5 Things Gaining Momentum in Health IT

A list of a few recent developments in the world of health information technology (Health IT).
Published Online: July 29, 2016
Surabhi Dangi-Garimella, PhD
If you have been wondering about the developments in the world of health information technology (health IT), following are a few leads that can bring you up to speed:
 
1.       Wearables and HIPAA
The Apple Watch, Fitbit, and several other devices have captured the consumer imagination and their wallets. Exercise geeks and those who are not have all jumped on to the bandwagon of wearable fitness devices that track your wellness habits and nudge you to do more. Innovators are now dabbling with connecting these consumer gadgets to doctors and specialists to reduce wait times during a clinic visit. But are we thinking about the security risks and privacy infringement posed by such advances? Are we ready to let go of HIPAA—the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996—the law created to protect patient privacy? Read more here.
 
2.       Patients Have More Online Access
According to the American Hospital Association, more than 90% of hospitals in the nation provide patients access to their medical records, in addition to other tasks such as request changes and share referral summaries. This number has doubled since 2013, and there’s also been an increase in some of the other tasks that patients can perform on these digital platforms. Read more here.
 
3.       EHR Switches and Patient Outcomes
Turns out they are not disruptive. A study published in the BMJ  assessed the short term association of inpatient implementation of EHRs and readmissions, adverse events, and mortality. At least in the 17 hospitals included in the study, who had a “go live” date during 2011 and 2012, researchers did not observe a significant difference in the 30-day mortality or rate of adverse events among Medicare patients following implementation. The 30-day readmission rates actually reduced a little post implementation.
 
4.       EHR and Ransomware
HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) now has numbers from 2014 on the impact of electronic health record (EHR) downtime on patient care. While 60% of hospitals experienced an EHR outage, only 25% said it delayed care delivery, according to the HHS report. The top reasons for these outages include power failure, hardware malfunctioning, connectivity issues, and natural disasters. Hackers, on the other hand, were attributed only 1% of downtime incidents. How’s that possible? We have seen a spate of cyberattacks on healthcare systems and patient databases in recent years, including the one on Anthem, Premera Blue Cross, and 21st Century Oncology. The reason is that the OIG numbers date back to 2014 and a lot of these cybercrimes spiked the following year. Read more about OIG’s plans here.
 
5.       Demolishing Silos, Joining the Dots, and Adding Value
It goes without saying that information sharing is healthy business. But it’s not an easy task—disparate data systems are one of the many challenges on the way. However, platforms are being developed that can make the process more cohesive and allow smoother workflows with inbuilt checks and performance metrics that analyze both patient and physician performance. Companies like COTA and Flatiron Health have joined the movement of value-based healthcare to help physicians perform better through a learning healthcare system. 


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