A 30k-foot view of technology — Dr. Arnold Levy shares why GI practices need to embrace technology now

Arnold Levy, MD, is a gastroenterology EMR strategic advisor at gMed, a Modernizing Medicine Company, touting 40-plus years of clinical experience, Dr. Levy recently retired from the practice he founded, Washington, D.C.-based Capital Digestive Health, to serve as an advisor to gMed.

He provided Becker's ASC Review with a 30,000-foot view of the current technology space and stressed the importance of gastroenterology groups investing in technology now.

Question: How is digital health technology improving practice performance?

Dr. Arnold Levy: Since physician practices started to move away from paper documentation and toward digital platforms, there has been greater emphasis on efficiency, accuracy and measuring patient care. Now, gastroenterologists and other physicians can better track their patients’ health records, treatments and clinical outcomes. In addition, patients have tools allowing them to engage in their healthcare journey more easily and with greater autonomy.

To improve practice performance within an ASC, it is crucial to have a platform that keeps up with workflow. But with so many options and piecemeal solutions available, how do you know which digital health solution is right for your organization?

A good place to start is with technology that includes an electronic health record system, endoscopy report writer, practice management solution, patient portal, data analytics platform and nursing notes, among others. This can help to streamline your operations and promote clinical best practices within your surgery center. In addition, it’s vital for gastroenterologists to utilize technology that makes it easy to provide continuity of care and access to patient information across all of the care settings in which we practice.

Growing in importance for practice performance is the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, which helps determine how physicians are reimbursed. A built-in MIPS scorecard that calculates each physician’s composite performance score, factoring in the four weighted MIPS performance categories, helps. Those four categories are:

  • Quality — replaces physician quality reporting system
  • Cost — replaces the value-based modifier
  • Advancing care information — replaces meaningful use
  • Improvement activities — a new component

Using an analytics platform that benchmarks performance against those of other users reporting MIPS data, physicians can help keep their practices on track to earn potential bonus payments and avoid penalties.

In summary, by adopting the right suite of digital health solutions within an ASC, such solutions can help physicians and medical staff to:

  • Enhance productivity
  • Increase profitability
  • Streamline workflow
  • Achieve compliance
  • Easily populate and update patient information
  • Identify treatment options to improve patient care
  • Unlock valuable insights and data to understand how their facility is performing
  • Identify areas of improvement within their operation

Q: What should more practices be doing in terms of technology adaptation that they currently aren't?

AL: A practice’s ability to adapt to EHR systems and other digital health tools can depend on many factors, including time, frustration, physician burnout and regulatory burdens. Many practices fear implementing new technology might initially affect their ability to accomplish the day-to-day tasks that are critical for clinical and operational success in the complex field of GI.

Plus, many physicians already have an EHR system, practice management system or endoscopy report writer in place. Even if they could potentially benefit from switching vendors, why should they spend time, money and effort to adopt a new solution? The concept of sunk costs can be a difficult one to overcome, but don’t let the fact that you’ve already incurred these costs become a barrier to strive for a more successful future.

While complacency may also be considered a barrier, it’s not about complacency; it’s about the impact that transition could have on their practice and bottom line. While most gastroenterology practices and ASCs have adopted an EHR solution, it often may not be the best fit for their operation, leading to the wasted time, frustration, physician burnout and regulatory burdens discussed above.

More practices may benefit from asking different and objective questions in the evolution of their health IT needs. To help determine whether they could benefit from adopting additional technology, practices and ASCs should take a good look at their current EHR solution and all that comes with it and ask the following questions:

  • Does my EHR solution enable me to zero in on my patients’ specific gastroenterology needs quickly and accurately?
  • Is it accessible via mobile devices?
  • Does it help improve patient interaction without increasing the burden on my physicians?
  • Does it allow me to improve backend office operations, such as practice management, analytics and revenue cycle management?
  • Does it offer a MIPS advisory service to help my practice with the transition to value-based care reporting?

There are certainly many more elements to consider, but those are some of the big factors I regularly see impacting healthcare organizations’ technology adaptation. If you aren’t finding that your current solution meets most, if not all, of the above criteria, it may be time to seek other options.

Q: How does a practice's technology benefit a community?

AL: Technology can be a powerful tool to help improve care at both the patient and population levels. Data is at the heart of any effective population health initiative and technology is essential to capturing and mining that data. Ideally, it should do this with minimal interruptions to workflow.

For specialty practices, particularly within a complex space like gastroenterology, implementing an integrated, a data-driven solution that’s tailored to the specialty is essential. Single-pane solutions help break down traditional data silos and bring light to clinical and operational correlations. When providers arm themselves with data to help understand how their actions impact patient care and operational excellence, it is much easier to establish and apply best practices across the board. With increased transparency and added visibility into how each patient is being treated and their progress along the way, physicians can leverage data driven insights and apply that knowledge to similar cases across their patient population. The ability to track the health of a group over time is really at the heart of any successful population health initiative and that would be next to impossible without the right technology in place. With the right tools in place, practices should be able to collect meaningful data and streamline patient care — from the time a patient checks in, to long after they leave.

Going beyond data capture, the right technology empowers population health through advanced analytics. Analytics within EHR solutions can help providers to examine their patient population based on age, race, diagnosis, treatment or other demographic descriptors. Physicians can then learn and adapt new ways to better treat their patients. The new era of advanced analytics empowers physicians with an augmented view into their medical field and helps improve population health through data driven clinical best practices.

With healthcare quickly trending toward more quality-based care and reimbursement models, provider organizations need the right tools in place to help them understand and positively impact their patient populations. Transparency in healthcare has traditionally been a struggle, however, with next-generation technologies, physicians can break down long standing information silos and use their data to provide higher quality care at the individual and population levels.

Q: What's something you feel the digital health field should be talking about but isn't?

AL: Amid all the discussion of how technology helps so many people — from everyday consumers to physicians to patients to business executives and more — skepticism and doubt still exist about the impact of technology on healthcare and improving the lives of both physicians and patients.

It’s no secret that there’s an increasing dependence on technology. As a community, we should think about how technology is truly changing healthcare — for good or bad — and understand not only the benefits, but also where we have room for improvement. For example, by incorporating user experience into the development process, digital health solutions should help ease the stress on physicians and address the growing concern of physician burnout.

Healthcare technology is well on its way to augmenting our intelligence and making our lives easier, plus improving patient outcomes.

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