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Interoperability and the Value of EMRs

July 14, 2011
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Connecting physicians is essential to deriving value from the EMR

At the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s ANI conference in Orlando last month, I had an opportunity to listen to a presentation by Daniel Marino, president of Heath Directions, an Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., consultancy, who spoke on the use of physician electronic health records to drive financial integration. Marino is a firm believer that EMRs will improve healthcare quality, but he also sees hurdles for both physician practices and hospitals before that goal becomes a reality.

Physician practices that are attempting to implement an EMR must contend with workflow changes from a paper environment to an electronic environment, as well as make significant financial investments. Hospitals must assist physician practices in implementing an EMR, as well as interconnect multiple electronic systems so they are able to share information. Both hospitals and physicians must implement systems that are efficient and that protect patient health information.

But the central challenge will be interconnectivity, he said. Cost savings will come in the form of connecting the information electronically, sharing clinical quality outcomes, and being able to manage the patient better. The healthcare industry is beginning to respond around that, especially around the concept of accountable care organizations.

The ability to interconnect systems that share information is crucial as health reform takes shape, he said. “Payment reforms are going to force us to create this interconnectivity to create this exchange of information,” he said. Provider organizations that position themselves well in establishing EMRs for their practices and setting up clinical information programs will be well prepared for the payment reform changes that will occur, he said.

Marino also observed that accompanying the shifts occurring in healthcare reform, patients are becoming more involved in their own health care, which he expect to continue. “Consumers are asking a lot of questions about costs, quality, and delivery of service,” he said.

“The true value of an EMR is “to connect your providers to your hospitals and create efficiencies,” Marino said. “The more technology you can integrate, that’s where you truly begin to identify profit.” He says that some provider organizations are relying on patient access to initiate the ideal of consumerism to their patients. “They are trying to make things more convenient to their patients in terms of auditing referrals or allowing patients to register and check information on a patient portal.” That is creating value for the patient as it relates back to the hospital, he said.

Hospitals that successfully implement its EMR, and assist physicians in implementing and connecting those systems, is helping to strengthen the relationship of the physician with his community, marino said. That in turn creates growth for the hospital, he said.

The question of how to use data to create value is important, Marino said. The essential ingredient for a hospital’s success is making sure that its employed or community physicians use the technology, capture the data, and use it to support their practices. “If you are able to do that successfully, you are going to create financial opportunities for your hospital organization,” he said.