5 ways technology can enable accountable care

Panelists at HIMSS offer strategies, encourage audience to "think differently"
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Leading by example, giving patients better access to their health records and borrowing innovations from other industries are all good strategies to transform healthcare, according to a panel of experts (pictured right) at FierceHealthIT's executive breakfast, "Harnessing Technology and Data to Enable Accountable Care," held this morning at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's (HIMSS) annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

It was a wide-ranging discussion, but here are five highlights from the event:

1. Give patients ownership of their data

Chris Belmont, vice president and chief information officer of University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said too often in the healthcare industry, "we talk it, but don't walk it."

"It's the whole concept of being patient-centric," Belmont said. "By default, [health information] exchange means it's not the patient's records, it's still the doctor's. At the end of the day we've got to figure out how to make it the patient's record--and make it easy and relevant."

2. Don't be paternalistic 

Kaveh Savafi, M.D., managing director of Accenture Health Practice, North America, said the question should not be whether healthcare costs too much, but if patients are getting their money's worth.

Savafi said that the way healthcare providers share data with patients is paternalistic; patients want an unfettered, unfiltered view of their records and test results. He pointed to the Open Notes model as an example.

Edward Marx, who was recently awarded the CIO of the Year award by the College of Health Information Management Executives (CHIME), and is also a FierceHealthIT Advisory Board member, stressed the importance of leadership.

3. Lead by example

"If you are not embracing technology, you can't expect your patients to embrace it," Marx, the CIO of Texas Health Resources, said.

If healthcare leaders can't live by example, they can't expect their clinicians to adopt technology, he said.

"I always turn back to myself and ask: 'What am I not doing? How am I going to lead by example?' It's the people in this very room who need to start it," he said.

Joel Vengco, vice president and CIO of Baystate Health in Springfield, Mass., said it's about changing culture, too.

"How do we impress upon our clinicians that patients have to be really involved?" he asked. "The old guard is still there. Changing leadership and culture--those things are hard. Harder than technology."

And health IT leaders need to make their products "sticky," similar to Amazon.com or mobile finance sites, Vengco said.

4. Try new initiatives often

Belmont discussed initiatives at MD Anderson and his former workplace, Ochsner Health System in New Orleans. For example, allowing patients to schedule their own appointments online reduced no-shows and improved medical adherence, compliance and performance, he said.

"Don't fall into the trap that there's not a market for it [and so] you shouldn't go for it. There's never going to be less of a market," Belmont said. 

5. Don't get outpaced by technology

Ryan Witt, global managing director of healthcare and pharmaceutical practice for Juniper Networks, said he'd like to see healthcare save itself from a "Kodak" moment. That company did not respond well to the shift from film to digital, to say the least.

"Of course we know now the model is changing and we have to think about how we're being flexible," Witt said. "It's not like we can flip a switch and pivot to quality care models--there's still going to be service-based models for a long time to come."

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