I say YES but not solely by the transfer and movement of information across exchanges. The value proposition lies not in the dollars but in the ability to improve quality for the patients, care provider, and health system.
In today’s environment, health systems and hospitals with an EHR have realized some efficiency in testing and scheduling and, where they can, have optimized patient throughput. These same benefits can be pushed to the provider through a health exchange. This is, in my opinion, low hanging fruit, but the real magic lies elsewhere.
Hidden within any health exchange is the ability to improve healthcare delivery by shifting the way care is delivered. If you are looking for a value proposition, don’t look at the numbers. Look instead at how you can change the delivery model for each stakeholder — the ability to shift care from episodic to proactive; or from acute care to wellness. Yes that’s right I’m talking about the medical home and an HIE as the tools to enable this model, not only in clinics and health systems but in small physician offices as well.
A robust and mature health exchange can deliver a platform for a virtual medical home. By providing a mechanism to move clinical and demographic information, we can also provide a means to push best practice guidelines and evidence based medicine models with alerts, reminders and the ability to establish a dialogue about care. Technology can provide the vehicle to remind patients about appointments, to take medication, or to schedule follow-up visits. More importantly, it has the power to provide the clinician the best practice guidelines for treating illness, and establishes a standard of care which can be replicated and evaluated for effectiveness.
The value of an HIE to a hospital or health systems is the benefit of expanding the physician referral base and a means to build physician loyalty, while helping to manage rising costs against declining reimbursements. Add to this the potential to promote profitable ancillary services and a model emerges which increases quality, consistency of care, and potential revenue.
For the patient there is an enhanced experience through the elimination of duplicate tests and access to a PHR detailing the treatment plan. A mature HIE will provide reminders, pave an avenue for asking questions, keep track of medication, provide reference material and, overall, can reduce time-to-wellness. As the suit salesman said, “An educated consumer is our best customer.”
The care provider gains streamlined access to essential patient data right at point of care, shared interconnected clinical information anytime, anywhere, and reduced patient risk by streamlining and coordinating the data sharing between ambulatory and acute care settings. By offering the clinician evidence-based medicine tools in care, by delivering clinical decision support tools to providers, small practices will start to understand the nature of their patient population and potentially improve outcomes for there patients.
The promise of improved care and reduced cost is here. Are we brave enough to grasp it?