Last Monday, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) unveiled its National Strategy for Quality Improvement in Health Care (“National Quality Strategy,” for short). Mandated by the health care reform law passed last year, the strategy details how the U.S. health care system will increase the quality of patient care while moving away from the current fee-for-service model to a value-based payment system.
That’s a tall order, and the AHRQ is only setting goals and principles. Physicians and nurses will be doing the heavy lifting. IT leaders can pitch in, too. There are no technology-specific items on the AHRQ’s punch list, but good IT implementations could help medical practices attain some of the AHRQ’s ideals.
In theory, there are many opportunities where technology could make a difference. Here are three:
- Encouraging the provision of the clear information to patients, providers and payers they need to make choices that are right for them. Meaningful use requires clinical decision support, but those rules merely get the ball rolling with basic implementations. The richer and more robust the technology that IT managers deploy — under the direction of clinical leaders in their facilities — the clearer the information that patients and practitioners will get and the faster they will get it.
- Enhancing coordination among primary care, behavioral health, other specialty clinicians and health systems to ensure they treat the “whole person.” The sooner continuity of care documents, or CCDs, flow in standard formats between specialists and a patient’s primary care physician, the more efficient care coordination will be.
- Making quality care more affordable for individuals, families, employers and governments by developing and spreading new health care delivery models. Does this sound familiar? To anyone who has attended conferences focusing on mobile health and telemedicine, it should. Evangelists for these technologies believe they’re game-changers for patients who live in areas underserved by the health care system, or who have chronic conditions that currently require many practitioner visits — but might not if simple monitoring or reminder systems can be set up.
Health care — and this country’s government — are both going broke, according to many economic yardsticks including President Obama’s own calculations. Changing the payment system is one way to stop this from happening, but only if care — and patient health — improve along with it.