Spring at SRS Brings New Growth

ceo-spring-blogThree months have passed since I took over the reins at SRS Health, and what I have enjoyed most over that time is sharing in our clients’ successes, as well as learning about the challenges they face, their experiences, and their visions for the future. So far this year, I have had the pleasure of speaking with many of them on the phone and off traveling around the country to meet others in their practices or at conferences like ADAM, AAOS, AAOE, The OrthoForum, and HIMSS.

One recurring theme that has been a part of every conversation is the need to embrace change—to look forward, to anticipate, and to strive for improvement. Our mission is to help our clients do just that. We are excited to share the innovations SRS has been working on to help our clients excel at the practice and the business of medicine. Here are a few examples:

SRS Health launches the first end-to-end integrated clinical and financial solution suite for high-performance enterprise practices

I am pleased to announce that SRS recently debuted a unique and powerful new addition to our end-to-end software suite that leverages both clinical and financial expertise. What makes this solution unique is the integration that addresses true episodic care. SRS’ roots in the orthopaedic market combined with the new financial management capabilities offers a seamless set of tools for enhancing workflows, adapting to regulatory changes, adopting risk-based models, managing the increase in patient economic responsibility, and expanding programs in the employer market.

The Opioid Crisis and Drug Monitoring

As you know, the opioid crisis has become a top-of-mind political, social, and policy challenge. SRS has committed to joining the fight by being the first specialty EHR to offer PDMP (Prescription Drug Monitoring Program) checking and documentation integrated within the prescribing workflow—delivering a 67% time savings over current methods. More than 40 states already have PDMP mandates and it won’t be long before they all do. This is a great step in keeping our clients ahead of the curve.

Improving Our Clients’ Experience

While working on innovation, we haven’t forgotten about our clients’ day-to-day experience. To ensure their success, we have been formalizing the structure of the SRS Client Success Program. This year we’ve launched the Client Success Training Program and the Features Improvement Team. In addition, we have increased our clients’ ability to integrate with registries, HIEs, and more. These programs ensure that they have the knowledge and skills to fully leverage their HCIT solutions, the facility to share knowledge across their organization, and the connections to exchange information with optimal efficiency.

Medicine continues to put more and more demands on physicians, clinicians, and other healthcare professionals, and we’re excited that our integrated solutions suite optimizes performance and care before, during, and after the patient encounter. Our goal is to help our clients by taking care of the business of medicine, so they can focus on what matters most—their patients.

The Opioid Crisis

It’s not news that America is facing a crisis with opioids and narcotic abuse—public service announcements are running on every network; the president has declared it a health emergency; and an increasing number of Americans have had personal experiences with a family member or friend who has become addicted.

Laws have been put in place or are being considered at every level of the government to help address the problem. One approach to helping doctors continue to care for their legitimate patient requests while identifying drug seekers or “doctor shoppers” is the PDMP, or Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.state-of-market-041718-600px

1 Interstate Data Sharing: http://www.pdmpassist.org/pdf/Interstate_Data_Sharing_20170920.pdf
2 PDMP Hub-to-Hub Interoperability Updates: http://www.pdmpassist.org/pdf/Interstate_Data_Sharing_20170920.pdf
3 PMP Gateway: https://apprisshealth.com/solutions/pmp-gateway/

PDMPs are state-run databases containing patients’ prescription histories. PDMPs now exist in all states, and more than 40 states have laws making it mandatory to check the PDMP before prescribing a narcotic. Some states require documentation that the doctor not only checked the PDMP, but also counseled the patient. And some states are starting to identify doctors who prescribe high numbers of narcotics, and are putting programs in place to counsel those providers. The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), a branch of HIMSS, recently met and recommended that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) include the use of Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances (EPCS) as part of the MIPS portion of the Quality Payment Program (QPP) in 2019. They also recommended that CMS and Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) focus on interoperability and removing the burden for clinicians.

Another method to help control the crisis is the use of EPCS. Unfortunately only 17 percent of physicians in the US are EPCS enabled. [1] While 90 percent of standard prescriptions are processed electronically, only 14 percent of controlled substance prescriptions are electronically delivered. [2]

Does your EHR offer PDMP connectivity? Does it allow for EPCS? The technology to automatically complete PDMP checking and documentation does exist—today—providing physicians with the option of making their prescribing and compliance workflows seamless. Providers who use EPCS with PDMP should automatically be presented with the patient’s prescription history any time they prescribe a narcotic. The system should also automatically connect to the state database, retrieve the history, display it to the physician, and record that the physician checked the PDMP. This can be up to a 67 percent time savings over the current process of logging into the PDMP directly. [3]

SRS has committed to joining the fight by being the first specialty EHR to offer PDMP checking and documentation integrated within the prescribing workflow. This is a great step in keeping our clients ahead of the curve.

What are you doing to address the opioid crisis?

 


Better Patient Reported Outcomes Lead to Better Outcomes

Outcomes is a hot topic in the healthcare industry. It is one of the criteria being used to define value-based reimbursement strategies and, more importantly, to drive better care for patients.

For some time now, payers and government agencies have been using traditional measures to evaluate outcomes, assessing the number of patients who were readmitted within 30 days, or how many post-surgical infections occurred. For the most part, this data was retrospectively analyzed; it was used to put process improvements into place, but it seldom took into account patients’ own opinions on how they were doing. Ultimately, how can we claim a successful outcome if the patient doesn’t subjectively experience an improvement in health and well-being?

outcomes-blog-v2Many EHRs provide some level of clinical decision support—reminding doctors of how long it has been since an osteoporosis patient’s last bone scan, or when it’s time to review an arthritis patient’s therapy and order blood tests for his or her medications. Some might put this in the category of outcomes, but to me, they are really alerts. Can they affect outcomes—of course! But do they really tell us how the patient is doing?

To change this paradigm, practices are moving toward collecting and measuring patient reported outcomes (PROs). The National Quality Forum defines PROs as, “any report of the status of a patient’s health condition that comes directly from the patient, without interpretation of the patient’s response by a clinician or anyone else.” PROs provide data on what patients are able to do and how they feel by asking questions. They not only cover the clinical aspects of pain, swelling, and range of motion, they assess the patient’s reported status for physical, mental, and social well-being.

In orthopaedics, standardized surveys such as PROMIS, HOOS, and KOOS have been designed to collect patient-reported information before and after surgical procedures. This allows physicians to prospectively and retrospectively evaluate data provided by their patients.

Prospectively, the surveys can be used to determine the factors that will drive a better outcome for the patient. Using best practices standards, physicians can make a determination prior to taking action as to how successful the outcome will be. By discussing potential outcomes, lifestyle factors, and behavioral changes with the patient before surgery is scheduled, doctors can better predict the outcome and recommend the best path—all while controlling costs. For example, if a patient does not have reliable transportation to get to follow-up appointments and physical therapy, physicians might provide information on local transportation services or decide on inpatient versus outpatient rehab.

Retrospectively, if a patient reports unsatisfactory results, doctors can gauge the patient’s feedback against the original expectations of the treatment plan. It might be that the patient is meeting, or even surpassing, the predicted outcome. That little piece of information might change the patient’s outlook and get him or her back on the path to success. Alternately, doctors can determine what could have been done to either reach a better outcome, or develop a more accurate prediction. These learnings can be implemented as best practice to drive better outcomes for future patients.

PROs can also be used as a benchmarking tool, as a way to gauge success against others in the same practice or the same market.

Today, only 35% of orthopaedic practices are collecting outcomes data. Part of this is due to the complexity of managing the process—of collecting, analyzing, and making the data relevant. The most critical step is of course getting the patient to respond to surveys, but equally important is presenting that data in a way that orthopaedists can review it and share it with the patient at the point of care, during the appointment. This allows them to intervene quickly when a negative outcome is reported. Imagine a future when a patient reporting a pain level of 9, a knee that is red and swollen, and an inability to stand without assistance automatically triggers a message to your office to call and intervene. Not only can this save the patient an unnecessary trip to the emergency room, but it can potentially save the practice money if it is doing bundled payments.

At SRS, we believe that the process of collecting and acting on patient reported outcomes should be as automated as possible, and should all take place in the same system you work in, day in and day out—your EHR. That is why we have made this vision a reality with our integrated Outcomes solution.

Are You PDMP Ready?

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid addiction claims 115 lives and sends more than 1,000 people to emergency rooms every day, and has killed 64,000 people in 2016. It is the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old.

Prescription opioids are a main factor in the crisis. Although there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain reported by Americans, opioid prescriptions have quadrupled since 1999.

What’s being done to help?  Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) are state-run drug-monitoring programs that collect and track controlled-substance prescriptions in a searchable database. They provide physicians with intelligence about prescribing and patient behavior that can help them make appropriate prescribing decisions. Learn how you can get PDMP ready:infographic-srs-pdmp

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Earlier this month, SRS Health attended the 2018 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Meeting. For us, it is an opportunity to spend time with our clients, make new connections and most importantly keep our finger on the pulse of the industry. Each year, we come back home with a list of hot topics or trends and ensure that we are addressing them. This year however, I felt a sense of déjà vu. So, I went back to the 2017 post-AAOS blog and found that the high level topics were almost identical to what I would have written myself.

  • prescription safety
  • data mining/outcomes;
  • cost reduction/operational efficiencies; and
  • MACRA/ MIPS readiness.

Does this mean there has been no progress in the 12 months since the last conference? Not at all.

Prescription Safety – in 2017 really translated to Electronic Prescription of Controlled Substances (EPCS). In 2018, we find that although 91.9% of pharmacies now support this technology nationwide, only 22.9% of providers are EPCS-enabled. More importantly, in 2018, new complexities have been added as many states now also do or will require checking Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) before prescribing certain medications.

Outcomes in 2017, outside of hospital and research settings, was limited to the basic assessment for the purposes of meeting some requirement like a quality measure, CJR or BPCI. In 2018, adoption by larger groups is starting to gain momentum. Rather than just focusing on the minimum government requirements, practices are beginning to see the value in being able to improve the quality and efficacy of care through evidence and solid data.

Cost Reduction/Operational Efficiencies in 2017 meant actual hard cost-cutting or expanding business lines to bring more of the continuum of care under the practice’s control. In 2018, not only do we see a continuation of those two strategies but more and more practices are looking to justify spending. They are looking at the value of each technology, each partner, and deciding what they can change, combine or cancel.

MACRA/MIPS in 2017 was a transition year and HCIT vendors warned providers not to be complacent. We warned that you should be ready to jump into the program in 2018 and beyond. Well, in 2018 Congress enacted the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. This act pushes out the full implementation, effectively making 2019, 2020, and 2021 three more transition years.

Although change management, especially in healthcare, is often slow, having the right technology to address the challenges and opportunities we face—at the right time—is key to optimizing patient care, practice performance, and population health.

At SRS Health, we’ve developed and delivered a specialized end-to-end solution that addresses the topics above, so that we are ready when you are!

Providers Heard Promises and Warnings at HIMSS

I just spent three days in Las Vegas at the annual HIMSS conference, with 43,000 of my closest friends. As the Vice President for Government Affairs at SRS Health, my goal in attending this conference each year is to get a heads-up directly from the leaders of CMS and ONC regarding what the government has in store for physicians. While no secrets are leaked in the sessions or meetings at HIMSS, several government program–related themes clearly emerged this year—topping the list was interoperability and burden reduction.

  • Seema Verma, Administrator of CMS, promised a “complete overhaul” of Meaningful Use, and (I assume) by extension, the ACI portion of MACRA. She was purposely short on details, so we don’t know exactly what that means, but subsequent conversations with her team confirmed what it does not mean: MACRA is not going away; MU3 is not disappearing; and the use of 2015 CEHRT is not off the table. I don’t expect that we will see major changes, but we will have to wait for the details to be revealed in the rulemaking that comes later this year.
  • Interoperability will be the focus going forward, and providers were warned that measures are being developed to identify and prevent information blocking, as required by the 21st Century Cures Act, going so far as to impose fines for willful actions in this regard. Patient data must be shared freely between providers; and it must be made easily—and electronically—available to, and controllable by, the owners of that data, i.e., the patients themselves, through programs like the newly announced MyHealthEData initiative.
  • Promises of regulatory relief and clinical burden reduction were abundant, and were offered within various contexts, including the overhaul of MACRA to reduce the time providers devote to compliance, streamlining documentation for the E&M coding/billing process, and the introduction of the Meaningful Measures initiative to increase the validity and efficiency of quality measurement and reporting. ONC and CMS led several ”listening sessions” in which they sought feedback on burden reduction—I sensed hopeful optimism tempered by healthy skepticism on the part of attendees.
  • The opioid crisis is on everyone’s mind. As one Congressional staffer put it, this is the “issue du jour.” It is being addressed at the national level as well as by the states, the majority of which are already mandating PDMP checking before a physician can write a prescription for a controlled substance. One challenge here will be for HIT and EHR vendors to automate this process so that the problem can be tackled without creating a new task that providers will perceive as yet another burden. 

It will be interesting to see what progress is made in all of the above areas when HIMSS reconvenes in 2019.

Congress Authorizes Changes to MIPS

mips-blogHow many times have you heard the expression, “It would take an act of Congress.”? Well, Congress has acted! Had this blog been posted just 2 weeks ago, the message would have been slightly different and a little more ominous in tone. I would have said—and you may have read articles elsewhere where I did—that the MIPS transition period is coming to an end, and providers should begin to prepare in earnest for 2019, when by law, the MIPS threshold would be much higher and the cost category would account for 30% of the MIPS score. These provisions in MACRA were not subject to CMS’ discretion; but apparently, Congress has been persuaded to extend CMS increased flexibility. As part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Congress has pushed out the full implementation of MIPS from 2019 to 2022, effectively making 2019, 2020, and 2021 three additional transition years.

This means that:

  • There will still be winners and losers since budget neutrality remains a requirement; however, CMS is now not obligated to set the MIPS threshold at the mean (or median) of prior performance until 2022. Instead, the threshold will be gradually increased to that level over the intervening years, the good news being that it will not be as challenging to avoid a downward adjustment for a few more years. The consequence of this, however, is that the amount of money available to winners will continue to be less than the maximum provided for in the law, (i.e., 5% related to the 2018 performance year, 7% for 2019, and 9% from then on.)
  • The Cost category does not jump to 30% of the MIPS score in 2019. CMS can hold off on the increase until as late as 2022, with the flexibility to set the rate at between 10% and 30% each year until then and to make it 30% only when the Secretary is confident that the resource use, (i.e., cost), measures are ready for adoption. In addition, the bonus points for year-over-year improvement in this category have been eliminated.

Through these changes, Congress has relieved some of the immediate pressure for providers. However, this does not change the fact that it will become progressively harder to score well as providers gain experience, making MIPS increasingly competitive in the coming years:

  • The Quality and Cost categories will remain distinguishing factors among providers.
    • It will become progressively harder to score well in the Quality category. Benchmarks will be more aggressive as providers build experience. The 2018 benchmarks have been posted on the QPP website, and you can already see differences from the 2017 deciles for some measures.
    • Improving your comparative Cost position is not something you can do overnight; it takes time. So, it’s not too early to address this area more vigorously.
  • MIPS performance has implications beyond Medicare payment adjustments. Your reputation could be impacted as CMS makes more and more performance data publicly available on its Physician Compare website. Consider what you want patients, referring physicians, and payers to see about you when they are researching your practice.

So, don’t let down your guard. Take advantage of the additional transition years to secure your future success.