By Robert Barras, vice president of health solutions, CTG Inc.
There’s nothing like a good bandwagon to get everyone excited. Whether it’s the success of your favorite sports team, or a hot new restaurant in town, or a movie that’s breaking box office records, once something gets hot it seems everyone wants a piece of it.
For healthcare IT, one of the loudest and most visible bandwagons in the last few years has been the cloud. The idea of being able to hand off the expense and resource-intensive hassle of purchasing, implementing, and maintaining hardware and software is very attractive to healthcare organizations continuously being challenged to “do more with less.” Yet that expediency is often offset by continuing concerns about security, especially as it relates to protected health information (PHI), speed of access, and other issues.
The reality is the cloud is the right choice for some organizations, or even some specific applications, but it’s not a panacea for HIT. Following are some things to consider as you make the choice of whether to move to the cloud at all, and what makes sense to move to it.
One of the top reasons in favor of moving data and/or applications to the cloud is the ability to scale them on an ad hoc basis – especially as healthcare data continues to grow exponentially. A report from EMC and research firm IDC projects the volume of healthcare data will grow from 153 exabytes in 2013 to 2,314 exabytes by 2020.
Of course, the growth won’t come in a steady stream. At some points, healthcare organizations will need to be able to manage a high volume of data. At others, they may need to boost their computing power temporarily to drive a specific objective.
Rather than trying to manage data or computing needs internally and ending up with over- or under-capacity, the cloud provides a convenient way to scale up or down quickly. It’s also more cost-efficient, as healthcare organizations only pay for what they consume, significantly reducing costs. Finally, expanding capacity through the cloud ensures processing-heavy analytics applications aren’t slowing down the performance of critical clinical applications.
All of that data won’t be coming from a single source, either. As more of healthcare shifts to being value-based, providers of all types and sizes need to populate their population health management (PHM) and other analytics applications with data drawn from a variety of sources inside and outside of the organization.
Most organizations, especially those hyper-concerned with security, will not want all of that outside data flowing into their core systems or internal data centers. The cloud presents an ideal alternative.
It can create a clean separation between the main storage of PHI and all other data by treating PHI as a source that feeds applications housed in the cloud. With the help of a partner, all the incoming data can be cleaned and normalized so it can be used within analytics or other applications, providing better, more complete answers to PHM, patient engagement, trends, and other questions than can be obtained with internal data alone.
As the use of data in this manner grows, it will simplify the exchange between providers – especially as standards such as FHIR proliferate throughout the industry. The result is interoperability almost becomes a byproduct of the use of data in the cloud, avoiding the need for expensive, time-consuming special projects just to send electronic health records from one provider to another.
By Poornima Venkatesan, senior consultant, Virtusa.
In today’s value-based care environment, patient engagement is a vital key to success in clinical outcomes. This is especially true for chronic diseases such as arthritis, where continuous care is necessary because of the disease’s physical, emotional and economic impact on patients. Although the advent of specialty drugs in the past decade has made disease control possible, clinicians still face challenges in patient care because patients’ preferences about therapy aren’t often considered.
Understanding patient goals and expectations
While a clinician’s goal is to achieve remission, a patient’s goal could be clinical or nonclinical and varies depending on their individual characteristics and demographics.
Patients from low-income countries such as Morocco expect access to primary care (never mind rheumatologists), support services and education about the disease. The high expenses related to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in such countries result in poor treatment compliance, school absenteeism in children and deterioration in quality of life. Comparatively, even with excellent health insurance systems in the United States, one in six adults with RA reduce their medication use because of high out-of-pocket costs. Most patients expect cost-effective care. In wealthier countries like the United Kingdom, patients expect increased social connectedness and family support.
Elderly patients expect reduced pain, fatigue and side effects, whereas young adults expect independence and normalcy from their treatments. Women, who are most affected by RA, might expect a lesser impact on family life and childrearing.
If such multidimensional expectations are not met, patients tend to discontinue their treatment. As new biologics and non-biological complex drugs (NBCDs) are developed, patient adherence is essential in determining both therapeutic and potential adverse effects. Studies reveal that frustration towards the method of drug administration (like self-injection) also impacts adherence. In the U.S alone, the total cost of non-adherence is estimated between $100 billion and $289 billion annually.
Therefore, it is important for the patient and the physician to trust each other and have open discussions about treatment strategies and expectations to ensure better alignment and cooperation.
Measuring patient engagement
The first step towards patient engagement is awareness of their current engagement levels. The patient activation measure (PAM) tool is helpful here. PAM measures the attitude and knowledge of patients about the disease and treatments. Studies have proven that highly activated patients have better outcomes via increased medication adherence, resulting in lower healthcare costs through fewer ED visits, hospital admissions and re-admissions. By continuously monitoring activation levels, providers can measure sustained changes in patient behavior and personalize their care programs.
We can also measure engagement levels by taking advantage of data. Data derived from direct [electronic health records (EHR), claims] and indirect sources (wearables) provide a holistic view of an individual patient. Simple analytics applied to population data can predict patient behavior. For example, analytics can help providers know which patients are likely to miss their appointments, which patients will fill their prescriptions on time, and so on. Detailed patient-based data could also lead to better and more accurate diagnoses and treatments.
By Abhinav Shashank, co-founder and president, Innovaccer.
Consider a situation where healthcare is not just an industry term — a situation where EHRs are not an integral part of physicians schedule but just a support to providing care. All considered, imagine a situation where patient-centric care actually involves the patient, and patient engagement is not just a buzzword but a reality. Unfortunately, all these imaginations were supposed to be a reality, but still, healthcare managers and organizations are struggling with the problems such as the lack of patients’ adherence to medication, varying trends in the population health, and a lot more. Patient population, nowadays, expect the same on-demand delivery convenience from the healthcare organizations as they get from the other companies, like Netflix.
Why is Patient Engagement the Core of Providing Patient-centric Care?
To understand the value of the patient in the entire care continuum, let us take an example. Consider a patient, Marcus, who works at an IT firm and is affiliated to a Commercial ACO in his county. Marcus is a 65-year-old male suffering from comorbidities like Type 1 Diabetes, and diabetic retinopathy. He is at constant risk of sporadic elevated blood pressure.
In the year 2016, Marcus visited the ED approximately five times. Considering the situation, his primary care physician referred him to a specialist and prepared a schedule comprising at least two monthly visits.
The year 2017 started with a lot of workload for him at his firm, and he was unable to keep up with the prescribed schedule. Because of improper communication between his PCP and him, his physician was not able to keep track of Marcus’s health. As a result, the ED utilization rate for Marcus increased from five times to nine times. Because of enhanced stress and improper quality of care, the sporadic episodes of elevated blood pressure turned into a constant problem of hypertension. Also, the overall cost of care for Marcus increased drastically.
Challenges in Achieving True Patient Engagement
Patient engagement, in itself, is not as simple as ABC. It is not just bringing patients in the cycle of care continuum but enhancing the patient’s skills, ability, knowledge, and most importantly, willingness to participate in the task of managing his own care. The concept of providing care with “engaged patients” sounds great theoretically, but it is not that smooth sailing. According to a survey, nearly 87 percent of the patient population believes that communication with their doctor apart from their scheduled appointments is really important.
The major flaw is the lack of awareness among the patients regarding their care procedures. Many patients are ignorant of the clinical processes which a physician follows, and they might miss out on major health details. With no actual knowledge of the disease symptoms, patients might not report to their physicians which might lead to reduced patient engagement, not to mention the increased risk of developing a chronic disease.
Care teams play a vital role in engaging the patients through regular follow-ups. Irregular and fragmented workflows of care managers and lack of personalization might lead to the generation of ineffective care plans for the patients. Reduction in patient engagement could also be the result of under utilization of technologies to analyze the massive amount of patient data that care managers have at their disposal. Through building more personalized care plans, patients can be engaged at a more grass-roots level.
Driving Effective Engagements through Value-based Care
Predictive population health analytics is the answer to nearly every problem linked with patient engagement. Advanced predictive analytics tools will help in dealing with the problems of disparate data systems and can pinpoint the exact area on which healthcare organizations can focus. Leveraging the insights obtained by data analytics, care teams can prepare the statistical models to prioritize each patient and can take necessary measures to engage patients in the process of decision-making. Understanding the patients’ habits by the care teams increases the chances of preparing personalized care plans for them and enhancing the level of patient satisfaction.
According to the Office of Coordination of National Health Information, 50 percent of healthcare dollars are wasted on inefficient processes. Transformative innovation must not only change the current way things are done, it must be disruptive by having a meaningful impact on time, quality, cost and operational effectiveness – it must dramatically simplify and accelerate the process it enables.
There are very exciting ways in which digital technology is creating transformation across the entire healthcare system in areas such as connected health, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, mobile data gathering, analytics, digital therapeutics and remote patient monitoring. All of these technological developments will improve healthcare efficiency, but more importantly they will drive the delivery of individualized care and dramatically improve patient outcomes as follows:
Access to Care
Connected health, or telehealth, is enabling the delivery of care to rural areas, where access is often nonexistent or very limited. It is also being used to address growing medical staff and physician shortages by providing access to timely care through collaborative tools such as eConsults. Telehealth delivers faster, less expensive and more convenient healthcare and in doing so significantly improves patient outcomes.
Conventional patient engagement systems display information at the hospital bedside, which is only one of many relevant ways to connect with patients. Companies are now integrating artificial intelligence or ‘virtual’ health coaches into interactive educational platforms, resulting in higher utilization and engagement, and delivering more robust, actionable content.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
A vast array of innovative wearables and sensors such as the biosensor bra patch, implantable glucose sensor, electronic tattoos and the cardiac mapping vest are revolutionizing remote monitoring capabilities. These remote monitoring systems have the potential to help achieve triple aim goals by leveraging the latest advancements to collect and analyze patient data beyond the bedside. Patients and providers can use smart phones, tablets and apps to remotely assess, diagnose and monitor their patients. Electronic monitoring can be an effective solution to identifying issues as they happen while also enabling more effective tracking of patients post-discharge, improving compliance and adherence, and reducing the number of re-admissions.
New applications of telehealth that enhance existing provider-to-provider communications are revealing a new way for healthcare organizations to ensure patient care remains in-network. As hospital M&A activity accelerates and organizations strive to glean the most value from their investments in technology and human resources, telehealth is recognized for its role in keeping communications and care in-network.
Telehealth is increasingly being leveraged to offer providers immediate in-network specialist expertise and to reduce ad hoc out-of-network referrals. These kinds of applications make the in-network choice convenient for providers and patients while driving increased patient engagement and more integrated care across the broader care team.
Providers are seeing that telehealth applications can be complementary – instead of disruptive – to their workflows and provide them with a new approach to practicing medicine via technology.
Immediate Communications with Colleagues
Video-based technology can help providers optimize their current workflows by facilitating faster and more flexible consults with on-demand access to in-network specialists. A provider’s network of experts can be built into the technology, which enables a provider to immediately reach the designated, first available specialist for answers. Instead of wasting valuable seconds and minutes looking for the names and contact information for specialists, providers can use telehealth to expedite provider-to-provider interactions which accomplish the critical objectives of doing what is both right and timely for the patient’s situation.
For example, a provider may be examining a patient and realize that the patient’s condition requires specialist expertise. With telehealth, the provider can immediately reach out to an in-network specialist. The specialist accepts the virtual consult request, from anywhere and on any device. During the virtual consult, the specialist can evaluate the patient and communicate the appropriate next steps. All stakeholders – the provider, the specialist, and the patient – benefit from the immediacy, efficiency, and effectiveness of a virtual consult conducted in real time.
The broader healthcare organization (whether a medical practice, a hospital, or a health system) will benefit from an increase in in-network referrals. By leveraging the organization’s network to drive better patient outcomes faster, providers can deliver lasting value for the healthcare organization and enhance its overall reputation.
Increased Patient Engagement
Technology can also help providers optimize their current follow-up processes and easily check in with patients after a hospital stay or outpatient procedure. Providers can use telehealth to offer patients appropriate follow-up care at their own home via video. This allows providers (or providers’ in-network resources) to reach out to patients based on those patients’ preferred contact methods (e.g., email or text) and languages (e.g., Spanish, German, etc.) to remind them of their upcoming video visits. The result is increased patient engagement in their ongoing treatment plan. Travel time, related transportation expenses and appointment no-shows are minimized due to this efficient method of follow-up care.
For example, a provider can facilitate a virtual visit with a patient to ensure understanding and adherence. During a virtual visit, the provider (or related in-network care team members) can evaluate the patient’s progress, answer questions in real time, provide patient education, and re-emphasize the treatment plan – all while the patient stays comfortably at home and the provider remains conveniently in the office. All stakeholders – the provider, the care management team members, and the patient – benefit from timely conversations which can drive better adherence and overall outcomes.
A critical aspect of clinical research today is patient-centered studies, which provide the insights that empower doctors, clinicians, and patients to make better informed care and treatment decisions. But the challenge is building an effective system to gather and share data across multiple systems and empower researchers and stakeholders within health-focused organizations to easily compare different types of interventions, conduct pragmatic clinical research and translate the benefits of that research into medical practice.
The Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) has implemented a system that has accomplished this lofty goal.
LPHI’s work focuses on uncovering complementary connections across sectors to combine the social, economic, and human capital needed to align action for health. It champions health for people, within systems, and throughout communities.
The primary challenge lies in integrating a seamless data workflow across health systems and integrating network activities into the work of existing clinical teams, and a workflow that is flexible to meet each organization’s specific clinical and research needs. There is also a great need for onboarding participating staff members who can help educate patients about a study and set realistic expectations around the trial. The technology they use needs to enable physicians and patients to make informed decisions in real-time.
The non-profit organization created (and now serves as the coordinating center of) a Clinical Data Research Network, REACHnet, that increased the capacity of regional learning health systems to conduct patient-centered clinical studies. This network centers around a robust data infrastructure with a patient engagement platform for study recruitment, data collection and connection to clinical records.
REACHnet addressed these key aspects by designing the network with the following principles:
Targeted patient engagement – The patient engagement infrastructure of REACHnet uses a web- or tablet-based platform in examination rooms, which is electronic medical record (EMR)-agnostic. These web- or tablet-based platforms, developed by Persistent Systems, are pre-loaded with the pragmatic trial app suite (PTAS) that facilitates patient engagement with targeted educational and research content. Through what is termed as the Health in Our Hands (HiOH) patient network, the PTAS facilitates patient enrollees to engage with the research studies and programs. The dashboard provided by PTAS is currently equipped with visual graphics, charts and analysis to show patients how the study is progressing and how it could affect them. If required, the dashboard can also provide the possible treatment options and the current evidence available.
The application suite is user-friendly and allows patients to interact with the study easily, share data and access information both inside and outside the clinical settings via a personal patient portal. Enrollees receive health information, research results and opportunities to participate in new studies through the HiOH patient network. This continuous engagement between the patients and the researchers, clinicians and doctors ensures the longevity of participants’ interest in the studies, which is crucial to the success of clinical research.
Data access and seamless integration into workflow – The basis for a learning health system is conducting pragmatic research that requires healthcare organizations to embed clinical research into the workflow of healthcare delivery systems rather than just organize them in controlled conditions. Data is gathered at multiple sites within the network and sent to the REACHnet data center. Data collected at each site, whether inside or outside a clinical setting is associated with a Global Patient Identification (GPID) system that matches patients without the sharing of identifiable information. Selected information is pulled in by REACHnet for conducting various studies and comparing different interventions based on these GPIDs.
Since REACHnet uses a common data model (CDM) to prepare retrospective and prospective research and prep-to-research queries, PTAS can quickly sync to data in the CDM to push targeted content to patients. This completes the engagement loop across a clinical workflow and provides access to data in real-time.
Guest post by Abhinav Shashank, CEO & Co-founder, Innovaccer.
Whatever we do in the healthcare space, it is eventually meant for the greater good of patients, which is why today the aim of modern healthcare is shifting towards value-based reimbursement and with that the process is getting modified accordingly. Gradually, patient-centric care is becoming prevalent. The current standards require enhanced patient experience, and that comes with improved quality, coordinated care at a reduced cost.
CMS when releasing the fact sheet for Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program for the year 2016, said in a statement, “We now pay hospitals for inpatient acute care services based on the quality of care, not just the quantity of services provided.” Backing this statement was the fact that out of the four quality domains, patient experience of care bore 25 percent of the weight. This led to hospitals working earnestly towards enhancing the patient experience and utilizing the massive potential to qualify for the bonus and improve on current standards.
Why does Patient Experience Matter?
Patient experience is an essential component of the IHI Triple Aim, a schema for elevating the standards of providers’ performance:
Improving the patient experience of care.
Improving population health.
Reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.
Fortunately, health systems know that patient satisfaction isn’t just a tool for a performance bonus. Improving patient satisfaction is a way to identify gaps in care delivery and develop quality services. Also, according to a survey conducted by a health system found that out of 1,019 adults interviewed, 85 percent were dissatisfied with at least one aspect of their providers. Creating a patient-centric industry where experience and satisfaction of patients are overlooked is almost impossible!
Improving Patient Experience
A lot of researches have established that improving patient experience directly results in higher quality of care. Healthcare systems have realized the importance of the Triple Aim, and here’s how they can start working in this order on improving one of the fundamental aspects:
Patient Engagement a Priority
Patient engagement has been one of the most talked-about aspects of healthcare and unquestionably a way to improve the care experience. What we need to ensure is that the patient is willing to participate in the decision-making and the provider advocating this intervention. Even though healthcare providers are making efforts to improve patient engagement at their end, a survey revealed that only 34 percent of the patients are highly encouraged. Some effective methods patients found useful are:
59 percent of the surveyed people found increased physician-patient time vital.
54 percent of the patients favored being part of the decision-making.
36 percent promoted the growth of patient access to services.
Using Data Analytics
Data analytics have proven their worth in healthcare, and we have only scratched the surface of the immense sea of possibilities that can be realized using data analytics. When it comes to advancing patient experience, data analytics can be used in several ways:
Gathering data and creating actionable follow-up plans for patients.
Leveraging data analytics for accurate analysis of patients and reducing readmission rate.
Data analysis can zero in on inefficiencies and medical errors and help reduce avoidable expenses.
Guest post by Suzanne Travis, VP, regulatory strategy, McKesson.
Shifting to value-based reimbursement (VBR) is a challenging journey, and trying to proactively manage risk at the same time only makes things more complicated. However, there are simple ways a provider organization can more proactively position their organization for a shift to VBR. While there is no fool-proof method or one-size-fits-all approach, here are four strategies that can help steer providers on the right path, no matter where they are in the VBR transition process.
Start with a program that aligns with organizational goals
Participation in alternative payment and delivery models are on the rise. The American Hospital Association estimates that more than 60,000 providers are participating in a delivery system reform model — and that number is growing. The overarching goal of implementing new health care delivery system models is simple: to provide better, more efficient and coordinated care for patients. However, each model has its own nuances and can sometimes require a different approach. Healthcare organizations should be well-served to take a deliberate path to succeed in their journey to value-based care. First, look at each model to understand how it measures and incentivizes participants and the type of care delivery changes it requires. Select models where you have an alignment on goals, room for improvement, and where you can start with upside-only incentives. It’s better to engage now, when participation can be voluntary and downside risk can be deferred.
Getting started is, of course easier said than done. The American Academy of Family Physicians found that a top barrier to adopting alternative care delivery models is a lack of understanding of the elements and actions for success. There are materials and organizations out there that can help guide the transition. For example, the Global Center for Health Innovation explains the models and provides guidance on questions to ask and tools to consider. The Office of the National Coordinator recently launched the Health IT Playbook that includes a state-by-state listing of federally funded sources of technical assistance to support practice transformation activities. Don’t let a knowledge-gap deter you from achieving your goals.
Be ready to act when new opportunities arise
New payment models continue to be introduced and new cohorts are being added to existing programs. Whether you are impacted by a mandatory model, such as the Episode Payment Model CMS recently proposed, or a new voluntary program is announced, be ready to adapt. Take for example the recently announced Comprehensive Primary Care Plus initiative. Participating practices have a choice of two tracks with the same care delivery requirements, but with different financial risk components. Both tracks aim to provide funding for infrastructure and process transformation. Keeping your finger on the pulse of these opportunities and being prepared to act quickly to engage can help you enter into programs that allow you to learn with less risk. If you know what your goals are, you’ll be able to spot the right opportunity to get started.
Partner with your vendors
As providers adopt new care delivery models and take on more risk, contracted vendors should be expected to engage as partners who can work collaboratively to solve new problems.
Guest post by Abhinav Shashank, CEO and co-founder, Innovaccer.
The US healthcare is getting costlier every day, and it is without a doubt true that most of the US citizens live in fear that they won’t get access to the care when the illness strikes. The sad truth is that every year more than 100,000 deaths occur because of medical errors. All this when we see horrifying figures even after adjusting the America’s higher per capita GDP; US spends roughly $500 billion more than other developed countries.
The Problems with Coordination
13 years ago, way back in 2003, the Institute of Medicine had identified the most persistent problem in the healthcare industry, and it was coordination. The idea behind implementing EHRs was to create digital data that is easy to share, but that did not happen. According to a study, 63 percent of primary care physicians and 35 percent specialist are not satisfied with the information they receive from other physicians within the adult referral system.
The above graph shows how poorly coordinated care has affected the adults. The US stands second when it comes to high-need patients. This is when US spends more than $10,000 on one person’s health.
According to a research article, the biggest challenges Primary Care Physicians and Hospitalists faced were:
Difficulty reaching out other clinicians
Lack of information feedback loops
Lack of general information like clarity on test results, history, and medications, etc.
Insufficient access to discharge information of patients
Working towards a solution
Besides these, a lot of problems arise when patients miss out on medications, follow-up visits or any other requirements. Thus, there is a need to create a process where neither do PCPs miss out on critical information nor does the patient stay unaware of the care plans. For this PCPs had identified the most successful care coordination components:
Better coordinated care for at-risk patients
Enhanced direct contact with patients through phone calls
Advanced use of EHRs for better health information exchange
Developing better interpersonal relationships
Health coaches connecting care
The most important aspect of healthcare is that when a care process is nearing its end, the patient should be in a better state. A patient-centric approach is must to make sure a patient gets the best treatment. Health Coaches ensure that the patients get what they need. They make sure that the
Patient doesn’t miss out on his medications
Patient attends follow-up visits,
Patient has no transportation barrier while visiting a hospital
Inform family/caregiver about the care plans and the patient
Track and make sure adherence of care plans
Review discharge instructions
The Three Pieces of Care Coordination
More often than not care coordinators miss out on the essential information about the patients. In worst cases, they have no discharge information of patients creating gaps in care and indirectly increases the cost of care. Ideally, the three pieces of care coordination together can bring dramatic improvements in patient-centric care. The three pieces are:
About two decades ago who would’ve thought of the invention of Nano robots that are able to carry drugs all the way to the human bloodstream?
It’s happening. Technology is revolutionizing the conventional ‘human country doctor’ health care and there’s not much to be surprised of. With modern machines and software taking over the healthcare industry, one often wonders, “What good is technology doing to it?”
Health information technology (HIT – is information technology applied to health and health care. It supports health information management across computerized systems and the secure exchange of health information between consumers, providers, payers, and quality monitors) is the burgeoning specialized combination of information technology, communications, and healthcare and it is altering the course of patient care for the better. Here’s how:
Practicing medicine is a lifelong learning. Doctors need to be on their toes all the time to acquire the knowledge of the latest developments in their field. Not updating themselves can make their practice stagnant – nobody would want to consult a doctor like that. Health IT brings the knowledge about everything, be it patients, therapies, diseases or medicines at their easy disposal. This knowledge can be easily shared between consultants, patients, and can even be updated when needed. That’s a whole new world of medical science for the doctors and patients to explore.
The world is swiftly moving towards specialization. Healthcare is no different. A single hospital stay could mean being under the observation of several different specialists at the same time. These specialists are required to coordinate with each other on every case they deal with. The way forward is paved by health IT. Health IT helps bring everything related to your condition from nutrition to neural complications in tandem with each other. The specialists know which condition can make regular course of treatment difficult for you or which medicine would trigger your skin allergies. The result? There are fewer chances of problems arising in your healthcare.
The most significant way IT is transforming the healthcare industry is in the form of better outcomes. Automation streamlines the operations of a medical facility, making them more effective and efficient. It is easier for different doctors and nurses to coordinate and diagnose a particular case. There are less chances of human error which ultimately leads to higher quality and safer care. With less time wasted in going through physical files and other manual work, doctors and nurses have more time on their hands to spend with patients.