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Power to the patient

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  By Geeta Nayyar, M.D., M.B.A.,  September 17, 2013

Why National Health IT Week matters.

In today’s society, technology has become deeply woven into the fabric of our daily lives. At home, at work and while traveling, we rely on our smartphones, tablets and computers for news, information, conversation and entertainment. But information technology (IT) is not yet close to reaching its potential in the healthcare sector.

That's why National Health Information Technology Week (Sept. 16-20), a virtual event with various activities in communities from Maine to California, is so important to patients, physicians and hospitals in the United States. Now in its eighth year, National Health IT Week is a collaborative forum of providers, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, research foundations and consumer protection groups coming together to address some of the pressing issues in the industry that technology can help solve.

In focusing the nation's attention on technology, National Health IT Week highlights how "smart" mobile applications, predictive analytic tools, patient engagement systems and other forms of technology will transform the delivery of care in the near future.

As a practicing physician who is deeply involved in the national health IT conversation, I believe that technology is the foundation for improving the quality of healthcare delivery, increasing patient safety, decreasing medical errors and strengthening the interaction between patients and healthcare providers. That's also the message of National Health IT Week, whose theme is, appropriately, "One Voice, One Vision: Transforming Health and Care."

Today, technology is transforming our nation's healthcare system in many exciting ways, including:

  • New strategies for physicians and other providers to reach out to and engage patients more effectively;
  • Mobile applications that can significantly improve patient health and wellness;
  • Predictive analytics that tap the potential of "big data" to gather clinical information, analyze its significance and drive better patient outcomes;
  • Large-scale systems to help hospitals and health systems streamline their clinical and business operations; and
  • Smoother integration and sharing of electronic medical records (EMRs) and other patient health information confidentially and securely in accountable care organizations (ACOs) and other delivery settings.

As the nation moves forward with implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, technology will continue to play a key role in healthcare reform – not just for better care but for cost control and greater efficiency as well. Without continued advancements in health IT, providers will find it extremely challenging to meet their dual goals of quality clinical care and cost containment.

At the same time, we must recognize that health IT faces significant challenges that must be addressed, including data privacy and security issues, as well as the interoperability question: How can data generated by different applications on different platforms in different formats be seamlessly shared among providers, patients, pharmacies, laboratories and other players?

But ultimately, health IT will only reach its potential when it, too, becomes integrated into the daily lives of patients and families: Checking blood pressure or glucose levels in the morning and transmitting that data directly to a doctor or nurse should be just as easy as checking a “status update” on a social media network. Videoconferencing with a doctor on a virtual “home visit” should be just as easy as using Skype or FaceTime with friends. And getting relevant text alerts about medication therapies or eligibility for clinical trials should be just as easy as getting a text from friends and family members.

By bringing together a wide range of viewpoints, National Health IT Week will advance the national discussion on these topics as we build a stronger and more robust healthcare system for everyone.

Learn more about the events taking place this week by checking out the NHIT Week Toolkit or Activities and Agenda pages.

About the author

Geeta Nayyar, M.D., M.B.A., is chief medical information officer (CMIO) for PatientPoint, a company whose leading-edge patient engagement and care coordination solutions bring an integrated perspective to physicians, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and accountable care organizations. Learn more at www.patientpoint.com.


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