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Feb 19 2014   11:56AM GMT

Health IT challenges for 2014: Optimism prevails

Posted by: adelvecchio
ACO, healthcare analytics,, ICD-10

greg-chittim-mugGuest post by Greg Chittim, senior director, Arcadia Healthcare Solutions

Every year the healthcare industry reflects on what worked and what didn’t. At the heart of it all we are hoping to have achieved the one thing that everyone is driving towards: Increasing the quality and efficiency of care for our patients. At the end of 2013, despite the negative press surrounding the rollout, I think the industry felt fairly optimistic about the value health IT was beginning to demonstrate and how it could change the face of healthcare. The next 12 months will determine whether this optimism will continue or not.

In 2014 and beyond, I foresee less of a focus on what EHR platform is being used and more of a focus on managing disparate data, improving workflows, and driving adoption more effectively. I truly believe that physicians will figure out how to work with whatever system they’re using in ways that efficiently and effectively improve the health of their patients. Before we get there, there will be a few bumps and bruises along the way.

  • The struggle to recruit healthcare analysts and technologists will mount Especially in the rural areas (where they are not living) and in urban healthcare hotspots (where there is intense competition for their services). Health systems and plans will need to find other options to acquire the analytical talent required to meet the needs of population health and shared risk contract initiatives.
  • There will be greater separation between the best-of-the-best and everyone else in quality improvement initiatives Those who have been implementing quality improvement programs are seeing the fruits of their data, process and team initiatives. Those who have not seen these programs grow organically will be hungry to learn best practices in order to emulate the success.
  • ICD-10 will go smoothly for most hospitals, but practices will be underprepared — Hospitals and large health systems have been focusing on all aspects of ICD-10 for years, but too many practices are taking a “wait-and-see” approach. They’re relying on their EHR vendors and ignoring the more challenging processes, training, and ongoing measurement work streams that will ensure a completely successful launch. In 2014, it will be important for them to shift their focus so they are better prepared.
  • The demands for data in accountable care organizations (ACOs) will increase — Beyond claims provided by CMS or their health plan, ACOs will increasingly need to use and integrate data from additional sources. Pulling data from different sources — ambulatory EHRs in particular — will help them achieve their desired cost effectiveness and care quality improvements. Having a comprehensive view of all aspects of practice and network operations — quality, general ledger, claims, scheduling, etc. will become the biggest competitive advantage for emerging ACOs.
  • Technology services will increasingly be outsourced, but at a price As outsourcing moves from large health systems down to individual practices, there will be a need for responsive, onshore, vendor-agnostic support. Doing so will leave technology, connectivity, and performance tasks to IT experts and allow the medical experts to focus on patient care.
  • Access, enrollment, and management of patient panels in community health will become an issue — In states that are implementing Medicaid expansion, there will be significantly more patients leveraging Community Health Center (CHC) services. CHCs are among the best in the country at efficiently delivering quality care, but will struggle to build cross-system histories and interventions for the chronically and acutely ill among their new populations.
  • Achieving patient-centered medical home recognition will take a back seat to acting like a medical home — As ACOs and pay-for-performance contracts become de rigueur for many practices, acting like a true medical home will be table stakes. A stamp of approval from the National Committee for Quality Assurance will be a goal, but not an end in and of itself like it is in many healthcare transformation programs.

What health IT challenges do you foresee?

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