Connected healthcare: Critical questions for the future and now
by Michael Campana
Is your information as mobile as your people are?
In the age of information mobility, it is vital to ask yourself connected healthcare questions, such as:
Can your bedside providers access patient data on their laptops or smartphones?
Can your patients access their lab test results and other records through an online patient portal?
Can you find what you need — when you need it?
Can your physicians electronically share medical images and other data with payers and others outside your own four walls?
If your answers to these questions today are all or mostly, “no,” it’s worth planning and activating an information mobility strategy for your organization that can put you on a track, within the next five years, to change your answers to “yes.” The fact is, healthcare is slow to catch up to banking, retail and other industries. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I had to visit my bank, write a check to pay a bill or even go to a brick-and-mortar retailer. I can make deposits and pay the electric bill from my smartphone, check my credit card statement on my laptop at home, and buy new printer cartridges online while sipping coffee at Starbucks. Thanks to the Internet, we are connected to financial services, utility providers, retailers and other entities like never before. So the question we’re all asking now is: “When will healthcare join in?”
This isn’t a just a rhetorical question. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently released its 2015 annual report¹ on the status of healthcare IT in the United States. While the healthcare sector has made huge progress in the adoption and use of electronic health record (EHR) systems, some US providers still do not take advantage of health information exchange (HIE) platforms. Despite an increase from 2008 to 2015 of 41% to 76% of hospitals reporting exchanging data with outside health professionals, the report also found that “hospitals continue to face barriers toward adopting national standards… [for] the development of health information exchanges." To address this issue, the newly designed criteria for the third stage of Meaningful Use are heavily focused on HIE platforms — and for good reason.
Let’s jump five years ahead. It’s likely that more and more physician practices will be absorbed by hospitals and health systems, referral networks will grow and accountable care organizations will continue to take hold. Through these changes, it is ever more important for organizations to implement technologies like EHRs and HIEs that promote information mobility and enhance provider connectivity to enable the sharing of patient information across the continuum of care, allow interdisciplinary care and more.
Healthcare organizations will continue to strive for greater connectivity of historically disparate organizations. And, finding data management strategies that enable all stakeholders to capture, access and share data with each other at any time will be a necessity to improve organizational workflow and help enhance patient care. For example, all unstructured and structured data must find its way to the EHR — no matter where each patient visit has taken place — and all registration and administrative paperwork must be accounted for, so that repeat data doesn’t need to be given each time the patient visits an office or hospital.
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Consider Joe, a hypothetical consumer in the year 2020 evaluating two healthcare systems to provide his family’s care. Physician quality, competence of staff, proximity of offices and other indicators all being equal, the tie-breaking question for Joe — and many consumers like him — very well could be: “How easy-to-use and intelligent is your healthcare system?” Translation: “How connected is your healthcare?”
By putting the right processes and technology in place now, your healthcare organization can start preparing before it’s too late to answer Joe and other consumers like him with the right responses thanks to your commitment to enabling true information mobility and connected healthcare, come 2020.