I’m one of those people who doesn’t feel a day over 25. In reality, I’m 11 years past my quarter-century mark. In my mind, I haven’t changed a bit. Then I see my friend’s children. Her eldest has gone from a roly-poly baby to a lean, mean junior high school football-playing machine. He also brings home straight-As (he’s not mine, but I’m still proud).
Because they live in Indianapolis, a good 5-hour drive from Chicago, I see them a few times a year. While I don’t feel like I change, her kids are proof that much can happen in a few months, and the difference a year makes is amazing.
The folks over at HIMSS recognize what my friend’s kids have taught me — a lot can happen in just 365 days. In honor of National Health IT Week, Sept. 10 to 14, they’re hosting a blog carnival highlighting the answers to the question, ““How will health IT make a difference a year from now at the next National Health IT Week?”
Like growing children, there are many ways health IT is changing and developing. Most interesting to me are the ways patients and consumers are using technology to help manage their healthcare. As more and more people start using smart phones and tablet computers, I think the number of e-patients will only continue to grow.
In fact, just last week I ran across an EHR service called MotherKnows. By creating a paid account, parents get access to their children’s medical records through digital tools managed by MotherKnows. Parents are willing to pay for a lot of things (like toothpaste tubes adorned by SpongeBob), but I think tools like this will gain popularity in other groups of patients, too. Could GrandpaKnows be next? Seniors undoubtly could benefit from having their medical records.
Healthcare providers can also benefit from having informed, EHR-toting patients. It would take the guesswork out of taking a patient’s health history. Plus, it would help increase patient safety, especially for those patients who are traveling or those with multiple healthcare providers.
Over the next year, we’ll not only see a rise in the number of e-patients but also an increase in health care providers encouraging patients to use digital tools. Well-informed patients are invested in their care and this investment can lead to better outcomes. And patient outcomes have gained importance with the development of Accountable Care Organizations and the Affordable Care Act.
ACOs are intended to improve patient outcomes and decrease costs by encouraging healthcare professionals to work together to offer preventive care, to manage chronic conditions and to improve patient safety. Providers who achieve these goals will get paid for meeting specific outcomes. Those who don’t meet the predefined quality benchmarks may see cuts in reimbursement.
Achieving these goals won’t just come from the provider alone. To make a real difference in patient outcomes, patients themselves need to be on board. They need to be aware of the best actions to maintain and to achieve good health. They also need the support to keep striving for their health goals. Health IT can make the difference in meeting these goals.
Though all parts of the ACA won’t be launched until 2014, we know that providers are already making major investments to prepare for the changing healthcare landscape. Over the next year, expect to see patients and providers embrace health IT as a means of meeting their health and wellness goals.
For more ideas on how health IT will make a difference in the next year, check out the HIMSS blog on Sept. 10.
Jennifer Thew, RN, MSJ
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