As the healthcare sector continues to grow, technology is helping to redefine the industry.
The healthcare IT market is growing at an unprecedented rate in order to deliver exceptional patient care and aid in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illnesses and disease. Since the mid-2000s, physicians and hospitals have digitised the way patient records are held through the adoption of an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) or Electronic Health Record (EHR) system, which provides a digital record of a patient’s medical history. Leading consultants, Accenture, has even found that from 2001 - 2014, EMR usage in physician offices grew from 20% to more than 80%.
The use of EMRs have provided significant benefits for both patients and healthcare professionals; from advanced patient care coordination, patient engagement and overall clinical management. However, increased volumes of patient data have created various challenges, and are leading healthcare organisations to reassess how developing technologies can work to transform the patient experience and ensure quality patient outcomes.
Technology disruptors, such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft have all made significant strides in reshaping traditional models of care through the use of innovative technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud and the development of health wearables, which complement the use of traditional EMRs and aim to further patient engagement. Such innovations have also granted patients with greater control and flexibility over their health data, how it is managed and who has access to such information.
The ongoing shift from a traditional doctor-patient led model to one which is increasingly value based and patient-centered is therefore set to bring a wealth of opportunities for both patients and health providers. However, with increased accessibility, data security remains a consistent challenge. IBM’s 2019 Cost of a Data Breach has stressed the need for greater focus and subsequent investment regarding the security of patient data. Obtaining data which is unchangeable, personal and highly confidential continues to increase in value and demand, leading health providers to gain the highest costs associated with data breaches. Totalling $6.4mn, more than 60% of the global average seen in all industries for the ninth year in a row, the industry has also seen high levels of attempted cyber-attacks to existing IT infrastructures. This has even led some organisations to pay substantial ransom costs to regain access to clinical patient data. Hancock Health in Indiana is one such organisation which paid up to $50,000 to regain vital patient data, medical records and confidential emails back in 2018.
As healthcare providers face ongoing pressures to transform and bolster existing security measures to retain patient trust and guarantee operational resilience, it has been widely reported that many EMRs also continue to house a lack of interoperability, creating significant complexities across the healthcare system. Without the ability to integrate with other EMR systems across the sector, health providers are at increased risks of creating delays in the delivery of patient care. Fragmented data sharing can also create further difficulties if patients receive care from several healthcare organisations. Not only that, organisations that actively promote data blocking has continued to hinder the transition towards value-based care.
It is no surprise that following repeated increased calls for an established of standards with regards to data sharing, interoperability and robust regulations, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has recently announced significant changes which will provide patients with secure access to their health data and provide ultimate transparency in how their data is ultimately used. The HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in the US have launched “interoperability and patient access provisions of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, and will support US President, Donald Trump’s MyHealthEData initiative, which will enable patients to gain access to their medical information.” Most importantly, it will also require “both public and private entities to share health information between patients and other parties while keeping patient data private and secure.”
“The days of patients being kept in the dark are over,” confirmed CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Unfortunately, data silos continue to fragment care, burden patients and providers, and drive up costs. These rules begin a new chapter by requiring insurance plans to share health data with their patients in a format suitable for their phones or other device of their choice. We are holding payers to a higher standard while protecting patient privacy through secure access to their health information. Patients can expect improved quality and better outcomes at a lower cost.”
Driving down costs, improving quality of care and further promoting accessibility in EMRs will no doubt see healthcare providers and technology leaders look towards the use of mobile applications and transform the way in which EMR software is accessed. With robust regulations in place, encouraging further interconnections between health professionals and patients will be key for the industry to move towards the delivery of personalised patient care which is cost-effective, increasingly data-led and places the patient at the forefront of all decision making.
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