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How to Build a Successful Healthcare Technology Team

In the healthcare space, much attention is often paid to the implementation of revolutionary new technology, from Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to analytics and cybersecurity solutions. Certainly, this is understandable given the importance of these functions to healthcare data management, and the rapidly evolving capabilities of these systems to empower greater efficiency. However, with such a focus on the IT side of the house, it can be easy for organizations to neglect the importance of building out the right teams to support the technology and achieve the goals of the business.

At HealthTECH Resources, Inc., we spend an enormous amount of time consulting with the nation’s leading providers to help them fill talent gaps, plan against goals, and develop training and processes for end users. I should note that every organization is unique in the specific needs and resources required for success, but there are some shared characteristics we find in providers that tend to perform well.

  1. Plan early, plan often: It goes without saying that organizations should be planning for how to achieve goals, not just prior to the launch of a new initiative but throughout the life of a project and beyond. Of course, having comprehensive plans in place can sometimes feel like a utopian pipe dream, but it is more of a possibility that you may imagine. Often, we see organizations start with the idea that they need something “new” and “shiny.” “We need a new EHR system,” or “we need a more robust analytics tool.” These may very well be and often are, true statements for a healthcare provider, but decisions shouldn’t start with a statement about technology. Start with the desired outcome and then work backward to determine the steps required to get there. “We need more transparency in our patient records,” or “we need to better understand where there are inefficiencies in our processes.” See the difference? From there, you can understand the steps required to get to the desired end-state and build appropriate plans inclusive of both technology and talent.
  2. Balance headcount with specialized outsourcing: Another key to building a successful technology team is recognizing where to maintain in-house resources and where to outsource for specialized talent. In many cases, it is not economical or practical to employ all of the various types of skill-sets required for a particular project or initiative. On the flip side, some organizations may try to handle everything in-house and run into inefficiencies or challenges due to a skills gap that could be filled with consultative talent. Maintaining the proper balance is key to success and is something we help providers with frequently.
  3. Consistently iterate as conditions change: Again, this may seem like an obvious statement, but it is something that is more easily said than done. The reality is that conditions in your organization will change, regulations will be passed, new technology will be released, and some or all of these things may happen while you are in the middle of an implementation or other projects. It’s important to be agile, both in development and in mindset, and be willing to course-correct depending on your goals and on the directional changes to the business.

These are simply a few common traits we observe in the successful businesses that we work with, as mentioned, the specific talent you may require and the team structure that will work best for you is dependent on a myriad of factors. Please reach out if you could use help in sourcing specialized talent, developing training programs, or planning otherwise for success. And if there are other characteristics that have helped you to build a successful team, we’d also love to hear about them.

 

Meaningful Use in the ER: Interview with Dr. Whitney Kiebel

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The writing has been on the wall for years and CMS has read it. While the Meaningful Use program may have achieved its goal of widespread EHR adoption, the time has come to focus on performance and patient outcomes.

Andy Slavitt MU TweetWhile the program can be hailed for catalyzing a wave of modernization in the healthcare industry, it can be equally roasted for ignoring EHR usability, letting the role of physicians in providing data entry and compliance get out of control, and delivering attestation requirements with no apparent relevance to the delivery of quality care. American Medical Association President Steven J. Stack, MD argued that, “Most electronic health record systems fail to support efficient and effective clinical work. This has resulted in physicians feeling increasingly demoralized by technology that interferes with their ability to provide first-rate medical care to their patients.”

Cue CMS head honcho Andy Slavitt announcing the death knell for MU at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference January 11th, and later in a tweet that pledged “something better” is on the way, causing some dissatisfied doctors to celebrate and some to shrewdly ponder the corporate greed and regrettable sunk cost of the program thus far.

It is a welcome change for most, but who’s to say what comes along next will be any better? The uncertainty around MU’s replacement has led many to temper their enthusiasm. The College of Healthcare Information Executives (CHIME) is advocating to CMS and congressional committees for ”greater alignment and harmonization of quality measures; creating parity between eligible professionals and eligible hospitals; and removing the pass/fail approach to gaining incentives; reinstating the 90-day reporting period; and ensuring that MU focuses on using IT to transform care, not just reinforce a check-the-box mentality.”

“Most electronic health record systems fail to support efficient and effective clinical work. This has resulted in physicians feeling increasingly demoralized by technology that interferes with their ability to provide first-rate medical care to their patients.”

Echoing the sentiment that it’s high time to move into the phase of making the program live up to it’s Meaningful moniker, Karen DeSalvo, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology affirmed that “this new chapter” of health IT will be “more about knowledge that can come from that data as opposed to thinking about the adoption of platforms themselves.” We know this will involve transitioning to the Medicare Access & CHIP Reauthorization Act’s (MACRA) emphasis on Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and alternative payment models, but as of yet it seems the champagne should remain corked.

While the industry awaits CMS and the government to shed light on future health IT incentive programs, we wanted to hear from a local MD about her impressions of MU, the rapid adoption of EHRs, and their impact on how physicians take care of and interact with patients at her organization.

Dr. Whitney Kiebel, MD, iMU Quantum States an emergency and pediatric physician in her final year of residency at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. She was interviewed via email in late February.

HealthTECH: What are your overall feelings on the the impact EHRs have had on your day-to-day work?

Dr. Kiebel: I 100% agree with the comments [from AMA President Stack]. Sometimes [the EHR] reminds me to do things that I otherwise would not…but for the most part, I do not find it useful and it just adds another tedious task to our charting. I spend significantly more time at the computer than I actually do interacting and caring for patients. The EPIC interface is probably the best one that I have worked with and does make it easier (I have used CERNER, Meditech and Sunrise Clinical Manager).Kiebel MD

HealthTECH: While the MU program may have accomplished its primary goal of getting providers to adopt EHRs and begin digitizing patient information, and we can acknowledge there have been challenges, what value have these efforts had to you and the organization? If not now, are you confident that we will see the value of this massive endeavor in the future?

Dr. Kiebel: I do like EHRs. I think it is easy to get carried away with various things that are purely just for data and have no merit in affecting patient care (i.e. MD in room button). We have it set up in our department that we bring computers with us into the room. In order to actually chart efficiently most people do this. I do think that typing does take away from the patient experience and makes it less personal. But there is no way that I could get my charts done in time if I did not do this.

The best thing about EHRs is being able to look at old records. In a busy emergency department, this would be impossible to do without EHRs. This has seriously changed my practice, particularly in patients with chronic issues or who frequently visit. It would be nice if there was a better way to link with other hospitals in the community.

HealthTECH: Part of the announcement of the MU changes included a new focus on the use of API’s to promote innovation. What do you imagine true innovation in Healthcare IT looking like?

Dr. Kiebel: I really like the idea of the APIs. Patient’s need better access to their records. However, sometimes a test will come back abnormal and in the appropriate clinical context it is not something that I would be concerned about. It is hard to communicate that with patients and to prevent unnecessary worry. So though I like the idea, it may not be the most productive in some situations.

I think promoting communication after a visit is very helpful particularly in the primary care setting.  As far as a busy ER, probably not as much so since we do not have a longstanding relationship with our patients (most of the time). It is much easier to type a quick text or email to a patient, than to try to get in contact via snail mail or phone.

It would be amazing if healthcare IT could come up with a way to link all EHRs so that we could access other hospital’s data.  I have so many patients that come in and say, “I don’t know my list of medications, don’t you have it on file?” It would help us eliminate unnecessary admissions and workups.  I have had patients come in that have had extensive workups in other cities but I have been unable to access these records, and as a result end up ordering the same workup for the patient here because legally I do not have any documentation of prior workups.

“It would be amazing if healthcare IT could come up with a way to link all EHRs so that we could access other hospital’s data.  I have so many patients that come in and say, ‘I don’t know my list of medications, don’t you have it on file?'”

HealthTECH: What are your feelings going forward with Stage 3 attestation, MIPS, and alternative payment models? Incentivizing good quality care is obviously the goal, but developing metrics to measure that quality sounds tricky.

Dr. Kiebel: I do not quite understand the impact that this will have and it sounds like it is really tricky. I do agree that incentivizing good care is necessary, but I do not know if these models really assess that. They are trying to objectify something that really can’t be objectified. To be penalized financially because you are not clicking buttons on a computer seems like the wrong way to grade physician care and doesn’t seem like an appropriate model of determining physician reimbursement.

Many places have hired scribes to ensure efficient and effective charting. It is kind of crazy that you have to hire somebody to chart for you, but most places are moving to this.

We Provide Top IT Talent for Payer and Provider Market

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As a leading provider of top IT talent to the Payer and Provider market nationwide, HealthTECH views itself as a kind of “Sports Agent” acting on behalf of our hospital and managed healthcare insurance clients nationwide.

We understand our clients resource needs and initiatives, with over 20 years of industry experience we understand who the best players in the Payer and provider industry are.  This unique status in the marketplace ensures we send only the right IT players to fill the right positions at our client’s facilities. We employ them, or we have access to them for our clients. Our vetting process has given HealthTECH a bench of high-level IT players who have an exceptional work ethic coupled with high performance. These characteristics make them an important part of our client’s EMR team. We only represent players who we have had excellent experience with.

We realize our Director or CIO clients are busy: they have been asked to do more with less budget, the resource needs they have are immediate and pressing, and they may be dealing with a pending merger or acquisition which is a growing trend in our industry that I see continuing strong into 2016. They don’t have the time to vet and choose the right EMR / IT support staff to get the job done. What they need are the players we represent: for us to receive a call from a client in New York needing a half dozen specific skill sets on any of the EMR applications we support on a Thursday, and needing them on site the following Monday for an undefined period of time. This is no problem for HealthTECH, because we have access to all EMR skill sets and can respond quickly.

Deep Roster of Outstanding IT Talent

We take pride in the fact that we listen to and understand our client’s needs: we represent them. With the information they give us, we secure resources from our roster of outstanding players, who have every imaginable skill set out there, and we send only the best fit for you. Our recruiters are an important part of the process, but the most important part are the IT players we represent. Our clients trust us. That trust comes from knowing they can call us on Thursday and have six coders or 6 specific EPIC or Cerner folks on site Monday anywhere across the country. When you need us, we’re there. We respond within 48–72 hours to placement needs in all 50 states, and that’s what sets HeathTECH apart from unspecialized staffing firms. Bottom line, we have the best healthcare IT bench in the industry.

Exceptional level of Service and Deliverability for Payers and Providers

I think it would be very, very difficult for someone outside the specialized provider and Payer IT space to meet our level of service and deliverability. I believe these are the reasons that St Josephs, Wellmed, Cedar Sinai, Johns Hopkins, Presbyterian and The University of Chicago, to name a few, have turned to HealthTECH and our bench of players for their EMR needs. We are also a top tier vendor with United Healthcare and Optum, who continue to reach out to us for staffing needs in a very short window of need.

We understand the market. We understand meaningful use stresses and guidelines for our clients in a migration, an implementation, an upgrade or a go-live. As we enter into the new year, we are confident that we will continue to serve the healthcare market, hospitals and universities, with skilled, knowledgeable IT players who bring an outstanding work ethic to our client’s teams.

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