Health IT along with EHRs and telehealth technology is impacting the medical sector and patient care in a variety of ways. Other healthcare reforms like the development of accountable care organizations (ACOs) require the implementation of key technologies and the efficient sharing of medical data.
At the World Health Care Congress + Exhibition, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield President and CEO Chet Burrell spoke about how technology is revolutionizing the healthcare industry.
Burrell explained that the majority of his company’s claims processes are cloud-based, which allows for easy communication between billers and physicians. Whether discussing care plans and the ongoing progress of patients with chronic diseases or the sharing of vital medical data, cloud-based health IT systems provide an efficient means of communication.
“If you take the example of a primary care physician, no matter how automated they are, they explain only a small portion of the medical dollar – usually six percent – so much of what happens is outside of the [patient’s] view,” Burrell said. “With the kind of systems we provide – [the patient] would see the underlying information like lab results, what services were provided, which physician provided the services, and what drugs [the patient] is on.”
The latest encryptions and cybersecurity techniques within cloud-based systems also reduce the privacy and security risks associated with electronic storage of patient data. Along with cloud-based EHR systems, telehealth technology has also impacted the healthcare industry and patient care especially in rural areas.
Remote teleconferencing allows for patients who would otherwise be unable to visit a physician practice or hospital to speak directly with their doctor. The American Hospital Association (AHA) released a report – The Promise of Telehealth For Hospitals, Health Systems and Their Communities – on the expansion of telehealth technology within the hospital setting.
In 2013, as many as 52 percent of hospitals implemented and used telehealth technology while another 10 percent had begun the process of integrating telemedicine. Recent research also shows that 74 percent of consumers would be interested in using telehealth services while 70 percent are content to use text, video, or email to communicate with their physicians.
Both telemedicine and advanced EHR technology play a significant role in healthcare initiatives like accountable care organizations, which require both data sharing and communication tools among a variety of healthcare professionals in order to improve the quality of care.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will be implementing a new project aimed at developing the next generation of ACOs. This will alter both the payment standards and care delivery within the ACO model.
“This ACO model responds to stakeholder requests for the next stage of the ACO model that enables greater engagement of beneficiaries, a more predictable, prospective financial model, and the flexibility to utilize additional tools to coordinate care for beneficiaries,” Patrick Conway, deputy administrator for Innovation and Quality and chief medical officer for CMS, said in a public statement.