Healthcare IT: A game-changer for coordinated care

By Michele Judge
07:56 AM

Healthcare is undergoing a significant transformation. Patient-centered, accountable care and pay-for-performance initiatives promise to create unique challenges and opportunities for all stakeholders. To facilitate these care delivery models that are designed to reduce costs and improve quality, the government has developed numerous programs, including Medicare’s Shared Savings Program, Pioneer ACOs, the Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative and the Physician Group Practice Demonstration.

What do all of these programs have in common? They embody the future of coordinated care…an environment where care teams can support a patient using the latest and most relevant data to drive the best clinical outcomes without driving up costs. To be successful, providers must effectively use enabling technologies such as an electronic health record (EHR). However, this technology alone cannot achieve coordinated care’s lofty objectives, nor can it completely move the bar toward lower delivery costs and healthier populations.

Care coordination requires a mix of advanced, integrated solutions; including EHRs, automated prescription and lab ordering tools, online documentation and billing processes and clinical decision support technologies working in harmony to share information throughout the enterprise. To ensure this data is available to clinicians dispersed throughout the health system or group practices in near real time, healthcare providers require a robust clinical information exchange (CIE) platform.

Regardless of which caregiver is attending to a patient, a robust CIE enable clinicians to have a recent prescription history, current blood work or the latest diagnostic image. The clinical information also can be used for a wide variety of analytics and reporting measures designed to help physicians and executives better understand the volume of services in relation to the cost and quality structure embedded in the delivery of care. Integrating data from disparate sources, including medical and pharmacy claims; medication, lab and diagnostic reports; health risk assessments and EMRs, CIE platforms truly exist to support collaborative care throughout the healthcare ecosystem.

For many providers new to healthcare IT, the information exchange might seem overly ambitious. However, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act’s Meaningful Use initiative aims to bring CIEs and other information-sharing technologies into the mainstream. As part of the Stage 2 requirements, providers will be expected to have the ability to exchange information electronically with other providers, hospitals, patients, laboratories, pharmacies and public health agencies. The good news is that this capability is offered in emerging interoperability platforms and powered by technologies such as the enterprise master patient index. This ability to recognize who a patient is at all points of service throughout the care continuum is invaluable. Providers connected to these interoperability platforms simply need an avenue to access patient data, such as through an EHR or web portal.

Today’s healthcare providers have an excellent opportunity to step up and successfully treat patients on a new level. CIE platforms capable of consolidating data across multiple, disparate information sources and delivering meaningful information are the foundation upon which coordinated care is being built.