Electronic Health Records

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EHR Use, Health Data Exchange to Thrive Despite ACA Repeal

A pair of market analysts claim EHR use and health data exchange will expand over the coming years with the emergence of new innovations.

Health IT

Source: Thinkstock.

By Kate Monica

- A recent article in Harvard Business Review outlines opportunities for patients and providers to improve the healthcare system despite the imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Among other observations, authors Frank Baitman and Kenneth Karpay emphasized the impact of developing technologies on diagnoses, treatments, and communication in the industry.

“In 2004, one in five practicing physicians used an electronic health record (EHR) in the U.S,” wrote the authors. “Today, nearly nine in 10 physicians regularly employ EHRs. There’s a tremendous amount of information and structured data now available to guide treatment, assess outcomes, and measure quality of care.”

Baitman and Karpay hold EHR technology partially responsible for recent upward trends in quality of life and life expectancies among Americans in recent years by improving access to personal health data for providers and researchers. Additionally, innovations in health IT infrastructure have reduced the cost of integrating health data sets in the cloud.

These two factors have together yielded the beginnings of personalized medicine.

The authors cited several catalysts for improvements and growth in healthcare including new patient engagement tools, the proliferation of telemedicine, and the unique opportunities available for businesses looking to capitalize on the needs of the growing elderly population.

Baitman and Karpay also saw opportunities for growth surrounding EHR systems and electronic health apps.

“While new EHR offerings continue to emerge, the market has consolidated around a few large players, which has held back innovation and interoperability,” they wrote. “The proprietary nature and standards for EHRs are likely to diminish, however, as industry pressure opens up data repositories and personal data become more accessible.”

The authors predict the golden age of large EHR vendors such as Epic and Cerner dominating the market is coming to a close in favor of a much more open playing field inviting a wider variety of solutions.

Data liberation will drive a wedge between vendors willing to adapt to new innovations and those dragging their feet. EHR solutions vendors clinging to old methods of data access will be left behind in the wake of technologies and standards enabling faster, more open data retrieval.

The Human API platform and the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) specification are two technologies likely to kick start this new era of data liberation.

“While they are different from each other, both are significant attempts at retrieving, aggregating, and contextualizing patient wellness and medical data,” wrote the authors.

FHIR in particular is geared toward improving interoperability through bypassing barriers to health data exchange ordinarily imposed by complications between incompatible systems.

“Rather than passing entire health documents among providers, FHIR allows the transfer of clinical and administrative data between software applications used by different health care providers, enabling them to access the specific data needed from medical records across systems,” they stated.

According to Baitman and Karpay, these trends leaning toward increased data liberation and interoperability will have widespread effects.

“We’re convinced that these trends will ultimately drive mainstream adoption for proven digital health solutions,” the authors wrote. “Where clinical trials demonstrate efficacy, and the solutions allow for improved cost management, we’ll begin to see multiple models emerge: insurance reimbursement, employer subsidies, and even consumer purchases.”

Health IT solutions will likely extend beyond providers and payers to pharmaceutical companies.

“As adoption increases, companies that today provide therapeutics — principally pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers — will begin to add digital health solutions to their portfolios,” posited the authors.

Overall, an ACA repeal will not have damaging effects on developing health IT solutions.

While new challenges will emerge from shifting policy, vendors and health IT innovators will merely need to readjust their focus and develop solutions in keeping with the unique demands of a post-ACA healthcare industry.

“Uncertainty surrounding the health care bill shouldn’t have a material effect on the success of various solutions,” concluded authors. 

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