We are currently experiencing the biggest transformation in healthcare ever. Technology plays a significant role as an enabler of this transformation, but will not drive it alone. Improving patient care and driving toward patient engagement are crucial goals in this next phase of the healthcare industry. To make adoption ubiquitous and implementation effective, there are several things we should focus on as we dive into 2015:
In today’s digital world, electronic patient data is growing exponentially and moving faster than healthcare organizations can imagine. At the same time, clinicians suffer from information overload, and high-volume and increasingly complex clinical patient loads, alongside dwindling time and resources.
Now more than ever, the pressure is building to harness the power of big data and digital technologies to help clinicians make faster, patient-centric decisions that increase quality of care and enhance health outcomes all while decreasing costs.
Clinicians want two things from data. On an individual patient level, they need to be able to see the data whenever and wherever they want – in a clean at-a-glance format and with essentially zero lag time. And at a cohort (population) level, they want the data presented as meaningful information in a way that enables conclusions, decisions, and actions about a group of patients.
These statements may seem like self-evident Data 101 to many of you, but in my decades of experience working clinically as an emergency physician and being responsible for operations of multiple emergency departments, it is clear that we have not delivered on this vision. In fact, the healthcare world lags other industries by 15-20 years in the availability, presentation, and use of information. Although our industry is catching up, there is still more effective use of information technology in banking, aviation, on-line retail, and a multitude of other industries. Even though many of the concepts of optimum presentation and use of data have been around for decades – the quest for electronic health records began in the 1980s – their breadth of execution and the realization of their value propositions have not been sufficient to become the norm. Healthcare has moved at a glacial speed of change, at least until recently.
Health IT is often considered a silent partner in healthcare – not seen by patients, but a critical part of the system. As we celebrate National Health IT Week, it’s important to realize that although health IT already has a long history, the constant and rapid evolution of this space continues to transform the market. Information has been collected and stored for years, but the promise of clinical decision support has us at the cusp of all this information becoming valuable in new and innovative ways.
Just a decade ago, I was documenting patient encounters in paper charts. Although the transition to electronic medical records (EMRs) has been perceived as slow, in the grand scheme of medicine it actually happened almost overnight. These systems were not designed with our continuously changing workflow in mind, with user interfaces and workflows that aligned to our practices. They served as repositories for patient information, but did little else. In fact, our workflow changed to support the EMR, sometimes to the detriment of the patient. Instead of focusing directly on the patient, we often must split our time and attention between the patient and the computer terminal.
Since patient care and well-being is at the center of Rockdale’s mission, attracting the best and brightest clinicians in the region is an important effort for us. Part of distinguishing ourselves from our competitors is providing the resources and advanced technological support clinicians want. In fact, to support this shift, we formed the Information Technology Physician Engagement Group in 2013 to identify exactly what were the technology priorities for our physicians:
- Improved cellular service
- Improved physician Wi-Fi
- Single sign-on access
- Mobile technology for better efficiency
The industry is buzzing over the news that Cerner is buying the health information technology business unit of Siemens. The Siemens acquisition is the most recent high-profile example of consolidation that is taking place in all sectors of healthcare.
The consolidation trend is not new, of course. Providers reacted first, by aligning as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and clinical integration (CI) networks during the past five years. Then the passing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) accelerated the need for collaboration, forcing providers to acquire additional acute care and post-acute care facilities as well as physicians’ offices. This consolidation trend was the first to expose the obvious lack of interoperability amongst vendors.
Healthcare is rapidly evolving, and more than ever, hospitals are under extreme pressure to continuously identify ways to improve performance and justify every expense. In this type of environment, technological innovation alone will not prove sufficient. Instead, making sure technology is successfully implemented and processes are streamlined to ensure adoption and maximize value becomes the currency of improvement.