IT's Role in Improving the Health of Consumers

Michael Scunziano, SVP, Ebix and Karthikeyan Natarajan, Corporate Vice President, Ebix
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Michael Scunziano, SVP, Ebix

Population Health Management programs in various forms have been around for years. Health Systems, and employers are using technology-based services to understand populations, identify individual health risks, engage with patients and deliver care where and when needed. The emergence of electronic health records (EHR) and the ability for these health records to electronically flow between healthcare entities marked the beginning of Population Health Management in the U.S. Allowing health entities to share information and collaborate for the good of the patient marked the start of managing knowledge in healthcare.

Engaging with patients is an important aspect of managing a population’s health. Patients who are involved in their healthcare decisions tend to be healthier and have better outcomes.

Patient Engagement in Healthcare

Educating patients, connecting them to hospital services and helping them participate in their own healthcare is the primary goal of patient engagement. A good engagement strategy will help:

1. Educate consumers with robust online health content.
2. Help consumers better manage their own health through targeted recommendations based on online health assessments.
3. Demonstrate “Meaningful Use” by providing patients being discharged with clinically accurate articles and instructions for their care after they leave the care setting.
4. Use mobile technology to interact with patients outside of the clinical setting.
5. Attract consumers to your most profitable services and procedures.
6. Become known as an organization interested in the needs and overall health of the people in the community.

  ​Providing patients with electronic or paper instructions that pertain to their diagnosis or procedure as they are discharged from care is an important element.  

Healthcare IT professionals assess patient engagement tools in several ways. Education platforms should provide credible online health content. To ensure clinically accurate, high quality, current information, health content should go through rigorous URAC (www.URAC.org) accreditation. URAC is an independent organization whose board of directors includes consumers, providers, employers, regulators, and industry experts.

Engagement tools integrated with multimedia visual learning assets both entertain and educate consumers. This may include medical illustrations, videos, interactive tools, and quizzes all designed with the patient in mind. These tools help guide consumers in making wise health decisions. Interacting with a provider’s facilities, services and doctors benefits patients and providers.

What is Meaningful Use?

For the past decade, IT professionals working in healthcare have been extremely busy. This has been due to the implementation of electronic health records (EHR) as part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Meaningful Use standards. There are three stages of Meaningful Use. In 2015, Medicare began penalizing health organizations for lack of participation. As a result most healthcare organizations have completed Stage One--converting their paper files to electronic records.

Stage Two of the Meaningful Use standards will have heightened demands for the number of electronic transactions performed. Submitting data to public health agencies will be enforced, and adding lab results to EHR systems will be required. Finally, patients will gain access to their own medical records as part of Stage Two.

Another aspect of Meaningful Use is that providers need to show how they're using certified EHR technology to improve healthcare quality and safety. Providing patients with electronic or paper instructions that pertain to their diagnosis or procedure as they are discharged from care is an important element. These instructions provide patients with a summary detailing problems/meds/allergies and an opt-in consent for the exchange of that care. The outcome is that the patient fully understands their diagnosis and treatment. The patient goes home knowing what they can do to help themselves reducing the chance or need for re-admission.Karthikeyan Natarajan, Corporate Vice President, Ebix

But regardless of CMS mandates, for health systems to achieve a competitive advantage in their IT investments, they must be able to deliver information-powered care to patients instantly. To do this, they will need to be able to use the wealth of information at their disposal. Providers looking to support patients through the use of IT tools and resources should take into account a patient’s access to their medical record, access to thebest patient engagement tools and the patient’s willingness to be a partner in his own care.

Stage Three involves enforcing measures to protect patient health information, facilitating electronic prescribing and demonstrating clinical decision support interventions. As providers and patients gain secure access to a patient’s medical record, care for chronic conditions can be coordinated amongst all the patient’s providers. Providers will also be charged with methods for collecting health data from patients’ wearable devices. Finally, public health and clinical data registries as well as data warehouses for analytics and performance reporting will be implemented.  This stage is set to begin in 2017.

Healthcare IT professionals have been busy incorporating many aspects of Population Health Management and patient engagement in healthcare organizations. In addition to healers and healthcare workers, IT now plays a major role in improving the health of Americans and the performance of the healthcare system!

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