Post-HIMSS17 Recap: What’s the Buzz About?
Putting Together the Pieces of Population Health and Wellness
By Mary Ann Smeltzer, MS, RN-BC, director of clinical informatics, Transcend Insights
Similar to past Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conferences, HIMSS17 was a whirlwind of activity — some 40,000-plus healthcare professionals attended, sharing their ideas, challenges and goals with regard to healthcare information management systems. So, what in particular was the buzz about this year?
What Was Buzzing at HIMSS17
Discussions seemed to focus around issues with population health and care management; questions such as, “How can we use data to improve quality?” and “What’s the easiest way to share data between health partners?” came up continually. It was great to hear everyone’s perspective.
What’s clear is that there’s a demonstrated need to access a wealth of health data from a centralized platform – or healthcare information management systems. From what I gathered, most seemed to agree that the move to population health and wellness is far from a simple process and hinges on integrating disparate data sources and gleaning insights across the care continuum. This was validating to hear, as I’ve focused on such issues for some time.
What Presenters Were Saying
Many presenters commented on how the easy flow of information between health partners is critical for identifying weaknesses and capitalizing on strengths. Here are a few presentations detailing some successes in that regard:
- The Path Forward – A State Program that Guides At-Risk Patients to Care, from the Care Management/Population Health Pre-Conference. Representatives from the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum discussed how they developed a state health information exchange — Louisiana ED Information Exchange (LaEDIE) — to address inappropriate emergency room (ED) utilization by Medicaid patients, enabling them to redirect patients to an appropriate primary care physician, monitor prescription use, schedule follow-ups and predict future risk and expenses — greatly reducing inappropriate ED utilization and hospital readmissions. Why is this important? ED admissions are far more costly than care provided in other ambulatory care sites, such as physicians’ offices or clinics. Additionally, the large volume of patients using the ED for primary care and minor illnesses that could be addressed in clinics results in severe overcrowding, long wait times and delays in providing care to those who truly need ED services. This affects dissatisfaction for patients, physicians and ED staff. Finally, ED care team members do not have a history with these patients and therefore may not be aware of critical information relevant to his or her care. They are not able to follow the patient longitudinally, so continuity of care is lost.
- Winning at Care Coordination Using Data-Driven Partnerships. Presenters described how a collaboration between LifeBridge (Baltimore, MD) and PointRight, Inc. was able to capture and apply predictive analytics to a range of post-acute care data (Minimum Data Set (MDS) and Outcome and Assessment Information Set (OASIS)), helping them to decrease care costs, lower the length of stay and decrease readmissions to acute care by determining which post-acute care facilities would best meet an individual patient’s unique health needs and risk profile. Why is this important? Care coordination requires a longitudinal view of the patient’s health and healthcare. Care should be provided in the most appropriate setting to achieve the best quality and outcomes and the lowest costs of care. Patient needs are not “one size fits all” and neither are the greatest competencies for any healthcare venue. Some facilities are better at some aspects of care and treatment, or focus on specific conditions more than others, and matching patients to the facility that best meets the patient’s individual needs is a win for everyone — both satisfaction and outcomes should increase. If you can predict the best place for a patient to go and give that information to the patient and his or her family, better decisions about where to receive care can be made.
- Using EHRs and Case Management to Improve Patient Care and Population Health. Professionals from the Swedish American Health System in Rockford, IL, described their journey in leveraging electronic health record (EHR) data to improve patient care decision-making by physicians and care managers; physician scorecards enabled them to more closely adhere to clinical standards, while performance graphing helped them to track progress across several chronic diseases. Why is this important? Setting standards of practice and monitoring quality outcomes is only useful if physicians are provided with that information and are able to identify areas where they have strengths and weaknesses as well as where they can learn from colleagues on how to improve their performance. EHRs can provide these insights, but so far, getting the information back has not been easy. Providing information from the EHR to the care team member in the context of his or her daily patient care and decision-making activities helps clinicians better care for patients.
What Attendees Were Saying
Within Transcend Insights’ booth and two of our focus groups, individuals involved in care management — from long-term care specialists to C-level integrated delivery network executives — expressed common sentiments: while healthcare organizations have begun the work to improve care management and population health for long-term wellness, very few have pulled together the pieces of the entire puzzle to enable access to data across the care continuum. In addition, very few have made healthcare data readily available to those who most need it to improve patient care and outcomes —physicians, mid-level clinicians, care/case managers and other healthcare professionals.
Where We’re Headed
As we progress into 2017, I look forward to continuing my work to evolve population health and care management, while transforming healthcare information management system goals into a working reality. Between now and HIMSS18, the evolution of these technologies will surely continue full speed ahead (perhaps next with the monitoring of non-clinical determinants of health) to complete a full, data-led picture of population health and wellness.