Organizing for the team-oriented tenets of a patient-centered medical home involves a whole lot more sophistication than is typically found in primary care physician practices, especially when it comes to health information technology. That’s because much of IT at the primary care level is built for that traditional practice.
Analyze this: You've assembled a strategically sound continuum of care. Information systems are connecting each site to one another as well as pulling data from all of them. Data are flowing — gushing — into a data warehouse, coalescing into registries that identify people at health risk. But for the most part, it's just potential for action. Where do you find the know-how and technological tools to harvest it all?
The infrastructure connecting a health care organization's continuum of care may be in place — electronic health record systems dialing up other sites of care, accepting lab, medication and other critical patient data from outside the hospital's four walls — but it still largely remains a mass of potential. Tapping that potential requires tools to turn information into population management leads and aids.
It was once about the technology. Health information exchange — that set of activities concerned with getting clinical documentation from the places where it was created to other places that could really use the information — lacked some basic components: a critical mass of computer systems to create discrete data; standards allowing data from one electronic health record to be taken in by another; and routine methods to transmit the data anywhere it needed to go.
New models of providing care and getting paid for it have made yesterday's stretch goals for information technology today's basic building blocks. "We've made major investments in the past that are considered table stakes today, just to get going," says Ed Marx, senior vice president and chief information officer of Texas Health Resources, Arlington, which has spent big on clinical IT.