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Practice Management

Making decisions for 2011 and beyond

Provider organizations should plan not only for immediate requirements, but also in anticipation of continued industry changes.

By Jeffrey Jacques, M.D. H

ealth information technology (HIT) has been ranked the top issue facing health provider organizations in 2011, based on a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers. It’s no wonder.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 mandates that provider organizations adopt tech- nology that meets federal requirements as early as 2011 or face penalties. But changes in Congress and ongoing contention around healthcare reform have left the fate of these mandates – and the new business models they enable – in fl ux and provider organizations at a crossroads. In this uncertain climate, it is important that provider organizations plan not only for immediate requirements, but also in anticipation of continued industry changes, while still ensuring that the technology ultimately helps provide better quality care to patients.

Meeting short-term HIT requirements While current guidelines require provider organiza- tions to make immediate changes and adopt HIT, they also open the door for organizations to build IT founda- tions that will maximize success and improve quality of care in the long run. Many believe that the fi rst step is to select the right HIT vendor and technology. While this is key, organizations should consider two strate- gies: involving patients in the planning process and taking an accountable care organization (ACO) readi- ness assessment test. Patient involvement has

Jeffrey Jacques, M.D., is chief of clinical innovation, ActiveHealth Management. For more information on ActiveHealth

Management solutions: www.rsleads.com/104ht-201

become a vital element for healthcare organizations as the industry has started shifting toward increasing patients’ engagement in managing their health. As a result, organi- zations that are able to successfully engage, educate and motivate patients will be the most successful; therefore, new technologies should have patient components, such as patient portals. Involving patients in the planning pro- cess is an important way to help ensure these components

20 April 2011

are user friendly, appealing and appropriate. The best way to involve patients in the planning process will depend upon the specifi c organization. A couple ideas to consider include inviting several patients to join a decision-making board that is already in place, convening an independent patient advisory board or soft-sounding ideas with small patient focus groups.

Organizations that might become part of an ACO down the road should consider taking an ACO readiness assessment test. The test enables organizations to identify the steps necessary to becoming an ACO, which can help guide short-term decisions for this year. When an organization is ready to pick an HIT vendor to work with and technology solutions to invest in this year, it should keep in mind upcoming requirements for “meaningful use,” which allow it to qualify for govern- ment funds. The meaningful-use requirement is being rolled out over three stages: • Stage 1 (2011) requires the IT infrastructure to capture and share data (e.g., enable lab results deliv- ery).

Stage 2 (2013) requires stepped-up information exchange, aggregating and applying data (e.g., enable registry/public health reporting).

Step 3 (2015) requires a shift towards relatively routine and regular data exchange, including clinical management and performance improvement (e.g., access of comprehensive data).

Beyond immediate requirements, organizations should keep in mind several critical issues that will ensure their IT structures have the fl exibility to rapidly meet future federal requirements and support improved healthcare – including improved patient care, decreased costs and increased effi ciency. • Data standardization: The technology systems set up this year should capture data in a standardized for- mat, so that as requirements and information change, organizations can be agile and easily add or adjust the system in a timely manner.

HEALTH MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY www.healthmgttech.com

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