An HIT Moment with … Ramsey Evans, CEO Prognosis Health Information Systems

An HIT Moment with … is a quick interview with someone we find interesting. Ramsey Evans MBA, is president and CEO of Prognosis Health Information Systems of Houston, TX.

What’s on the minds of small hospitals these days with regard to operational challenges, healthcare IT, and Meaningful Use?

Executives at small hospitals are thinking about the same issues that their counterparts at larger hospitals are struggling with: financial challenges associated with shrinking reimbursements; the relentless need to improve quality; and, of course, the rush to achieve Meaningful Use in order to qualify for government incentive funds.

However, the obstacles faced by healthcare providers and patients in rural areas are vastly different than those in urban areas. Rural hospitals are smaller in size, have limited assets and financial reserves, and a higher percentage of Medicare patients due to their populations being older than urban populations.

The desire to achieve Meaningful Use is exacerbating a frustration that hospitals have been struggling with for years — the time and money that it takes to implement EHRs. It’s the No. 1 headache out there, but it is especially vexing for rural hospitals as they simply don’t have the same financial and human resources that larger providers have. Our Web-native technology enables rural and community hospitals to move from signing to implementation to the realization of Meaningful Use in less than 120 days, which translates into a significant time to value as well as the lowest total cost of ownership.

The big-hospital market has shaken out to just two or three vendors that regularly sign new customers. What’s the competitive landscape in the smaller hospital market?

A similar shakeout is underway in the smaller hospital market. Vendors are realizing that it takes special product offerings and service to meet the needs of the rural and smaller community hospitals. Some of the large vendors are trying to bring their systems into the smaller hospitals, but they are finding that the solutions and the service model just don’t mesh with the way critical access and smaller rural community hospitals operate. Simply repackaging their monolith systems into a smaller box with a slightly faster implementation is not what’s required for this unique market.

Realizing that smaller hospitals simply cannot afford the multi-million dollar, client-server based systems that take years to implement, we focus on disruptive innovation. In his seminal bookThe Innovator’s Dilemma, Clay Christenson explains that a disruptive innovations improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of customers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market. His follow-up book explains how the disruptive innovation concept could play out in healthcare by delivering capabilities formerly only available to large providers with huge budgets to smaller providers that can then leverage such solutions to improve care delivery. That’s what we are trying to do.

How advanced are your client hospitals in their use of your clinical documentation, ordering, and clinical ancillary applications?

Our clients don’t have the same level of complexity as large tertiary hospitals with a range of specialties such as cardiology, oncology, and pediatric departments or Level Four trauma centers. So IT system utilization is in line with their charter. But they still have to provide quality care  and document it.

They should be able to leverage an EHR that will enable them to do that as well as larger hospitals. That’s really the issue we are addressing. Take a look at the inequities. According to the National Rural Health Association, Medicare patients with acute myocardial infarction who were treated in rural hospitals were less likely than those treated in urban hospitals to receive recommended treatments and had significantly higher adjusted 30-day post AMI death rates from all causes than those in urban hospitals.

Our system can help to close this digital divide. Our “clinical visual pathway” makes it easy for nurses and physicians to deliver the best care by simply following a visual map that walks them through standard best practice scenarios while treating a patient.

How are your customers and you as a vendor affected by the push toward alignment with physician practices and the developing ACO market?

With our target market of rural, critical access and smaller community hospitals, we haven’t seen much focus today on ACOs. These smaller providers traditionally focus on defined requirements, instead of those that are in a constant state of motion such as the ACO requirements were in the past several months.

With defined ARRA regulations for Stage 1 and defined incentives, leaders at these hospitals have been keenly focused on identifying a way to meet the requirements. With the final ACO rules recently published, though, these hospitals are likely to begin to add ACOs to their list of challenges and it will start to become a concern.

What’s the future of interoperability among hospitals and practices?

There is an ever-increasing interest in evaluating both hospital and physician EMR systems at the same time. Providers in rural communities understand that there is real value in sharing records, as patients frequently receive care from various providers across a region. And providers really want all of this sharing to be seamless. They want to make it possible for patients to go from facility to facility and simply have their medical information follow them.

To make good on this notion, we are working with a number of our hospital clients to help support the West Texas RHIO, where eight hospitals across a region are accessing records via a shared EHR. The RHIO enables clinicians to access patient records at any of the hospitals, such as when a patient shows up in an emergency room or is transferred. As such, doctors and other clinicians can provide care with access to complete information, which, in turn, enables them to make the best care decisions and save lives in the process.

This arrangement makes it easy to create a virtual health information exchange. That’s because authorized physicians can retrieve patient records from any of the hospital databases once they are verified with user name and password. In contrast, most emerging health information exchanges across the country involve competing organizations, usually with different records systems, creating a network from scratch to share certain patient information. It’s just an example of how innovation can make it possible for healthcare organizations to go beyond what was possible with the formerly dominant technologies.