Susan Montz, Director, ACO Performance Improvement, Ochsner Health System
What are the current market trends you see shaping the Medical Practice Management Space?
The current market trends that are framing the healthcare industry are:
1. Value-based contracts: the industry is moving towards a more value-based environment. This means simultaneously improving quality and reducing total cost of patient care. Building partnerships and integrating data across the healthcare delivery system is critical in understanding the population you are managing and yielding the outcomes you need to to be successful in this new environment.
2. Increased focus on how healthcare -systems manage the health of a population in partnership with health plans. There is a growing emphasis on sharing patient data and becoming more integrated at the point of care. This is where technology has helped. Electronic medical records(EMRs)allow clinicians to share information, make informed decisions and provide the most effective intervention for their patient during an office visit.
3. Consumerism is becoming increasingly important. Patients will shop for the most cost-effective, highest quality of care, and they will travel to get what they want. Anyone in the healthcare delivery business needs to understand this shift in patient behavior and promote what they do best
Excess paperwork prevents most physicians from spending enough time with patients. Please share your views on the above statement.
Providers say they are not spending enough time with their patients, especially after transitioning from paper to EMRs. Many feel the decreased amount of face time or personal touch time with their patients compromises care. It also impacts physician and patient satisfaction. Studies have shown fifty percent of a primary care physician’s time is indirect work, meaning not hands-on patient care. This is not just due to the EMR, but also because information is coming in through email messages, patient portal messages, etc. which take time to retrieve and read. This is a shift in how physicians must learn how to manage their practices.
"We are building partnerships that enable us to become more integrated with other providers and delivery systems to serve our populations better."
This is where care transformation comes in. The way we all look at delivery models should change. Some of the excess work has to be removed from the -physician so more of their time is spent on direct patient care..As a result, patients will feel fulfilled when walking out of a physician interaction.
What are the major tasks for organizational CIOs at this point? Is there any unmet need regarding the Medical Practice Management space that has yet to be leveraged by vendors?
At Ochsner Health System, we are building partnerships that enable us to become more integrated with other providers and delivery systems to serve our populations better. The biggest challenge in achieving this is getting the data into a general area where it can be shared, aggregated, and evaluated.
Also, if you are contracting with a provider that is located in another city and not on the same EMR , then the challenge is how you get your systems to talk. Clinical integration of different EMRs is very expensive. Sothe IT industry has got the most significant task: to make sharing and integration of data economical.
The lack of IT professionals working in the healthcare industry makes it difficult to find people with the required skills to work with such software. What can healthcare institutions do to stay abreast of these challenges?
Firstly, as industry leaders, we have to look at internal cultivation of our employees’ capabilities to work with emerging technologies and meet the needs of our current and future marketplace. Historically there has been a lack of curriculum to feed people into the industry. But today universities are offering masters degrees in healthcare information technology and advanced analytics. These programs are producing workers who can assist chief medical officers in evaluating and using analytics. But the availability of these curricula needs to expand and facilitate an increase of graduates with core skills.
Can you draw an analogy between your personality traits, hobbies and reflect on your leadership strategy?
The problems that we have in the healthcare industry are complex, and require strong relationships to solve effectively. I have built payer relationships, relationship with my IT team and leadership in primary care to deliver the technology innovation that can bridge care gaps. Building trust, having a collaborative approach and open communication, being transparent about what’s happening, and organizing yourself in a way that you understand the vision and goals is essential. These relationships also help to build governance which will be helpful as it oversees some of the decisions that you will be making.
How do you see the evolution a few years from now with regards to disruptions and transformations within the Medical Practice Management space?
I think the way consumers access care is going to continue to diversify and it’s precisely what we need. Healthcare entities cannot continue to serve the population in a brick and mortar environment as they historically have and ensure patients can find the o get the quality care, the specialized care they need.
Virtual care is growing fast and will continue to grow. Here at Ochsner Health System, we have implemented digital medicine programs for hypertension, diabetes, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and we’re continuing to explore and develop digital options to address other chronic conditions.
The calculus for these programs has to be developed deliberately. As technology evolves and patient care solutions evolve, we as healthcare leaders need to calibrate appropriately the solutions that we are going to embrace and integrate into our programs otherwise. There is risk in all of these ventures, and we need to determine which advances bring the greatest value in patient care.
What is your advice for budding technologists in the Medical Practice Management space?
People who are in the early stage of their careers have to favor innovation and be open to the dynamic nature of the industry. If you’re interested in the role of tech in healthcare, learn the impact of what technology can do to improve outcomes for patients. In my opinion, wearable (?) devices, technology, virtual capability, and advanced analytics, along with aggregating, organizing, and reporting out of the data, are the most important growing fields for early adopters.