The biggest misconception in health IT? 'It can replace a clinician's role,' says Change Healthcare's Andrei Gonzales

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In this special Speaker Series, Becker's Healthcare caught up with Andrei Gonzales, MD, assistant vice president of VBR product management at Change Healthcare.

Dr. Gonzales will speak on a panel during the Becker's Hospital Review 4th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference that is titled "Key Payer Issues 2018," at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19. Learn more about the event and register to attend in Chicago.

Question: How does your organization gain physician buy-in when it is implementing a new technology or solution? 

Dr. Andrei Gonzales: Physician buy-in is based on showing the value of an initiative and engaging through data. Physicians are data-driven professionals that need to understand why an initiative will create value. These discussions need to include data to show the potential value and how progress will be measured. Once physicians see the value and understand the data that will be tracked throughout an initiative, the discussion becomes collaborative and progress is made. It's important to look at each initiative from this perspective to develop the data to support the initiative from the beginning [and] create the best chance for success.

Q: What is the most exciting thing happening in health IT right now? And, what is the most overrated health IT trend? 

AG: The most exciting thing happening in health IT right now is the ability to look at a population of patients attributed to a practice or ACO and assess that population through clinically relevant episodes of care. This view engages all providers involved in a patient's care from the primary care physician to specialists to acute care and long-term care facilities, and can be coupled with incentives to manage a patient's care for better health and lower costs. The innovation isn't so much in the technology, but more in the collaboration between health plans and health systems to share financial data across the continuum of care and clinical data within the patient's chart to understand performance and the best ways to improve the coordination of care that will result in better health.

The most overrated health IT trend is the focus on forcing physicians to report on everything. Primary care physicians in particular are asked to document too many discreet data points that are of questionable value and consume a lot of their time in pointing and clicking through EMRs. Among the many payers and regulatory agencies involved in healthcare, physicians are under increased pressure to document data points that don't matter for clinical care and don't create value for patients. The solution is to focus on how well health systems manage patient outcomes and health, and less on micromanaging process metrics that are at best indirect measures of a physician's performance.

Q: What's the biggest misconception about health IT? 

AG: The biggest misconception about health IT is that it can replace a clinician's role in anything related to patient care. Health IT works best when it supports a clinician in delivering effective and efficient patient care without getting in the way. There are many comparisons with healthcare to online shopping or banking or automated driving. The difference in healthcare is that it takes a person to relate to a person. Engaging a patient in their care requires meaningful interaction and a level of personal understanding that doesn't always follow clearly defined rules, like when to charge a credit card or apply a turn signal and turn left. This isn't to say that methods of interaction — like virtual visits, decision support or robotic surgery — don't have their place in the future of healthcare. The point is that they all require a trained, competent and caring clinician to be effective. When technology enables clinicians, it is helping. When it is forcing clinicians to do busy work or trying to reduce their role in patient care, it is getting in the way.

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