Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

Quality & Governance News

Federal HIT Plan Focuses on Population Health, Patient Engagement

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Patient engagement and robust population health management are two of the top goals for CMS and the ONC over the next five years, says National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo in a letter prefacing the new Federal Health IT Strategic Plan

Population health management and patient engagement

Released this week as an update to the 2011 strategy for increasing EHR use and developing an ecosystem of coordinated care, the Plan charts a course towards the future of the Triple Aim, highlighting the important role of patient-centered care in the industry’s ongoing transformation.

“Over the past five years, our nation’s health information technology (health IT) landscape has experienced a remarkable transformation,” DeSalvo writes.  Since the beginning of the EHR Incentive Programs, more than 450,000 eligible professionals and 4900 hospitals have received incentives for implementing electronic health records.

“This incredible achievement was not easy,” she continues. “Hospitals and health care providers have invested capital, time, and hard work to convert their patient medical records from paper systems to EHRs, and to adapt workflow and culture to deliver care in this electronic environment. This has created a strong demand for the seamless sharing of information across technology systems, information platforms, location, provider, or other boundaries.”

Health data interoperability remains a significant barrier to meaningful population health management, but the newly developed federal framework hopes to provide healthcare organizations with a strategic vision for overcoming health information exchange obstacles. 

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Despite the widespread adoption of EHRs, many stakeholders believe that the immaturity and poor usability of EHR and HIE infrastructure is largely to blame for low Stage 2 meaningful use attestation levels, and are urging CMS and the ONC to postpone Stage 3 until the healthcare system can resolve its data sharing problems and implement more sophisticated technologies.

Federal agencies have been facing ongoing criticism around the disconnect between stringent mandate requirements and the real-life capabilities of most healthcare organizations, many of whom continue to spend thousands of dollars on EHR technologies that can help them meet meaningful use while encouraging productivity with sensible workflows.

“During the past decade’s information age, innovation and technological advancements have been difficult to predict,” DeSalvo acknowledges.  “This Plan accounts for how the federal government views our nation’s current health IT landscape and articulates federal values and priorities, and it also identifies government actions that we believe will be most impactful as we look to the future.”

The Plan includes four overarching goals, some of which overlap with the traditional principles of the Triple Aim: lower cost healthcare, better population health, and an improved patient experience.  In the new framework, the ONC adds health IT infrastructure development and a focus on continued innovation and medical research to the mix.

The four major objectives include the following:

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• Advance person-centered health through self-management and patient engagement by empowering individuals and their caregivers to make more informed decisions about their care.  Providers must learn to forge stronger partnerships between patients and their families in order to improve engagement, encourage healthy lifestyle choices, and maintain contact with the healthcare system.

Transform population health management and community wellness through improved care delivery, greater reliance on health IT, and more robust patient safety efforts.  Healthcare organizations should focus on the ability to deliver “safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable, and person-centered care” that builds resilient communities and better public health.

• Foster research and scientific exploration into ways that health IT infrastructure can improve the healthcare delivery system.  Federal agencies plan to improve EHR usability and increase access to electronic health data in pursuit of new strategies for raising quality and improving outcomes.

• Enhance the national health IT infrastructure to increase interoperability, security, patient safety, and user satisfaction.  While protecting the privacy and security of sensitive patient data, federal agencies hope to encourage interoperability, develop a nationwide data sharing infrastructure, and promote the adoption of widely-accepted data standards to improve data integrity and governance.

“With this Plan, the federal government signals that, while we will continue to work towards widespread use of all forms of health IT, efforts will begin to include new sources of information and ways to disseminate knowledge quickly, securely, and efficiently,” DeSalvo concludes.

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“This Plan will help guide the nation’s shift towards focusing on better health and delivery system reform. Federal authorities and investments will seek to implement this Plan’s strategies. However, this is a shared undertaking. Efforts of state, territorial, local, and tribal governments, and of private stakeholders are vital to ensure that health information is available when and where it matters most to improve and protect people’s health and well-being.”

To view the entire document, please click here.


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