Efforts to make the wide scale data sharing strategy a reality have recently come to a tipping point after the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) released the final rule for interoperability and information exchange . Healthcare data will be placed in the hands of the rightful owner, the patient. This is exciting and gives us an opportunity to build on the momentum from the past however, let us not take another decade to realize the desired outcomes this rule is intended to achieve. Those of us who have been advocating for care and technology to come together for the betterment of patient outcomes, have waited long enough. Putting data into the hands of the patient is needed to advance engagement, ownership, and improve decision making, which is key to fulfilling the triple aim.

In general, improving health outcomes should incorporate ways to measure aspects of achieving them, such as: patient compliance, accessing care, gaps in care, early detection of health risks, real time decision making, technological and human errors, among many others. In order to leverage the final rule to enable outcome improvement, organizations should consider things such as overall readiness to change, collaboration levels, customer service, etc. Now is the time for risk bearing organizations (ex. health plans and ACOs) to think about how to measure effectiveness of increased patient access in ways that connect to the triple aim.

The research is clear, highly engaged patients have better outcomes. Engaged patients also result in happier employees as they are able to have more productive conversations with patients and see better outcomes for themselves, thus feel like they are making more of a difference. The opportunity for advancing engagement strategies, managing emerging risk populations, and reducing system inefficiencies is real — there is no better time than now to start plotting how to capitalize on this opportunity.

To truly leverage this opportunity and transform care while engaging patients in their own health continuum, an understanding of organizational readiness is required.

Below are three driving principles for beginning the readiness journey:

  1. Patient Experience Important: Operational improvements, technology, and programmatic strategies must enhance the patient experience, not take away from it. Opening access to data should not be a single event, rather should be a tactic for a full-scale program of consumer engagement strategies in the quest to curate a perfect experience.
  2. Data Drives Improvement & Change: You cannot improve what you do not measure. Therefore, data collection and real-time measurement is essential to quantify performance and establish a baseline for all change initiatives. When implementing a program to satisfy the final rule, which will require changes in behavior and process, knowing how and what to measure will be crucial in understanding what success looks like.
  3. Front Line Workers are Essential: It is the front-line workers who often have the best ideas for operational and strategic improvements. Stakeholders need front line input to design highly reliable processes and operations. When planning to roll out the final rule in your organization, its best to ensure its not a siloed effort in the technology department.

Lastly, healthcare organizations impacted by the interoperability rule must look at optimizing electronic workflows, manage clinical content, and solve the interoperability gaps for a successful data governance program. Without a thoughtful plan to overcome data interoperability challenges, your governance program will be in jeopardy. Many data governance programs fail to address how, and by whom, data will be consumed in the long term. One can easily get “data fatigue” if there are unnecessary data sets and data definitions that are not streamlined with the end consumption goals in mind. This is especially true when patients are the consumers of data. 

In summary, the final rule is an opportunity to bridge the many gaps in our healthcare system. Its up to IT leaders to seize this as an opening to advance the information exchange strategy and open a new door for healthcare transformation.

Written by Rabin Pant