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Digitization of American Health Care

Dr. David Blumenthal, previously the National Coordinator for Health IT in the Obama Administration, recently gave some great insight into the future of digital healthcare and electronic medical records in Harvard Business Review. As physicians from small independents to large hospital systems transition from paper records to electronic health records, issues of interoperability, changes in reimbursement policy, and a number of other challenges continue to make a truly digital ecosystem for health care a future aspiration rather than a current reality.

What the article says:

  • The HITECH program, introducing subsidies and penalties to encourage EHR adoption, has been effective at accelerating adoption

  • From 2008 to 2014, hospitals with an EHR went from 7% to 76% while physician adoption moved from 17% to 51%

  • True digitization of Americans’ health care data is further in the future. For this to be realized, what’s needed is a competitive marketplace where innovators can tap into data to create applications that improve providers’ and patients’ medical decisions

  • The major challenge remains creating the ability to share data across electronic medical records systems, where there still are not open standards for interoperable sharing between vendors

  • Policymakers point to vendors as the problem in creating interoperability and blame them for the misallocation of a $31 billion government investment in digitizing health records over the past 10 years

What it means for independent physicians and their practices:

  • As payers shift to value-based reimbursements, independent physicians will need an electronic health record system to maintain their businesses

  • Today’s business models are oriented around fee for service reimbursement, but in the future care providers will need to focus on the patient’s longitudinal record across visits, events and providers to focus on their health outcomes

  • Insight into these outcomes, and taking action to ensure a healthy patient panel, will be key drivers for physicians in the future

  • The government will continue to drive change to encourage providers to adopt open standards for data sharing and access to the patient record in pursuit of the shift towards value-based care