Health initiative gives chronic care a facelift

The accountable care network aims to reduce readmissions for an estimated 25,000 Medicare patients.

Pittsburgh ACN puts health IT under the knife

PITTSBURGH – A new accountable care network (ACN) is in town. Putting health information technology to work, the network – organized by the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) – aims to reduce hospital readmissions and improve quality of care for chronically ill patients.

PRHI was awarded more than $10.4 million by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to develop the Pittsburgh Accountable Care Network, which is projected to reduce regional healthcare costs by an estimated $74 million over a three-year period.

Information technology such as patient portals, peer-to-peer exchange and electronic health records will help focus specifically on reducing hospital readmissions of 25,000 Medicare patients with certain chronic diseases such as congestive heart failure (CHF) and coronary artery disease (CAD).

Making patient records more accessible among healthcare providers proves a crucial component in reaching the organization’s objectives, as Keith Kanel, MD, chief medical officer at PRHI and project director of the ACN, explained, “What we plan to do is create a network for independent hospitals, using IT to link these hospitals together.”

For instance, all the ambulatory processes will use the same unified system, an advancement, Kanel said will “ultimately allow us to share information broadly, no matter where the care is administered,” which will help to bridge those gaping information gaps in patient data.

One technology crucial to the network’s success in bridging these information gaps is peer-to-peer exchange.

Susan Flynn, CEO of Vale-U-Health – the physician hospital organization hosting the project’s prototype – describes peer-to-peer as virtually a “Facebook for physicians that allows them access to a patient’s lab results and medical history directly via a web-based framework.”

So when you have a patient with a chronic disease such as CAD, who is most likely taking several different medications, while also having numerous hospital admissions, it simplifies the process for healthcare providers, allowing for a timely access to a comprehensive, holistic record for that patient.

In addition to peer-to-peer exchange, the organization will also be joining the steadily increasing number of healthcare providers that use patient portal technology.

Bill Guiler, senior continuity of care specialist at Vale-U-Health, explains the portal will allow the patient to access his or her medical records via a secure website login. “It’s a place where patients can also communicate with their care managers directly via messaging. The technology gives us many avenues for real-time communication with doctors and real-time communication with patients.”