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Microsoft in Health

Four ways to meet healthcare reform rules and global imperatives

05 June 2014 | Clifford Goldsmith, MD, Managing Director, US Healthcare Providers
If you’re a health leader in the US, meeting Meaningful Use (MU) Stage 2 and future Stage 3 requirements is likely something you think about a lot, especially given the draft recommendations for Stage 3 discussed by the MU Workgroup.  For Meaningful Use Stage 1, you probably relied on your Electronic Health Record (EHR) certification alone. For the next stages of MU you’re likely realizing you need more flexibility and agility to extend your EHR functionality.
The overarching objectives of the MU program are to improve patient care, enhance care coordination, and increase patient and family engagement, with privacy and security as a non-negotiable. These are US reform guidelines, of course, but health organizations around the world share the same objectives as they look to improve population health and rein in healthcare costs.  Health leaders everywhere are thinking about not just meaningful use, but meaningful engagement—and are looking to implement a comprehensive patient and family engagement strategy. 
To achieve these global imperatives, you need technologies that help your health organization become more accountable for a patient’s health across the care continuum – beyond episodic care and piecework to collaborative teamwork.
So while I’m about to get quite specific about three of the seventeen MU2 requirements and one given MU3 requirement, whether you’re in the US or elsewhere across the globe, it’s vital to think beyond your EHR to technology services that can enable the following:
  • Providing patient-specific education resources. One of the MU2 criteria is that a health organization is able to provide patient-specific educational resources based on the patient’s condition, diagnosis, or procedure. To do that, you will need technologies that can help you provide customized education and communication to patients. For example, a patient relationship management system can help you provide targeted, interactive educational outreach at the necessary level of scale. And unified communications technologies can help you respond quickly to patient inquiries with the right information, using personalized automation wherever possible, whether via text, phone, or video conference. You can also use collaboration platforms to share documents such as medication instructions or care plans.
  • Communicating with patients via secure, electronic messaging. Another MU2 requirement is that health organizations are able to send and receive electronic messages with patients in a highly secure manner.  Physicians and nurses are seldom waiting for messages in their EHR, but instead are mobile with email, texting, and voice on their smartphones. This is where unified communications technologies with the appropriate security features, such as encryption and authentication, play an all-important role in concert with the EHR.
  • Making patients’ care information available online. This is one of the MU2 requirements that have been in the news a lot. It requires that hospitals make patients’ care information available online within 36 hours after they’re discharged. Many EHRs have the capability to do this via a portal. Where it becomes trickier, however, is tracking the availability and access of patient care information. And this is critical because the requirement calls for a hospital to demonstrate that it’s made care information available for more than 50 percent of its unique patients and that 5 percent of patients actually view their data. Steward Health Care System, the largest fully integrated community care organization and community hospital network in New England in the US, is addressing this requirement with a solution from Microsoft HealthVault partner, GetRealHealth.  It enables them to not only make patient records available online—based on patient-permissions and in a highly secure manner—it also provides monitoring and reporting features.
  • Measuring and reporting. Speaking of monitoring and reporting, based on the draft recommendations, it looks like Stage 3 will require that health organizations do more of both, especially around care quality, outcomes, and population health. Today’s powerful, yet easy-to-use analytics tools can help. One area that health organizations will increasingly want to be able to analyze is patient satisfaction. Already, under the Affordable Care Act, hospital reimbursements are influenced by patient satisfaction. Toward that end, iLink Systems offers a Checklist Framework app that health organizations can use to quickly and easily create and manage patient satisfaction checklists, surveys, and forms that can help identify areas for improvement.  

In other words, there are many ways to make sure you’re ready for MU2 and the coming MU3 deadlines. And beyond meeting US reform requirements, surrounding your EHR with technologies to empower patients with health information, enable connected holistic care, move providers from piecework to teamwork, and gain insight into your performance can help improve your patients’ health and the sustainability of your bottom line.

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Clifford Goldsmith, MD
Managing Director, US Healthcare Providers