The Impending Accountability of Health IT

August 7, 2012
99 Views

I recently attended a charity auction and had the opportunity to bid on something that’s always intrigued me – being a radio talk show host. According to Mrs. Glaser, I always have a lot to say, so this seemed like a great fit. Turns out, I was out bid for the radio spot but I won my back up bid— throwing out the first pitch at an upcoming Red Sox affiliate class A ball game – the Lowell Spinners.

I recently attended a charity auction and had the opportunity to bid on something that’s always intrigued me – being a radio talk show host. According to Mrs. Glaser, I always have a lot to say, so this seemed like a great fit. Turns out, I was out bid for the radio spot but I won my back up bid— throwing out the first pitch at an upcoming Red Sox affiliate class A ball game – the Lowell Spinners.

I’ve heard a lot of politicians and celebrities talk about the tension that accompanies the act of tossing out the first pitch. With all eyes in the stadium on me, I’d like to hope I’ll get it into the catcher’s mitt without plunking the ball off the dirt or lofting it into the stands. In some ways, those of us in healthcare are going to face a similar situation. What I’m referring to is an impending accountability. In about five years, all eyes will be on our industry.

As a nation, we have acknowledged that the way we deliver care can be improved. We have accepted the fact that there are approaches to make care better and to lower the cost of providing it. And while there are many notable efforts that have resulted in gains in care delivery it is not clear that, even if these efforts were broadly adopted, the gains would be sufficient to truly “bend the cost curve” and materially improve care quality.

Recently a “next generation” of efforts has been identified and we have numerous pilot programs and initiatives to determine if their potential is significant. To name just a few, we have programs to evaluate shared savings, methods to coordinate care and ways to increase access to providers. In general, health information technology (HIT) is viewed as an essential enabler for these programs.

Some might argue that health IT is our only hope at improving care. We’ll find out in 2017, when the organizations participating in many of these pilot programs will need to begin reporting their outcomes. Will we find out that these experiments worked? What if the sum of all of these efforts is minimal cost savings? What if the result is that there was only modest improvement in care? What will we do if we find that IT was less potent and important than envisioned? Where will we turn to as our next way to improve what we do?

You know and I know that health IT is not a solution but rather it is a tool. In order for a tool to be effective, it must be designed to fit the demands of the task and those who use it must know how to use it. For the tool to be effective, we have to work at it. And we have to work hard. As vendors, we must constantly improve our offerings. Our solutions have to provide ways to help customers do more with fewer resources. We have to help healthcare providers accept new ways of working not only with technology but with each other. Organizations that may have competed in the past will need to realize that there may be a benefit to working together, sharing data and coordinating care.

When all eyes turn on healthcare to account for what these initiatives have done, hopefully we will all have put the work in to achieve the results that people are expecting. That’s our commitment. Not only will providers be held accountable for care delivery but for improvements in care delivery and so will we – the vendor community.

In the short term, I’ll be out back polishing my fastball. 

 

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