MGMA Panelists: Robust I.T. Needed for ACOs

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The vendor market for electronic health records and data analytics has been slow to mature to the point it can support the emerging accountable care organization payment model.

That’s the view of panel members involved in guinea pig shared savings programs with Medicare, during a session at the Medical Group Management Association annual conference, being held in San Diego. Donald Stumpp, manager of payer contracting at 150-physician American Health Network in Indianapolis, described how the group had to jettison its analytics tool after several months. The group has since installed a new system, which it uses in conjunction with an EHR from eClinicalWorks.

Gary Garspard, CEO at Clinics of North Texas in Wichita Falls, switched his EHR vendor after several months, and is now implementing a new system. The panelists described how they have various bolt-on applications, such as quality reporting dashboards, to enhance EHR capacity.

Stephen Nuckolls, CEO at Coastal Carolina Health Care in New Bern, N.C., uses dashboards that work in conjunction with his Allscripts EHR. The dashboard crunches clinical data to show which patients have care gaps. Nuckolls said the practice has added medical scribes, or assistants who help physicians document their encounters, and that helped boost both physician productivity and quality outcomes.

The practice now distributes quality scores across the group. “We got down to the per-physician level,” Nuckolls said. In one year, the practice is doing a better job with diabetic patients whose clinical indicators were off-base. “You can get the numbers to move,” he said, citing the net effect of strong analytics, streamlined workflows and physician competition.

Garspard debunked the notion that CMS is difficult to work with. He conducts conference calls with CMS representatives every two weeks and said the agency has been “a good business partner.” Working with the government, however, does have its pitfalls. Nuckolls was expecting to see his first progress reports from CMS this month, but those are now on hold with the government shut-down.

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