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New software is automating digital health records — and saving clinics a fortune
Who said don’t sweat the small stuff?
Sweating the details of new healthcare reform rules saved a clinic in economically distressed south suburban Harvey that was near closing.
That’s because the clinic, Family Christian Health Center, was among the first to meet a mind-numbing list of health-care reform rules to receive money known as “meaningful use dollars.”
The $30,000 in federal money kept services alive for 23,000 patients, ranging from private-pay to Medicaid recipients, who each year use the center’s clinics, pharmacy and dentist’s office.
“I cannot emphasize what a tedious and difficult process it was,” says Dr. Lisa Green, a family practice physician and health center CEO. “You would think the process would be clear from the beginning. It’s not. Things change.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the rules to get doctors to set up electronic health records and to use them in more sophisticated ways year by year. They include such things as reporting patient demographics, documenting that the records are secure and using the electronics system to prescribe medications.
Health center officials credit four-year-old technology firm SA Ignite for keeping the process on track.
The software works much like TurboTax for income taxes by ensuring that the health center gets its maximum payment for playing by the rules.
The government can audit the results, just like it can audit tax returns, so doing it right is crucial.
“We automated the process,” says Beth Houck, vice president of client services at SA Ignite, housed at the Illinois Technology Association’s TechNexus space downtown.
The web-based software program, called MU (meaningful use) Assistant, provides real-time feedback so healthcare centers can pinpoint gaps in their workflows.
“There is a gap between meeting the goals of the program and getting your money,” Houck says. “Just like with taxes, you need to know ‘did I interpret this question correctly’ or ‘did I put my data in the right spot?’”
MU Assistant costs up to $400 a year for each health-care provider, but the Family Christian Health Center got it for free as a beta user.
The automation can save money for health-care providers who have resorted to hiring temp workers and training medical residents to manually type in data and fill out forms.
Tech entrepreneur Dr. Tom Lee, known for helping write a grant that created the Chicago Health IT Regional Extension Center, founded SA Ignite when he realized the value of developing a software robot to do the tedious work.
Lee’s passion for ensuring accurate electronic health records started after his son, as an infant, received too high a dose of medicine. His son recovered, but it left Lee with a new understanding of medical information gaps.
Lee was the founding chief technology officer of Enorbus Technologies, a mobile content developer startup in China that Walt Disney bought six years ago for a reported $20 million. SA Ignite is one of five companies awarded an Illinois Technology Association CityLIGHTS honor for their 2012 growth and their plans to keep growing this year.
The awards recognize companies that have products, customers, revenues and are seizing upon opportunities, says Fred Hoch, ITA CEO.
In the past 15 months, the number of doctors that SA Ignite monitors has skyrocketed to more than 3,000 from 200. In three years, the company has more than quadrupled its employment, to 11 from two.
The health center is now working with Intuit Health to set up a patient portal to let patients email their doctors and dentists directly.