Valerie Manak contributed to this post.
Health information technology (IT) adoption is critical to achieving delivery system transformation that will yield quality improvements in care. The BPC-sponsored National Health IT and Delivery System Transformation Summit explored how effective use of health IT can support new models of care.
The summit brought together a diverse crowd, including government officials like HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Farzad Mostashari, health policy experts, providers, and other key stakeholders from across the nation. At the conference, panels discussed how HIT is the lynchpin that makes possible delivery system reforms such as the creation and usability of medical homes. These new care delivery models hold promise to improve the quality of care patients receive and make the health care system more efficient, affordable, and accountable.
In her address to the conference Monday morning, Secretary Sebelius addressed how the urgency to control health care costs due to the larger budget climate presents the challenge to lower costs while improving care – two goals CMS Administrator Dr. Don Berwick argued at our event last month that rather counter-intuitively go together. Electronic medical records are integral in this mission as they enable the coordination and communication necessary for ACOs and patient-centered medical homes to operate efficiently. These new delivery systems promote better quality care through practices like greater follow up with discharged patients and increased information at each point of care. The process is not easy – it takes leadership and a commitment to changing old habits, but as Secretary Sebelius maintained, the potential payoff is enormous. Dr. Mostashari echoed the sentiment that HIT is not an end itself, but rather offers caregivers the tools to provide targeted, higher quality care. He likened the current delivery of health care to the sale of shoes: only the people who walk in the store get assistance. HIT, he argued, allows doctors and other caregivers to see outside the shoe store. With new tools, providers can engage in more extensive, efficiently targeted, preventative care by not being limited to serving the people who walk in the door any given day, often after they have developed a serious health condition. Of vital concern, he noted, is ensuring that the development and implementation process of new systems is nimble and therefore able to adapt to the unique needs of each practice. The event featured an extensive mix of panelists whose slides can be found here. Highlights include:
- Representatives from several Beacon Communities relayed how their use of HIT and health information exchange (HIE) has resulted in care coordination and better outcomes, particularly in rural areas;
- Dana Gelb Safran from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts discussed BCBSMA’s Alternative Quality Contract, which is an optional payment method aimed at aligning the incentives of health care delivery across caregivers and payers. This program is supported by the ability to collect and analyze data;
- A panel featuring John Crosby, Dr. A. John Blair, III, Dr. James Dearing, and Dr. Karen DeSalvo emphasized the importance of training physicians to use HIT and of having a HIT strategy that fits the practice.
This event demonstrated – despite the highly fluid and unpredictable environment health care professionals are operating in – that many organizations in the health care industry are finding ways to use IT to innovate health care delivery and improve quality of care. Many others are interested in applying the lessons from early innovation to their own practices.