Building an IT infrastructure that supports clinical integration

Clinically integrated networks (CINs) are becoming increasingly more prevalent—and necessary—as ACOs and other value-based care organizations take a strong foothold in our industry. Clinical integration is the collaboration between doctors and hospitals that increases the quality and efficiency of patient care. CINs can help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of care, which results in better quality and financial performance, in addition to reinforcing physician autonomy.

To meet their clinical quality and efficiency goals, CINs must have an active and ongoing program among a network of physicians to collaborate and cooperate in a way that improves care. Collaboration requires health information technologies that communicate, aggregate, integrate and analyze data. These efforts to connect health care entities with disparate systems, processes and care delivery approaches have created a need for advanced information technology infrastructures.  While data connectivity is a key challenge for CINs, other advanced technologies are needed to facilitate care coordination, data analysis, interdependence and physician collaboration. Best practices from many early models pinpoint a few key areas where the right infrastructure can support these functions.

Supporting operations and fostering interdependence

In order to work and achieve clinical integration, physician practices need to refer within their network, and be both independently and collectively responsible for clinical quality and utilization. Physician practices also must invest time and resources towards the collective goals of the clinically integrated organization.  Appropriate technology systems to support communication must be put in place to facilitate the care coordination and team-based care essential for interdependence and collaboration.

Empowering physicians with advanced analytics and decision support

Creating a CIN involves agreeing upon, establishing and complying with a wide range of clinical protocols. An adequate number of diseases and diagnoses must be included. Generally, these diseases and diagnoses reflect the physicians and specialists represented in the network. If they satisfy applicable legal requirements, the physician practices included in the network may jointly contract to improve quality and affordability for a broad array of conditions and diagnoses.

The use of advanced analytics and clinical decision support technology are critical to meet these objectives. This includes appropriate systems that connect and interact with all physicians in the network, and training on both the use of the information technology and goals of the network. Clinicians understand the financial benefits of collaboration, but they might only accept responsibility if they trust the infrastructure established to enable clinical integration.