Using Health IT to Achieve Patient Centered Care

With the turn of the calendar to a brand new year, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at the trends and issues that will impact patient centered care in community oncology over the next 12 months, with some examples of how health IT will enable a stronger partnership between healthcare providers and their patients.

HITECH Incentives for the Meaningful Use Objectives Peak in 2012

Probably the biggest issue that everyone is focused on is achieving the Meaningful Use objectives this year. Most of the practices we have spoken with were focused on the eRx Incentive Program in 2011 and are now turning their attention to the HITECH incentives for 2012. We haven’t yet spoken with a practice that isn’t planning to attest for HITECH this year. The big issue I see is how quickly practices can prepare to be able to attest. Most practices were upgraded to the HITECH certified versions of the EHR late last year, and now practices are starting to think through their patient portal strategy and implementation.  From there, they can start the work of ensuring that they are actually using the systems in a way to achieve the objectives.

As more and more patient portals are implemented, patients will start to receive electronic access to parts of their health record through the CCD (Continuity of Care Document) standards. This will be a good first step in implementing patient centered care. Some portals go further than just solving the basic health IT regulatory requirements, such as Navigating Cancer’s Patient Engagement Portal, which has been shown to increase patient satisfaction and save practices time and money. At the end of the day, that’s what all Health IT vendors should be focused on— creating a useful service for both providers and patients, not just creating features to meet requirements.

Don’t delay!  These incentives peak in 2012, and the last date to start the 90-day attestation period is October 1. Working back from this date, practices should be evaluating and selecting their certified EHR and Patient Portal vendors now to leave enough time to implement, adopt and reach the baseline measures before starting the attestation process.

Practices who don’t meet this deadline will miss out on $18,000 per provider in 2012. Don’t leave money on the table!

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Medical Home & Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Models

There is a lot of talk about Medical Home and ACO models throughout healthcare.  For oncology clinics, it’s less clear how ACO models will be implemented. There is much more talk about defining a Medical Home in oncology and creating the right measurement and reporting tools to support this initiative. Payers are starting to look for opportunities to pilot these models and to take baby steps in supporting initiatives that help practices create an oncology Medical Home. We’re seeing a variety of different pilots with payers including shared savings models, alternative payment models, and the mandated use of technology to deliver the most cost effective, quality care.

Health IT definitely has a role in these new models. Simple features, implemented correctly, could have a massive impact in managing costs and providing better care. For example, one feature of our Patient Engagement Portal is a Daily Health Journal, which includes a side effect tracking tool that can be used to help alert providers when interventions may be necessary to help patients manage the side effects of treatment. Providing their care team with the right information at the right time could prevent patients from having to visit the emergency room, an important cost driver to be avoided if possible.

Another example is the use of technology to better manage the advanced directives process in oncology, which is a key driver of managing costs and ensuring that patient’s wishes are taken into consideration at the end of life. Using technology to simply ask patients their wishes and then sending them information about the process could go a long way in educating patients on the importance of planning.  Easy to use reporting tools could also help healthcare providers manage the process and assist them in communicating more effectively on this very important, but also delicate topic.

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Commission on Cancer Guidelines

As part of the new Amercian College of Surgeons (ACoS) Commission on Cancer (CoC) guidelines, cancer programs that seek CoC accreditation must implement continuum of care programs by 2015 including a survivorship care plan (with a treatment record summary of care), psychosocial distress screening, and a patient navigation process.

In recognition of the importance of survivorship, this month the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) established two new reimbursement codes for cancer treatment planning and care coordination. The codes will go into effect April 1, 2012 and will allow providers to be reimbursed for the time and expertise they dedicate to cancer treatment planning.

For each program Health IT can be used to plan, track and communicate with patients, making it easier for providers to be reimbursed for their time and to aide in the communication process. Clinics using our Patient Engagement Portal can easily provide patients with a treatment record summary as part of their transition to survivorship care. In the coming years, we’ll likely see more and more providers  communicating with patients via secure email messages, especially with Stage 2 Meaningful Use, which will provide them with incentives to use a simple mechanism that is already part of our daily lives to improve communication with their patients and improve efficiency.

This communication will be very important to effectively support navigation and survivorship programs in the coming years and to track and manage patients in the most effective and cost efficient way.

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Patient Centered Care from the Patient Perspective

Patient Centered Care is now on the national healthcare agenda and as a result is an opportunity for healthcare professionals to receive incentives for adopting new technology and for payer pilots to try new approaches. At the same time, new accreditation standards are pushing providers and payers in the same direction. What do patients think about this transformation?

We surveyed 250 patients from clinics who are using the Navigating Cancer Patient Engagement Platform and an overwhelming 74% responded that they were interested in using online tools and resources to help manage their care and recovery. Seventy five percent are specifically interested in learning about their condition, treatment options, and how to manage side effects.

When provided with a list of online tools and resources, patients were most interested in having secure access to their medical records.We will publish the full survey results soon, but initial responses show that patients want to be more active in their care, and are very interested in using technology to help them manage their condition.


Transforming Health Care Through Patient Centered Care

All in all, the future looks bright for healthcare consumers. Patients will start receiving electronic access to parts of their healthcare record as well as tools and information to be an active participant in their care and an important member of the healthcare team. The use of technology will facilitate this process and we’re working really hard to be a part of the transformation by providing easy to use, low cost tools to enable the best healthcare provider and patient relationship imaginable.

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