When Will HIE Reach Its Tipping Point? Q&A With Allscripts CEO Paul Black

Paul Black was named CEO of Allscripts in December, after founder Glen Tullman stepped down from the electronic health records company. Mr. Black served on Allscripts' board at the time of his appointment and is no stranger to the industry, having previously served as COO at Cerner Corp. The company experienced a rocky 2012 with financial losses and leadership changes, but recently announced restructuring efforts in an attempt to improve its performance in 2013, as well as an alliance with other HIT companies — Cerner, McKesson, athenahealth, Greenway Medical Technology and RelayHealth — to create non-profit organization that will support universal access to healthcare data through interoperability.

Here, Mr. Black talks about the challenges facing interoperability and his thoughts on challenges facing healthcare providers as they attempt to achieve meaningful use of EMR technology.

Paul BlackQuestion: What are the biggest challenges you see hospitals and physicians face as they implement EHRs to meet meaningful use requirements?

Paul Black:
These systems must add clinical and financial value. The challenge for caregivers is they need to ensure they are investing in a system that puts them on an evolution path to a single patient record. That's why at Allscripts, we're using our Open platform to enable interoperability, while building a flexible population health management system focusing on a single patient record vs. a single inpatient architecture.

Q: Although many providers still have yet to meet stage 1 requirements of meaningful use, many are already preparing for stage 2, for which attestation will begin in 2014. What will be the most challenging component of meeting stage 2 requirements, in your opinion?

The biggest challenge is meeting the medical terminology and information exchange requirements with EHR systems from different suppliers, and this is something that some interpret to mean requires major IT upgrades and disruptions. In fact, our Open strategy and related community solutions address the stage 2 information exchange requirements without disrupting existing clinical workflows or the revenue cycle systems.

Additionally, our solution enables physicians to access, view and publish patient data to a virtual patient record and communicate via secure messaging with their patients — another element of the stage 2 requirements that is a requirement for physician adoption.

Q: Patient engagement is a core component of the stage 2 rule. How can providers best ensure patients are electronically engaging with them?

Nothing gets used unless it adds value for the caregivers and ultimately the patient, which is why it is essential for leaders in this industry to take their obligations to these constituents seriously. Caregivers need to ensure the portal experience is intuitive, two-way and responsive to the patients’ needs. Recognizing this, it is our strategy to offer the top-rated patient portal in the industry, which led to our recent acquisition of Jardogs.

Q: Last month, several physician societies sent a letter to HHS asking for a postponement of stage 3 draft recommendations in order to ensure stage 1 had fully been evaluated first. What is your take on a delay?

Raising the bar on the program requirements associated with the EHR incentives is critical to deriving value — alignment of clinical, quality and financial payment systems is where we will create the change that will contribute to the fundamental reshaping of the healthcare delivery reform.

Q: One major impediment to reaching the full benefits of EHR seems to be the lack of connectivity through health information exchanges that extend beyond single systems. Why do you think this has proven so difficult in terms of developing standards and networks?

What we are seeing is a typical technology adoption curve where innovation precedes the necessary standards and protocol development. We've seen this play out countless times, whether it's in banking or telecommunications. Recognizing this, Allscripts has taken the following steps: (1) adopting our Open platform and commitment to interoperability; (2) co-founding the CommonWell Health Alliance to bring further insights into where records are located; and (3) acquiring dbMotion, enabling the assimilation of patient data in a way that enhances care coordination and population health.

Q: What do you think the biggest change or opportunity we'll see for hospitals and their HIT in the next five or so years?

As we build out our community architecture, using our Open platform, we'll be able to mine population health data for organizations in a way that will enable them to more effectively and expeditiously treat patients. This will thereby improve care, saving lives and enabling significant cost savings, not only for the employers and consumers, but also for our national healthcare system.

Q: Recently, you celebrated your first 100 days in your new role. What is most exciting to you in your role as CEO of Allscripts? What do you most look forward to in the future?

It's the opportunity to lead the industry and to shape and implement our vision for healthcare in the future. That involves using our Open, interoperable platform and building out a community architecture. We call it a Connected Community of Health. The data and insights that we will be able to deliver will significantly elevate care coordination and population health management. For example, if we're talking about treating diabetes, one of the world’s fastest growing chronic diseases, the analysis of millions of patient records and prescription interactions would fundamentally pave the way for more effective care and less expensive treatments.

We're at a tipping point in healthcare, and for the future, I most look forward to leading the charge for Allscripts and for the industry.

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