With this tech fix, we can improve the healthcare experience for all | Opinion

Chasing after unavailable yet necessary health information wastes precious time and resources, burns out providers, and frustrates patients

Lung cancer concept. doctor explaining results of lung check up from x-ray scan chest on digital tablet screen to patient.

(Getty Images)

By the Regional Executive Strategic Council of Northeast Pennsylvania 

Have you ever shown up for a prescribed medical test, but no one at the testing facility can locate your doctor’s order? Have you ever been referred to a specialist who orders the same medical tests that your primary care doctor recently ordered for you? Have you ever wondered why your health care providers do not seem to communicate with one another effectively?

For most patients, the answer to these questions is yes, but it does not have to be this way. With advanced electronic health record (EHR) systems and modern connectivity technology, improving the universal quality, coordination, cost, and experience of health care throughout our country is possible and within reach.

Patients and providers share the inefficiencies and frustration of delays in care, unnecessary repetitive testing, and miscommunication when important health information is missing at the point of care. The wasted time and resources spent chasing or mitigating the absence of such crucial information are enormous, and the added time in reaching diagnoses and beginning treatment can be harmful to patients’ health and well-being.

True health information technology (HIT) interoperability among systems utilized by health care providers, insurers, and patients will enhance access to health services, improve the outcomes and experience of care, and make care more affordable for all stakeholders.

Put simply, HIT interoperability allows any provider you authorize for your care delivery to access, review, and discuss your relevant health information through coordinated, real-time data exchanges.

This enables cooperation and shared care planning across your care team to identify problems and appropriate treatment faster and with increased accuracy, while avoiding the hassle, costs, and inefficiency of repeating tests or experiencing the unintended consequences of delayed care guidance.

HIT interoperability is imperative to achieving high-quality, coordinated, affordable patient care delivery Workforce shortages, critical resource constraints, and inflated prices for services, pharmaceuticals, and other medical supplies challenge our national care delivery and insurance systems.

Chasing after unavailable yet necessary health information wastes precious time and resources, burns out providers, and frustrates patients who can be surprised and even harmed medically and financially by uninformed, ineffective, and duplicate care.

The lack of HIT interoperability throughout our national health care system is glaringly nonsensical. Our Regional Executive Strategic Council believes the time is now to improve the quality, coordination, experience, and value for patients through HIT interoperability.

The lack of HIT interoperability is no longer tenable, and several federal initiatives to advance interoperability and penalize information blocking are in progress as a result.

For example, the U.S. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, in collaborative alignment with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, has stepped forward to lead industry-wide change by launching the Promoting Interoperability Program to improve our national health care delivery system and patient outcomes.

There is a clear call for a future in which all health care stakeholders must be connected to an information technology system with integrated platform usability at every patient care touchpoint and care setting.

Patients’ access to and bidirectional communication with these health care systems will be mandatory. The scope of our national HIT interoperability must include the socioeconomic determinants of health and connection to enriched and responsive community health and social resource networks. All payers, providers, and integrated delivery systems will be required to participate.

As concerned citizens, you can join the effort and do your part by communicating at every available opportunity to your health care providers, elected officials, and other leaders that we expect free-flowing health information to optimize patient care.

Your voice as health care consumers can create momentum to accelerate our federal government’s goal for accelerating HIT interoperability. Emerging federal sanctions on information blocking will generate additional fuel for the flow of vital information.

In the coming months, our guest editorials will highlight opportunities and challenges of HIT interoperability along with the details of our proposed regional action strategy. We will share our progress in achieving better health care for everyone through improved coordination among health care and social services providers, which will present additional opportunities for you to reinforce this messaging.

A preferred future of HIT interoperability across system stakeholders is truly within reach. Thank you for joining our effort to make it a reality.

This commentary was co-authored by Robert Cole, Ph.D., Allied Services; Thomas DePietro, PharmD., DePietro’s Pharmacy; Harold E. Flack II, business leader; Linda Thomas-Hemak, M.D., The Wright Center; Robert Naismith, Ph.D., Jujama, Inc.; Ken Okrepkie, MHR, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania; and Teri Ooms, The Institute.

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Capital-Star Guest Contributor
Capital-Star Guest Contributor

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation on how politics and public policy affects the day-to-day lives of people across the commonwealth.