Electronic Health Records

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EHR Interoperability Imperative for Care Coordination

By Vera Gruessner

The medical industry is incorporating stronger strategies for care coordination to reform the sector and improve quality of care.  One major aspect of improving care coordination stemming from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the integration of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), which focus on a team of healthcare professionals working together to improve patients’ health across different specialties and varying facilities.

Nicole Beagin, Associate Editorial Director at The American Journal of Managed Care, and Mary Caffrey, Managing Editor of Evidence-Based Oncology and Evidence-Based Diabetes Management at The American Journal of Managed Care, spoke with EHRIntelligence.com to discuss the ACO and Emerging Healthcare Delivery Coalition their organization has created and how health IT systems and electronic patient records could be used to improve care coordination.

“The ACO Coalition is an initiative of AJMC,” Beagin stated. “Our ACO members are made up of payers, providers, patient advocates, those who work in health IT, specialty-pharmacy, and more. We put on two meetings per year and have four web-based events per year [for the ACO Coalition]. Various stakeholders and our members present on case studies and best practices.”

“[Our last meeting] had a lot of information about patient engagement,” Caffrey explained. “[Some key questions formed were] ‘How do you really define patient satisfaction’ and ‘How do you achieve population health measures with hard-to-reach populations?’ ”

With the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) focused on bringing the healthcare system toward value-based care, it grows more imperative than ever before to improve care coordination and the quality of services among ACOs and other entities, AJMC reports. At one web-based meeting of the ACO Coalition, Jonathan Hare, CEO of WebShield Inc., addressed the need to share information quickly and effectively among medical organizations.

The sharing of payment models and emphasis of quality measures are key for better coordination while patient privacy and data security remains vital for healthcare organizations as well, said Hare at the meeting.

“Our meeting that we held in Miami last October, from Geisinger, Dr. Thomas Graf and Dr. Eric Newman both touched upon EHR use within the Geisinger Health System,” Beagin continued. “[They discussed] how they were using EHRs within a group to specifically address specialty providers and specialty care coordination.”

When discussing providers’ feedback on ACO development, Caffrey mentioned, “Different health systems officials presented the data they’ve collected from the providers and will show where they started and what kind of challenges they’ve had to overcome in moving their system forward. We’ll see a lot of screens that move from red to green. When they started up with the ACO, they had a lot of patient data that was off the mark from where they needed to be in terms of health measurements. They had to make many changes in terms of how they were delivering care, but also system changes in how they were communicating adequately (with staff) and collecting data.”

When asked what objectives under meaningful use stages may be the most difficult to achieve for healthcare providers, Beagin stated, “Our members have been discussing the issue of interoperability when implementing EHR systems within their practices. Data technology is a hot button issue for our members.”

“Clinical quality measures under Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements as well as patient and family engagement have been major discussions as well,” Beagin concluded.

“With hard-to-reach populations, there’s a need for the use of technologies to interface with community organizations such as churches or civic organizations,” said Caffrey. “Healthcare organizations are realizing that better population health will occur outside the walls of the clinic and outside the walls of the hospital. If they’re taking responsibility for the population, they will need to meet the population where they are. A lot of our discussion has been about how to use technology to engage the community organizations and how to partner with these organizations.”

The use of technology will help community groups become full partners in healthcare delivery, as community organizations are often not set up for billing or HIPAA compliance.

To learn more about the ACO and Emerging Healthcare Delivery Coalition, visit: http://www.ajmc.com/acocoalition.


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