When it comes to electronic health record systems (EHRs), most would agree that they have failed to live up to their potential for delivering greater efficiencies, reduced healthcare costs, and improved care quality. The primary reason these intended benefits have not materialized is lack of interoperability; when EHRs are not seamlessly interoperable with other health IT systems, they cannot be leveraged to improve clinical outcomes and reduce costs.
However, when the interoperability challenge is resolved, it becomes possible to share pertinent patient and clinical information across the care continuum, resulting in better clinical decisions, fewer medical errors, and a significant reduction in unnecessary costs. This is just the beginning. In time, an ecosystem of healthcare technologies is constructed that enables a complete digital view of individual patients and patient populations, and unlocks the power within the data to allow healthcare organizations to truly deliver the highest quality, most consistent care at the lowest cost.
Removing barriers to interoperability also paves the way for healthcare organizations to take advantage of the most promising of the many technology innovations emerging in the industry: the digitization of health information. Interoperability, when coupled with optimized operational workflows, unlocks the advantages associated with digital information, which can be analyzed, used, and communicated within new technologies to further advance patient care, improve efficiencies, and reduce costs. Interoperability is also key to managing populations of patients and advancing clinical decision support, two additional areas of innovation that are poised to emerge as opportunities over the next few years.
Patient education and engagement technologies also play an important role in successful management of patient populations. Studies have shown utilization of these technologies results in better healthcare experiences and improved patient outcomes because patients who participate in their healthcare journey have a deeper understanding of how to manage their care. For example, understanding the most effective way to take medications and to fulfill other prescribed treatment plans increases adherence and, as a result, outcomes. They also enable more effective patient-provider communications.
Finally, both patients and healthcare organizations can benefit from the adoption of interactive and intelligent technologies such as treatment monitoring, multimedia educational programs, and automated communications. These technologies serve to enhance the patient experience and, more importantly, the care outcome.
With so many technology innovations on the horizon, each of which has a significant impact on key aspects of care quality and outcomes, healthcare organizations must prioritize their health IT investments. Healthcare leaders should focus on IT investments that will advance care while reducing costs, for example those that help healthcare leaders understand where variability occurs in patient care, identify sources of unnecessary costs, and evaluate care quality across the entire care continuum. A strategic investment strategy that is focused on those technologies that will ultimately lead to improved clinical decisions and patient outcomes should be of highest priority—and will ultimately unlock the vast potential technology has to achieve multiple business and clinical objectives.