Cleaning up the population health management ecosystem for better care

By Jessica Robinson

As we celebrate another Earth Day, I am reminded of how far we have come in our thinking about the environment—but also how much farther we have to go in healthcare.

Previous generations did not consider, or didn’t care, that polluting a specific area of land, water or air actually affected entire environmental ecosystems. Similarly, we have been stuck in that same form of siloed thinking in healthcare. Patient data is still not easily shared between hospitals and physicians, let alone other ancillary providers such as skilled nursing facilities and pharmacies. Information about care delivered in one setting that could benefit individuals and populations is being blocked by outdated regulations and competitive stubbornness.

Fortunately, providers and patients are no longer tolerating this toxic data-sharing environment. They are creating change by demanding it from other providers, government and IT vendors.

Obstacles in our way

There are numerous reasons behind this lack of data sharing around the healthcare ecosystem. A big reason is the rapid pace of technology. Ten years ago, less than 10 percent of hospitals even had a basic EHR system, after at least a century of paper charts. It’s understandable that these changes can take some time.

Such rapid technological change moved much faster than consensus on how to electronically share highly regulated protected health information (PHI). Also, as demand for EHRs accelerated, so did competition between IT vendors. Competition is healthy for any market, but with health IT, it created data-sharing roadblocks. Some IT vendors were simply unable to share data with other platforms, while others refused unless provider organizations agreed to pay large fees for the “privilege.”

Patients end up bearing the burden of this lack of cooperation. They continue to fill out the same medical forms at every new provider they visit, electronic data sharing between their providers is limited, if it exists at all. This means their primary care providers have to seek out complete records on their own instead of data being shared automatically.

Creating a greener population health ecosystem

Fortunately, these obstacles are slowly being dismantled. Just as Americans demanded that governments and businesses reduce the pollution that puts their health in danger, patients are demanding an end to these toxic data-sharing rules and practices that are putting their health in danger.

In addition, provider groups and networks are consolidating. They will demand that regulators and health IT vendors cooperate on comprehensive data sharing policies and practices across the continuum of care, including with patients at their homes. Providers are seeking out IT platforms, such Bridge, that enable seamless data sharing between providers, ancillary organizations and other IT vendors to create the most complete and fully collaborative medical record possible.

Likewise, patients are developing higher expectations of the service they receive from providers. They are more closely viewing their own medical information, asking questions and seeking alternatives if they are not satisfied with their care.

We have made progress in understanding and protecting the environment since that first Earth Day 48 years ago. Our progress creating a healthier population health ecosystem through seamless and complete data sharing has been slow, but is also making progress.

At The Garage, we will continue embrace all methods to collaborate with other providers and IT vendors to deliver the most complete, accurate and meaningful data possible to our clients. We are confident that the speed of cultural and industry change will catch up with the technology, so we can collectively improve patient outcomes and increase value-based care reimbursement for our providers.