Measuring the Impact of Technology on Health CareApril 16, 2013 | By Editorial Staff
Mark Allphin, a research director at KLAS, talks with Transformative Health about the independent research done by KLAS to give care providers an accurate ranking of health care vendors by performance.
Thank you for speaking with Transformative Health. Please give our readers some background on yourself and KLAS.
KLAS has been in operation for over 15 years. Our mission is to improve health care technology delivery via independent research on vendor performance. Our number-one commandment is that everything we do must benefit the health care provider.
We do that by independently researching products, typically software, medical equipment, and professional services. We collect the provider feedback, analyze it, and then publish our rankings to help providers make the best buying decisions. We’ve been called the Consumer Reports for health care.
We conduct almost 3,000 interviews a month with providers. That data becomes roughly 45–60 reports each year, covering specific areas such as accountable care, business intelligence, and medical imaging.
As for me, I’m a research director and have been with KLAS for almost four years. Some of the specific segments I focus on are patient portals, patient engagement, IPS, accountable care, and health information exchanges.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing frontline caregivers today?
To me, the biggest challenge is taking huge amounts of available data and using it to power more effective care. There is so much data available, much of it made possible by the increased use of EMRs. But it’s challenging to find efficient ways to do meaningful things with all that data at the point of care. Everyone needs to focus on this challenge.
Another challenge is that reimbursement rates are dropping, and that trend isn’t going to change. The finances can’t support the old model of care. As an industry, we need to change how we practice and the procedures we use, and we need to be smarter. And better use of the data can help get everyone there.
Part of that is a broad movement toward pay-for-performance contracts where providers will start taking on more risk. Health care is moving toward a model where quality is gaining momentum. How do we perform better in the age of pay for performance and how do we best analyze and roll out these new practices? Those are the big challenges right now.
How exactly does KLAS research result in improved vendor performance?
Again, our mission is to present the truth to the market. For example, I was at HIMSS this year, along with thousands of other attendees and vendors. It was total sensory overload. Everyone jumps on the buzzword of the day with the same basic message.
How does a provider make the right vendor decision when dozens of demoes look the same, especially at a time of declining health care IT budgets? There is huge pressure to not make a mistake by going with the wrong technology or the wrong vendor.
We analyze and rank vendors by talking to actual vendor customers. We ask questions like, Does the vendor do what was promised? Did you get what you paid for? What was the customer service like? This type of transparency helps everyone, including vendors, because the provider feedback helps them know where they need to improve.
I’ll be honest; there are some vendors who don’t like us at all. But there are others who embrace constructive criticism from their customers. What KLAS does is provide information straight from the peer groups that vendors are trying to reach. The smart companies see the value of that, even if it highlights areas where they need to improve.
Looked at another way, what KLAS is doing is word-of-mouth validation, which is what makes the Internet and social media so powerful. We combine that validation with a rigorous methodology and with scalability, so we can both educate providers on the best solutions and help vendors listen to their customers.
Are there ways that better technology can address challenges and free up more patient time for staff?
From my perspective, the data-entry requirements of new technology can be streamlined, for instance, the data entry into EMRs. We’re making progress, but vendors should focus on making data entry easier and less intrusive.
Of course, it cuts both ways—health care professionals need to embrace technology and not just resist changes to old routine. A good example of where technology is easy and greatly improves patient safety is with bedside medication administration. Nurses are able to use barcode technology to ensure that the patients are getting their prescribed medications in the right dose and at the right times. This helps hospitals avoid medication errors, and it creates a safer environment for patients.
A good deal of the pushback regarding data entry could be the result of the accelerated adoption of EMRs, including pieces of daily practice like electronic charting and CPOE. Physicians are having to do things that they previously didn’t. Even if the data entry only takes 5–7 minutes per visit, that time really adds up over the course of a day.
Some of this could be purely generational. My brother is a doctor, and he can’t imagine NOT using technology in his daily routine. And during a recent pediatric visit with my son, the doctor spent a maximum of 90 seconds electronically entering in prescriptions and notes from the visit.
Another challenge in typical care models is that when the patients are out of sight, they are often out of mind for providers. Historically, patients have been left out of their own care by not being included or engaged enough. Both sides bear some responsibility here. Physicians need to provide patients with better educational tools and resources to help with their care. They need to use things like educational text, videos, social media channels, and so forth. These new formats are essential to cultivating improved patient engagement.
These new tools can allow for more patient participation so that patients can take part in the iterative nature of their own care. This is beginning to spread but is still a largely untapped area since it has not been a focus in the past.
In the next 18–24 months, what big changes do you see in the delivery of health care?
For safer medicine, there is an urgent need to get all information focused on the specific patient encounter to power a good decision. There is a need for true health information exchange, the ability to transfer information from one EMR to another. It’s not acceptable any longer for the transportation of clinical data to be the sole responsibility of the ill patient.
Team-based medical care will continue to increase; doctors will take a more prominent role in helping to coordinate the care of their patients, prescribing the right level of care based on need. This might be delivered by a nurse or a practitioner. The industry has just dipped its toes in the water with this approach, but it will continue to spread.
But getting back to information exchanges, this approach only works when all are on the same page; it requires the free-flow sharing of information. Patient care must transcend the business interests of rival care associations. New health care roles and positions will emerge as a result.
Health care in this country can’t continue in the current model. I’m excited to be part of an organization driving positive change.
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