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The Maturing of Population Health Management Technology

May 13, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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Toward the end of the opening population health management panel at the iHT2 Health IT Summit in Boston, Terry Carroll, Ph.D., chief innovation officer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, had some biting words of wisdom for the conference attendees. 

"The best way to start a job is to actually start the job," Dr. Carroll said. Carroll's organization is one of the few Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in the country. His words epitomized one of the overall sentiments from the panel, which is that while healthcare is rapidly shifting to a value-based reimbursement model, the technology has still yet to mature to match this changing landscape.
Shafiq Rab, M.D., Vice President and CIO  Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, a participant in the voluntary Medicare Shared Savings Program, told attendees that hardest part of his organization's efforts in this area is to coordinate all of the different types of data.  
"We have different data sets from different places, even though we have an HIE (health information exchange), we have different EMRs, we have different doctors in different data sets. (We have to) get them together in one place that makes sense and at the same time allow the patient to take action on that data," Dr. Rab said to the crowd. 
Sean Kelly, M.D., the CMO of the Lexington-based Imprivata and an ER physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said that clinical data is really messy and that systems have been optimized from a billing, coding, and compliance standpoint for years. Clinical notes haven't been optimized yet, he said, to fit these models. Furthermore, not only is the technology not optimized, but the workers are not yet trained or staffed to accommodate those changes. 
Dr. Carroll said that he was never more disappointed than when he was walking the floor at the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference this year. He said that every vendor has the verbiage but none of them have the tools to manage populations in different environments. "I didn't think there was anything relevant to where we're going," Carroll said, stressing the importance of using an EHR platform that moves to the background like a network. He also mentioned signals and sensors were important because they allowed data to be managed in real-time. 
The feelings of an immature population health management technology marketplace actually bled into the keynote speech, which came later on in the event from John Halamka, M.D., CIO of Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center. Talking about care management, he said there was a lot of "snake oil" being sold out there. "Most of the applications out there are pretty immature," Dr. Halamka said. 
The summit is sponsored by the Institute for Health Technology Transformation, or iHT2, which since December 2013 has been in partnership with Healthcare Informatics through its parent company, the Vendome Group LLC.