The American healthcare industry has witnessed many dramatic changes over the past few decades. The introduction and adoption of EHR technology was a significant milestone for providers, patients and other entities. Another major change is the shift from the fee for services model to value-based care we are seeing today. Hospitals and practices are seeing the value of population health management as opposed to treating the individual patient in one setting. Can EDRs help you with that?
What You Need for Population Health Management
The focus of population health management is the entire population or a specific group of individuals. Managing the healthcare of populations requires data aggregation and data analytics. Unfortunately the vast majority of EDRs in the market today are ill equipped to tackle population health care initiatives. In many cases, these programs perform quite well as repositories of clinical data but not much else.
There are many reasons for this. One is that EDRs were not developed for the purpose of population health management. So even when practices wanted to implement these initiatives, the limitations of EDRs forced them to a halt. Another reason is that clinics and EDR users themselves do not utilize the software in the best possible manner. Practices continue to run into implementation problems. In addition, some clinics with a view towards maximizing the financial incentives under the meaningful use program. Unfortunately that may not be the best option for the long-term welfare of the clinic and its patients.
Solving the Problem of Data Aggregation
If you want to analyze the needs and healthcare requirements of a population group, you need access to their data. Historically this data has not been available in real-time and in many cases the lag is as high as six months. This means that providers have not been able to spot gaps in care or developing healthcare issues within the population in time. Viewing historic data can be helpful in evaluating the results of initiatives but it cannot help you be more proactive towards population health.
This problem is being solved, albeit slowly. The ability to share data in standardized formats is a requirement for comprehensive data aggregation from multiple sources. Many people assume that a single patient record is not that difficult to retrieve. However what they fail to realize is that all the documentation regarding the particular patient may be scattered across a variety of settings including hospitals, primary care providers, pharmacies, specialists etc.
Aggregating that information and consolidating it into a single, searchable database is a monumental task. Since interoperability is a requirement under the meaningful use program, it forces developers to incorporate standards for data sharing.
The Next Step – Data Analytics
Industry experts agree that the current EDR market does not have the technological capability for advanced data analytics with regards to population health. EDRs are unable to aggregate nonmedical data from other sources such as financial or supply-chain systems. It is very difficult to manage population health without access to such types of information.
While practices have seen improvements in patient communication and patient experience thanks to EDRs, they still have a long way to go when it comes to population health. EDRs are excellent at reviewing patient populations such as identify all records with a specific ailment. However they’re not capable of advanced data analytics that can predict the future requirements of that group. In other words, EDR technology continues to be reactive rather than proactive.
Fortunately there is a growing realization among all the entities in the healthcare system that population health management is crucial for improving outcomes. The drive for improved capabilities is bound to deliver results so that providers can implement better care delivery mechanisms.