By Gary Palgon, VP Healthcare Solutions, Liaison Healthcare Informatics
Many hospitals are transforming into Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs, where they take responsibility to address the overall health of an assigned population rather than the traditional fee for service model. This involves aligning the hospital and other caregivers together, such as independent physician practices and laboratories, for instance, as well as implementing both electronic medical records (digital versions of a patient’s paper chart) and electronic health records (compilations of data from all of a patient’s healthcare providers intended to be shared) in order to maximize efficiency.
Government regulations are a factor driving the transformation. According to Data Center Knowledge, President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act will increase the number of patients and thus the amount of data health-care providers will need to handle. An increase in the workload necessitates an increase in efficiency and data interoperability will help deal with that. Furthermore, according to an online timeline of the bill, incentives for establishing ACOs went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, while the first regulations pushing for making medical records electronic went into effect Oct. 1, 2012.
As a result of this information as well as what we’re seeing in the marketplace, Liaison Healthcare forecasts that 2013 will show a significant increase in the need for data interoperability between internal and external systems. The growing digitization will require making electronic connections that simply were not there before and then translating between the different semantic meanings from the previously disparate parties..
According to a Feb. 15 article in Hospitals and Health Networks, the interoperability needs of an ACO will vary depending on the relationships between, say, the hospital and a medical provider that refers patients. ACO members will need to decide on what type of data needs to be exchanged to maximize efficiency. Another issue affecting interoperability is standards. Although the federal government has established an initial set of standards for health information exchanges, ACO members might exchange data for which no national standard exists
If interoperability concerns are addressed, the digitization of records done as part of the ACO transformation could go a long way to making American health care cheaper and more efficient by the next National Health IT Week.
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