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Fall 2009

The Pace Picks Up in the Development of Health Information Technology

ABC is very proud to be the exclusive sponsor of a major new event at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists: A Celebration of Advocacy, the opening session of the 2010 meeting which will be held in at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana from October 17th through October 21st.

One theme common to all the different proposals for healthcare reform in this season of intense advocacy is the need to increase both the capabilities and the installed bases of health information technology. David Blumenthal, MD, MPP, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in the Department of Health & Human Services recently noted that:

It would be hard for any health professional today to escape the conclusion that the antiquated, paper-dominated system we now have in place isn’t working well for patients, creates added costs and inefficiencies, and isn’t sustainable. As we look at our nation’s annual health care expenditures of approximately $2.5 trillion, there are many ways our current system fails both patients and providers. It is clear that change is necessary.

The need for change from our “antiquated, paper-dominated systems” to powerful and flexible information technology has been clear for quite some time. We generate and depend on a massive amount of information, to which we add more data every day. Managing all the information that we record and using it to its maximum capabilities are major challenges for anesthesiologists and other professionals.

ABC invested in powerful custom-built anesthesia practice management software, F1RSTAnesthesia™, several years ago. This system goes far beyond claims and revenue cycle management, of course. Jody Locke illustrates the use of data on the time and units billed and the actual collections per anesthetizing location, by hour, to analyze utilization and identify opportunities for increases in productivity in his article “Operating Room Utilization Data Management.” While Jody’s graphs and charts come from F1RSTAnesthesia™, which he helped to shape, he acknowledges that “there is no one best way to capture and present operating room utilization data.”

To look at some of the ways in which other developers and organizations manage data, we invited several such developers to describe their systems in this issue of the Communiqué. The digital pen-and-paper method of completing an anesthesia record marketed under the name Shareable Ink Anesthesia Record™ represents brand-new technology about which we are very excited—so much so that we have entered into an exclusive agreement with the company that developed the system under which, for a certain time, we will be the sole anesthesia billing company to sell the digital pen under the F1RSTAnesthesia™ Record.

Several third party systems represented in this issue are already quite familiar to most anesthesiologists. Readers will immediately recognize the name Docusys®. Teecie Covad, VP for Product Management at Docusys, Inc. has written a comprehensive description of the features and benefits of a true AIMS in “The Tipping Point for Anesthesia Information Management Systems.” Picis® Anesthesia Manager is another system used by many anesthesiologists every day. It has a large installed base in hospitals across the country. Dr. Carlos Nunez, Chief Physician Executive for Picis, gives an excellent historical overview of the changing industry needs and adaptations, and the Picis® solution, including a synopsis of the federal Stimulus Package that will reward hospitals for demonstrating the “meaningful use” of information technology starting in 2011.

The nearly $20 billion in Stimulus funds to promote the adoption of electronic health records was one aspect of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“ARRA”). Another part of ARRA significantly alters and supplements HIPAA privacy and security provisions. Abby Pendleton, Esq. and Jessica Gustafson, Esq. review the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Acts) provisions of ARRA pertaining to patients’ privacy rights, breach notification, and the consequences of breaching private information.

ASA has created a new organization, the Anesthesia Quality Institute (AQI), to develop a national data registry for anesthesia. To achieve similar goals of collecting data from multiple operating rooms to support benchmarking and quality improvement initiatives, SouthEast Anesthesiology Consultants of Charlotte, NC, launched its own Quantum Clinical Navigation System™ in the 1990s and reports that Quantum is now installed in 25 hospitals. John Kunysz, Quantum’s chief operating officer, describes the system and its value in his article “The Cost-Cutting Approach to Healthcare Reform.”

Joe Laden, a name very familiar to participants in the MGMA-Anesthesia Administration Assembly (AAA) and other members of the anesthesiology community, has synthesized everything he learned from studying and comparing multiple examples in his write-up entitled “Anesthesiology Practice Web Sites.” His checklists and brief descriptions will be invaluable to readers contemplating creating or expanding their own websites.

Having read of the amazing capabilities of anesthesia information management systems in the first half of this issue, do not miss the wonderful warning “13 Steps to a Disastrous Anesthesia Information System Implementation” by AAA officer and VIP Phil Mesisca.

The changes that have taken place in anesthesia practice since I founded ABC thirty years ago are staggering—and the constants are equally amazing. We are all privileged to work in an area that asks us to learn new technologies and new practices, or at the very least, new approaches, all the time. As with every quarterly issue of the Communiqué, I am most grateful for the willingness of experts like those noted above to share their knowledge with us.

With best wishes,

Tony Mira,
President & CEO