Health Information Technology (HIT) – Hype or Promise of a Better Healthcare System?


Salim Kizaraly, Founder & SVP of Business Development at Stella Technology, a healthcare information technology start-up, talked about the promise of  Health Information Technology in solving care coordination, physician collaboration, and system integration challenges to improve healthcare, at a recent http://www.bio2devicegroup.org event.

Kizaraly began by sharing the known fact that the mounting and huge healthcare costs in the US, that do not result in significant improvement in health, are not sustainable.  According to some estimates, almost 18.3% of GDP in the US, goes towards healthcare expenditure.  If the cost of healthcare continues to rise at historical rates, the share of GDP going towards healthcare in the US, is projected to reach 34%, by 2040.  While the costs continue to rise, gains on health improvement do not keep pace.  For instance, life expectancy in the US is only 78.4 years and US ranks 27th out of 34 industrialized nations.  In this study of industrialized nations, US had highest to near highest infant mortality rates.

Kizaraly discussed the three defining historical events that got the ball rolling on healthcare transformation.  In 2004, President Bush announced that in the next 10 years, by 2014, every American would have an access to electronic health records. We have a long way to go, but certainly we are moving in that direction.  In 2009, HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic & Clinical Health) Act, enacted as part of the ARRA (American Recovery & Reinvestment) Act, was signed into law, to promote the adoption and meaningful use of HIT and included incentives for faster adoption of EMR (Electronic Medical Records).  In 2010, the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, with its mandate to expand coverage, cemented the case regarding the need towards transformation.

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection an...

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Affordable Care Act’s most significant contribution is to creating ACOs or Accountable Care Organizations.  An ACO can be defined “as a set of health care providers, including primary care physicians, specialists, and hospitals that work together collaboratively and accept collective accountability for the cost and quality of care delivered to a population of patients”. There are incentives to keep patients out of the extreme settings of care, including hospitals and nursing homes.  Different models are emerging of how these organizations put this into practice.  Underlying issue is that hospitals have to get better at treating patients.  Hospitals are bracing for lower revenues as they get better at keeping patients out of hospitals.  Different models of care are emerging.  Technology will be a big enabler to change workflow, rethink care, as homes emerge as places of care.  Here is link to my article on Keynote by Dr. Toby Cosgrove, CEO of Cleveland Clinic, at 2014 J P Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco –http://bit.ly/1c3EyBB .  Cosgrove also said, that hospitals will not longer be epicenters of care, and while a few hospitals (e.g Cleveland Clinic) will be super high tech, they will partner and share resources with other care providers, to offset costs.  The disruptions will eventually enable us to “build a healthcare system that is humane, high quality, and sustainable”, said Cosgrove.

Kizraly discussed several national initiatives that are implemented or partially implemented to enhance collaboration among care providers and integration of information.  For instance, if a person experiences an emergency visiting New York, then eHealth Exchange will make it easy to get their health records from the state of their residence. Similarly, Blue Button makes it easy for Americans to get easy, secure, online access to their health records, with a single click.

Stella Technology is a self-funded health information technology services and product development company that focuses on care coordination, patient access, and information exchange projects.  Kizraly shared use cases and information on how Stella is helping providers, with great success, in integrating care.  Through aggregating data from a variety of sources, through identifying gaps in care, and with real-time, proactive analytics, Stella’s technology identifies care opportunities that can be improved and accordingly targets interventions.  In the long term these kinds of strategic technological interventions will enable care providers to curtail expenditure, while improving care. In the interim, we still have a long way to go and there are many opportunities for entrepreneurs to use technological advancements in big data, cloud, machine learning, (IOT) internet of things, and enable US healthcare system to become more efficient, with lower costs and improved outcomes.  Kizraly’s talk was followed by Q&A.

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