We are excited to continue the NaviNet Expert Series, in which we’ve discussed trends and topics facing our industry in 2012 with healthcare IT experts. We had the opportunity to chat with Nate Osit, implementation specialist at Forerun, Inc. and an active member of healthcare IT communities across social media. Nate was recognized for his presence on Twitter and ranked number five on the #HIT100 influencer list in July. His work also has been featured on the HL7Standards, a blog for the healthcare IT social media community, and WegoHealth, an organization that empowers health advocates to share their expertise and help others. We are thrilled to learn more about Nate’s predictions for mobile health, electronic health records (EHRs), and social media in the coming year.
What do you predict as the biggest developments in healthcare IT for 2012?
In 2012, we will begin to see if the current system of meaningful use incentives will lead to long-term sustainability. Many providers and hospitals have shelled out substantial amounts of money to pay for new EHRs, and now they will begin to determine whether these technologies will help improve patient care. Some initial studies have shown the positive effect EHRs can have on patient care, such as diabetes management and chronic disease management. More studies like these are needed to show the concrete benefits that healthcare IT can offer, and I hope we see more next year.
What HIT success stories are your favorite examples of improving care and reducing costs from 2011?
I have been very impressed with the work that Medic Mobile has been doing to improve global access to health services. It has been doing great work creating tools to be used in developing countries to assist woefully overburdened healthcare workers. Its technology does not rely on large infrastructures, and many of the tools can be used via short message service (SMS), allowing those with minimal technology to send structured data to be stored in free, open source EHRs. It also is developing diagnostic tools that utilize camera phones, which is just stunning. I think developed nations have a lot to learn from developing countries in terms of how they approach innovation. They have prioritized prevention and low-cost solutions, which is an approach that is desperately needed in countries like the United States.
What big HIT-related and healthcare changes should physicians prepare for in 2012?
Physicians should be customizing, configuring, and tightening up workflows for EHR implementations. EHRs offer many new workflow efficiencies, and it will take years to figure out how best to integrate them into clinical settings. Physicians also should begin preparing to process outside EHR data from health information exchanges or data received through tools like the Direct Project. It won’t simply be a matter of a sticking some paper into a chart anymore, and this could present a challenge to some clinicians.
What are the benefits of mobile care and equipping physicians with the right patient information in the exam room?
The benefits of mobile care are just beginning to be realized. At first, I think a lot of vendors were trying to include entire EHRs on tablets, but that doesn't really work. Tablets and mobile devices aren't laptops or PCs, and the functionality needs to be customized to the media. With these mobile devices, physicians can quickly enter certain types of data and have access to the information that they need to help treat patients. There is a lot of room for improved usability, and the flexibility of tablets may allow physicians to have a smoother, more patient-friendly workflow. I'm very excited to see the developments that are made in this area. There is a lot of room to grow, and we've only scratched the surface.
In your tweets, blog posts, and comments, you speak about improving patients' access to healthcare services—especially in lower-income communities. How can technology help accomplish this?
I think technology that helps facilitate access to health services and healthy lifestyles is where the real innovation is in healthcare IT. One of the benefits of healthcare IT is that once patients are able to regularly access their data (we’re not there yet), we will have the opportunity to create a more patient-centered healthcare system. Shared decision making and participatory medicine are two ways we can make health a more collaborative effort. Healthcare IT can help facilitate these collaborations by providing the structured, discrete data, as well as the communication tools necessary to keep a care team connected.
Again, I think Medic Mobile is a great example of how to go about this in a way that focuses on goals rather than having the flashiest new toys. We need to create technology that is culturally relevant to underserved populations. This process can’t be successfully accomplished without going into the community and having patients involved in the research and design process. I think that healthcare IT companies could be making more of an effort to partner with community health centers and creating affordable technology that helps them serve their target populations. I haven’t seen a lot of this happening, but I would like to see this change.
Structural changes are needed to improve access to health services. Technology is not the solution for many of these problems. Technology can’t change the way treatment incentives are set up, although social media can be used to organize patients and community members to work toward change.
Again, thank you to Nate for taking the time talk to about the important issues in our industry for 2012. For more NaviNet Expert Series insights, take a look at our interviews with John Lynn of the EMR and HIPAA blog, David Williams of Health Business Blog, and John Moore, Analyst for Chilmark Research. We welcome your comments on our blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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