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Patient-Focused Health IT Innovation the Next Frontier for Healthcare

Five must-watch initiatives indicate a growing emphasis on patient-focused health IT innovation.

Health IT innovation to benefit patients

Source: Thinkstock

By Sheri Stoltenberg

- Now that providers have near universally adopted EHR systems across the country, what is the next frontier for healthcare technology? Based on some recently launched tools, health IT researchers and vendors are focused on health-data monitoring, health data access, and clinical decision-making as the industry catches up with consumerism. As such, these five initiatives serve as must-watch health IT developments, starting with Apple’s iPhone patient health information access.

Apple mHealth integration

2017 saw 85.5 million US iPhone users and likely many more since the release of the iPhone 8 and X. Thanks to the recent operating system update this year, iPhone users can now access their EHR patient portal data through the Health app from 12 health systems. The iPhone health data access is read-only at this point and limited to allergy, clinical vitals, health condition, immunization, lab result, medication and procedural information. Users access their data through individual portal credentials to eliminate patient matching concerns that plague multi-facility organizations. The initiative shows major progress in the battle for interoperability with the hope that more EHR vendors can partner with the tech giant.

Smart thermometer app for influenza

In another mobile health development, a smart thermometer application advances flu monitoring and prediction capabilities. A recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study revealed that among US influenza deaths from 2010 to 2016, nearly two-thirds of child fatalities occurred within seven days of developing symptoms. With the World Health Organization estimating three to five million cases of the flu annually, real-time tracking is in high demand for more proactive care. Utilizing a smart thermometer-connected app, researchers at the University of Iowa can now predict influenza spread up to two or three weeks in advance while tracking virus activity at both the population health and individual levels. This combats the several-week delay of CDC formal reporting with more efficient and rapid surveillance for households, so they can better anticipate and identify symptoms to initiate necessary treatment. 

Sheri Stoltenberg on health IT innovation
Source: Xtelligent Media

Genomic EHR data and nursing

The next innovation dives deeper than disease monitoring to better understand and interpret an individual’s genetic health. A patient’s genomic information for diagnostic and therapeutic decision making has yet to be seamlessly integrated into today’s EHRs. The National Institute of Health (NIH) is actively working to push genomic nursing forward through its early adopter program utilizing Allscripts Sunrise and the 2bPrecise genomics and precision medicine solution. Moving beyond basic family history information, NIH funnels genetic testing results to the point of care with EHR genomic pedigree documentation. The NIH program aims to be a model for providers and vendors moving forward in using genetic information to take predictive analytics and preventive care to the next level.

Breast cancer decision-making tool

READ MORE: EHR Adoption, Interoperability Brought Google Back to Healthcare

In another initiative toward informed patient care options, a Journal of Clinical Oncology study from the University of Michigan proves that the interactive iCanDecide breast cancer tool improves high-quality decision making for surgical treatment. iCanDecide focuses on knowledge building and value clarification with patients. The study consisted of 537 early-stage breast cancer patients across 22 surgical practices. The follow-up aim of the research is to integrate patient-facing decision tools into the clinical workflow to improve informed decision making that aligns with patient values.

Center for Connected Care telehealth hub

Lastly, as telemedicine programs proliferate across the country, Penn Medicine has created the Center for Connected Care to stand as one of the largest telehealth hubs. With 50 full-time staff, the center provides around-the-clock care to the health system’s patients as well as support to clinicians throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Telehealth specialties include urgent care, chronically ill homecare and critically ill pregnancy services. In addition, Penn Medicine’s teletrauma program links specialty providers for immediate collaboration and decision-making in emergency situations when a patient cannot be moved. The expansive connected care initiative shows how telehealth will continue to help providers overcome patient travel obstacles and clinician network limitations.

These five mHealth, telehealth, genomic medicine and decision-making tool advancements serve as a sampling of the current industry progress beyond initial EHR implementation. They are also clear examples of how healthcare organizations and technology companies are recognizing the industry shift toward consumerism and active patient engagement in care decisions. While they are encouraging first steps, expanded interoperability and integration are necessary to fully enable informed value-based patient care and diagnosis for wider patient communities across the country.

Sheri Stoltenberg is the founder and CEO of Stoltenberg Consulting, which helps health systems and hospitals implement, manage, and utilize information and business systems.

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