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A (Not So Silly) Vision For U.S. Health IT

Posted on January 23, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Today, I logged into Twitter and what did I behold but this sweet little tweet by a health it strategist:

@ReasObBob: If headline was, “US has most useful, useable and interoperable #EHR and #HealthIT systems”, what would you think?”

My first thought was “cue the sitcom laugh track” and my responding RT included a hearty”LOL!!” Another retweeter said they’d think they were reading a parody by the famously snarky humor mag The Onion.

But hold on, here. Maybe Bob’s question can yield some useful responses that go beyond cynicism and humor. I’d like to lay out a few features of the health system the question envisions. This will be just a beginning — I’m sure many of you could outdo me by several orders of magnitude — but let’s get started.

Here’s just a few details of future history of the U.S. health IT system, as I’d prefer it to be. Tag, it’s your turn!

-Anne

* Useful:

– Health IT in the U.S. is accessible to every stakeholder (patient, clinician, researcher, others as needed)
– Health IT devices make it simpler, or easy, for every stakeholder to create a feedback loop in which add information, get relevant feedback and respond to that feedback
– Health IT is used to make healthcare collaborative
– Health IT tracks health status efficiently and plays a direct role in improving outcomes

* Useable:

–  Health IT takes advantage of  the best of consumer technology design (as it has already begun to do in the mobile sphere), for both  personal useability and tools for aggregating data
— The health IT tools professionals use do more to encourage development of products and services that bear t he end user in mind (i.e. the end user isn’t a second thought or an obstacle to work around)

* Interoperable:

– Health IT vendors work together across a highly compatible standard (similar to say, 802.11n in the wireless world) which puts the issue of walled gardens to bed permanently
–  Health IT vendors are rated on interoperability with the unified standard that governs the U.S. EMR world
– U.S. health IT is interoperable with EMRs in other countries

Health IT Doesn’t Save As Much As Hoped Due To Interoperability Failures

Posted on January 14, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Does health IT actually save money for health organizations?  That’s a billion-dollar question — one which the whole Meaningful Use program rises or falls, I’d argue — but it still hasn’t been resolved. For what it’s worth, though,  here’s some thoughtful input on the subject.

According to a new study appearing in the journal Health Affairs, always the class act of the health policy game, health IT isn’t generating cost savings because of slow adoption and limited interoperabilityiHealthBeat reports. The research was conducted by the RAND Corporation.

Specifically, RAND researchers say, the productivity and cost benefits of health IT have been held back by:

* Slow adoption
* Reluctance of many clinicians to burn the midnight oil needed to truly master such systems
* Failure of the healthcare system as a whole to implement process changes needed to realize health IT system benefits

Another big issue is lack of interoperability between many health IT systems, the RAND researchers said. They note that previous predictions about health IT savings assumed that systems would be connected, thereby increasing efficiency.

To get savings from health IT, the U.S. healthcare industry needs to do the following, RAND says:

* Patients should be able to access their electronic health data and share those records with other health care providers
* Health care providers should be able to easily use health IT systems across different health care settings
* Health information stored in one IT system should be retrievable by health care providers that are part of other health care    systems
* Health IT systems should be set up to support — rather than hinder — the work of clinicians

No one of these points should come as a surprise, but given the stakes involved, it doesn’t hurt to hammer them home again. The whole interoperability “thing” isn’t going away…