The Single Most Important Technology for Healthcare in 2019 – and its NOT Blockchain

By Edward Yang, Chief Operating Officer, NextGate
Twitter: @NextGate
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As the new year ushers in, many health IT leaders are finding themselves at a critical juncture to make 2019 a transformative time for their organizations. In response to massive consolidation, healthcare reform and competitive pressures, hospitals and health systems are undergoing dramatic change. To support their organizations, CIOs and other IT decision-makers must invest in technologies that can drive efficiencies, foster innovation and maximize impact for patients.

As mergers and acquisitions, data creation and regulatory adherence continue to accelerate, the need to incorporate technology that connects the community, supports a flexible infrastructure, and centralizes diverse systems and applications will be imperative. Therefore, if there is one piece of technology health IT executives can’t afford to ignore in 2019, it’s an Enterprise Master Patient Index (EMPI).

Here are three reasons why an EMPI is the single most important tool for healthcare in 2019:

1. Poor EHR integration and interoperability continue to plague providers
Coordinated, accountable, patient-centered care is reliant on seamlessly orchestrated access to data. Yet, providers remain daunted by software applications and EHR systems that fail to communicate or transmit information effectively. For providers, integration projects are constant and costly—and vendors’ sluggish efforts to make progress have only placed more distrust in the market.

Patient data spread across disparate clinical and financial systems breeds errors and record duplication, resulting in suboptimal outcomes and avoidable costs of care. Reliance on EHR functionalities for patient matching perpetuates the issue. Hospitals and health systems that aren’t running an efficient EMPI platform are operating EHR systems fraught with duplicates and inaccurate patient information.

According to a 2018 survey by Black Book Research, hospitals without an EMPI in place for managing patient identification reported duplicate record rates of 18 percent within their organization and 24 percent when exchanging records out-of-network. This is because master patient indexes (MPI) within EHRs were designed for a single vendor-based environment and lack the sophisticated algorithms for linking data across various sources and settings of care. When sent downstream, duplicate and disjointed records trigger further harm, leading to medical errors, skewed analytics and reporting, denied claims, and increased cost from repetitive tests and procedures. The absence of just a single medication in an individual’s medical record can greatly impact a decision made by a clinician.

Leveraging an EMPI is an industry best practice essential for promoting interoperability and helping evolving healthcare enterprises map an individual’s entire care journey. As a vendor neutral, centralized platform for enabling timely, bidirectional access to patient information, an EMPI is critical tool in ensuring data flows freely and accurately from provider to provider.

If we are to deliver on the promise of a fully-integrated, highly interoperable healthcare system, a solution that consistently connects the right data to the right individual will be required to enable a trusted, connected view of every patient during every encounter.

2. The healthcare ecosystem is constantly evolving and becoming more complex
In healthcare, a proliferation of technologies are continuously hitting the market. For organizations held prisoner by their legacy systems, silo inefficiencies will continue worsen as IT environments become increasingly more complex, and the growth and speed to which health data is generated magnifies. Advances in cloud computing, mobile technologies and machine learning create an urgent need for an EMPI to ensure that the organization is capable of integrating emerging applications and accurately linking new data streams into an individual’s medical record. With more patient data sources on the horizon, EMPIs are in a position to help organizations to swiftly incorporate new information systems and match patients with their information to keep pace and remain competitive as complexity of interconnected systems grows.

Aa a SaaS offering, EMPIs hosted in the cloud are easier and more cost effective to implement. Cloud-based EMPIs not only eliminate the capital expense of on-premise platforms but deliver a scalable, secure infrastructure for continuous availability, maintenance and monitoring. Thanks to advances in cloud computing, an EMPI as a Service model provides an automated and finely tuned environment for fluid, trusted health information exchange without the worry of running out of storage nor having enough processing power. Leveraging a managed service provider (MSP) to govern the EMPI is also an attractive option growing in popularity as organizations look to focus on their core business.

3. Social determinants of health will be a critical factor for coordinated, accountable care delivery
Tired of EHR systems that only provide a limited view of their patient’s needs, progressive healthcare organizations are leveraging EMPIs as a strategic advantage to integrate social determinants of health (SDOH) data. For many institutions, EMPI are quickly transforming from a line of defense against duplicate medical records to the default approach for interoperability and population health management. As a patient matching solution that extends an organization’s ability to leverage evolving sources of data beyond non-clinical or traditional healthcare settings, an EMPI can help incorporate data from public health agencies, alcohol and drug recovery programs, and behavioral health organizations to build a complete picture of one’s health. Since the health of individuals is heavily influenced by socioeconomic and behavioral forces, collating a comprehensive view of one’s needs is critical to achieving value-driven, community-based outcomes.

Providers are increasingly recognizing the importance of SDOH influences as means to provide intervention and support. For example, hospitals can leverage SDOH data, which includes information on housing, income, crime, education and domestic circumstances, to proactively identify and treat those most at risk before they are forced to be admitted into inpatient settings.

A sound SDOH strategy that includes an EMPI as a core piece of technology for integrating social determinants data with extensive clinical information can help care managers apply meaningful insights into a patient’s treatment plan. When screening for social needs are combined with one’s medical record, this critical data can be put to use to expose potential gaps in care and make more informed decisions.

There are many other reasons why adopting an EMPI in your organization is paramount, including the prevention of avoidable medical errors and patient misidentification which can have dire consequences.

Achieving the goals of the healthcare Triple Aim can only flourish when patients are accurately and consistently matched with their data. As longitudinal medical records and robust interoperability become competitive market advantages, the need for EMPI technology will become progressively in-demand. As a tool that yields immediate value in system integration and data integrity to support the requirements of coordinated, accountable, patient-centered care, an EMPI is a vital tool that no organization can afford to overlook.

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