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Why is it so Difficult to Connect Patient Information?

Patient information cannot be shared in a system where collaboration is siloed.

By Linda Stotsky | HIMSS Social Media Ambassador

This is a complicated question. Depending on who you ask, there are multiple and conflicting answers. It is difficult to connect patient information due to policy, regulation, and/or practice. Connecting patient information is an ongoing issue that’s difficult to fix through attention to only one factor.

At the center of the struggle is the patient-provider relationship. While many patients are still struggling to have meaningful conversations with their care providers, physicians have a continuous struggle with regulatory compliance, leaving little time to coordinate patient information OUTSIDE of the four walls of a facility. Time demands continue to soar, making it difficult to connect the dots. Digital mastery is hard, coupled with time crunches which seem to be getting shorter and shorter. We can binge watch “streamed” television shows on any platform, connect with others on Skype, Firetalk, Snap Chat and send secure PDF’s anywhere, so what will it take for healthcare to catch up with other industries?

Patient information cannot be shared in a system where collaboration is siloed. Health Information Exchanges (HIE) have failed in their ability to provide a sustainable financial model, housing regional stores of siloed data that is unused, not current and cannot be shared across geographical barriers. Patient matching errors are different for every care setting, making it much more difficult to push out information that it is to receive it.

Low income individuals experience unmet needs often resulting in challenging social and economic issues that can exacerbate the need for treatment. Our system of coordinating health agency care is completely fragmented. Information is difficult to obtain, making coordination across health silos particularly difficult. We do not link mental health and public health information. By addressing duplications in time and documentation, we can better coordinate the transfer of patient information between facilities, focusing on a “whole-person” strategy to address the health of patient populations regardless of socio-economic determinants.

How do we share patient information across care setting, regardless of provider, facility, and platform?

  • Develop a single standard of data sharing. Presently each EHR system, health organization, and public health agency uses multiple systems, resulting in siloed data. It’s time we get up to the speed of technology with a single standard that is part of the software development process, hardwired into each system. We need to make the sharing of patient data as easy as the streaming of chats, TV and movies.
  • Don’t segregate healthcare outliers. Develop a “whole person” health system that sees one medical record regardless of the twists and turns of the patient from facility to facility. By enhancing the ability of federal agencies and community healthcare to talk, we can better coordinate healthcare, leading to greater efficiency at a reduced cost, improving outcomes and increasing public safety.
  • Expand telehealth resources. Poor medication adherence takes the lives of 125,000 Americans annually, and costs the healthcare system over $275 billion a year. This results in multiple doctor, emergency department and hospital visits. Telehealth is a powerful tool that can fill in gaps and connect health information that other forms of communication leave open. Telehealth offers a way for patients to reach out to a provider, facility and care coordinator concerning questions about medications, diagnoses and post-acute care. Consults, specialists-on-call, remote patient monitoring and mental health e-visits improve medication adherence, reduce the need for multiple physical visits, improve ADE’s and address the needs of the “whole patient” across multiple (and even fragmented) care settings.

In 2017 we can see technology integration expand beyond the health silo, allowing us to better manage high-utilizer patient populations, connect data across care settings, and reduce the overall cost to our healthcare system. But we must be willing to embrace the digital divide, connect the disconnected and unleash the data locked inside our silos, generating meaningful, actionable insight for all patients and caregivers. The “humanization of healthcare” strikes the ideal blend of head and heart, encouraging expertise from diverse fields, all united with the singular goal of improving patient outcomes.

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