How has Health IT Failed Patients?

Abhinav Shashank
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Patient engagement may not be a very recent concept, but it came on the front lines when the IHI Triple Aim started to gain popularity. The Triple Aim of improving patient experience, improving population health at large and reducing the costs of healthcare is ultimately meant for the greater good of patients.

So far, healthcare providers have taken a step forward with making care plans specific to patients’ needs. Health IT has grown leaps and bounds, aiming to close in on the gaps looming between patients and their physicians. ‘Putting patients first’ has been an unsaid motto of the healthcare industry, but has health IT, even after a booming growth, succeeded in involving patients in the matters of their health?

 

Why is Involving Patients Important?

The importance of making patients a stakeholder in the decision-making of their own health was realized way back in 1982 by the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine.  In a survey, it was revealed that only 19% of patients were aware of the health services they could avail, and less than 21% of them were aware of therapeutic conditions. Informing patients and involving them is needed to ensure quality health care and guide improvements, and about:

  • Communicating to patients about potential risks: The patients should be made aware of the condition they have along with what risks they may counter in the future, and what should they do to avoid them.
  • Voicing patients in the matters of their health: According to a study, only a little more than half – 54% of the respondents wished to be a part of the entire decision-making process of their health.
  • Finding what patients want: The primary step of designing patient-specific plans is to ask about the patient’s goals and concerns, which can be used to assess the growth and outcomes of improvement measures.
  • A threshold for higher reimbursements: CMS in its 2016 Value-Based Purchasing Program allotted 25% of the weight to patient experience, among four quality domains, encouraging hospitals to work sincerely towards improvement.

 

Failed Attempts Made by Health IT

Health IT has made some giant strides and has brought about a revolution in the healthcare industry. The aim, from the beginning was to achieve data-driven, quality health outcomes. But along the way, health IT became cumbersome and some issues cropped up:

  • Poor communication between health systems: Time and again, patients have complained about and suffered due to poor information sharing between health systems. A study showed that only 6% of the providers could access and exchange information on a completely different EMR system.
  • Uncoordinated health systems: Be it as it may, the healthcare system is still fighting off the lack of coordination. Even 40% physicians believe that it’s the patient who is affected by this lack of coordination.
  • Security Issues: When it comes to patient data, the electronic health systems have to account for data security. But lately, there has been several security breaches, estimated to set the industry back by $5.6 billion every year.
  • Obsolete Technology: Health IT is a dynamic field, and things here change in a fraction of a second. Even today, the technology being used by most of the providers is meeting their requirements, it has been holding back their capabilities.

 

What should Health IT do?

Involving patients should not be considered just another tool for improving performance bonus and earning reimbursements. It goes beyond improving patient experience; it’s about identifying care gaps and carrying out quality health outcomes. Here’s what health IT should focus on, to bridge the gaps:

  • Interoperability
    Health informatics should focus on achieving 100% interoperability among well-connected care networks. The need of the hour is healthcare networks – where information flows clearly and is accessible to all.
  • Advanced Analytics
    Providers should be able to understand the population they are dealing with easily. Wouldn’t it be great if based on the past records and prescriptive analytics providers can avert a medical emergency for their patients? Many providers that have leveraged data through advanced analytics and delivered better outcomes.
  • Automated Care Coordination
    Care Coordination could be a cumbersome process for providers if care coordinators have massive data to go through and still be able to plan a timely intervention. We need to encounter this problem by automating the procedure wherein patients are stratified, and at-risk patients are identified so that timely interventions can be planned for them.
  • Patient-centric healthcare
    Technology now has the ability to accurately analyze a patient’s health, identify the inefficiencies and develop custom-made care plans for patients, suited to their needs. Analytics can play an instrumental role in generating patient-specific care plans.
  • Patients awareness
    At the end of the day, it all comes to the individual patient. Patients should be educated and made aware of their health and the factors contributing to it. Developing patient awareness portals, asking them questions about their health and making them equitable in their health provides a basis to accomplish patient awareness.

 

The Road Ahead

There is a massive potential in health IT. The healthcare we dream of could be achieved; we just need to embrace the next generation technology. A technology that has made other industries like e-commerce and automation advanced, why shouldn’t it be in healthcare space? When healthcare has reached there, we’ll have the capability to provide the technology experience a physician expects and the care that patiently deserves.

 

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