Real-time electronic claims payment systems and the continuity-of-care record -- patient history boiled down to its essential elements -- are the two "killer applications" that will soon become key drivers of adoption of healthcare information technology, according to C. Peter Waegemann, chief executive officer of the Boston-based Medical Records Institute.
"The first one is a real-time financial application," said Waegemann, whose for-profit organization will host its 21st annual TEPR (Toward an Electronic Patient Record) trade show in Salt Lake City May 16-18. David Brailer, M.D., HHS' national health information technology coordinator, will give the keynote address.
"If you can tell a doctor at the time the patient is leaving the parking lot that the bill is approved 80% of the time and the doctor is getting paid," physicians will flock to the technology, Waegemann said.
While insurance companies have developed systems for real-time adjudication of claims, the rapid payment part of the transaction is still the missing link. Waegemann said that technology is still a few years off.
The continuity-of-care record is much closer on the horizon, however, he said.
"History will say it was in 2006 when healthcare changed," Waegemann said. "It's going to be a driver by some new ways, some consumer ways, where patients will ask their doctor, 'Can I send you my continuity-of-care record information?' "
In fact, physicians are already talking about getting patient histories "with the touch of a key," so much so that the continuity-of-care record is "probably right now one of the biggest selling points" for office-based electronic health records.
"The ambulatory-care market is really moving along," Waegemann said. "We have many more vendors and they're very happy. I don't see much movement in the hospital market. It's kind of stagnant."
Software products from 11 companies qualified as finalists in seven categories for the sixth annual TEPR Awards for "outstanding healthcare information system solutions."
Winners will be named May 16 in six of the seven categories after a second round of judging May 15. Finalists will be chosen May 18 in the category of electronic health records for pediatrics.
Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Chicago, led all companies with finalists in three categories. Physician Micro Systems, Seattle, and eClinicalWorks, Westborough, Mass., each had two finalists.
The finalists are:
Electronic health record systems for small practices
EHR systems for medium and large practices
EHR systems for hospitals
EHR systems for medical transcription
One TEPR tradition, the annual clinical documentation challenge, will be on extended hours for the first time this year, held for two days, from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 17, and again from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 18. The challenge consists of EHR vendors under a stopwatch documenting a mock patient encounter on giant projection screens in front of a live audience of hundreds of rival system developers and potential customers.
"One of the comments we had in the past was we only had space for 10 or 12 companies," Waegemann said. "So, here we are, we opened it up to two days, and we have 23 (vendors).
"It's very interesting to look at it," Waegemann said. "About five years ago, we said anyone should be able to document an encounter in 10 minutes and some of them didn't make it. Computers crashed.
"Now, people are doing it in less than 8 minutes on average and they're showing many more functions," he said.