Health Information Exchange Featured Article

September 06, 2012

Healthcare Reform Causing 'Ground to Change under our Feet' for IT

Accountable care organizations (ACOs) are on the cutting edge of healthcare reform, bringing together providers in a new format that trades lump sum payments for fees based on quality of care and lowering costs. 

Writing for, Gary Palgon noted that ACOs are already transforming the way healthcare is organized.   Palgon is vice president of Healthcare Solutions for Liaison Technologies.

“It logically follows that the information technology (IT) necessary to support ACOs is also changing under our feet,” he asserted. The massive shift of patients to the ambulatory sector to achieve lower-cost care, the need for coordinated care among diverse providers and the analytics required to manage population health are all moving the IT dial to a new frequency.”

 That frequency? The cloud.

The cloud allows businesses to store and manage data on the Internet, avoiding the costs of premise-based systems.

First, a little history. Palgon reported that, although the federal government “originated the concept of ACOs as a value-based reimbursement model for Medicare and Medicaid,” others have flocked to it as a good way to ensure higher quality and more cost-effective care. By connecting hospitals, physician offices, laboratories and other parts of the healthcare continuum as never before, patients have access to more comprehensive care because all parts of the medical world are “talking” to each other.

But connectivity is still a challenge, Palgon wrote.

 You can’t have ACOs without health information exchanges (HIEs) and HIEs are seen by many as the best way to hook everyone up together.  Palgon said in his story that healthcare organizations are finding HIEs so important because they will one day be able to “not only deliver the highest quality care, but also to enter into the risk-sharing arrangements with payers that are integral to any accountable care model.”

But HIEs are still struggling with getting disparate systems to work with each other to exchange and aggregate the very data the model is built on for the accountable care world.  Part of the problem is that there are not yet common standards that organizations can follow. “HIEs have difficulty delivering information where it counts the most, at the point of care,” Palgon revealed.

Here’s where the cloud comes in. Cloud-based services eliminate much of the challenge of integrating different systems. Rather than having to build “point-to-point interfaces among healthcare stakeholders,” cloud-based services can send data wherever patients and providers need it, Palgon explained.

But challenges still exist. The good news is that in July, President Obama signed into law the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, which someday will regulate healthcare IT, and get the medical world on the path to true quality of care in a way that transcends the astronomical costs of delivering it today. 

Edited by Brooke Neuman