- The adoption and meaningful use of electronic record records (EHR) as part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) EHR Incentive Programs have dominated most conversations about innovation in the health information technology (IT) arena. However, the incentive programs are part and parcel of a multitude of initiatives at the national and state level to reform healthcare through the creative use of new approaches, technologies, or both.
Because much of the focus in health IT has centered on meaningful use and therefore EHR systems, providers don’t have all the tools necessary to meet the requirements of complementary and contending federal and state programs. “As a result of the wide adoption of EHRs and certain policy changes at the federal and state level, there was a realization within the market, in this case the provider community, that there were gaps in terms of the IT tools needed to deal with these changes,” observes Maria Gotsch, President and CEO of the New York City Investment Fund (NYCIF).
Along with the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), an affiliate of the New York State Department of Health (DOH), NYCIF is spurring innovation in the state through the New York Digital Health Accelerator (NYDHA), which launched this past April. So what is the NYDHA and what does it do? Gotsch explains that its approach embodies NYCIF’s mission to create jobs in the state and mirrors the fund’s other work in financial services sector, such as with Accenture in the FinTech Innovation Lab:
FinTech Lab effectively aggregates the market and reduces the friction of small companies accessing it. With the Digital Health Accelerator, the market is the providers, who need these new IT tools to help them deal with these policy changes and they have money to fund it. But similar to large financial services firms, a big provider chain has multiple constituencies, multiple decision-makers, so for tech companies that’s a lot of work and time, which means money, to navigate that and find the right person to talk to.
Not only is there a need to sustain the use of EHR and health IT systems beyond meaningful use, but there is also a need to sustain an industry capable of supporting the changing needs of providers locally and nationally. In order to achieve both, Gotsch and NYCIF are taking advantage of the demands placed on New York providers as a result of EHR Incentive Programs and the state’s own legislative efforts to shift its Medicaid population toward in-home care through the Health Home model. And it is attempting to do so by leveraging the financial and intellectual capital of top CEOs in the state, whom NYCIF collectively represents.
Bridging the gap between innovators and providers requires that all stakeholders are seated around the same table. “We’ve got the providers at the table who can comment on whether they need it or not and the investment community,” continues Gotsch, “The long-term view we’re taking is that if you can get an aggregation of successful companies, you can create a successful cluster.”
And like seasoned economists, NYCIF matches innovators with providers based on the needs of the market, in this case the providers themselves. According to Gotsch, healthcare professionals in the state are calling for tools in four key areas:
1. Care coordination
3. Patient engagement
What this means for EHR developers and users is a suite of tools capable of working with live systems to connect them across providers and organizations rather than competing with successful companies already in the EHR game. “We’re assuming the provider has an EHR. That market has a lot of big players who are well capitalized and rolling out good products, so we’re not trying to compete and create new EHRs,” notes Gotsch. Through NYDHA, NYCIF is looking for the next class of solutions that will focus on sharing information in an effective way:
These are solutions that may sit on top of or connect to an EHR. For instance, you may have an EHR at a local health clinic, a home care provider, and a hospital, but they need to connect and coordinate care across those three EHRs, which could be from the same EHR vendor or different ones.
Only time will tell if the NYCIF mission to create jobs and EHR-related systems will pay off. And we won’t know until a few months which companies will comprise the first class of NYDHA innovators. However, I’d wager that the wealth of expertise behind the NYCIF is likely to pay dividends, more likely in the form of a social good.
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