Keegan BaileySupportive and enabling technology is a key component to advancing a healthcare organization’s comprehensive value strategy, such as is described by Michael E. Porter and Thomas E. Lee in an article in the October 2013 Harvard Business Review. When designed well, technology can support teamwork, reliability, effectiveness, and robust analytics, ultimately leading to a more positive patient encounter and a better bottom line for the provider.

The report of an expert ACO panel convened by the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) to develop a health IT framework for ACOs cites seven technology capabilities that are critical to delivering value-based care:

  • Enables care coordination among clinically relevant staff and community partners
  • Fosters cohort management toward the goals of disease prevention, identifying gaps in care for patients with chronic diseases
  • Supports patient and caregiver relationship management, facilitating patient-centric information sharing
  • Engages clinicians by incorporating relevant and actionable decision support and other information that is role appropriate and integrated into the proper workflow
  • Facilitates strong financial management by optimizing payment and operations in a pay-for-value environment
  • Delivers robust reporting for internal performance improvement purposes and sharing with external entities
  • Boosts knowledge by automating the application of best practices to care

Implementing technology with these capabilities can tangibly benefit the move toward value-based care. For instance, a January 2012 case study by the Commonwealth Fund reports on the experiences of Monarch HealthCare in Orange County, Calif., in deploying a variety of supportive technologies to aid in its ACO growth and operations. Through health IT, Monarch monitors key metrics, identifies opportunities for improvement and uncovers waste in the delivery system, allowing the organization to create efficiencies in clinical and administrative processes.

Electronic information exchange is also critical to success in promoting more collaboration, which underpins a value strategy. Although other industries—such as financial services and consumer products’ retailers—have learned to easily and securely share data across diverse settings, the healthcare field is just starting to discover the best ways to accomplish this level of collaboration. Organizations at the forefront of the work are looking to participate in local and regional health information exchanges (HIEs), partnering with other hospitals, physician practices, and specialty groups to clean up and anonymize data to make it comparable and sharable.

Getting involved in an HIE or a comprehensive data warehouse allows participating organizations to track healthcare usage, support interactive communication, and engage in predictive modeling to assess patient and financial risk, anticipate patient behavior, and target proactive interventions to improve care quality and reduce costs. In addition, participation in an HIE can limit duplicative services. A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan published in Medical Care states that, over a 30-day period, two hospitals participating in an HIE reduced repeated imaging with computed tomography and ultrasound for patients visiting their emergency departments (EDs) by approximately 9 percent, and they reduced chest X-rays for the patients visiting the two EDs by 13 percent.

As health IT evolves, it will foster even greater cost-effectiveness and workflow efficiency, while at the same time supporting more interoperability between care settings by allowing data to become more liquid, transparent, consumable, and sharable. By keeping current with evolving technology, healthcare providers can both standardize the care they provide to reduce costs and keep it flexible to respond to unique patient needs.

Keegan Bailey is vice president, collaborative care strategy, at NextGen Healthcare, Horsham, Pa. Follow him on Twitter.

Publication Date: Thursday, August 07, 2014