Getting the Full Health Picture – Continuing on The journey to Integrated Care

We’ve discussed the concept of Integrated Care, what it sets out to achieve, and the first step in the journey. Now we look at the importance of getting the full health picture.  

Our health is like a giant jigsaw puzzle; when all the pieces are put together correctly we are, quite literally, ‘the picture of good health’. But it’s hard to maintain good health, or cure ill health, if our clinicians and healthcare administrators do not have access to all the puzzle pieces. 

Globally these missing pieces cost the healthcare system $1.2 trillion (out of $2.2 trillion) every year on wasted spend. Some is money spent on preventable conditions, some is spent on unnecessary emergency room visits, then there’s duplicate medical testing, and inefficiencies in the system.

An integrated health system solves these problems by making sure that healthcare providers across the board have all the puzzle pieces in one place: an integrated, easily accessible technology platform that promotes treatment transparency. Here in Australasia a central portal can help combat the effects of our increasingly fragmented healthcare system where costs continue to soar but clinical outcomes are slower to improve.

My last blog ‘Gathering and storing healthcare Information – the first step in the journey towards Integrated Care’ looked at how to collect all the puzzle pieces. But once all this highly sensitive data has been gathered together (and is being updated in real-time) we face the task of keeping personal health information secure, while still presenting a complete picture of an individual’s health to the appropriate users. 

Access at appropriate levels

Numerous types of stakeholders will need secure access to various aspects of a healthcare network’s data, including clinicians, administrators, patients, family members and many others. Each professional area has its own unique set of priorities, permissions and levels of technical and clinical sophistication to consider. But for all of them, access to this information must be as frictionless as possible to ensure initial and ongoing adoption. For example, healthcare providers will typically be best served by having access to information within the Electronic Health Record itself, whereas patients and family members in their circle of care require a web-accessible secure patient portal.

Granting users access to Personal Health Information calls for stringent security and privacy protocols to be put in place. These protocols should be based on the user’s role and the sensitivity of the data, and be part of a secure auditing process to demonstrate compliance with privacy and consent requirements. Solutions, therefore, should include a privacy module that enables these advanced privacy rules to be implemented, and which uses modern security standards such as SMART to ensure safe access to data in today’s complex healthcare environments.

Collaborative action

The system architecture must also make it easy to extract information quickly so as to be able to measure outcomes, track costs and control patient risk factors. The inclusion in the system of co-ordination workflow tools and templates for each medical condition means care managers can implement consistent care pathways based on patient and population data.

By following the embedded standardised procedures for treating certain conditions we can ensure that those involved in delivering care not only follow the correct procedure, but can also easily identify possible risks – for example, drug interactions may be overlooked if the information is simply recorded in free text rather than an easily identifiable data field. Having consistent care plans and workflows in place enables care managers to offer best practice care, and also allows care progress to be clearly documented and communicated to both other care givers, and the patient themselves.

With these steps in place everyone involved in an individual’s care knows which piece of the health puzzle has been completed by whom and how. The Integrated Care platform offers easy yet secure access to information and helps clinicians to turn insights into actions. The result is a much more co-ordinated and efficient health practice, that allows providers to proactively manage care and take preventative action, ultimately resulting in more positive patient outcomes.