For Practices, Bridging the Health IT Technology Gap Does Not Mean Starting From Scratch

Sean Morris
Sean Morris

Given the recent focus on the value of health IT (HIMSS recently asked those of us covering the space to respond to its importance; you can see my response here: HIMSS Asks: What is the Value of Health IT?), the topic remains an intriguing one. With ever-present changes to the landscape, we’re in the midst of major and continual upheaval about how technology can serve, yet improve care quality and outcomes.

The use of electronic health records, for example, continues to permeate the space. But even as pervasive as the technology is — during 2006 through 2013, the percentage of physicians using any EHR system increased 168 percent, from 29.2 percent in 2006 to 78.4 percent in 2013, according to the CDC.  Nearly half of physicians (48.1 percent) were said the be using the more comprehensive “basic system” by 2013, up from 10.5 percent from 2006, but that doesn’t mean the solutions are completely meeting the needs of physicians.

That said, I asked Sean Morris, director of sales for Digitech Systems, for some perspective. He’s worked in health IT for more than 20 years. He agrees with me, that penetration of EHRs remains less than 50 percent. Even so, as physicians have moved aggressively toward the technology, in large part because of meaningful use, not all of the systems that have been deployed are working as expected.

“EHRs were the new shiny thing and everybody wanted to chase after them,” Morris said. “But issues came up as people began to evaluate and use the technology. They discovered that there’s really no bridge from the information stored in EHRs charts and other records outside the EHR. They need to bring it together without killing their practice.”

As the age of EHRs begins to fade past its prime and as practices begin to evaluate second generation solutions, Morris said history is likely going to repeat itself unless practices begin to deploy solutions that help them use all of the data stored in the records.

Morris said that in many cases, current EHRs don’t actually need to be replaced, rather built upon.

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HIMSS Asks: What is the Value of Health IT?

Once again, HIMSS is asking for perspective about the value of Health IT. The organization asked members of the social media and blogging community to respond to this very question last year for its second year celebrating National Health IT Week. It’s doing so again in preparation of #HIMSS14.

As I pointed out last year, even though it seems like a simple question, there still don’t appear to be any simple answers. There remains different answers depending on who you ask. So, again, instead of offering my lone opinion, I’ve asked a variety of folks to respond to the question, “What is the value of health IT,” based on their insight and experience serving the space.

Phyllis Teater
Phyllis Teater

Phyllis Teater, chief information officer, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

The value of health IT lies in its ability to address three of the major, although competing, forces of change in healthcare.  The need to standardize care, personalize care, and reduce costs requires the synthesis of vast amounts of data as well as dramatic changes to workflow and process.   I can conceive of no way to go about pursuing these changes without technology.  The old adage “you cannot improve what you cannot measure” tells us that improving health care requires us to leverage our data, turning it into knowledge and to then build the new workflows that will change the way we deliver care.

John Backhouse, executive director of the Omni Program, Information Builders

John  Backhouse
John Backhouse

Health IT is the means for providing the best possible data at the point of care.  It addresses the who, what, when and where of a patient’s care, which helps healthcare providers enhance the patient experience and deliver high-quality of care to improve health and well-being, preserve privacy and ensure security. Health IT facilitates innovation and overcomes interoperability challenges that gives providers transparency for the patient pathway to improve quality of care and minimize clinical and financial costs by eliminating duplicate patient records, incomplete medical histories, incorrect medications, clinical errors, billing mistakes, and avoidable readmissions, as well as correcting the overuse, underuse, and misuse of beneficial care. Adopting health IT is the one strategy healthcare organizations can take to enter a golden age of patient care.

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