We can all agree that information technology has transformed our lives in ways that were never imagined 30-40 years ago. A current example of this is the products, services, and conveniences developed by the tech industry over the past decade that have helped carry us through the disruption and social distancing necessitated by COVID-19. Literally overnight, we have been able to rely on companies like Amazon, Instacart, Zoom, etc. to keep parts of our economy open. Technology has the power to solve the challenges within our healthcare systems as we have recently witnessed with telehealth, mobile phone apps for exercise and medication monitoring, and EHRs that allow both providers and payers a leverage point to deliver, measure, and manage the health of their members.
Consumerism in Healthcare
The U.S. healthcare system is currently transitioning from the fee-for-service reimbursement structure to value-based care. This shift over the past decade was precipitated by patients and health plan sponsors with overall dissatisfaction with the healthcare experience and untenable costs in care delivery. These stakeholders began to have expectations for transparency, seeking alternatives, and requesting information about their health and well-being. Consumerism in healthcare finally arrived.
In December 2016, the passage of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act (The Act) encouraged wider use of EHRs by both federal agencies and the healthcare industry. This legislation promotes interoperability of EHRs that empowers patients to have access to their own health data and work with providers toward individualized treatments. Patients can now become more involved in their health care in a proactive way that not only benefits them, but health plans, providers, and the system as well by creating a healthier overall population. However, further interoperability in healthcare informatics is needed.
Interoperability in Healthcare
The Act established the Health Information Technology (HIT) Advisory Committee, under the General Accountability Office (GAO). This committee brings together individuals with diverse backgrounds and expertise to help address health information technology challenges. Their mission is to make interoperability a priority. Interoperability is the key and technology is the engine that enables secure exchange and access of PHI for authorized use.
This is the first step of many that needs to happen in attempting to solve the healthcare crisis. The goal is a comprehensive approach to healthcare informatics and analytics along with a standardized programming interface. This will allow authorized users of disparate systems all over the industry to talk to one another in a meaningful way. Not only will this lead us to better preventive medicine but will also enhance disease management and overall improve quality of care.
Will technology alone solve our healthcare crisis? Not by itself, but it is a critical component in our healthcare ecosystem where payers, providers, and patients can continue to move away from acute/reactionary care toward wellness care.
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