The Snowmageddon of Healthcare – Are You Ready?

— By Markus Fromherz, chief innovation officer, Healthcare, ACS, A Xerox Company

A perfect storm is brewing for healthcare organizations. And no, I’m not talking about another blizzard walloping the East Coast. I’m talking about simultaneously navigating the uncertain regulatory environment and an unprecedented rate of technological change. In speaking with providers at HIMSS 2011 this week in sunny Orlando, I found that many are concerned about keeping up with new technologies and finding and retaining the IT resources needed to absorb reform requirements, particularly when commitment to patient care should be top of mind.

The forecast? It won’t always be easy, but it doesn’t have to be as foreboding as some may think. Advanced providers have demonstrated that improving healthcare IT leads to improvements in quality of care and costs, but it’s a matter of getting there. As healthcare moves from paper-based to electronic medical records (EMRs), the implementation of these systems without losing productivity is an ongoing challenge. For many providers, it is helpful to enlist a trusted partner to handle the flow of information throughout the healthcare workday, which allows organizations to focus on the most important part of their business – patients. Xerox / ACS is often enlisted in that role.

In the short term, Xerox helps design and deploy the appropriate EMR, care management, and revenue cycle management systems for a provider’s environment, while also navigating regulatory requirements like complying with Meaningful Use. In the longer term, Xerox is working on advanced image recognition, natural language understanding, and agent-based workflow technologies that will help automate processes and put the information physicians need at their finger tips during diagnosis and treatment of patients.

As always, HIMSS has a way of putting vendor priorities in perspective, and it’s these take-aways that help shape Xerox’s business strategy in healthcare. The focus inevitably circles back to quality patient care, and how we can better help providers meet that goal through technology. You can check out more of what I saw at HIMSS this week in this  short video interview by Matthew Holt, founder of TheHealthcareBlog.com and Health 2.0.

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One Comment

  1. Afser Shariff, MD May 14, 2012 - Reply

    As an early adopter of one of the better EMR products, I realized quickly that software designers are targeting the wrong persons. While it is important for the EMR to be physician friendly, the majority of the people and the time devoted to interacting with the EMR is done by an army of physician support staff. I know a sizeable number of doctors who have distanced themselves from their computers because it diminished their relationship to their patients. I went about addressing this problem by working on developing a virtual pool of employees to help manage the doctor/patient/information management relationship. The simple term for what we do is called scribing. This is an anathema to many in HIMMS, but for us it is the stepping stone toward designing more intelligent software. Reading through what Xerox and PARC have been up to with regards to healthcare, we may be approaching the problem from a slightly different angle. We are mapping the functions of a scribe to software. While we do not have the resources of PARC, we do have a large number of scribes plugged into a variety of specialty offices working daily to understand the nuances of real time data flow into an EMR. Human scribes can predict the direction the doctor/patient interaction is headed and start populating/depopulating fields. We would like to create tools that first aide the Human Scribes, then eventually automate those tasks so that the scribes can move to the next higher order tasks.

    Last time I was at HIMMS, my colleagues did not take to kindly to the approach of using scribes. Unlike them, I still see a full schedule of patients…and so do the doctors who use scribes. The early data is out there in peer reviewed medical journals. Doctors with scribes can take care of more patients efficiently than without scribes. The perfect storm in healthcare is that we have less doctors practicing full time (demographic change in physician population coupled with life-work balance shift) who are being required to use EMRs which further reduce their productivity combined with increased regulatory demands on increasing the amount and type of data being entered into software.

    We need a temporary bridge solution until software/hardware and society catch up. That temporary bridge also can provide a framework to test embedded reasoning algorithms. To this end, human scribes become the object of study as well as the testers of future software.

    Thanks for an interesting post. Snowmaggedon is much worse than most realize.

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