What’s Trending, What’s Ending—Why it’s All Good

More than 38,000 healthcare information professionals made April’s 15th annual HIMSS conference and exhibition in Chicago an overwhelmingly educational, networking and inspirational event. Like many of you, we attended, too—but to cover even the highlights would take more than this column (the “Pocket Guide” was 162 pages long!) Information hasn’t become just the biggest single topic in our industry—it practically is the industry.

So let’s deal with a few of the trending and ending issues that are relevant to most of us:

1. EMR/EHR Penetration: Trending.

It’s no surprise that EMR/EHR continues to expand in proportion and influence. It’s now at a 62.8% adoption rate of electronic health records, up from 48% just a few years ago. This, despite the easing of guidelines from the ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology). The ONC’s original target was for 10% of a practice’s patients to be engaged in accessing electronic records. They’ve scaled back on that in order to encourage adoption without putting too much pressure on practices, but that hasn’t stopped the trend. Which of course helps with…

2. Meaningful Use: Trending.

Moving docs through the process of installing the software, training staff in using it, showing increased usage and then bringing patients into the process is the purpose here. The majority of physicians who use EHRs can now electronically exchange test results, medical data and clinical care summaries with their patients. Latest statistics show that 73% of all eligible office-based physicians have been paid for demonstrating meaningful use through the Medicare EHR Incentive Program. More than 73% of office-based physicians are ePrescribing, and more than one billion scripts were routed electronically last year.

3. Data Dread: Ending.

We’re moving from fear of Big Data to a growing understanding of how to analyze and apply it, assisted by a coterie of companies specializing in this. Which is key to…

4. Population Health Management: Trending.

While we continue to focus on patient centricity, the concomitant need is a focus on population health management (PHM), defined as keeping a patient population as healthy as possible and reducing the need for expensive interventions (tests, ED visits, procedures). A “population” is any group tended to by a healthcare provider. PHM is facilitated by the sharper picture we have of these populations through better analysis of the mountain of shared data we have amassed and our ability to act on that information in a timely and efficient manner.

5. Dueling agendas: Ending.

Payers of course are looking for the most efficient way to deliver care, while providers aim for the most effective path to outcomes. These are not necessarily incompatible goals, as statistics are showing. Better, more actionable information delivered to both HCPs and patients, with less pressure on the limited time and resources of physicians, moves both of these goals forward at the same time.

6. ePrior Authorization: Trending for all participants.

Prior authorization (PA) is a process used to determine pre-approval for a prescribed therapy to promote clinically appropriate and cost-effective therapy. But the traditional way of doing this takes time and can be inefficient. Replacing it with ePrior Authorization—in which a real-time decision is provided at the point of prescribing—gets care to the patient quicker. Not only is this critical to efficiency, it creates greater goodwill between payers and providers.

7. Adherence: Trending big time.

Physicians are encouraged by incentives in the Affordable Care Act to move from fee-for-service to outcomes, making it more feasible to focus time and resources on keeping patients healthy. Many are working under finite cost guidelines, so they now have to consider the efficiency/effectiveness equation. Pharma/bio/device companies have to protect their profits while also enhancing outcomes, so they’re naturally developing all kinds of adherence—related tactics, such as gamification, email reminders—and especially EMR/EHR-related patient education assistance.

Employers, too, are making a difference: By providing high-deductible plans, they shift employees’ attention to cost, which demands that patients become more attentive to education and, of course, adherence.

Healthcare Minds the Gaps

What all this is pointing to is that the industry is minding the gaps. With all of the best intentions, it is impossible for healthcare providers to meet all of the patient’s information needs and be present at every point in the patient’s healthcare journey. This means that collaboration with pharmacies to address nuanced questions about complex medications—and support adherence—becomes even more important. Similarly, it ensures that the advice of the prescriber and pharmacist is reinforced. Offering solutions that enable efficiency, compliance, communication and collaboration is key.

For years now, everyone has talked a good game about keeping patients uppermost in their thinking, but the results—in quality of life and costs—haven’t always proven the reality of that claim. Now, based on an abundance of evidence we saw at HIMSS, everything is trending more in the right direction. Services such as physician and patient education, adherence reminders, gap-in-care reminders, fill messages, discount cards and other tactics take the burden off the system—and contribute to this new orientation. Let’s let automation do what it does best, and let people do what they do best.

Together, we’re expanding the definition and value of the point of care space and making all its components work more seamlessly. We saw abundant evidence of this at HIMSS, and we’re proud to be part of that progress.

  • Mark Heinold

    Mark Heinold is CEO of PDR, the largest EMR and digital communications network. PDR connects prescribers, pharmacists and patients to improve health outcomes through targeted communications, and is the publisher of the renowned Physicians Desk Reference. PDR delivers health information designed to positively improve health behaviors through a variety of digital, office-based and pharmacy-based channels.

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