EMPIs, MSPs, and the cloud: Patient ID matching’s next big opportunity

Sept. 14, 2018
Dan Cidon
Chief Technology Officer
and co-founder,
NextGate

In the face of accountable care, providers are devoting more resources to health data management in order to improve outcomes, enhance efficiencies, glean insight, and reduce costs. To achieve these goals, many healthcare organizations are enlisting the help of managed service providers (MSPs) to optimize their increasingly complex IT environment.

As more healthcare organizations continue to turn to cloud-based applications to remove the traditional shackles of infrastructure, CIOs and other health IT decision-makers are realizing they can further maximize their efforts by teaming with an experienced MSP that can help them aggregate and orchestrate their data for greater accuracy, transparency, and fluidity across the enterprise.

Now that deployment of cloud computing across healthcare systems is being embraced, organizations are in a better position to develop an Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPI) that will eliminate errors, improve data integrity, and mitigate the risks of patient record duplication. Leveraging an MSP to effectively manage the EMPI is an attractive option growing in popularity as organizations look to overcome the integration and interoperability challenges of a growing multi-vendor healthcare environment.

MSPs and the cloud

Courtesy of NextGate

Many MSPs that have partner agreements with cloud vendors, such as AWS and Microsoft Azure, are being relied upon to help health organizations build a scalable EMPI platform that is continuously maintained, updated, and accurate. Cloud computing’s ability to ingest mass volumes of patient data residing in various, siloed systems, and present it across the enterprise with a high level of transparency, allows providers to access actionable patient information for improved care coordination and clinical decision-making.

Healthcare organizations need to keep in mind that whether they are using AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google, or IBM, every cloud vendor has their own software stacks, and their unique approach to provisioning and managing tools. Many MSPs partners of cloud vendors can help health organizations transition to a vendor’s portal, handle APIs, and can assist with other management features.

MSPs vs hiring IT talent

While the cloud offers a scalable platform for hosting applications such as EMPI, many organizations still have to rely on subject matter experts for not only cloud management but also to handle a variety of tasks associated with applications hosted within the cloud platform. More often than not, these staffing requirements are cyclical, highly specialized, and cost prohibitive.

For example, during the initial data upload of the EMPI, depending on the processes that were used in the past to manage one’s patient population, there could be a record duplication rate of over 10%. For large institutions with millions of records this can represent a significant number of records that require cleanup. Similar spikes in resource requirements occur when onboarding new data sources which occur, for example, during organizational restructuring or when new systems come online. In addition to the cost of setting up such teams, there is the complexity of developing efficient data resolution processes and training staff to be proficient in these processes. Hiring an MSP to perform these tasks can leverage a healthcare organization’s IT resources while saving money and creating greater efficiency.

Providing repeatable and quality service operation is a key feature for an MSP. An MSP can help healthcare organizations with an Information Technology Infrastructure Library aligned delivery model that covers all operational aspects of EMPI solutions such as incident management, change management, release and deployment, and major incidents for high impact issues. This approach can lessen a provider’s focus on data management and helps them turn their attention to providing quality-of-care initiatives.

MSPs and healthcare transformation

Healthcare organizations are also facing numerous data regulations that impact the way an EMPI is designed. Many MSPs involved in patient data management are protecting their customers data from cybersecurity and ransomware attacks, and have implemented necessary security controls, intrusion monitoring, policies and procedures that address regulations under HIPAA and provide the necessary comfort for patient data safety. MSPs can also help healthcare organizations improve their EMPI’s ability to meet patient data reporting requirements under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act.
Additionally, MSPs are assisting their healthcare customers tackle issues arising from risk-based programs such as bundled payment or population health initiatives. These programs rely on hospitals, doctor’s offices, rehabilitation facilities, community facilities, and other organizations to exchange accurate data among their care team members. Care teams also require a care coordination model that reduces the complexities of duplicate records and inaccurate patient data.

To successfully design a patient data management system that supports risk-based programs, organizations must evaluate and analyze the data they manage, formulate requirements that keep patient information secure and up-to-date, and develop strategies that support their business operations.

As the healthcare system continues its IT transformation and technologies including big data and artificial intelligence become more prevalent, organizations can turn to MSPs to help create a plan to migrate patient data to the cloud, while providing a solution that tackles the ongoing cleanup of data as a service.
While the healthcare industry pivots from a fee-for-service to a value-based model, organizations are looking for technology and IT skills that can support patient data management and clinically integrated networks to improve their engagements in risk-based contracts.

To gain financial rewards from risk-based contracts, MSPs can help provide regular optimization and maintenance of an EMPI engine. This is to ensure that the EMPI is delivering superior, continuous patient-matching capabilities. When not maintained correctly, healthcare organizations typically end up with a higher number of duplicates and a non-performant EMPI, which ultimately delays and negatively impacts care delivery, and places quality and patient safety at risk.

Turning to an MSP that can provide a hosted, SaaS subscription model can help healthcare organizations meet their goals of improving total cost of ownership while enhancing the performance of their EMPI engine. Additionally, MSPs and their cloud vendor partners offer solutions that provide continuous performance, enhance security and avoid future capital investments.

As healthcare consolidation continues, large organizations and integrated delivery networks (IDNs) must consider how they’ll design an effective EMPI that provides a high level of clean actionable patient data. They’ll want to seek an MSP partner that can offer IT skills, evaluate data quality, and provide patient data management. Additionally, they’ll want an MSP that can deliver regular optimization while aggregating, standardizing, and normalizing data. In essence, MSPs can prepare the EMPI system for the challenges that healthcare transformation will bring in the years ahead.

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