Dreams vs. Reality

“I want to be a doctor when I grow up.”superman

What did you want to be when you were growing up? I wonder how many of today’s physicians, knowing what they know now, wish they could turn back time and change that childhood ambition. That calling. That innate drive to help people. Because after devoting countless grueling hours to schooling, internships, and residencies… after earning a reputation based on providing personalized care, one patient at a time… after building a business based on an immeasurable combination of talent and knowledge, suddenly the field of medicine is being commoditized. No wonder physician burnout is on the rise—up 16% in two years, according to this Medscape Physician Lifestyle Report.

The government is telling doctors that an EHR can absorb mass data and spit out the right answer better than they can. Doctors are paying more to run their practices, earning less, and are still expected to provide quality care for record numbers of patients. And those patients have no idea what is going on behind the scenes, so their satisfaction levels are at risk. As physicians aim to fulfill their Hippocratic Oath in this world where they also are required to mitigate their own legal risks, direct their attention away from humans and toward technologies, and follow data directives based on masses instead of their own professional insights, the people on both sides of the examination table are feeling it.

In a recent survey, PhysiciansPractice.com published a list of things physicians wish patients knew. Here are some of the findings:

• “I wish they knew why physicians usually run late.”

• “I wish they knew that I do care about the pain they are having… even if I seem busy or preoccupied.”

• “I wish they knew how often we have to fight with their insurance companies just to get paid for services we’ve rendered.”

When it comes to practicing medicine, there are no limits to the differences that can exist between cases—and allowing physicians to discern those nuances is critical to providing the best patient care. Rather than getting caught up in the negativity surrounding these ongoing changes, I’d like to ask these professionals for whom I have tremendous admiration to weigh in.

Doctors: What changes would make practicing medicine more in line with the reasons you chose to become a physician?

You Say You Want a Resolution…

resolutions-blogOK, I’ve taken some liberties with one of John Lennon’s most famous lyrics, but it’s the first blog post of the year, so I thought I’d need a little extra attention-getting power to break through the post-holiday fog. Chances are, only a few days ago you were pondering how you would implement change in your life in 2015. You may even have proclaimed those resolutions loudly and proudly as the ball dropped in Times Square. Seven days in, how well are your new year’s resolutions doing at becoming reality? I’ve kept mine so far . . . 😉

All kidding aside, we’re doing more than just hoping that the changes we want to effect at SRS will happen this year—we know they will happen, because we have a system in place to ensure that we keep our promises to ourselves and to others. It’s not complicated, and it’s something anyone can use at home or at work to help ensure that their “Say/Do Ratio” remains high. Simply, there are four key elements: communication, transparency, collaboration, and accountability.

Lose weight. Work out more. Eat better. Since health is always one of the top New Year’s resolutions, let’s start with that example. Experts say it takes 21 days to turn something into a habit, but why do some resolutions become habits while others become failed attempts? Because commitment must be systematized for maximum success. So if my resolution was to get to the gym three times each week, the first thing I’d do is communicate that goal . . . to everyone, not just to whomever happened to be around on New Year’s Eve. It’s easy to tell yourself something and then forget about it. By telling my whole support network—my family, my friends, my team at the office—my motivation to do what I said I’d do is increased immeasurably. In terms of transparency, I’d start posting somewhere (perhaps on Facebook) each time I worked out as a proof point. I’d collaborate with others by starting or joining a workout group, maybe even implementing some sort of competition within the group. Finally, I’d enable true accountability, empowering my supporters to check in on my progress.

At SRS, healthcare is our core focus—and so our corporate fitness is critical to helping our clients strengthen their productivity while remaining focused on the wellbeing of their patients. At our User Summit in October, we discovered what was most important to our customers and then we created a system of actionable initiatives to ensure that our promises become the change we all want to see. And we are doing it by following this same four-step system.

No matter what your resolution is, big or small, by supporting it systematically with these four key elements, you’ll do more than wish for something to be different . . . you’ll turn a resolution into a revolution.

Can You Satisfy the Government and Your Patients?

Never before have healthcare professionals operated in a time of such rapid technological blog-image-111714change—and faced the great uncertainty of today’s complex industry regulations. Unfortunately, it’s not a trend we see ending anytime soon. It’s getting harder and harder to even understand what the government is asking us to do, let alone satisfy those requirements. Does data collection have to mean data distraction—taking the focus off of what matters most to each physician: the patient?

At our annual User Summit last month, big data was the big topic of discussion. While our users recognize there can be very real benefits to elements of meaningful use, there is a lot of friction surrounding its integration into medical practices. It often feels like the data we are being asked to capture—the data that is supposed to make everything more productive—interferes with what we are trying to accomplish. Physicians can find themselves required to ask questions that make no sense, that take up valuable office visit time, and that possibly cast a little doubt in the patient’s eye. Where is the ROI on that?

Medical professionals need more, because that’s what MU is asking of them. HCIT companies have to provide more than technology—they have to provide expert guidance to help navigate the MU waters. Together, technology and expertise can help physicians satisfy government regulations while also achieving their industry and business goals. From strategic planning through product execution, we must provide more predictable solutions. This goes beyond “certified solutions”—this is about creating working solutions that allow medical professionals to be compliant without interfering with their practice goals.

It all comes down to ECR: Efficiency . . . Care . . . and Revenue. The right HCIT solutions will:

  • create efficiencies, allowing doctors to spend more time with more patients;
  • improve care, providing flexible solutions that don’t interfere with the doctor–patient relationship; and
  • increase revenue, helping doctors earn more by reducing malpractice risk and insurance, creating additional revenue streams, and more.

We heard it loud and clear at our User Summit: increased data requirements cannot be accomplished at the expense of patient care. EHR solutions aren’t real solutions if they slow you down—they have to capture data with minimum interference while ensuring maximum productivity.

At SRS we’re working even harder to help our clients navigate government and industry demands and translate them into meaningful products that will satisfy more than MU: they’ll satisfy your patients. And they’ll satisfy you.

Client Satisfaction Isn’t a Noun

People talk about client satisfaction as if it were a static thing—something that never blog-101314progresses or evolves. I believe the “action” in satisfaction means we must continually measure it and make adjustments as necessary. Our world is constantly changing; what made a customer happy three months ago may have nothing to do with his or her needs today. We must check in on a regular basis through a variety of channels in order to create a multi-dimensional living model of what our clients really want. Only then can we understand whether we are truly satisfying our customers. In order for any company to innovate, they must know what is important to clients today—as well as have a sense of what will be important tomorrow. Insights are discovered in many ways, and I believe we should use a variety of tools to determine the most accurate picture. Here are a few:

  • Industry Events – Be present to check the pulse of your industry, hear about issues and trends, and speak to others as an authority and a colleague. Events are already in place for these purposes, so get out there and learn.
  • Focus Groups – Drill down to specific insights that allow you to ask new questions and test ideas that may not yet be ready for a larger forum. Modern focus groups can provide nearly instantaneous feedback and insights at a very reasonable cost, so consider upping the frequency.
  • Social Media – Sometimes it’s the informal comment or question that can trigger a breakthrough innovation. Social media can be the next best thing to actually talking with clients—and sometimes even better, since it gives people a place to share their thoughts in real time.

If you’re really committed to knowing (instead of assuming) what your customers are thinking, why not create a whole experience dedicated to discovering just that? Right now I’m at our annual User Summit, where my team and I will be spending three days with our clients, listening to what only they can tell us. This is the ultimate forum for the pursuit of knowledge, and we look forward to learning how to continue to evolve our company to best serve our customers. Each customer interaction reveals different insights; enabling and acting upon that ongoing dialog is what we consider to be the action in customer satisfaction. It’s what allows us to innovate with purpose. The most significant question our clients ask right now is, “How can I successfully meet government requirements and achieve my practice’s goals without having to sacrifice one to serve the other?” I’ll be sharing more about our answer to that in my next blog post, so stay tuned . . .

When Is an EHR Like a Tesla?

091214-blogMany of us simultaneously adore and fear the high-tech gadgetry that has entered our day-to-day lives. We adore the benefits today’s technology can bring—convenience, speed, connectivity—yet we fear the ramifications of the unknown. From mobile phones to golf clubs, there are so many choices out there, and we all want to make the right choice. But how do we determine what is right for us? Ironically, our high-tech decisions are usually made in a very low-tech way—through discussion with people we trust. In my circle, I’ve always been the one that friends and family have come to for insights on all things technological.

I’ll admit I’m a technophile, but with a caveat: I’m only for technology that actually helps our lives in meaningful ways. Just because a new gizmo exists doesn’t mean it is right for my life—even though many times, it’s just that it’s not quite right, quite yet. I’ll give you an example: lately, I’ve been getting barraged with questions about cars with alternative-fuel sources. Most often I’m asked, “When are you getting a Tesla?” My response, “Not now,” seems to surprise those who know me.

Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly support the inroads Tesla is making in bringing electric-powered cars into the mainstream. These are gorgeous automobiles that are winning awards from all the right sources for everything from performance to safety. Those who have them brag about being on the leading edge, and with every right. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that some of these proud owners are plagued with a fear... a fear that, at some point, they will literally run out of energy because there aren’t enough charging stations. The infrastructure simply is not in place yet. So if I run out of electricity—a very real possibility—I don’t care how amazing these cars are; I’m still stuck, and may as well be driving an AMC Gremlin.

What does this have to do with what I do? Meaningful use makes many high-tech demands of the physicians we serve in the HCIT industry, and it seems that some of those demands don’t consider the implications to the physician in a practical application. Why are doctors—whose time is best spent interacting with patients in a very human way—being relegated to capturing every bit of data imaginable when chances are they will only leverage a very small portion of the information? This is especially true when that data (a) may not be relevant to every patient and/or practice, and (b) may not ever be shared because the information superhighways for this exchange are still under construction.

The right data is critical, of course, and that’s something that medical professionals have long been experts in diagnosing. So what happens when a shiny new EHR technology suddenly makes unreasonable demands on doctors’ time, but with limited tangible benefits? We start to interfere with meaningful patient interactions, and practice-wide productivity, in the name of compliance. Again, the right technology will help in the right way—and in our industry, I believe that means IT solutions that help doctors do more of what they do best: spend meaningful time with patients, and do it more efficiently and with better outcomes.

So if you want to know when I’ll consider getting a Tesla, the answer is when the proper infrastructure is in place to handle it. Until then, I’ll find the vehicle that best serves my needs today and in the foreseeable future. And if you’re looking for my advice regarding mobile phones, golf clubs, or EHR solutions, it’s exactly the same.


How Do You Measure Success?

blog-tape-measureWhen we were kids, we had clearly defined measurements—from literally marking our physical growth each year by standing with our back to the wall, to earning grades, scoring goals, and more. While we couldn’t will ourselves to grow taller (no matter how hard some of us may have tried), we learned that we could work on the other metrics, and we learned the sense of satisfaction that comes with achieving measurable goals. That’s because we had leaders in life who taught us these things: principals, coaches, parents…

So what happened when we ventured out into the workplace? Unfortunately, many of us ended up working in companies where measurement was not built in to the management system. Perhaps it’s because, as adults, we no longer feel that sort of “supervision” is necessary. The fact is, however, that without defining what is most important to an organization—and then continually measuring the effectiveness of the ways we work together to achieve that objective—we simply cannot engage the minds and hearts of every individual on the team.

This is particularly true—and particularly crucial—in the world of healthcare, where the customers are people who are turning to physicians and medical staff for care that ranges from preventive through life saving. Leadership is critical to making sure that each patient gets the best your team has to offer, and every measurement should focus on that—including the measurement of vendors. The right vendors have put metrics in place to measure how well they help you achieve your goals.

That’s my leadership philosophy at work and in life. After all, it seems like if things don’t get measured, they don’t get done the right way, and you certainly can’t fix something if you don’t know that it’s broken. We’re all so busy that it’s easy to get distracted by “squirrels”—things that dart into our paths, taking our attention off of what’s most important. But taking the time to evaluate what your company can do for maximum customer satisfaction, putting metrics in place to ensure that everyone on the team knows how they can help achieve those goals, and regularly reviewing results to see how you’re doing—that’s probably the biggest value a leader can impart to an organization.

Perhaps it’s time to put some new metrics in place in your business to ensure that you’re providing the best service possible—and you can draw from industry analysis, staff, clients and vendors—to determine what those metrics should be. Because it’s human nature: we all want to know how we’re measuring up!


My First 15 Days as CEO

Turning a new pageI’m Scott Ciccarelli, the new CEO at SRS. Although EMR Straight Talk is industry-focused—not about SRS—in my first blog post I thought I would tell you a bit about my SRS experience so far—I can sum it up in three letters: ETP.

The “eager to please” culture permeates everything at SRS. Each individual I’ve had the pleasure to meet so far is bursting with dedication and a relentless desire to help—each other, our clients, and me. What a support network, where every desk is literally a help desk!

This commitment to ETP is the reason SRS has the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the industry; however, we realize that we cannot rest on yesterday’s success. Like all industry vendors, we work in an ever-changing and uncertain landscape, making use of rapidly developing—and sometimes unpredictable—technologies to cope with the onslaught of government regulations. The challenge for every vendor is to develop products that not only satisfy the government requirements, but also meet the clients’ needs for flexible and efficient solutions. SRS remains dedicated to this goal. If there is anything that sets SRS apart, it is our understanding that even for IT companies, it ultimately all comes down to people—after all, technology is created by people, and it should serve the people who use it. So, let me tell you a little bit about the people who are leading the charge at SRS:

  • Bob Harmonay, our COO, has an unrivaled passion for exceeding client expectations that inspires his team daily—and that is largely responsible for our Best in KLAS customer service and support ratings.
  • Joe Flynn, SVP of Sales & Marketing, champions communication as the path to growth—for SRS and for each of our clients, whom he and his account team ensure are informed and prepared to reach their practice goals.
  • Lynn Scheps, VP of Government Affairs & Consulting Services, is a leading resource on meaningful use and other government initiatives. She represents physicians’ interests with government officials and develops strategies to help practices respond effectively to the ever-evolving demands of government programs.
  • Jack Walsh, EVP of Strategy & Business Development, is responsible for strategic planning, building and nurturing partner relationships, and evaluating opportunities for enhancement of our product platform.
  • Peter Bennfors, our CFO, oversees all financial activities, from accounting to regulatory compliance. His experienced hand at the helm ensures that SRS will stay financially seaworthy and able to weather storms for many years to come.

I am truly grateful to have such a powerful leadership team in place. I look forward to adding my 20 years of Fortune 500 and HCIT experience to the mix and finding new ways to achieve our goal: helping physicians and other professionals provide the very best healthcare.

Please check back here every couple of weeks—or subscribe in order to receive new blog notifications—for no-holds-barred discussions about industry issues, company insights, and ways to keep making things better. I’ll also be featuring some very special guest bloggers, starting with the next blog post on August 1!

I’d like to thank everyone who has already made me proud to be part of SRS. Now I look forward to meeting and hearing from all of you readers. Tell me what you want to hear about. I’m all (ETP) ears.


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