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The possibilities of patient data for better health outcomes

During annual U.S. National Health IT Week, which is Sept. 23-27, the nation’s healthcare stakeholders are focusing on this theme: Supporting Healthy Communities.

The idea behind the week, now in its 14th year, is to continue to drive transformation of our health and wellness ecosystem to promote better health outcomes and health equity.

Beyond that, however, this year the HIMSS-founded event emphasizes ACTION in addition to awareness, through nationwide planned events. It’s an opportunity to elevate our progress to create a health and wellness ecosystem that works for EVERYONE.

It’s an understatement to say we’ve come a long way since To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System was published. That report, issued in November 1999 by the U.S. Institute of Medicine, contained a shocking conclusion that between 44,000 to 98,000 (2-4%) of people die each year as a result of preventable medical errors. It led to important and systemic change.

It’s also an understatement to say “we have more work to do”.

A decade after “To Err” followed passage of The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, it promoted mass adoption and meaningful use of health information technology. In essence the law was to punctuate what many had already started and for the rest (late majority) to actually finish digitizing the U.S. healthcare industry.

It may have started with meaningful use and connecting to the patient record, but today, with that investment made, there’s a much larger concept to be addressed.

Now that we have the data and can make it fluid among heterogeneous systems, what can we do next to provide more efficient, greater access to effective patient care?

Social Determinants

Good health isn’t achieved simply with better medical care. Medical care contributes only about 10% of the factors that make and keep a person healthy.

As outlined in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Steven Schroeder in “We Can Do Better—

Improving the Health of the American People,” a host of other factors account for a good health: Individual behaviors (40%), genetics (30%), social circumstances (15%) and environmental exposures (5%). The Social Determinants of Health are receiving increasing focus not just from medical professionals, but technology companies like ours.

In 2017, former-U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy wrote in the Harvard Business Review that loneliness is becoming a serious healthcare problem. In early 2018, the U.K. appointed a Minister of Loneliness to address an epidemic that some report is worse for your health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

How physicians capture, track and understand Social Determinants will play an increasing role in treatment of the whole person. Making that information available at the point of care will deliver benefits.

Patient data belongs in consumer hands

At Health Datapalooza this year, ONC head Dr. Donald Rucker had this to say about health data: “The era of the provider controlling all of this, I think this is over,” he said. We need a “formal path to put patients back in control of their medical data.”

I agree, and we’ve been advocating this concept for a long time. Today, patient records are available on iPhones thanks to a partnership between Allscripts and Apple. The Apple Health Records app is now able to connect with our EHR solutions: SunriseTM, Allscripts TouchWorks® EHR and Allscripts Professional EHRTM.

We founded the “open” architectural approach in the healthcare information technology industry through our Allscripts Developer Program in 2007, years ahead of Direct, consolidated clinical document architecture and FHIR. Apple was aware of our history of open APIs and ability to support the FHIR standard and worked with us to connect with Apple Health Records for our clients. We are dedicated to a patient-empowering approach based upon FHIR. We value and support patients as active and informed participants in their own health.

Our industry’s focus on patient empowerment supports the need for increased data in this value-based environment, which, along with patient involvement, will enable all people to live healthier lives.

Comments 1

  1. Michael Fulton 10/14/2019

    fascinating article

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