Healthcare News & Insights

Health IT goals your hospital must meet

462388591Do you know what IT improvements your hospital needs to make down the line? The feds just released a list of health IT goals that’ll help hospitals guide any future changes.

The Federal Health IT Strategic Plan lays out the government’s healthcare technology goals over the next five years. They’re broken down into five main objectives:

  1. expand adoption of health IT
  2. advance secure and interoperable health information
  3. strengthen healthcare delivery
  4. advance the health and well-being of individuals and communities, and
  5. advance research, scientific knowledge and innovation.

The feds’ plan details exactly what hospitals and other healthcare providers can do to make progress toward meeting these goals.

Goal 1: Expand adoption of health IT

The feds want hospitals and healthcare providers to increase their adoption of all forms of health IT, and to use them more effectively in care delivery. Although electronic health records (EHR) systems are becoming more common – thanks in part to incentive payments under the meaningful use program – hospitals will need to use other types of health IT as well.

Two forms mentioned in the plan: telehealth and mobile health technologies and services, such as health-related apps patients can access using tablets and smartphones.

Goal 2: Advance secure & interoperable health information

It’s not enough to just have these technologies in place. Over the next five years, hospitals must work with their vendors to ensure that their systems can transmit health information seamlessly to other providers. This helps ensure continuity of care and allows patients to easily access their health records, no matter where they’re receiving treatment.

And when transmitting this information, hospitals must make sure it’s done securely, keeping patients’ protected health information (PHI) safe from any threats or breaches. Hospitals should take the electronic transmission of PHI into account when performing HIPAA risk assessments and coming up with data security plans.

Goal 3: Strengthen healthcare delivery

All these technological advances are useless if they don’t improve healthcare delivery along the continuum of care. So hospitals must ensure that the transmission of information via health IT is not only allowing patients and their providers to access information more easily, it’s also improving their quality of care.

To do this, hospitals must be able to measure how their IT systems are positively affecting patient care. They must have a procedure in place to clearly identify what’s working and what’s not. And EHRs must be accurately tracking patients’ health outcomes, especially when it comes to key health conditions the feds are monitoring.

As health care continues to move toward a value-based reimbursement structure, the feds will continue to ask hospitals to meet quality reporting requirements for health information about these conditions. But over the next five years, the government will consolidate some of these reporting programs to ease the burden on hospitals. And they’ll continue to offer incentives for meeting certain benchmarks.

Goal 4: Advance health & well-being of individuals, communities

Advancing the adoption of health IT in hospitals is a crucial part of making care delivery more centered on patients and their needs. Ultimately, technology advances like patient portals and telehealth are designed to make it easier for patients to manage their own health.

In the future, the feds would like to see health IT systems that are capable of taking health information recorded by patients and incorporating it into their personal health records. The ultimate objective here is to create better collaboration between clinical staff, patients and their families.

Hospitals will also be tasked to have health IT capabilities so data can be shared with public health organizations to improve the health of the population overall. That way, public health entities can analyze information about infectious diseases and other conditions to create targeted health interventions for certain groups of patients.

Goal 5: Advance research, scientific knowledge & innovation

Hospitals with a strong health IT infrastructure have a great resource on their hands: a centralized database with information about patients and their health conditions, along with details about what type of treatment plan was effective for their recovery.

With that in mind, the feds want hospitals to use the data they’ve collected to contribute to the current body of research that exists about providing quality care. This will help other organizations emulate successful practices – and come up with ideas of their own.

Openly sharing health data with other healthcare providers will improve healthcare delivery overall, and hospitals must figure out how they can use their EHRs and other tools to do so securely and efficiently.

Action steps

To keep your hospital on track with meeting these initiatives, it’s a good idea to sit down with IT and your EHR vendors to see just what your current capabilities are in terms of tracking, sharing and storing patients’ health information.

Then discuss the feasibility of implementing additional, more advanced features, and create a workable timeline that fits your hospital’s needs and budget.

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