On Friday January 11, both the New York Times and the Washington Post cited a new Health Affairs commentary from RAND researchers, “What It Will Take To Achieve The As-Yet-Unfulfilled Promises of Health Information Technology.”
The press coverage focused on the “as yet unfulfilled” portion of the analysis. I want to share my support for the important work that RAND has undertaken and express appreciation for RAND’s continued focus on this nationally-pivotal topic. A transformation across a nation is hard work, complex, and not for the faint of heart. We are in such a transformational time period; RAND’s commentary provides crucial insights to help us all on our journey to the goal – to use IT in such a way to enable us to retain or regain our health. . .without breaking the bank.
I wanted to share some of the evidence we have at HIMSS of how – in providers’ offices, clinics, and hospitals around the country – health IT is being used towards this goal. In fact, my post serves as the first in a series on the HIMSS Blog, with insights from the HIMSS Davies Award on the value of health IT.
I’ve blogged in the past about the return on investment (ROI) of health IT, pointing out how difficult it can be to measure ROI in healthcare. Last Fall, I wrote that “a true measure of ROI must include the full spectrum of benefits that can result from a successful IT implementation: improved patient safety, improved quality of the care provided, improved relationships with patients, streamlined internal processes, innovation, and other qualitative factors.” Those factors are difficult to measure, but incredibly important.
While the widespread implementation of health IT may not be happening as quickly or as efficiently as we’d like, it is happening.
Just today, HIMSS Analytics released new data showing that “in the five most recent quarters for which data is available, beginning with the first incentive payments from the Medicare and Medicaid Incentive Program in 2011, U.S. acute care hospitals achieving EMRAM Stage 5 or Stage 6 have increased by more than 80 percent; Stage 7 has increased 63 percent. We are seeing declines in the percent of hospitals that are only at Stages 0, 1, 2, and 3.” See graph below. The data show that meaningful use is contributing to its intended result of increased implementation of EHRs.
What does this mean? Allow me to explain. There are a little over 5,000 civilian-based hospitals in the United States. Using data from a survey of virtually all of these hospitals, HIMSS Analytics has figured out that hospitals are becoming increasingly sophisticated and mature in their use of health IT. It means that more and more hospitals are routinely able to check for drug-to-drug interactions – before witnessing the effects in a patient. It means that fewer patients are suffering from bad outcomes due to illegible handwriting scrawled on a prescription pad. It means that more children get their immunizations because their pediatricians can – with the click of a button – print out postcards that are sent to parents.
As HIMSS Analytics points out, hospitals that are moving to the higher stages of EMRAM “are laying the groundwork for interoperability to occur.”
An increasing number of vendors and health care organizations are focused on achieving interoperability that will support information exchange. For example, over 100 health IT companies and research organizations will participate in January’s IHE North American Connectathon, testing more than 130 health IT systems for cross-vendor information exchange. And, for the first time this year, 21 health IT companies will test the interoperability of transitions of care using the HL7 Implementation Guide for CDA® Release 2: IHE Health Story Consolidation, as recently adopted in the Meaningful Use Stage 2 Standards and Certification Criteria Final Rule.
How is all of this interoperability stuff helping to achieve the promise? Progress is made as the vendors who make IT hardware & software get together annually in a neutral setting to literally hook up computers with each other to ensure that clinical information can be transmitted securely from system to system to system. That then enables “Dr. Jones” to electronically and securely share a patient’s information from his/her medical record when that patient is admitted to the hospital.
Or, when a wounded warrior comes home from Iraq or Afghanistan, the local hospital can securely share the warrior’s medical information with military and veterans hospitals when caring for him or her.
We are moving in the right direction. It’s taking time, and it requires everyone’s hard work and commitment. HIMSS will continue to do its part to assist our members in fulfilling the promise of health IT to improve patient care in the U.S.
What are your biggest challenges in achieving the promises of health IT? What are some resources that you’d like HIMSS to provide to help you on the road to meaningful use? What stories can you tell us about the value of health IT?