In 2009, when the U.S. Congress passed the HITECH Act there was an optimism that the legislation would push the medical profession into the information age. As a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the United States Government invested tens of billions of dollars into improving the healthcare industry’s use of information technology, and mandated medical practices to implement IT systems that enhance the flow of electronic health records to improve (and speed up) patient care and to try and use that built-in efficiency cut down on skyrocketing medical costs.
Defined by the term “meaningful use”, the health sector implementation of electronic health record technology (EHR), one of the HITECH Act’s core standards, has now been going on for almost a decade; and, the landscape has shifted dramatically. The investments that the public made has kickstarted an across-the-board shift to EHR. In 2015, 96 percent of hospitals and 78 percent of doctor’s offices used some kind of certified EHR technology.
This changed the way that physicians provide care, insurers reimburse medical organizations, and patients manage their own care. Technology has always been a central part of the healthcare industry, but today, IT usage has significantly ballooned in use. EHR systems are more intuitive, more powerful, and allow for far more integration than the ones that were launched nine years ago. Those platforms always had charting and billing features (the favorite of the healthcare industry), but today’s solutions are hosted in the cloud and have features that push procedural updates to all parties, provide e-prescription services, integrate evaluation and management coding services and lab work data, trigger meaningful use certification, and deliver a pretty dynamic patient portal, which securely allows patients to keep track of their own care and health.
The rapid digitization of the healthcare industry wasn’t just dependent on the whopping $35 billion the American taxpayers outlaid for it to happen, however. Sure subsidy definitely is a main driver of EHR technology integration, but another, collaboration, has become a major part of the growing medical community. Since the EHR provides parties with secure access, parties that need to collaborate about a patient's health can do so now faster than ever. This not only provides the construct where better care is possible, it increases and enhances the communication between care providers, whether they be specialists, primary care providers, or emergency care providers.
How Does the EHR Work?
For this process to be a success the EHR has to be comprehensive. The modern EHR is set up to work like this: First, through a patient portal, a person can make an appointment to see a doctor, then when he/she arrives the front office person will check you in. A few minutes later a nurse will come get you, check your vitals and bodyweight and while doing that, will also bring up your medical history for the doctor so that when he/she comes in to see you that they have all the updated and relevant information.
If it sounds familiar, it is the same way they’ve been doing it for decades, but instead of paper charts in file folder, there is a whole dynamic interface that provides all the patients information in real time. Some of the more advanced EHRs work in conjunction with sensors that are inserted in a patient's body to help track vital levels of a myriad of person medical issues. This gives doctors a comprehensive view of the patient they are treating, allowing them to see, and treat more patients, and provide more comprehensive care, than with traditional methods.
Once the doctor has seen the patient and he/she has made a diagnosis, the EMR passes back to the nursing staff to handle the remaining procedural tasks. Many EHR platforms have a number of features designed to improve the dissemination of patient care. That’s why it was made a priority by congress. The thought was that the more secure information can be shared about a patient, the better health care providers can deliver. Since this information is the most sensitive information every EHR/EMR solution has to come with a system with heavy encryption. This ensures that any data transferred doesn’t have the ability to be stolen by an intermediary.
Other Technology Innovations Going On in the Healthcare Vertical
The facts suggest that most of today’s healthcare IT is centered around what are known as disruptive innovations. Instead of making steady innovations in the way that people use IT to share data, present solutions, and manage health, medical technology companies have a tendency to focus on trying to make breakthroughs that will change the way we look at Healthcare IT as a whole.
The reality is that business never stops in the healthcare industry. As a result, focusing on technologies that don’t even have a proof of concept, is ironically short-sighted. People need better care now. People need healthcare costs to drop now. They can’t wait for the future of the healthcare IT market, because many people won’t be around to see it. By focusing on product innovation and not process innovation, healthcare information technology manufacturers have been misplacing their energy.
Despite the focus on big ideas, there are some ways IT is being used to improve general health. Once such technology trend is the analysis of patient and care-based data to create strategies that both provide better care and strategies to avoid needing it. With the use of data analytics, healthcare providers can track health trends, medicine usage, and other factors to help them create strategies on how to provide the best care for certain ailments.
Using this same information, they can work to educate the public about things to do to avoid sitting in the doctor's office. Sure people are always going to get sick, but with better analysis of data, people can get smarter about their behaviors to avoid the hassle, fear, and cost of being a patient.
At XFER, we understand that technology is tied with the success of any health care facility. To learn more about how our expert technicians can provide your practice with the tools it needs to provide the best care and to stay compliant with federal, state, and local regulations, call us today at 734-927-6666 / 800-438-9337.