From the recent Institute for Health Technology Transformation's iHT2 Health IT summit in Atlanta, it's clear that many providers are preparing for and looking forward to a greater level of health information exchange (HIE) and communication among different settings, patients and caregivers. While they are ready for such exchange, it's equally clear that the industry has a ways to go to catch up with technology adoption, policies and procedures that foster HIE.
Speakers at the iHT2 summit, held in late April at the Academy of Medicine at Georgia Tech, discussed a range of issues from security to telemedicine. But a common theme throughout the two-day event focused on information exchange and how to improve pathways toward ensuring it works.
On health information exchange:
In Kansas, it's no longer a question of "if" providers will join health information exchanges, it's a matter of "when," said Laura McCrary, executive director of the Kansas Health Information Network, during her keynote. Connecting to colleagues, building analytics programs that help providers make decisions and sharing data elements across the network will lead to more effective care. "If we don't do that, we lose at this game."
At Children's Hospital Boston, innovative methods of information exchange take the form of telemedicine initiatives. In an inpatient demonstration project, the hospital's emergency department physicians are connecting to critical care providers in surrounding regions. The goal is to help doctors determine when patients can be treated in their region, or if they'll have to be transported to Children's for further care. Being able to take the care to patients can help reduce wait times and allows people to be more involved with their health in between visits as well, said Naomi Fried, Children's CIO.
On mobile security:
Tablets and other personal devices, and the applications that can be used on them, are exploding in popularity among providers and health care staff. It's up to the IT department to incorporate their use on the organization's network. Increasingly that's taking the shape of bring your own device, or BYOD, hybrid environments in which people can use their personal devices with the understanding that the organization will maintain stringent security controls for the personal health information that flows through them.
Privacy and security policies are key here, because of compliance and regulations, according to Philip Chuang, information systems director for Sutter Health. Even though it can be expensive to secure and support personal devices, allowing their use keeps staff engaged. "It's a cost we're going to have to accept" as the industry promotes greater technology adoption, he said.
The institute's series of health IT summits continues in June with a two-day event in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.