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Industry Insight

Creighton Files Patent for Electronic Patient Care Tool

Creighton University Intellectual Resources Management has filed a patent for a novel electronic program to coordinate patient healthcare, called eWellRx, that could help healthcare providers, patients, and companies improve health and reduce healthcare costs.

Tom Lenz, PharmD, an associate professor of pharmacy practice in the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, developed eWellRx after Creighton officials were unable to find anything similar on the market to assist with a one-year pilot project to help employees reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease.

Lenz says he hopes to offer an expanded program to other companies within the next year. He estimates that eWellRx, when rolled out full scale, could save institutions such as Creighton thousands of dollars annually in healthcare-related costs while improving people’s quality of life through positive lifestyle changes such as better nutrition and exercise habits.

“It will be particularly beneficial for those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure,” he says. “The program could also be used by healthcare professionals who treat patients with chronic diseases such as cancer or HIV, organ transplants, or bariatric surgery to coordinate patient care when several additional healthcare professionals are involved.

Under eWellRx, a patient’s medical records, including a daily diary of vital signs, dietary intake, exercise, and medications, are monitored electronically by a designated healthcare team led by a care coordinator. The team, including the care coordinator, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and others, as well as the patient, can then communicate securely through eWellRx to address concerns such as incompatible medications or patient questions.

— Source: Creighton University


Hardware Sales Could Be Side Effect of Stimulus Bill’s EMR Incentives

As the Obama administration provides incentives to push doctors and hospitals to upgrade their HIT solutions, there will be a greater need to replace antiquated computer hardware with newer, more powerful systems that can support the vast amounts of information created by EMRs, wireless, radio-frequency identification, electronic physician order entry, and other advanced software that is rapidly being adopted. According to “Healthcare Computer System Markets and Trends in HIT Buying,” a new report from life science market research company Kalorama Information, approximately 56% of healthcare organizations in the United States have increased their IT department budget for 2009 despite the recession.

While discussions have mainly focused on HIT software applications, Kalorama also sees an opportunity in healthcare for hardware providers.

According to the report, hardware sales represent about 23% of healthcare computer system sales, or $1.11 billion. This figure does not include software or services, which are also anticipated to grow. With increased investment in HIT, Kalorama expects spending on this sector to grow at a faster pace than IT spending as a whole in the near term, or about 10.7% annually through 2013. These sales are usually made by healthcare computer companies such as McKesson or Eclipsys that buy from hardware manufacturers and package systems to meet the needs of healthcare entities.

“The EMR incentives in ARRA [the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] are aimed at software, but they will open up conversations between customers and vendors for new IT spending, and hardware will be part of that,” says Melissa Elder, an analyst with Kalorama Information and author of the report. “The top IT-related technologies and applications that physicians and facilities are focusing on include identity management, bar-coding technology, speech recognition, and handheld personal digital assistants. All of these will require investment in new hardware.”

— Source: Kalorama Information


Electronic Healthcare Network Announces Multistate Expansion

HealthTransaction Network has expanded its national electronic healthcare transaction network by signing additional healthcare provider participants throughout western New York and developing relationships with organizations that will allow it to pursue further expansion throughout New York and other states.

HealthTransaction Network has received a letter of intent from Columbus, Ohio-based Strategic Health Care, a national healthcare advocacy and consulting organization with operations in several states. A relationship is being developed with Strategic Health Care that will provide for rapid expansion of the network throughout Ohio by leveraging established Strategic Health Care relationships with healthcare providers, small businesses, and other healthcare stakeholders.

The company has also reached agreements with the Amherst Chamber of Commerce and Niagara USA Chamber, two of the largest business associations in western New York. These organizations will promote and offer participation in HealthTransaction Network to its membership in an effort to provide access to a cost-effective healthcare solution for small businesses and their employees in the region.

— Source: HealthTransaction Network


Survey Spotlights HIT Gap Between General and Psychiatric Healthcare

Mental health and human services lag far behind general healthcare in access to HIT, according to a national survey of nearly 500 organizations. Lack of financing is the primary barrier to the widespread HIT adoption.

The 2009 Behavioral Health/Human Services Information Systems Survey was conducted under the direction of the Mental Health Corporations of America, the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, and the Software and Technology Vendors Association. The survey highlights the lack of resources for behavioral health organizations to quickly expand information systems.

Although IT adoption, including EHRs, may be our nation’s only hope for meeting the increasing demand for mental health and addiction services, little to none of the billions the federal government plans to spend on HIT will go to the human services sector.

“Health information technologies can help serve more patients more effectively and better meet the growing need for psychiatric services,” says Mark Covall, president and CEO of the National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems, in response to the survey findings. “The significant investment that has already been made by providers is evidence of the field’s commitment to technology. But we can’t keep up unless dollars are available on par with the rest of healthcare.”

The survey revealed that mental health/addictions services spend only one half as much as primary care on HIT and employ only about one third as many IT professionals as primary care. Fewer than one half of all behavioral health and human services providers have fully implemented clinical electronic record systems. Most of these providers expect to spend even less on HIT next year on account of budget cuts, reduced reimbursements, and higher patient volume. However, if resources were made available, overall HIT spending would increase, according to the survey.

The HITECH Act creates Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement incentives to encourage a wide array of providers to adopt and utilize HIT. However, the public mental health and addictions services safety net is not eligible for this funding.

“Mental health and addiction services get short shrift yet again even as we confirm that HIT is the cornerstone of efforts to coordinate services among healthcare specialties,” says Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare. “Mental and addiction disorders are often chronic conditions, and HIT can coordinate care and save and improve lives.”

— Source: National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare