Over the past few years, healthcare technology has seen many advances. We’ve achieved mass-market adoption of EHRs, many organizations are making meaningful progress on data aggregation and warehousing information from multiple diverse systems, and wearables and other sensors show much potential to unlock personal information about each patient. The pace of change in healthcare is quickening, with each new technology or initiative sending off a chain of reactions across the entire ecosystem, ultimately improving patient care.
I see three trends driving the industry toward change:
Analytics will help predict population heath management
One of the persistent industry challenges is the “datafication” of healthcare. We’re amassing more and more data now than ever before. And new sources (like wearable devices) and new health factors (like DNA) will contribute even more. This data explosion is putting increased pressure on healthcare organizations to effectively make this data useful by delivering efficiency gains, improve quality of care and reduce overall healthcare costs.
Navigating this digitized healthcare environment will require increasingly sophisticated tools to help handle the influx of data and make the overload of healthcare information useful. In 2016, the industry will begin to take concrete steps to transition to a world where every clinician will see a snapshot of each of their patients to help them synthesize the critical clinical information they need to make a care decision. Moreover, hyper-complex algorithms will allow providers not only to know their patients, but to accurately predict their healthcare trajectories. By giving providers insights into how each patient is trending, clinicians will be able to make better-informed, precise decisions in real-time.
Consolidation leads to new healthcare models, improved outcomes
New models for effective population health management continue to drive change across healthcare systems. These models incentivize stakeholders to optimize costs, identify organizational efficiencies and improve decision-making processes to deliver better care at a lower cost through an emphasis on care coordination and collaboration.
Guest post by Terry Edwards, president and CEO, PerfectServe.
Each day, healthcare professionals need to communicate with colleagues, patients and others outside of their organization. These communications often contain critical information about dosage changes, requests for a consultation and other healthcare information that can have life-or-death consequences for patients.
From email and texting to calls and overhead pages, there are a dozen different ways healthcare professionals can communicate with one another. Many of these modes of communication are fairly new, and clinicians are still continuing to teach each other the rules of the road and associated etiquette.
But as healthcare transforms to be more focused on value-based care, it’s becoming even more important to get this right. To coordinate patient care across the patient’s entire journey within the health system, clinicians need to know how to reach each other in the best way. Although communication is an essential part of the job for clinicians, a recent survey of 955 healthcare professionals1 conducted online by Harris Poll and commissioned by PerfectServe, shows that clinicians aren’t always communicating in the way that they’d prefer.
Find a way to speak in person when possible: For complex or in-depth conversations within their organizations, healthcare professionals say they prefer to speak face-to-face (41 percent for physicians; 37 percent for non-physicians). This preference is particularly strong with nurses, with 55 percent of nurses surveyed saying their preferred method is face-to-face communication for complex or in-depth conversations with physician care team members. Speaking in person allows clinicians to focus on the conversation. Many of the clinicians I work with say taking time to speak in person gives them the opportunity to build a stronger rapport with their colleagues, which can make it easier to foster care coordination.
Think before picking up the phone: Phone calls are by far the most frequent form of communication with care team members outside their organization. More than half (55 percent) of clinicians say they most frequently use a phone call to connect with physician care team members outside of their organizations, and 48 percent most frequently use the phone to communicate with non-physician care team members outside of their organization. But while everyone is picking up the phone, only about a quarter of clinicians actually prefer phone calls for that kind of information sharing (29 percent for brief communications with physician care team members outside of their organization; 25 percent for outside non-physician members). In my work with clinicians, many say that the ring of the phone is an interruption to their work, and more than two-thirds (67 percent) of clinicians reported that they often receive pages or calls that are of low priority, which disrupts patient care.
Every day, physicians send and receive clinical information to and from patients, nurses, care managers, pharmacy technicians, specialty clinics and other physicians. These communications occur through a wide range of modes—including smart phones, pagers, CPOE, emails, texts and even messaging features within electronic medical records. Patient health information (PHI) is constantly exchanged through these messages, and to avoid a HIPAA violation, which can cost millions of dollars plus a hit to reputation, practices must make sure proper security features are in place.
Especially for physicians in smaller practices who are already strapped for time and resources, a HIPAA violation could leave their practice in a precarious situation. In fact, according to a recent study by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of HIPPA breaches from 2010 through 2012 was $2.4 million per organization. To meet evolving guidelines around the quality of care, increase efficiency and potentially avoid financial penalties in the years to come, physicians must address communications security holistically.
The final HIPAA ruling requires physicians look at their entire risk management process, and not just specific technologies, which is why “HIPAA-compliant” text messaging isn’t yet possible. While texts are commonly sent between two individuals via their mobile phones, the “communication universe” into which a text enters is actually much bigger. This universe also includes creating electronic PHI (ePHI) and sending messages—in text and voice modalities—from mobile carrier web sites, paging applications, call centers, answering services and hospital switchboards.
The law stipulates that a covered entity – i.e. a physician, medical group practice, hospital or health system – must perform a formal risk assessment; develop and implement and effective risk management strategy based upon the findings in that risk assessment; implement the strategy using sound policies and procedures; and monitor its risk on an ongoing basis. These regulations apply to physicians creating, transmitting and receiving PHI in any electronic form.
While there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach, medical practices can take the following steps to improve the security of their communications: