Impact Insights

Week in Review 11/13/15 – Hospital EHR Adoption; Use of Mobile Apps

HOSPITAL EHR ADOPTION ON THE RISE… A new study in Health Affairs finds that 75% of U.S. hospitals had at least a “basic” EHR in 2014, up from 59% in 2013.  Specifically, 34% of hospitals had a “comprehensive” EHR in 2014, while 41% had just a “basic” EHR.  Despite the overall increase, the authors note that “small and rural hospitals continue to lag behind.”  In fact, when it comes to differences between small and large hospitals, there has been more than a 10 point gap in adoption of a least a “basic” EHR since 2008.

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts:  The overall increase in adoption is encouraging, but the 75% number is actually not as high as it seems.  The reason is there is a significant difference between the two categories of adoption.  Hospitals with a “basic EHR” only had to have 10 basic functions “implemented in at least one clinical unit.”  However, hospitals with a “comprehensive EHR” had to have all “basic” EHR functions, plus 14 additional functions, “implemented in all major clinical units.”  In other words, there is still a lot of work to be done in many U.S. hospitals in terms of broadly implementing more advanced functionality.

WALGREENS EXPANDING EFFORTS TO GAIN TRACTION IN HEALTH DELIVERY… Walgreens announced that patients in 20 new states (and 25 states now in total) will have access to telehealth services from MDLive directly through the Walgreens mobile appThe company also announced the availability of the Walgreens Connect app, which gives Walgreens Balance Rewards members the opportunity “to earn points for taking daily measurements” using a connected glucose meter or blood pressure monitor from Walgreens.

Impact Advisors’ Thoughts:  Both Walgreens and CVS are aggressively trying to make inroads in health delivery by competing on convenience and cost – and we think the recent expansion of telehealth offerings by both companies will play a critical role in that trend.  Strategies that the national drug store chains are using to gain traction are not just limited to telehealth though.  The Walgreens Connect app is a great example of how the company is building customer loyalty and providing real, tangible incentives for patients to use Walgreens brand devices to monitor their health.

WHY DO CONSUMERS STOP USING HEALTH-RELATED MOBILE APPS?… A study published in JMIR mHealth and uHealth looks at how U.S. mobile phone owners use healthcare apps.  Overall, 58% of respondents said they had previously downloaded a health app, with fitness and nutrition apps being the most popular.  However, almost half of that group (46%) said they no longer use some of the health apps they’ve downloaded in the past.  The most commonly cited reason was “takes too much time to enter data” (mentioned by 44.5% of respondents), followed by “lost interest” (40.5%), “there were hidden costs” (36.1%), and “too confusing to use” (32.8%).  Complete survey results are available in the study’s appendix.

Impact Advisors’ ThoughtsThe drop-off itself isn’t at all surprising – we’ve all downloaded apps that we don’t end up using.  We think the underlying reasons cited by patients are telling though.  In fact, looking at the list above, it is clear why a company like Fitbit has been so successful with its wearable monitoring devices and related mobile app.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT… EHRIntelligence reports that a bill proposed in the House would provide a blanket hardship exception for any hospital or EP for the 2015 reporting period “due to the delay in timely publication” of the recent MU Final Rule.  Currently, hardship exceptions are only determined on a case-by-case basis (although CMS recently noted that the agency has approved over 85% of hardship exceptions in the past).  [Note: for a detailed summary and analysis of the MU Final Rule, see Impact Advisors’ recently-published white paper.]