NHIT Week: Raising Awareness to Improve Quality and Efficiency of Healthcare

For the ninth year, national health IT week is in full swing, from Sept. 15 – 19, 2014. Those in healthcare, policy makers and stakeholders have come together to “collaborative forum for public and private healthcare constituents to discuss the value of health information technology (IT) for the U.S. healthcare system.”

HIMSS is again hosting a lineup of events and activities centered in the DC. According to the organization, the event is designed as health IT continues its advancement to “improve the quality of healthcare delivery, increase patient safety, decrease medical errors, and strengthen the interaction between patients and healthcare providers.”

For those of us in health IT, NHIT Week is a forum, a conversation starter and an awareness builder that assembles healthcare constituents dedicated to working together to elevate the necessity of advancing health through the best use of information technology. As a brand awareness campaign, the effort is paying off and bringing about deeper conversations with health IT game changers, leaders and those who wish to learn more about the ramifications of the technology on the overall landscape.

That said, and because of the importance of the event, I asked a few folks for their reaction to NHIT Week. Their responses follow:

Arvind Subramanian, president and CEO, Wolters Kluwer Health, Clinical Solutions

Arvind Subramanian
Arvind Subramanian

Vision, innovation, hard work and perseverance are foundational to any significant change for the better. These are fundamental components of the health IT movement—an ever-evolving landscape that has experienced tremendous successes, along with its share of challenges.

National Health IT Week offers a platform for celebrating progress and expanding awareness of the tremendous potential of health IT to advance healthcare’s broader goals of improved outcomes and lower costs. It’s an opportunity for those deeply involved in the movement and those watching it unfold from a distance to come together and remember what forms the core of its agenda: improving the human experience and saving lives.

Here at Wolters Kluwer Health, we have the advantage of seeing the outcomes associated with advances in clinical content integration, clinical knowledge management and data analytics every day. Whether it’s a highly effective response to a public health crisis or the ability to mitigate adverse outcomes through real-time patient surveillance, our clients are experiencing a transformation to more highly-effective care delivery.

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Engaging Patients Requires Your Letting Them Know that You Are Trying to Engage Them

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Amit Trivedi

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to engage patients in the patient engagement process, especially as it relates to meaningful use Stage 2, is to let them know that you are trying to engage them.

Since CMS announced the patient engagement requirement as part of meaningful use, physicians and practice leaders who hope to attest and receive federal incentives have voiced their concern over the requirement since it’s the one element beyond their control.

“The push back from providers is because it’s the one thing they can’t control; they can’t make patients ask for a patient summary and force them to download it,” said Amit Trivedi, healthcare program manager at ICSA Labs, which is a vendor-neutral testing and certification firm that works with EHR vendors. “Originally, I thought it would be upheld. I still don’t think they’ll drop it, but it’s possible they (CMS) may modify it or choose not to audit it.”

Essentially, the patient engagement portion of Stage 2 most likely won’t be dropped, but, according to Trivedi, enforcement of the mandate may not happen right away.

Still, Trivedi says the healthcare community shouldn’t walk away from the patient engagement debate simply because patients don’t seem interested in or accessing their health record. On the contrary, now is the time to begin moving in the direction of creating more awareness with the consuming public.

By taking the approach that if patients don’t ask for something because they don’t want it is faulty, Trivedi said. The same arguments were made by technology vendors prior to meaningful use who he said claimed certain enhancements just were not important to physicians and their patients. However, once incentives were announced and mandates issued, vendors quickly jumped on board to upgrade their systems to meet the new need.

Patient portals are an example of one such tool. Prior to meaningful use, they were considered Cadillac-like add ons that were wanted only by a few practitioners. With meaningful use, they are necessary and required component of the systems.

“You may never be able to make patients download their records, but you have to advertise and make the data available” said Trivedi.

Healthcare is entering the age of a new demographic and though there may be little desire to engage with the current generation, upcoming users are not going to be so patient in seeking their health information. For many, having access to their records will be a right, Trivedi said. Making data available to the public and encouraging patients to access and use it is nothing more than a cost of business.

Other than advertising to patients about the capabilities, Trivedi suggests taking the message to those who truly need access to it, for example, parents of young children and caretakers of the elderly. Though there’s simply no way that a majority of consumer patients will be engaged patients, at least in the short term, it’s much more likely that targeting specific population sets, like those mentioned, will help move the population forward and get people to take greater ownership of their care (or at least the care of those they are caring for).

After all, even with all the data collection and its analysis, its potential for improving greater health outcomes across the population and the move toward structured and transportable data, it ultimately we won’t find the results we’re looking for if the patients are not engaged.