Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman, recently back from the Fourth Annual World Health Care Congress (WHCC), spoke with Digital Healthcare and Productivity about why he thinks we’re at a tipping point for HIT adoption, the National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative (NEPSI), and revenue cycle management for physician practices. Tullman has been with the company for 10 years, and is credited by many with turning around Allscripts, which earned $228 million in sales last year.
DHP: You moderated the WHCC’s “Transformative I.T.” panel, which included healthcare leaders from Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of Defense. What were some of the things that were discussed?
Tullman: Every other sector of our economy is using information technology to address quality and costs issues. Healthcare has tried everything else — other than IT — and still hasn’t been able to address what has become a major healthcare crisis, one of the most significant challenges to our economy and maybe even our country today. We have concluded that IT is the solution to the problem of healthcare quality and costs.
DHP: But why now? Health-IT adoption rates have been slow up to this point.
Tullman: Craig Barrett (Intel CEO) said business has been asleep at the wheel and woke up to find that it couldn’t effectively hire employees and compete in this country without addressing healthcare costs. Healthcare is the fastest growing and least managed part of business today. Today we even have businesses building plants in Canada to avoid healthcare costs.
So it’s always challenging to say, ‘When is the tipping point?’ But I can tell you costs have come down; the software has gotten better; we have a new generation of more computer savvy physicians; consumerism is rampant in healthcare, and clearly the Internet has played an enormous role. I can’t tell you that any one of those was the item that will tip the entire environment. It’s a conglomeration of items coming together to make it tip.
DHP: So you see things accelerating?
Tullman: Just look at the players in Personal Health Records (PHR). It used to be that Medem was the only game in town. But today you have Google, Microsoft, Revolution Health, WebMD, RelayHealth. Just look at the stature of these organizations. And we have the three “W’s”: Wal-Mart, Walgreens and CVS, and Whole Health, who are outsourcing healthcare treatment. Dramatic change and revolution every where you look.
DHP: You’re the co-chair of the NESPI, the campaign to deliver free electronic prescribing to every physician in America. Give us a progress report.
Tullman: Stage one of this initiative was to get it launched, make sure the software worked and was secure, build all the links to allow the prescription to be routed electronically, and get the first few thousand physicians signed on and get it tested. This has been completed. This month we begin the more dramatic rollout and expansion of NESPI. We’ll be adding a number of new partners, especially payer and managed care providers, to provide incentives for adoption and use of the technology. This is a significant addition. Payers and managed care providers are two of the biggest beneficiaries of e-prescribing.
The rollout and expansion will include advertising and many of the local academic centers we’re affiliated with doing local promotions. Other promotions will come through partners like SureScripts, whose pharmacies will promote e-prescribing. You’re also going to see some of our larger partners rolling out internal promotions, where their own employees will be going to physicians, urging them to consider e-prescribing for safety and efficiencies.
DHP: As competition heats up, will companies such as Allscripts thrive as software providers, or do you need to move into a broader vision of providing Information Services to healthcare providers?
Tullman: I think of Allscripts’ as being the Bloomberg of healthcare. Traders today would tell you that they wouldn’t trade without having access to their Bloomberg terminal because it provides them with real-time information to make a better decision. Similarly we want our physicians to have instant access to information.
DCHP: One of Allscripts key selling points as an EHR provider was its tight integration and long history with IDX practice management systems. Now that GE owns IDX, how is that relationship changing? Is there a need for software providers like Allscripts to focus on Revenue Cycle Management for physician practices?
Tullman: It’s an interesting relationship because at some of the largest sites we are still working closely together and partnering. At some of the smaller sites, where they have a competitive offering and we do as well, we’re competing. So it depends on what’s best for the client. As far as Revenue Cycle Management, we’re partnering with people who provide this. We don’t believe we need to be in every one of these businesses to provide services.
DCHP: What do you see for the future of healthcare?
Tullman: We have phrase called IDDUINEM, a word created by one of our physicians. The letters stand for If Docs Don’t Use It, Nothing Else Matters. We have to develop sophisticated and user-friendly technology. Look at Google or ATMs. We use these because they make our lives simpler, better and more convenient.
I like to use a quote from science fiction writer William Gibson. ‘The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.’ We are well on our way to building a secure, interconnected healthcare system, and in doing that we’ll have the ability to use some of the savings from this automation to do things like invest more in research and covered the uninsured in this country. The problem is that it’s not yet being done at every location.
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