swarm intelligence is providing insights that can help humans manage complex systems. The ability of animal groups—such as this flock of starlings—to shift shape as one, even when they have no leader, reflects the genius of collective behavior—something scientists are now tapping to solve human problems.  Two monumental achievements happened this week; someone from MIT developed a mathematical model that mimics the seemingly random behavior of a flight of starlings, and I reached the halfway point in counting backwards from infinity–the number–infinity/2.

Swarm theory. The wisdom of crowds. Contrast that with the ignorance of many to listen to those crowds. In the eighties it took Coca-Cola many months before they heard what the crowd was saying about New Coke. Where does healthcare EHR fit with all of this? I’ll argue that the authors of the public option felt that wisdom.  If you remember the movie Network, towards the end of the movie the anchorman–in this case it was a man, not an anchor person–besides, in the eighties, nobody felt the need it add he/she or it as some morphed politically correct collection of pronouns.  Whoops, I digress.  Where were we?  Oh yes, the anchor-person.  He/she or it went to the window and exhorted everyone to yell, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  Pretty soon, his entire audience had followed his lead.

So, starting today, I begin my search for starlings.  A group whose collective wisdom may be able to help shape the healthcare EHR debate.  The requirements for membership is a willingness to leave the path shaped by so few and trodden by so many, to come to a fork in the road and take it. Fly in a new flock.  A flock that says before we get five years down the road and discover that we have created such an unbelievable mess that not only can we not use it, but that we have to write-off the entire effort and redo it, let us at least evaluate whether a strategic change is warranted.  The mess does not lie at the provider level.  It lies in the belief that hundreds of sets of different standards can be married to hundreds of different applications, and then to hundreds of different Rhios.

Where are the starlings headed?  Great question, as it is not sufficient simply to say, “you’re going the wrong way”.  I will write about some of my ideas on that later today.  Please share yours.

Now, when somebody asks you why you strayed from the pack, it would be good to offer a reasoned response.  It’s important to be able to stay on message.  Reform couldn’t do that and look where it is. Here are bullet points you can write on a little card, print, laminate, and keep in your wallet if you are challenged.

  • Different standards
  • Different vendors
  • Different Rhios
  • No EHR Czar

Different Standards + Different Vendors + Different Rhios + No Decider = Failure

You know this, I know this.

To know whether your ready to fly in a new direction, ask yourself this question.  Do you believe that under the present framework you will be able to walk into any ER in the country and know with certainty that they can quickly and accurately retrieve all the medical information they need about you?  If you do, keep drinking the Kool Aid.  If your a starling, come fly with us and get the word out.  Now return your seat backs and tray tables to their upright and most uncomfortable positions.

Whatever happened to Healthcare Reform?

I wrote a piece last year titled ‘Robbing Peter to Pay Paul’.  Yesterday I read a thoughtful post by Kim Chandler McDonald which offered a very similar albeit somewhat different perspective on the topic of where the focus on healthcare really lies.  Kim wrote on ‘meHealth’, taking the responsibility for eHealth as the only real way to create an ROI in the space http://ow.ly/5NCPN.  For those who enjoy reading something by someone who knows the difference between an adverb and a potted plant and can actually write a proper sentence I encourage you to take a read.

Mine was on heCare and sheCare and it also speaks to the individual but does so without any attempt to disguise my belief that healthcare reform missed the mark http://ow.ly/5NDet.  Kim wrote asking what if anything has changed in the period since I penned my piece.  For those who may have missed it, and to borrow from FDR, my premise was that the only thing to fear about healthcare reform was reform itself.

For all the talking that healthcare reform created, the silence on the topic has risen to a new crescendo.  The only thing that has changed concerning reform is that the silence has grown louder.

Why has reform missed the mark and what can be done about it?  Permit me a moment to illustrate.  I would ask that all the altruists reading this post take one step forward—wait a minute Sparky, where are you going?  The reform package efforted (simple past tense and past participle of effort) to be all things to all people, especially to those who have been disenfranchised under the current system.

While the goal is laudable, it did not pass the test of being both necessary and sufficient.  Its insufficiency is hampered by the fact that when we are ill altruism ends at our individual front doors.  It goes back to the notion of robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Do unto others, but do not undo unto me.

Most observers believe there is some dollar amount that contains the total spend available for healthcare and that to increase services to those less fortunate—the theyCare populous—means paying for it by removing services from those who presently have healthcare, the heCare and sheCare taxpayers.  And, it is those same people, the heCares and sheCares, whose support of reform has fallen silent.

While a rising tide may indeed lift all boats, it also drowns those tethered to the pier.

Hospital Executives: Can you answer these questions?

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.  Every hospital executive who thinks they have their arms around EHR and healthcare reform, take one step forward……whoa, where are you going Sparky?

The questions below resulted from a round-table discussion I recently had  with six healthcare executives about EHR and healthcare reform. The topic we discussed was what questions should C-Level executives be prepared to answer and what questions should boards be asking. What do you think? Are their others you’d add?

Are we taking adequate advantage of stimulus funding to improve our readiness?

How is health care reform going to impact our business and when?

Are we doing enough to be ready to succeed in an environment where we get paid for outcomes rather than inputs?

Are we ready to comply with Federal policies for Electronic Health Record reporting and sharing?

Are we achieving our own business improvement standards? Do we have the right standards?

Are we ready to use web 2.0 technologies to improve clinical outcomes for our clients?

How the Grinch stole healthcare

Not much has changed in the last year…or has it.

Every Congressman Down in Congress-ville
Liked Health reform a lot…But the Payors,
Who lived just North of Congress-ville,
Did NOT!

The Payors hated Health Reform! The Congressional reform season!
And as everyone’s heard there is more than one reason.
Was it the fear of losing their monopoly right?
Worried, perhaps, that Congress might indict.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that the uninsured took them all to the wall.

Staring down from their man-caves with indemnifying frowns
At the warm lighted windows below in the town.
For they knew every Congressman down in Congress-ville beneath,
Canted an ear to hear Congress gnashing their teeth.

“If this reform passes, they’ll kill our careers!”
“Healthcare reform! It’s practically here!”
Then they growled, the ideologues’ fingers nervously drumming,
“We MUST find a way to keep Reform from coming!”

For, tomorrow, they knew…

…Stumbling home from the tavern at a quarter past two What each Congressman, intern, and page just might just do And then all the milieu. Oh the milieu, the milieu
Which the Payors hated more than their mom’s Mulligan stew.

Then all the Congressmen, the left and the right, would sit down and meet.
And they’d meet! And they’d meet!
And they’d MEET! MEET! MEET! MEET!
Implement full provision; cover pre-existing…how sweet
That was something the Payors couldn’t stand in the least!

And THEN they’d do something Payors liked least of all!
Every Congressman down in Congress-ville, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, their Healthcare bells ringing.
With Blackberrys-in-hand, the Congress would start pinging!

They’d ping! And they’d ping!
AND they’d PING! PING! PING! PING!
And the more the Obligators thought of the Congressman-Health-Ping
The more they each thought, “I must stop reform-ing!
“Why for all of these years we’ve put up with it now!
We MUST stop health Reform from coming!
…But HOW?”

Then they got an idea!
An awful idea!
THE Indemnifiers
GOT A WONDERFULLY, AWFUL IDEA!

“I know what to do!” The CEO Payor laughed in his throat.
And he made a quick Congressional hat and a coat.
And he chuckled, and clucked, “What a great Payor raucous!
“With this coat and this hat, I’ll look just like Saint Bacchus!”

“All I need is a pass…”
The Payor looked around.
Since Congressional passes are scarce, there was none to be found.
Did that stop the old Payor…?
No! The Payor simply said,
“If I can’t find a pass, I’ll make one instead!”
So he called his aide Max. Then he took some red paper
And he dummied up the pass and he started this caper.

THEN
He loaded some bags
And some old empty sacks
On a Benz 550
And he rode with old Max.

Then the Payor called, “Dude!”
And the Benz started down
To the offices where the Congressmen
Lay a-snooze in their town.

All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Congressmen were dreaming sweet dreams of healthcare
When the Payor came to the first office in the square.
“This is stop number one,” The old Warrantist – a winner
And he slipped passed the guard, like sneaking to a State Dinner.

Then he slid down the hallway, Harry Reid was in sight.
Reid was chumming Pelosi, he planned quite a night.
He got nervous only once, for a moment or two.
Then he realized that the leadership hadn’t a clue
Then he found the Congressional stimuli all hung in a row.
“These Stimuli,” he grinned, “are the first things to go!”

The Payor slithered and slunk, with a smile somewhat mordant,
Around the old Cloakroom, looking quite discordant!
There were copies of the bill stuffed in jackets and on chairs, Why, he even found a copy tucked under the stairs
And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Payor, very neatly,
Started humming the jingle from Blue Cross; rather Cheeky!

Then he slunk to the Senate Chamber, the one facing East
He took the Senators’-copies!—didn’t mind in the least!
He cleaned out that Chamber and almost slipped on the floor.
Saw an Internet router, and thought of Al Gore

Then he stuffed all the copies in the trunk of his Benz.
And he thought to himself, “Why don’t I have friends?” “There’s always Tiger,” he said with no jest But TW’s being chased by reporters, those pests.

The Payor spotted the Grinch having trouble with his sacks
And he lent him a hand—he offered him Max Max was quite pleased, for he knew this December,
That the Grinch would become the Payor’s newest board member.

The Grinch was all smiles–he’d made quite a killing
Offering to help pillage if the Payor was willing.
He stared at the Payor and asked, “New glasses?”
The Payor simply smiled, saying “These people are such (You did that to yourself, not me.)

And, you know, that old Payor was so smart and conniving
When he next saw Pelosi he found himself smiling!
“Why, my dear little Nanc’,” the Bacchus look-alike stiffened,
“Botox in this light makes you look like a Griffin.”
“I’m taking these bills home,” he said pointing to the copy.
“There’s a comma on one page that looks way too sloppy.”

And his fib fooled the Griffin. Then he patted her head
And he gave her a wink, and he sent her to bed
And as Speaker Pelosi shuffled off to her army,
The Payor said to himself, “What a waste of Armani!”

The last thing the Payor needed to do,
Was to mess with these records systems, all four thousand and two.
So he drove to HHS, the DOD and the VA,
And stuffed mint jelly in their servers so their networks would not play

And the one EHR, that still worked in the DC
Was the one bought from CostCo and tucked under the tree.

Then he did some more damage
To HIEs, and the N-HIN,
Making the idea of a healthcare network
Just a has-been!

It was quarter past dawn…
None in Congress were his friends
All the Congressmen, still a-snooze
When he packed up his Benz,
Packed it up with their copies of reform in those bags! Stacked to the leather ceiling,
Manila envelopes with name tags!

Three miles away were the banks of the river,
He was poised with the bags all set to deliver!
“Pooh-pooh to the Congressmen!” he was Payor-ish-ly humming.
“They’re finding out now that no Reform is coming!
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
“The all the Congressman down in Congress-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!”

“That’s a noise,” grinned the Payor,
“That I simply must hear!”
So he paused and the Payor put a hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow…

But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Congress-ville!
The Payor popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Congressman down in Congress-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any health reform at all!
The Congress didn’t care, a few were disgraces,
All they wanted, it seemed, was TV with their faces

And the Payor, with his Payor-feet knee deep in the muck,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “Man, there goes my bucks.
It could be about healthcare! It could be global warming!
“It could be Al Qaeda, Afghanistan and desert storming”
And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Payor thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Congress,” he thought, “simply needs a free ride.
“Maybe Congress,” he thought…just needs to look like they tried.

And what happened then…?
Well…in Congress-ville they say
That the Payor’s small wallet
Grew three sizes that day!
And the minute his wallet didn’t feel quite so tight,
He zoomed in his Benz passing through a red light
And he brought back the copies of the bill for reform!
And he……HE HIMSELF…!
The Payor calmed the whole storm!

 

‘Twas the night before reform when all in the House…

I wrote this piece last year on the eve of the healthcare reform legislation.  It seems that the only thing tha has changed over those twelve months are the twelve months.

 

‘Twas the night before reform when all in the House

Were Tweeting and blogging and squawking like grouse

Their bill filled with zeroes and commas and flair

In hopes that the Senate would soon be there

The voters were restless, and in need of good care,

And they whined and they pleaded and they yelled ‘don’t you dare’

“Don’t sidestep this issue, don’t do it for votes”

“Don’t kowtow to payors or we’ll be at your throats.”

With Pelosi and her Botox, and while Reid took his nap

Didn’t care if the people put up with their (you rhyme it, I’m pretending to be neutral)

The docs sat on the sidelines, bemoaning their fate,

While payors dressed like succubi caroled “ain’t this great?”

On the lawn of the White House there arose such disdain

As the public fought reform from ‘Frisco to Maine.

MSNBC, neigh now Comcast, buttressed their base,

And Fox, aka Rupert, said it was all a disgrace.

The words on the pages of the newly printed bill,

Hid nuance, erudition, obfuscation, and swill,

Do not read the details, adjectives and signs,

Do not worry how it impacts your bottom lines.

We are here to pretend we did that of import,

To Hell with Medicare, Medicaid, and the sort

It’s voters we want, It’s our doxology, our mantra,

And this year silly people, this year WE are Santa

On Boxer, on Biden, on Fienstein they came,

And we chortled, berated, and chided by name.

“What about seniors, and sick people” we cried?

“What about uninsured, don’t you care if they die?”

“This is about people you meet on the street.

People who must choose between their meds and to eat

It’s about Lipitor, Xanax, Prozac and Viagra,

It’s about doing what’s right; do what’s right or we’ll bag ‘ya”

And then in a twinkling I heard in my head,

The gnawing and chiding of Congress, who said,

We cavorted and sucked up, the best we knew how,

We spent bucks, made big payoffs, and said change healthcare now.

Festooned all in new regs from NHS to VA

There were those who suggested, this is not going to play,

HITECH and ARRA are not making it fun,

RHIOs and RECs will soon come undone,

We’re paying the hospitals to do EHR

We know it seems silly, like we lowered the bar

If that doesn’t work we will tax them instead,

Make them spend gobs of money, make their budgets bleed red.

Spend it, refund it, and print new money now,

Buying Canada would be cheaper and easier but wow

They want to sign something, sign it soon, sign it fast,

But don’t assume that they’ve read it from first page to last,

We could’a been more like France, like the Swiss or the British

Make us more European, make our rich people skittish,

The tall socialist exclaimed as the dems shifted right,

Will Obamacare fail, have I lost all my might?