Health IT, telehealth overlap

By Patty Enrado
02:08 PM

Insiders call for breaking down silos

SAN JOSE, CA – The telemedicine and health IT camps need to overcome their traditional way of operating in silos and develop partnerships to make a significant impact on improving the quality of care in the healthcare system.

If anyone is reaching out, however, it’s the telemedicine side, according to four industry executive panelists who spoke recently at the American Telemedicine Association 2012 Conference and Exhibition in San Jose, Calif.

AT&T has a holistic and inclusive view of all healthcare technologies, services and products, with telehealth having fewer components, said Ed Simcox, director of AT&T’s telehealth solutions.

“Telehealth is a way to execute on old visions around delivering care for our customers,” he said.

With many emerging telehealth projects being proposed by evangelists within the practitioner community, Simcox said it is important to build the bridge between telehealth and health IT by developing a level of trust and sharing lessons learned.

Telehealth can learn from electronic medical record (EMR) vendors in the areas of financial sustainability, budgeting and other economic factors, the need for standards and overcoming cultural and generational resistance to technologies.

Simcox advised attendees to “keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on in telehealth” on the state and federal levels and be involved in special interest groups and organizations such as the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) to start raising awareness of the importance of telehealth. “If we wait for other organizations, we’re going to wait a long time,” he said.

Hon Pak, MD, CEO of Diversinet, said the fact that EHR vendors are not at the ATA 2012 conference “says something.”

“Politically, commercially – it’s an issue,” he added. For his company, he said, EHRs, mobility and health information exchange must be integrated and be part of the healthcare ecosystem for the last mile of care coordination.

While telemedicine is critical, it is part of a large strategic movement, Pak said. He argues that if the telehealth community adds “significant value,” the health IT community will come. Telehealth already has successes in mobile health, engaging patients, changing behaviors and amassing data. These areas represent where telehealth providers can highlight their value.

Michael Lemnitzer, senior director of strategic business development for BU Connected Care for Philips Home Healthcare Solutions, said his company is “working aggressively” with EHR vendors to develop interfaces, given that 90 percent of the company’s contracts require an interface before the customer will sign on. “It has become very critical,” he said.

Lemnitzer predicts that by 2015 the majority of EHR vendors will have interfaces for telemedicine applications, but it will require developing national standards in IT through the collaboration with vendors to address the fragmentation in EHR and HL7 applications.

“Telemedicine is the answer to so many challenges we face in 10 years in healthcare,” said Carl Keldie, MD, CMO of Corizon, a telemedicine provider for correctional systems. With 460 patient-centered medical homes in 30 states, Corizon is one of oldest accountable care organizations in the country, he said, and it has been successful because it has leveraged a number of relationships and a broad range of IT.

What’s critically important to the success of telemedicine, Keldie said, is the need to change culture and the payment methodology. Everyone has to be part of those changes, he emphasized.

Privacy and security, data integrity and interoperability are all part of the health IT world, but they “will come home” to the telemedicine world, said moderator Jim Murphy, vice president of healthcare strategy and business development for Sykes Assistance Services. Given the convergence, he said, both sides would need to work together to leverage best practices and lessons learned.