Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent

by Keith J. Figlioli,  senior vice president of healthcare informatics for Premier healthcare alliance

If you or a loved one were diagnosed with cancer, would you prefer to only have local physicians working on treatment? Or would you rather have physicians who are working with the best minds in America to develop a personalized treatment plan?

Not everyone can receive care at Johns Hopkins or the Cleveland Clinic, and they shouldn’t have to.

Taking advantage of what technology can do is central to this type of information sharing. But today, healthcare providers use technology to solve challenges they see individually, at a price they can afford. Not surprisingly, the result is often dissatisfaction, primarily for two reasons.

First, today’s health information technology systems operate as a collection of incompatible components stitched together until it resembles Frankenstein’s monster.

And second, contrary to media reports and the predictions of pundits, electronic health records are not a magic bullet. Though critical to many elements of success in healthcare, EHRs are only one of dozens of needed IT assets. How useful would email be if you could only send messages within your company? So how can we be satisfied with EHRs that can’t track across all settings of care or facilitate intra-team communications –functions central to accountable, patient-centric care.

Woodrow Wilson once said “I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.” This collaborative approach is what we need in healthcare – a way to share information that allows providers to connect with each other, both at a local system level and nationwide.

Premier, a hospital-owned alliance with nearly 87,000 member care sites, and IBM recently announced the creation of the world’s largest virtual healthcare community.

This technology platform – called PremierConnect  – was developed with the partnership and consultation of not only Premier and IBM but also more than 100 of the nation’s leading health systems. It allows providers nationwide to interact as one in communities of common interest, sharing learnings, data and strategies based on thousands of patient outcomes that can be used to benefit treatment anywhere.

It also supports new ways to deliver care that are required by health reform, including accountable care, which emphasizes more clinical integration and healthier outcomes.

At the local level, care will be connected across all sites – hospitals, physician offices, outpatient clinics – and these providers will know which patients are driving undesirable outcomes, which physicians have the highest costs or the poorest performance, and why these scenarios are occurring.

For patients, this means confidence that their providers understand everything about their care – what drugs they’re taking or allergic to, what procedures they’ve had recently and more. No more unnecessary care that can compromise safety and add to already expensive bills for both consumers and health systems.

These population analytic capabilities also provide insight into how to manage populations for improved outcomes. Connecting this data, providers can incorporate predictive modeling of patient risk to better profile an entire population, not just those who they have treated.

President and CEO of the Cincinnati-based Catholic Health Partners, Michael D. Connelly, M.A., J.D., FACHE, sums it up well when he says, “With this information we can further build out the predictive capabilities that will help us find opportunities and enact corrective actions before they affect patients. This initiative is a critical foundational piece to our mission…to improve the health of our communities.”

Stakeholders across a health system all can benefit from PremierConnect. For instance, an infection preventionist can be alerted to possible harm-related events within their system through real-time, house-wide surveillance. They can also better coordinate care with other departments, such as Pharmacy, to ensure the proper drugs are administered.

And a supply chain executive can interact with peers nationwide to get feedback on products they’re considering for contracts so they can make purchasing decisions based not just on price but also quality and safety based on thousands of outcomes.

What we’ve built mirrors what we’re trying to do in healthcare – build a system that is coordinated and integrated, where communication is dramatically improved and we aren’t unnecessarily repeating work.

That’s the vision for where we’re going. And when we work together to build a unified vision based on the innovations we know are out there, we can adapt and we can improve.

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