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1: Hospitals, physicians and other providers must be aligned across the continuum of care, sharing strategic and clinical objectives as well as financial incentives. Without engaged physicians who buy in to the collaborative approach, change simply won’t happen. Establishing mutually ben- eficial arrangements between healthcare organizations and physicians helps meet patient-centered goals by creating a system where all parties are accountable and rewarded for high performance.

It will also become increasingly critical for hospitals to de- velop a collaborative culture among previously independent physician practices, invest in physician leadership develop- ment training, adopt evidence-based care protocols and cre- ate multidisciplinary teams that not only treat patients when they’re ill, but also support patient efforts to remain healthy. 2: The need for greater information sharing across providers demands the development of an innovative and comprehensive health information technology (HIT) envi- ronment. Timely and real-time access to information by all stakeholders plays a crucial role in clinical decision making, information management and communications, helping to improve patient safety, quality and efficiency. In particular, the adoption and meaningful use of elec- tronic health records (EHRs) – propelled by federal financial incentives – can act as a game changer, providing the criti- cal real-time information required to more effectively and efficiently diagnose and treat patients at the point of care, whether at the hospital bedside, physician’s office or patient’s home. Health information exchange (HIE) is also becoming increasingly critical for facilitating the internal and external collaboration key to better, results-focused care. However, the capability to capture, access and share in- formation marks only the beginning. C-suite leadership must spearhead the use of HIT to create knowledge-driven orga- nizations. That means performing sophisticated data mining and analysis to enable continuous care and performance improvement, learning, planning, evaluation and operational efficiency. It also involves leveraging the technology to better understand population disease patterns and develop new care strategies for reinforcing public health.

Selecting and deploying the right information tech- nologies to fast-forward their clinical integration efforts can pose daunting challenges for healthcare organizations. EHR adoption and deployment demands careful organizational development, expansion and launching. At the same time, hospitals must ensure they have implemented a robust infra- structure that incorporates the security, networking, storage, server and mobility solutions necessary to accommodate the required systems, products and services. Recognizing this, AHA Solutions – a subsidiary of the American Hospital As- sociation – assists hospitals with identifying and researching technologies, products and services best aligned with sup- porting clinical integration efforts.

Building a foundation for success

Since there’s no one-size-fits-all model for clinical inte- gration, hospitals and healthcare organizations need to take a comprehensive view to planning and executing an effective approach. Although hospitals must tailor individual tactics to meet their specific needs, successful clinical integration programs should include these key components: • Mechanisms that monitor and manage utilization of healthcare services, helping to control costs and delivery of higher-quality care;

• Alliances with physicians who share a vision of greater collaboration and coordination of care and are willing to practice in an environment with new rules;

• A commitment to invest financial and human resources in the infrastructure necessary to support clinical inte- gration; and

• A comprehensive information technology system. To build the framework and implement the strategies that ensure clinical integration can become a reality, forward- thinking healthcare organizations are creating cross-functional teams of administrative and clinical leaders and partnering with vendors, consultants and industry groups. These or- ganizations recognize that when the shockwaves of change stop reverberating and the dust settles, they will need to be prepared for a fundamentally different healthcare environ- ment. By practicing clinical integration, hospitals can achieve compliance with healthcare reform legislation, serve patients more effectively and operate more efficiently in a world where long-term sustainability will depend on consistently achieving better outcomes at lower costs.


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