There are many different definitions and manifestations of “integration,” and any random group of several healthcare IT leaders would define the concept of “integrated patient records” several different ways. That being said, right now, the only patient care organizations that can fairly be said to have “integrated patient records” are those that have either a single electronic health record vendor product, or two or more tightly interfaced ones, stretching across the inpatient, ED, and outpatient spheres of care in their integrated health systems, so that a particular patient’s information truly follows her/him across the ED, the inpatient admission, and the return to outpatient care with her/his primary care physician and specialist physicians. Images, lab results, etc., would also have to be a part of any profound integration.
But let’s imagine an advanced scenario in which patient records really were integrated, however one might define “integrated.” Such a system would inherently be positioned to support care management, analytics/risk assessment, and population health management, and could support an accountable care organization, a bundled-payment contract, a patient-centered home system, etc. Meanwhile, in terms of how hospitals would organize and manage information, the opportunity here is both horizontal and vertical: hospitals and other patient care organizations could create greater depth of patient information to support care management over time, and also vertical integration, meaning appropriate information-sharing among employer-purchasers, health insurers, hospitals and medical groups, and even through to personal health record systems and programs for patient engagement. Thus, data and information could better be analyzed, understood, appropriately shared, and leveraged for the improvement of health status for whole communities over time.