HIMSS 2013: Mayhem or Magic?

March 10, 2013
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With the closing of the HIMSS13 annual conference, I am reminded of the question posed previously – can health ITs newest ideas reduce cost, improve quality and facilitate patient engagement?

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With the closing of the HIMSS13 annual conference, I am reminded of the question posed previously – can health ITs newest ideas reduce cost, improve quality and facilitate patient engagement?  In lieu of the recent sequestration events, continued emphasis on value-based purchasing and a still troubled economy, the battle will likely wage uphill.   On a positive note, providers continue to join the ranks of the digital world in terms of medical records and care coordination…but at an alarmingly slow pace.  And while patients are becoming more interested in accessing and sharing their healthcare data, numerous obstacles plague their efforts.

So, how do we find trifecta – where cost reduction, quality improvement and patient engagement peacefully co-exist?  After stumbling on a conversation with SETMA’s Larry Holly, I am reminded of a key overarching principle – perhaps the fulcrum – being the distinct need for both provider and patient behavior change.  As Dr. Holly shares, while healthcare data and technology have evolved at lightning speed, many of the processes associated with utilization have not.  In order to facilitate population management and patient engagement, systems must promote data exchange, add value to clinicians’ diagnostic/therapeutic processes and strengthen relationships with their patients. Without these capabilities, even the highly customized EMR and mobile applications currently in existence will fail; instead igniting the angst and ire of their users.

Dr. Holly goes on to point out that organizations need to look internally to find the creativity and energy for change while continuing to leverage external experts in this field and others.  And according to Warner Thomas, Oschner Health System CEO, one such field to explore is the airline industry.  With costs spiraling out of control, the airline industry has been forced to automate and reengineer their processes in order to stay competitive – all in the midst of improving customer satisfaction.  A slippery slope, to say the least.  Healthcare, an inherently conservative and compassionate industry, has enabled patients and providers seeking to maintain status quo.  And while there a select number of healthcare systems that have partnered with vendors to disrupt this mentality, it will be interesting to see how this theme carries over to the annual meeting of the American College of Healthcare Executives, premiering shortly at Chicago’s Palmer House Hilton.

Reading a quote by Arthur C. Clarke, “Technology, properly applied, is indistinguishable from magic.”, I am reminded that healthcare IT is one part art, one part science.  With the opportunity to realize Warner Thomas’ goals – better quality, lower cost and happier providers – the question is, do you believe in magic?

 image: innovation/shutterstock

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