How COVID-19 is changing health IT expectations & what it means for patients

The COVID-19 pandemic has fostered new patient expectations around technologies including telehealth and data interoperability, paving the way for a future in healthcare centered on consumerism.

While the pandemic has highlighted challenges community hospitals across the U.S. were already facing due to resource constraints, it has presented an opportunity to find tech solutions that will drive the best engagement levels from patients. During a May 19 virtual round table conversation hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Allscripts, industry leaders discussed expectations for virtual health and what the patient journey will look like in the future.

The panelists were:

  •   Nicole Faucher, vice president of client development at Allscripts
  •   Mark Pratt, MD, director of solutions management at Allscripts
  •   Trent Norris, chief strategist global partner solutions, Microsoft Health & Life Sciences

Here are five takeaways:  

1. Greater EHR interoperability. Hospitals and health systems will increasingly look to transition to a single EHR with the ability to engage with patients at home, using remote monitoring with devices and offering virtual visits. Managing patients remotely has "opened our conversations around one EHR and shared information," Ms. Faucher said.

"Patients are going to expect, more than they have before, that data is easily accessible to any care provider helping them, and that they can offer care at home. If they can do it during a crisis, they should be able to offer follow-up care at home on any day."

2.Telehealth will continue post-pandemic. Since the pandemic began, Dr. Pratt said he participated in his first virtual visit as a patient for a follow-up appointment. This experience shifted his expectations as a patient, now wanting to continue virtual visits to avoid driving 25 miles for a follow-up appointment. Now that patients have experienced telehealth, Dr. Pratt predicts there will be a "huge shift" in patient expectations, and providers must be ready to shift some of their visits to telehealth to accommodate.

3. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources will take off. To accommodate an increased need for EHR interoperability, EHR vendors and hospitals must allow their platforms to openly communicate with different systems. Patients want to be in control of their own data, so their information must be made available, no matter what providers they see. Dr. Pratt said he expects FHIR, or the data sharing standard that allows health data and medical records to be exchanged electronically, to be an important next generation of how the industry deploys decision support and tools on top of the EHR.

4. Establish patient identification. Another healthcare delivery challenge that health IT users will have to tackle is patient identification; the industry needs a universal strategy, so that regardless of where patients receive care, they can own all their confidential protected health information on a computer mechanism they can share with any provider at any time. "This is a problem that several people are working on," Mr. Norris said. "Microsoft has a big interest in this area too, and we think Allscripts and Community Sunrise EHR and other platforms are well positioned to help solve for that problem."

5. Take advantage of tech toolsets for community hospitals. Expensive technology has driven community hospitals to seek affiliations over the past half-decade. . As time has progressed, the industry has simplified tech operations with tools such as cloud deployment, standardized workflows and implementations, according to Ms. Faucher. The path to adopting some of these new technologies — such as a single platform EHR and telehealth — may not be as difficult as community hospital leaders think.

"There are strong toolsets that are available to community hospitals today that do not have large barriers of entry and that we can deploy to help serve your communities," Ms. Faucher said. "If you haven't explored this recently, reach out to folks and ask these questions. …In my role, we spent a lot of time examining how we can look at cost savings by this idea of one-too-many approach, or limiting the number of tools but having each tool serve a greater purpose."

Click here to view the presentation.

More articles on health IT:
Highmark, Gravity Project partner to develop social determinants of health data standards in EHRs
New York City taps cloud platform for contact tracing program
Returning to work: How tech can ease transition during COVID-19 era

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