Health care delivery is increasingly shifting to a focus on meeting the demands of patients and less about them navigating the provider model.
I recently attended the 2014 HIMSS Conference and found one major theme dominated the conference: the health delivery system is shifting from a physician-centric model to a patient-centric model. What does this mean? It means that the focus of health care delivery is becoming more focused on empowering the patient and delivering care to patients on their terms and moving away from the highly-structured provider delivery model. Consumers are taking more initiative to be informed about their health and demanding that health care services not just provide a certain level of care, but that the experience is a positive one. They expect the same level of service (or better) with their health care that they receive from other industries.
An important piece to delivering health care in a patient-centric model is the utilization of consumer technologies, specifically mobile applications and consumer use of personal health records (PHR). Mobile technology is a driving force behind patient empowerment. Besides the obvious uses of patients being able to schedule appointments and search provider directories, patients want to access their test results and the same medical information that physicians have in making a prognosis. This increased desire for engagement is a positive for providers because an informed patient helps the physician create a health care interaction where they can provide counsel on care, rather than just prescribing it. Additionally, mobile technologies are helping to give telehealth the boost it needs to provide elements of care in the patients’ preferred environment. I expect to see this trend increase rapidly over the next few years, especially with the increase in health insurance coverage for citizens from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
One of the other key factors is the proliferation of PHRs. These enable consumers to access their own medical histories (some through mobile applications) and helps increase the continuity of care because of the almost immediate access it provides to all medical personnel treating a patient. Gone are the days of waiting for a patient’s medical history and test results to arrive in the mail. This almost real-time availability of information helps get care delivered accurately and expediently, which leads to better health outcomes. Last year, the WEDI Foundation released a report that cited recommendations for enhancing patient engagement through health information technology, such as PHRs. Three key recommendations of the report were:
- Standardize the patient identification process across the healthcare system.
- Expand Health IT education and literacy programs for consumers to encourage greater use of Health IT, with a goal of achieving better care management and overall wellness.
- Identify and promote effective and actionable electronic approaches to patient information capture, maintenance, and secure and appropriate access that leverage mobile devices and "smart" technologies and applications.
Some other key takeaways from the conference are that physicians need to better understand the use of the data they offer up and that and Health Information Exchanges (HIE) are becoming the independent trusted agent to payers, providers, and consumers for health information. To increase the revenues that support sustainability and to drive value-add services, HIEs are beginning to sell analytical services to payers and providers to further demonstrate HIE value.