Establishing and maintaining a healthy and diverse Health Information Technology (HIT) Ecosystem will be critical if we want to reach our ultimate goal of healthier populations at a lower cost. Healthcare professionals understand the huge financial burden of having so many chronically ill patients, and the staggering statistics show just how serious the situation is today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Chronic diseases contribute to 7 out of 10 deaths every year in the United States
- Nearly 133 million Americans are living with at least one chronic illness
- More than 75% of healthcare costs are attributed to chronic illness
Technology can help by automating much of the process that enables us to understand and improve our patients’ health. But it is not just about the technology. It is also important to have key insight into what changes we must make to move the needle in the right direction for long-term success.
Overwhelmingly, healthcare providers saw the EHR as a panacea that would solve their problems and automatically improve patient care. But with all other industries, the story is quite different. Financial, manufacturing and telecommunications companies bring together many different software products and business intelligence tools to create solutions.
A Healthy, Successful HIT Ecosystem Includes, but is Not Limited to EHRs
What does a healthy HIT Ecosystem look like? What types of tools does it take? The EHR is simply the data collector, not the data analyzer, so it takes more than just the EHR to help create healthier populations. We also need business intelligence and analytics tools that give us deeper insight into the health of our patients, and the health of the businesses that deliver care – and we need to be able to balance both. This means that providers can’t just look at clinical data and know exactly what needs to be done for their patients; they also need to look at operational and financial data. By understanding the bigger picture and looking at patient populations, providers can change procedures, track outcomes and draw actionable conclusions. In order to do this with confidence and success, you need multiple tools that allow you to look at all the different elements of creating a healthier population, including, but not limited to, population management.
How We Think About Healthcare Needs Updating
The EHR is just the beginning to the solution. We have just started collecting data electronically and are now getting access to additional tools that allow us to use the data in order to provide better, more evidence-based care.
But changes in the Primary Care setting need to happen soon, because today’s unhealthy 40-year-old is tomorrow’s 45-year-old diabetic. Instead of thinking about healthcare on a reactive basis, we have to start thinking about it on a proactive basis by talking much sooner about diet, exercise and repercussions of unhealthy choices like smoking.
i2i Systems Delivers on the Promise of Enabling a Healthy HIT Ecosystem
We at i2i Systems firmly believe that there is no one solution. Our i2iTracks system is a technology platform that was built for the end user, which is a care-team person, not an IT expert. We provide the user with the ability to ask questions of their data and have the answers at their fingertips. We also understand that the clinical view alone doesn’t give you the full story. You have to look at operational measures, compare those to your financial measures, and evaluate the whole picture.
We created PopIQ - a global health intelligence tool – so our users could look outside their patient silos and see a community, county, network or state of patients, and compare them to one another. The ability to look across millions of patients and gain perspective of their current health status helps us understand what is happening and why.
The Future Looks Bright for Healthcare Organizations
The good news is that organizations today are starting to understand that the EHR is just one small piece of the overall solution. More and more, they are starting to add Population Health Management (PHM) systems to support their care teams and panel management responsibilities, helping them achieve Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) status. They are adding analysis tools that give them insight into their efforts and the health of their patients, helping them identify their high-risk patients. They are realizing that we have to stop measuring people who are sick right now and start looking at who is on the verge of becoming sick by taking the proactive approach.
We no longer live in a world where doctors can sit back and wait until a patient comes to them with a health problem. Having ready access to lab data, weight measures, lifestyle habits and many other factors gives us information into the signs that will lead to chronic disease. By looking at all these factors early on, and utilizing a healthy and diverse group of technology systems, we can proactively move our patients in the direction towards better health at a lower cost.
After studying the healthcare ecosystem, we recently announced The CURE Project to improve health IT. Specifically, to champion the specification and development of health IT systems that efficiently and effectively capture, update, report and exchange (CURE) health information.
As a result of our research, we have identified the naturally occurring underlying infrastructure by which health information moves in the global healthcare ecosystem. It is a dynamic, adaptive, distributed network of heterogeneous nodes that communicate.
The problem, is that the internal architectures of the current generation of health IT systems do not, for the most part, recognize and accommodate that naturally occurring infrastructure.
We are currently building an Advisory Board and seeking a community-based organization to which we can transfer our research results. That organization will manage the large scale specifications development and dissemination project that is required. We invite you and your readers to visit the Project’s web site at www dot TheCUREProject dot org to learn more.
- Bob Brown