Technologies and Policies Converge to Let Providers Share Data

By  //  April 8, 2012

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Medical Information Technology

Space Coast Medicine/Central Florida Medicine–Crossing the Quality Chasm, the 2001 report from the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) committee on the Quality of Health Care in America, made an urgent call for fundamental change to close the healthcare quality gap that was identified in a 1999 IOM report, recommended a redesign of the American health care system, and provided overarching principles and direction for healthcare leaders, clinicians, regulators, purchasers, and other stakeholders in the healthcare industry.

Performance expectations for a 21st century healthcare system that provides safer and more timely, efficient, effective, and equitable patient-centered care emanated from the 2001 landmark report.  In it the IOM suggests and strongly supports an organizing framework to better align incentives inherent in payment and accountability with improvement in quality, and key steps to promote evidence-based practice and strengthen clinical information systems.

Value = Quality/Cost

The healthcare value equation (quality/cost), to which I alluded in my August 2011 Editors Note and which drives the evolving transformation in healthcare reimbursement, is directly related to the timely availability of healthcare information that enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of all aspects of care.

As the healthcare business focus shifts from filling hospital beds and patient-encounter volume-based fee-for-service to accountability for patient quality and satisfactory experience—with federal stimulus and health reform laws as catalysts—all providers must now be planning how to send and receive vital patient information from beyond the boundaries of their own hospitals and offices. Timely medical decisions and dispositions are directly related to the availability of accurate information.

‘Meaningful Use’

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), which offers financial incentives for what is called “meaningful use” of federally certified electronic health records, has focused hospitals’ and physicians’ attention on meeting specific requirements, one of which is not just recording the information in an electronic health record, but allowing and facilitating that information to follow the patient when they present to other healthcare venues through a Health Information Exchange (HIE) network.

An HIE electronically integrates disparate healthcare information systems by providing the technical capability to facilitate access to and retrieval of meaningful patient data in real time for more timely and effective clinical management, significantly benefiting patients, providers and payers.

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Many of us who are healthcare veterans remember the many starts-and-stops associated with attempts to design and develop functional health information networks over the past 20 years.  The difference today is the existence of requisite data and communications technologies, governmental monetary incentives for funding and the projected new healthcare reimbursement models, all of which make good business sense for the development of an HIE.

Markets vary in their existing capacity to develop the necessary infrastructure and implement an HIE, and healthcare agencies and organizations across the country are exploring different approaches at local, state and national levels.  Here in Florida the Agency for Healthcare Administration has contracted with Harris Corporation to develop and operate an HIE infrastructure, but individual healthcare systems, like Health First, are moving forward expeditiously to build and implement a health information network that meets the high standards of patient care established by the IOM, and to optimally position themselves for broader HIE participation as it evolves.

Seriously Consider Participating

Your participation as a patient in an HIE is entirely voluntary.  It’s important for you to get as much information as possible regarding HIEs, so be sure to read the Q&A on HIEs.  Patients who understand the long term benefits of HIEs and trust in the HIE systems are much more likely to participate in and reap the many benefits of a network that provides exceptional enhancement to the continuity of their healthcare.