The Scope - Digital Health Newsletter - January 2017

Digital Health Letter – January 2017

Dear colleagues:

Happy new year! Welcome to 2017 – a year of change and hope! In traditional fashion, I think it is important to take stock of what we achieved in 2016, and then look forward to what the new year may hold – new year’s resolutions!

What Did the Digital Health Team Achieve in 2016?

  • Successful participation in the Provider Quality Reporting System (PQRS) for the third year in a row

  • Successful participation in the Meaningful Use (MU) Program for the fifth year in a row

  • One-hundred percent of all eligible providers (EPs) met MU measures for the first time — ever

  • Enrollment in the Center for Medicare and Medicaid System (CMS)’s Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative (TCPI)

  • Rollout and implementation of numerous clinical information systems (CIS)-related projects, including DocuSign, Dragon Speak, and CareManager

  • Successful rollout of Cerner at the new Texas Tech Physicians (TTP) of El Paso at Transmountain location

  • Improvement of EMR training that reduced in-person class time by four hours

  • Training of 150 staff and responses to over 6,500 support calls in CIS

  • The Office of Clinical Informatics (OCI) launched a website:

  • Initiation of a digital health medical student elective

This is just a sampling of all the collaborative work that everyone on campus has been engaged in, across departments and schools, as we navigate the changing landscape of health care and health education. I speak for everyone on the Digital Health Team — ClS and OCI — in thanking everyone for their hard work and cooperation in all the projects we undertook in 2016.

The Year to Come

One of the golden rules of etiquette at both work and social gatherings is to NOT talk about politics! Yet we are in the midst of great change and uncertainty in health care. In my role as Chief Medical Informatics Officer (CMIO), intermittently, I will give my non-political sense of where the prevailing winds are blowing us, nationally and locally.

National Trends:

  1. Health plans and insurance companies are seeking savings through more cost-effective benefits, partnerships and integration, and increased risk-sharing arrangements with providers.

  2. Providers are focused on delivering higher value services, with an increased appreciation of coordinated care and an interdisciplinary team approach that extends beyond institutional walls (see attached 8 Issues for Physicians to Keep Top of Mind in 2017).

  3. Patients are becoming more engaged healthcare consumers because of better access to their own health information, transparency of health plan and provider ratings, and greater exposure to the true costs of care.

El Paso Trends:

  1. Sixty percent of patient care is given by ambulatory groups that have less than five providers managed using over 40 different EMR systems.
  2. Medical groups in El Paso are increasingly focused on alignment and profit-sharing arrangements with health plans. TTUHSC El Paso cannot afford to be passive, since community players are increasingly aggressive in this space.
  3. The word is out on El Paso, and more and more, groups outside of El Paso see our city as a lucrative health care market. This is evidenced by the proliferation of freestanding emergency rooms and the advances other health care organizations are making into Texas and El Paso.

It is also my belief that, irrespective of how the changes to the Affordable Care Act shake out, the realities of how expensive our health care system is will continue to push the march toward quality and value — what we termed our Journey to Value, or #J2V. For the most part, there are no signals that the status quo in quality, value, or health IT as a health care facilitator will change. Market pressure will continue to push costs toward patients and away from providers, and challenge hospitals to reduce their skyrocketing charges (e.g., procedures and medications). This will potentially give us a window to guide and assist our partners (University Medical Center of El Paso/The Hospitals of Providence) in pursuing cost savings in risk-sharing agreements.

Data Will Drive Our Journey

Those of you who have heard me speak at various faculty meetings, student talks, or public speaking events — locally and nationally — know that I strongly believe that to manage efficiently, we have to measure properly. We have more than 10 different, non-integrated data systems, which give disparate answers to the same question. A central strategy of the Digital Health Team is to use individual hindsight to ensure enterprise foresight through technology and data. With all the changes around us, medicine is also changing and we need to find ways to compete while remaining nimble and staying true to our institutional mission.

 Health IT Newsletter

Yet data (or technology) is not the Holy Grail as an answer. Using data to evaluate what is and is not working is a valuable management practice — a practice that is used far too little. However, much more than managing what you can measure is needed to manage organizations as well.

People, Process, and Technology (PPT):  

As we evolve and grow, the Digital Health Team will continue to work with people to ensure the process is functional. We will continue to work collaboratively to identify the technology that increases the way our people and process provide quality health care and education.

As stated before, this will not be easy. It will not be seamless. There will be bumps in the road, but I believe we are the best multi-specialty group in West Texas. Working together, I am confident we can make our #J2V show this.

Digital Health Team Updates:                    

I would like to welcome our newest members: Andrea McGuire and Jennett Alexander. Andrea will be the Chief Analyst responsible, in a shared position between CIS and OCI, for oversight of clinical quality data in our #J2V programs (the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA)/Merit-Based Incentive Program (MIPS), Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS), and TCPI). Jennett, a Nurse Informaticist, will oversee the TCPI project. She will also work with the new Assistant CMIO, Dr. Diego De-la-Mora, on EMR optimization, education, and training, as well as increasing the provider interface between The Digital Health Team and our clinical departments.


Kudos to our Family Medicine (FM) and Internal Medicine (IM) departments for their hard work in clinical quality reporting using clinical quality measures (CQM) and HEDIS. Cheyenne Rincones from FM and Albert Salinas from IM achieved the highest clinical quality scores for 2016. Clarissa Rico and Adriana Alvarez from FM, and Marianne Velasquez and Yvonne Gutierrez from IM went above and beyond, working diligently to help TTUHSC El Paso reach its quality program goals. Kudos to all of our top-notch providers and clinical staff!

Two CIS town halls have been completed and we look forward to restarting them in the coming weeks. The town halls have provided important insight into how to help improve the clinical end-user experiences.

Digital Health Bytes

  • The Cure for Cancer Data —Mountains of Data – Read here
  • Health Care’s Digital Revolution Is Here – Read here
  • Telemedicine to Attract 7M Patient Users by 2018 — 12 Statistics on the Thriving Market – Read here
  • Bringing the “Art of the Deal” to Healthcare – Read here
  • 10 Tech Trends that Made the World Better in 2016 – Read here

Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding our role in the digital transformation of health care.

Thank you,