Impact Insights

Week in Review 11/6/15: Update on Senate HIT Bill; Fascinating Approach to Analytics

A SENATE BILL TO KEEP A VERY CLOSE EYE ON… Politico reported earlier this week that the Senate HELP Committee may soon release its version of the 21st Century Cures bill, which is expected to include healthcare IT provisions.  However, Politico also cautions that “what [the bill] will look like is a closely held secret; lobbyists say they haven’t seen a draft of legislative text.”  The House version of the 21st Century Cures bill – which was passed in July 2015 – included language that would establish new interoperability standards that EHRs would have to meet by January 2018 or face decertification in 2019.

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts:  For those wondering whether Congress will get involved to delay Stage 3 of meaningful use, this is the bill to watch.  It will also be interesting to see whether the Senate version of the bill expands on any of the “interoperability” provisions passed by the House – or whether the bill includes entirely new healthcare IT language that no one was anticipating.

ONGOING STRUGGLES WITH PATIENT / PROVIDER COMMUNICATION… A new survey from the Council of Accountable Physician Practices and the Bipartisan Policy Center finds that a majority of Americans still don’t have access to (or are unaware of) technology to better communicate with their primary care physician.  For example, more than half of respondents said they do not even receive telephone reminders about upcoming appointments, while less than a third (28%) said they have access to a patient portal.  (Note that some respondents may just not be aware that they have access to a portal though.)  The survey also found that many physicians remain skeptical of telemedicine.  Although 42% of physicians said telemedicine is “an important evolution in the practice of medicine,” almost one-third said it is “not worth the hype” – while other physicians expressed concerns about the impact telemedicine will have on their personal income and practice revenue.

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts We recommend the full report, which includes a lot of good data on a variety of different topics.  We think the findings on physicians’ opinion of telemedicine is particularly notable though.  Most studies focus on patient demand for e-visits, but this is a good reminder that widespread adoption of telemedicine will require physicians and other clinicians to be just as engaged as well.

PREDICTING FLU ACTIVITY LIKE FORECASTERS TRACK STORMS… A study published in PLOS Computational Biology by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital looks at an approach to predicting flu-like activity that is based on combining a number of “non-traditional” data sources.   The press release from the authors notes that the approach of leveraging a variety of disparate sources (“ensemble modeling”) is actually similar to how weather forecasters predict the track of a hurricane.  The “non-traditional” data sources used for the study were: 1) Google search results; 2) Twitter data; 3) “near-real time” clinical EHR data from athenahealth; and 4) “crowd-sourced flu data from Flu Near You.”  According to study author John Brownstein, PhD, “Weather forecasting is an established discipline and has become engrained in society.  We think the time is ripe for the same to happen with disease forecasting.”

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts:  We think the story is fascinating, and a great example of how predictive analytics in healthcare can evolve by studying successful approaches from other industries. (Note that the study itself is pretty technical, so we recommend starting with the press release.)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT… Walgreens announced it has selected Epic for its 400 in-store retail clinics.  Modern Healthcare reports the deal comes about 20 months after CVS Health picked Epic for its retail MinuteClinics.