Recognizing the challenges presented by the current state of our economy and national discussions about healthcare reform, Booz Allen Hamilton and the Federation of American Hospitals have collaborated to examine the ways that health information technology, in combination with communications technology (hereafter referred to simply as health IT), can accelerate progress toward the goal of a patient-centered healthcare system.
We engaged thought leaders from across the different segments of the healthcare industry to discuss ways to accelerate progress toward the free flow of essential electronic health information. This group of invested stakeholders from the provider community, academia, the technology industry, and government concluded that consumers, clinicians, and providers all derive greater benefits when health information flows faster and more freely, or becomes more “liquid.” Growing evidence indicates that liquid health information can facilitate improvements in healthcare access, quality, safety, efficiency, convenience, and outcomes. At the same time, it can open the door to innovation and provide a foundation for a new standard of patient-centered care through enhanced use of healthcare teams and informatics.
We conducted a series of interviews with these thought leaders and convened them to discuss the benefits of liquid electronic health information, as well as the barriers that inhibit the conversion from paper-based record systems to robust electronic health information and that discourage the sharing of appropriate data that is already electronic. Published reports, white papers, websites, policy blogs, trade newsletters, and other sources of information on early adopters of electronic health information informed the results of the discussions and our conclusions.
Health IT alone will not dramatically improve care and reduce costs. Even when information is electronic, it is not automatically shared outside of organizational or network firewalls, or across organizational boundaries. In the course of our inquiry, two accelerators emerged that combine policy and market changes to change healthcare delivery and improve the flow of information. First, focus on enhancing the flow of health information and communications among patients and providers, rather than focusing only on adoption of electronic health records (EHR). Second, take bold new steps toward realizing a consumer-centered healthcare system.
Booz Allen's Susan Penfield, Kristine Martin Anderson, Margo Edmunds, and Mark Belanger are the authors of "
study posted January 12, 2009