The Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) 2017 annual conference held in Anaheim, CA, from October 8th to 11th brought together over 1,500+ medical practices and 1,600+ members. The conference’s theme of empowerment urged member practices to vote with their dollars as they navigate the labyrinth of ever-changing regulations while providing the best care for patients and managing the business aspects of healthcare delivery.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Halee Fisher-Wright, the CEO of MGMA, highlighted the idea that healthcare is the “best of humanity shaped by business forces.” The friction between the business of healthcare and the “care” in healthcare is often the root cause of expensive and inefficient healthcare delivery. According to Dr. Fisher-Wright, when left unaddressed, this inherent tension leads to burned-out clinicians, unpredictable operational expenses, and dissatisfied patients. This piece highlights a few key trends from the conference.
IT is a necessary but insufficient ingredient to operational efficiency
Robust and efficient use of information technology is often cited as the silver bullet providers should leverage to optimize performance. However, simply implementing IT systems as an add-on afterthought is no longer enough, and spending more does not always translate to better quality nor performance. When considering an IT implementation, understanding the ultimate end-goal is crucial to evaluating appropriate partnerships. Obtaining buy-ins and establishing mutual expectations prior to implementations are few critical aspects to successful go lives.
From the industry perspective, a more proactive approach is evident when it comes to companies truly looking to add value and help clients address their unique challenges rather than simply “check compliance boxes.” Unlike the trend of hasty implementations that was observed during earlier phases of Meaningful Use, the current trough in the regulatory landscape is providing companies with a prime opportunity to personalize relationships and improve user experience in meaningful ways. This is seen through larger emphasis on integrated platforms that offer better usability, connectivity, portability and accessibility in addition to the burgeoning rhetoric surrounding true “partnerships” that extend beyond the traditional vendor-client relationships.
More data ≠ more insights
Without proper channels to transform data into actionable insights, more data simply means more data. Considering the recent proliferation in analytics platforms, it is hopeful that discrete data points are being used in ways that allow users to identify critical points with the greatest leverage to enforce change. Advanced and powerful analytics are no longer reserved for the largest providers with vast financial resources. Companies such as NextGen Healthcare, CareCloud and Greenway Health are increasingly bringing affordable analytics to providers in the ambulatory space. As these platforms gain greater traction, the industry should see more interaction between how analytics shape not only health IT offerings going forward, but how the platforms shape clinical workflows altogether.
For the ambulatory market, further understanding and parsing of the differences in business operations and unmet health IT needs among physician owned practices versus hospital owned counterparts is needed. The dichotomy is evident as MGMA research consistently shows diverging results for the two groups across a spectrum of metrics from adoption of patient portals to scheduling and patient satisfaction.
Patient satisfaction vs. engagement vs. experience
Patient engagement, the idea of putting patients at the center stage of their care and enabling them to gain the most out of their interaction with the healthcare system, was a prominent theme throughout the conference. This, alongside the transition towards patient experience, further sheds light on greater focus on the health continuum and the sustained trend that patients are increasingly given greater ownerships of their care.
As the fragmented ambulatory market matures and becomes more replacement-focused, patient experience will be increasingly used as a brand differentiator to go beyond measuring patient satisfaction and enhancing patient engagement. Through automation, integration and incorporation of features such as telemedicine, patients are offered a more seamless and personalized approach to healthcare. An example of this is AdvancedMD’s AdvancedTelemedicine platform that is fully integrated with the entire medical office suite which allows for uninterrupted access to EHR data as well as billing in real-time.
Interoperability—are we there yet?
As providers look at health IT as a critical component in business operations rather than rush to comply with regulations, they will pick and choose solutions that truly suit their needs. IHS Markit predicts that multiple implementations within a provider will be increasingly seen, and this will organically create a demand for greater interoperability between vendors. In the absence of an explicit and comprehensive regulatory mandate for true interoperability, any significant progress will have to come from clients who can vote with their investments.
Furthermore, as traditional EHR companies venture beyond the classic products they offer and into adjacent markets on the health continuum (such as home health), it is more likely that vendors will need to interoperate as they increasingly interact with greater numbers of solutions.
Looking into the future
Addressing barriers to value-based care from a health IT perspective will require greater engagements and understanding of the needs and limitations between providers and vendors alike. Health IT companies play a crucial role in helping providers overcome the uncertainties and anxieties surrounding the regulatory landscape today, and true partnerships will contribute to greater success for both parties in the long run. The ambulatory market will slowly see greater infiltration by large companies that dominate the acute care space such as Allscripts, Cerner, and Epic. IHS Markit projects that health IT will be the driving force in value-based delivery of care once it better aligns with the workflow and fiscal realities of providers today.
IHS Markit Healthcare IT coverage
IHS Markit Healthcare IT coverage include today’s most important events and developments, including trends in the management of patient records and imaging studies, care integration across networks, population health management, financial performance, and business intelligence. An update to the report on the global EHR industry is currently underway and is scheduled to be published at the end of November 2017. For more information, please contact Nile Kazimer, the lead analyst on the report and author of this article at firstname.lastname@example.org