Deploying Health IT and Patient-Centered Process Improvement for Innovation

September 16, 2012
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Many have gathered in Washington, DC this week to celebrate National Health IT week.  With the goal of raising awareness regarding healthcare information technology, numerous organizations are highlighting the increasingly essential role it plays in delivering high-quality, patient-centered healthcare.  While few would dispute its pivotal nature, health IT fans must also be quick to acknowledge that in silo it will not render results, but must be strategically utilized in thoughtful, pragmatic processes that d

Many have gathered in Washington, DC this week to celebrate National Health IT week.  With the goal of raising awareness regarding healthcare information technology, numerous organizations are highlighting the increasingly essential role it plays in delivering high-quality, patient-centered healthcare.  While few would dispute its pivotal nature, health IT fans must also be quick to acknowledge that in silo it will not render results, but must be strategically utilized in thoughtful, pragmatic processes that drive evidence-based outcomes.  And according to Dr. Andrew Litt, the need for clinical transformation – fundamentally altering the way care is delivered versus simply automating current processes – will be key, if we, as a nation, are to succeed in revolutionizing healthcare.

For the good news, there are multiple examples of innovative programs leading this charge.  One such enterprising example is the congestive heart failure clinic at the Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee.  Founded by Nurse Practitioner, Julia Bates, this free clinic was established to help patients with education, medication reconciliation, healthcare access issues and disease management.  Having previously extolled the virtues of the nurse led clinic, it would be intriguing to measure the impact of a disease registry combined with population health management tools that strive to engage the patient in a variety of mediums.  And better yet, providing access to this website through a patient portal would facilitate the search for appropriate and available health coverage, thereby  minimizing healthcare access issues.  But even with the potential to reduce emergency department re/admissions and generate significant cost savings, this clinic will, no doubt, continue to face many challenges validating this assumption under the auspices of value-based purchasing.

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Knowing that they are not alone in this endeavor, with access to Essentia Health System’s pioneering work in their advance practice nurse led heart failure clinic, will, however, prove to be helpful.  As noted in the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality’s (AHRQ) service delivery innovation brief, Heart Failure Disease Management Improves Outcomes and Reduces Costs, Essentia Health restructured outpatient care for heart failure patients by incorporating a combination of chronic care and disease management principles with home telemonitoring for high-risk patients to decrease medication use, improve outcomes and functional status, and reduce readmission rates, length of stay, and overall costs of care for the health system.  Tune in to find out how health information technology and patient-centered process improvement, in concert, enabled this healthcare innovation.