Impact Insights

Week in Review 5/29/15

The percentage of healthcare organizations that have adopted a “clinical and business intelligence solution” has increased only minimally over the last two years.  Politico reports that a recent study from HIMSS Analytics finds that 52% of healthcare organizations currently utilize a “clinical and business intelligence solution” in 2015, up only slightly from 46% in HIMSS Analytics’ 2013 survey.  Overall, more than half of all respondents in 2015 also indicated they use “embedded clinical and business intelligence tools” within their EHR.

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts: We don’t have access to the full report, so without knowing how HIMSS Analytics specifically defines a “clinical and business intelligence solution” the adoption percentages should be taken with a grain of salt.  However, assuming the definition hasn’t changed since the 2013 study, we do think there is some significance to the relatively small net increase in usage over the last two years.

The 21st Century Cures Act will head to the House floor for a vote after being unanimously approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week The bill is notable for providers and vendors because it includes language that would establish new interoperability standards that EHRs would have to meet by January 2018 or face decertification in 2019.  The standards adopted by HHS would be based on recommendations the agency receives from a yet-to-be-determined private “health care standards development organization.”  As a condition of certification, EHR vendors would also have to attest to a number of different statements, including that they did not knowingly limit interoperability and that APIs for the EHR have been published. 

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts: Obviously the bill still has a long way to go to become law, but it underscores the growing attention Congress is giving to data exchange in healthcare.  It is impossible to predict the impact of such an “interoperability” requirement without knowing the specific standards that would be adopted, but our initial take is that the current problem isn’t going to be solved by adding more EHR certification requirements.  Technology is one component to interoperability, but there are also very real workflow and competitive issues that can’t be ignored.

UnitedHealth, the largest health insurer in the country, announced plans earlier this month to greatly expand coverage of telehealth.  According to an article from Forbes, UnitedHealth will cover “virtual visits” offered through three different telehealth networks: Doctor On Demand, NowClinic, and American WellForbes notes that Cigna, Aetna, and other major health plans also offer various types of telehealth services, but UnitedHealth is “shaking up the market” “because of its size.”  Per the story, as many as 20 million UnitedHealth members could have access to covered e-visits through the three networks by the start of 2016.

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts:  From a provider perspective, this news is one of the clearest signs yet that traditional reimbursement barriers to telehealth are falling – and as access to e-visits increases so will patient expectations about them.  Hospitals and health systems that experiment with even basic telehealth pilots right now will likely have an important advantage down the road when it comes time to engage physicians at their organization in much larger scale initiatives.

In case you missed it… through March 2015, CMS had paid out a total of more than $30 billion in meaningful use incentive payments to hospitals and EPs since the program was established.  That is a huge number by any standard, and the primary reason that MU audits aren’t going away any time soon.