The Future of Accountable Care Through Optimized IT & PACS

2012-09-11
 

Molecular Mind

As value-based care (rather than volume-based care) evolves toward becoming the norm, providers increasingly are looking to technology to carry much of that load. Craig E. Samitt, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Dean Health System in Wisconsin, acknowledges the transformation that technology has brought to his organization and offers his predictions on the future of accountable care.

Implementation Must Be Coupled With Knowledge

Success will come from optimizing existing technologies and using electronic health records (EHRs) to their fullest potential. Processes and tools that influence quality, such as PACS, preventive screening or service enhancements, must be maximized in order to create a system that is truly accountable.

Dr. Lawrence L. Weed, MD, and author, Medicine in Denial, echoes Dr. Samitt’s sentiment, “Optimizing the initial workup could pay enormous dividends,” he writes. Rather than blaming the front-line physician for their ignorance, he stresses the importance of defining initial inputs. Specifically, it is through “knowledge coupling,” which he defines as the total process of matching general medical knowledge with patient-specific data and then organizing those results, that drives patient wellness.

In other words, it is only through gathering relevant information at the outset that the physician can solve the identified problem.

Information Exchange Becomes Mainstream

Just as social networks have collapsed our privacy boundaries, information exchange of a person’s health records will become part of a mainstream health-networked system. ATMs and secure online shopping are the norm today. Dr. Samitt predicts that health exchanges will become critical components of our health care delivery system.

Adopting new technology, including medical imaging and PACS, will take time; it took Amazon.com six years before Jeff Bezos declared a profit, for example. But, once the infrastructure is in place, adoption rates will increase when users see that technology enhances productivity, customer satisfaction and profits.

Explosive Growth of Health Tech & Jobs

It’s fair to say that health care systems are one of the last holdouts for adopting integrated technology systems. There are myriad reasons for this and go beyond the scope of this article. Dr. Samitt, however, envisions explosive growth and sees health care IT moving toward medical kiosks, Web portals, e-patient visits, tele-health, virtual ICUs, predictive patient diagnostic systems and more.

He foresees health care technology and informatics to be the fastest growing, most underserved field. This will to an increase in demand for jobs in this emerging field as a result. His vision reaches far beyond EHRs and PACS to a tech-wired world of practices, hospitals, health plans and systems.

Transparency Across Healthcare Delivery Systems

The demands of the patient population will drive the need for transparency across systems. Even imperfect information is useful, Dr. Samitt writes, because it can guide hospitals toward improvements.

Customers will want access to hospital performance, for example, to make better informed decisions. Developing comprehensive “big data” warehouses will also serve the patient as information flows more toward predictive outcome-based metrics rather than process metrics, which often leave the patient out of the equation.

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