What stage of “Meaningful Interoperability” are you?

interoperable-600x300The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) just released what it calls “A 10-Year Vision to Achieve an Interoperable Health IT Infrastructure.” The directive generating the most attention calls for “a common set of electronic clinical information…at the nationwide level by the end of 2017.”  According to ONC, the common data set would consist of about 20 basic elements, such as patient demographics and lab test results.

At first blush, the ONC directive is a small step in the right direction, but sets the bar awfully low. Rest assured that vendors will consider 20 basic elements the maximum data set, not the minimum. A more effective approach would, for example, specify vocabularies (LOINC, RxNORM), document types (JSON, XML) and transport mechanisms (HTTPS or other TLS) to be used when sending or receiving data instead of focusing on the data elements themselves.

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The Healthcare Dinner Party

WineIt may not be obvious, but the healthcare industry has been preparing for an enormous dinner party. Over the last several years, innovation vendors like AirStrip have been adding ingredients to our fridges and pantries based on numerous requests from customers. Metaphorically, this would be just about anything you can imagine that will transform clinical collaboration. At this point, companies can support a wide variety of different use cases across the continuum of care. However, the next phase is for healthcare industry to sit down at the table since it has been set up already for the big dinner party. The table and the settings are the EMRs, EHRs, medical device companies, among others. If we keep replacing them we will starve to death. Now, we need to spend more time figuring out what exactly the healthcare providers are trying to cook – getting to know their specific use cases by clinical service lines and working backwards with the ingredients that already exist, rather than waiting for food to appear magically at the table.

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Future of Health Care: Keeping the Patients in Mind

imagesThe key to successful health care technology is making sure it improves both the patient experience and the quality of care. While technology is sometimes seen as a barrier to human connection and interaction, the right tools can transform the health care experience for the patient. At Dignity Health, our focus for 2015 is centered on making population health a reality by looking toward the ambulatory side of care. The mobility strategy we put in place in 2014 is enabling us to empower our providers and care teams with telehealth solutions so they can have alternate ways to connect with and care for their patients.

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Transformation in 2015: Focusing Technology on the Patient

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:

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Harnessing the Power of Big Data with Digital Health Partnerships

KWard_dataIn 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.

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EMRs won’t prevent the spread of Ebola (or the next scary outbreak)

about-ebolaAccording to IBM, there are 2.5 exabytes of data created every day, and most of it is unstructured. Imagine receiving all the words ever spoken by human beings on your doorstep each and every day. Now, imagine consuming that, making sense of it and trying to keep up with the ever-accelerating pace of data creation each day.

As a physician, I experienced firsthand the angst that comes with trying to keep up with even a very specialized scope of expertise. Thanks to the overwhelming quantity of peer-reviewed publications and practice guideline updates that only increase each year, we are long past the time when a clinician could possibly keep up with all the advancements in their own practice area, let alone those of adjacent areas of medicine or the latest public health concerns on a global scale.

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Mobile solutions that support our clinical (and life) workflow

There are more mobile devices than there are people on the planet. Many of us look at our phones more than 70 times a day. We bring them with us everywhere we go – to the movies, to our children’s soccer games and to work.

Many of us even have work environments that allow us to ‘bring your own device.’ If that is not an option, our work devices (thankfully!) are looking more and more like our personal devices. And in healthcare, we are now successfully addressing challenges to building mobile healthcare solutions that support our natural use and knowledge of these devices in our life flow.

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The Evolution of Health IT

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.

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Staying Ahead in a Technology-Driven Field

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

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Cerner/Siemens and Blue Shield/Blue Cross: What Happens Next?

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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.

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