Laying the foundation for accountable care

“Accountable” is one of the most popular buzzwords in healthcare today. Whether an organization is striving to become an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) or pursuing a less formal approach to delivering necessary, efficient and effective care, the term frequently comes up in today’s organizational strategy discussions. It’s more than just a buzzword, however. In fact, more than ever, healthcare organizations are holding themselves accountable for the patient care they provide to ensure future solvency. They’re working to retool their processes to become more proactive and ensure care meaningfully improves patient outcomes and the overall health of their patient populations.

Achieving accountable care is not something an organization can just set its mind to and accomplish. It requires healthcare organizations to leverage specific tools, work in tandem with other providers, foster communication and data sharing across the continuum, identify and respond to high-risk patients and support evidence-based care. Fundamentally, the following tools help an organization seamlessly share information for decision-making and improve the quality of care they provide.

Tool #1—The Electronic Health Record

First, organizations need to be fully vested in their electronic health record (EHR) and use it across the enterprise to document and leverage information about patient encounters. Organizations must go beyond thinking of the EHR as merely a repository for notes, but instead look on it as a robust source of information for integrating and coordinating care across an organization. Thanks to the federal government’s HITECH legislation (promoting meaningful use of IT), many organizations are well on their way to solidly interfacing with their EHR. However, improvements can still be made in terms of fostering accessibility, integration and user adoption.

Access to a comprehensive EHR is essential because it gives providers information at their fingertips to deliver the best, most appropriate care. When this tool is used by all providers in an organization, it can support integrated decision making and care that boosts patient outcomes. In addition, aggregating data from the EHR allows an organization to identify and respond to potential trends in care, such as the identification of specific interventions for chronic disease patients.

Tool #2—Health Information Exchange (HIE) Capability

While a fully adopted EHR can facilitate comprehensive data sharing internally, organizations need to have strong health information exchange (HIE) capabilities to support secure data exchange with entities outside the organization. Through a robust HIE tool, an organization can securely share a variety of information across referral networks and communities, including patient demographics, problem lists, allergies, medications, labs and radiology documents. Referring physicians and other outside practitioners can send information back through the HIE, resulting in a more complete patient record, smoother care transitions, enhanced care coordination and ultimately reduced readmission rates because all providers are on the same page about a patient’s current condition and care needs.