Obamacare and Health IT

June 7, 2013

Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act as it is more formally known, has been surrounded by controversy since it was first brought to the attention of the public.  Despite its criticism and even a Supreme Court case that questioned its constitutionality, Obamacare is here to stay.  While the Act influences many things, health information technology is among the fields most strongly affected.  As an H.I.T. professional, whether you agree with the act or not, there are certain aspects of it that will clearly impact the industry.

By definition, Obamacare puts a major shift in healthcare.  Instead of physicians being reimbursed by a set fee-for-service model, they will now be reimbursed more for the quality of care they provide.  In essence, initiatives will focus more on long-term health and overall value versus volume of tests and procedures.  How is this shift accomplished?  That is where health IT comes into play.  In order for physicians to treat patients with preventative healthcare and be driven by long-term health, they need access to information.  Lots of information.  They need access to past tests, diagnoses, and procedures.  They need to know about medications, chronic conditions, and gaps in care.  And they need this information immediately and in a format that is easily discernible.  To be more concise, they need data found via electronic medical records.

EMRs are already clearly on the rise due to Meaningful Use incentives and the ARRA.  With Obamacare, there is another vastly important reason for facilities to make the transition if they have not already.  A Healthcare IT News article notes that more than 50 percent of eligible professionals have demonstrated meaningful use and received incentive payments and 80 percent of hospitals have adopted EMRs.  These facilities and providers that have EMRs in place are thus supporting the main points surrounding Obamacare including improving care coordination, reducing duplicate tests,  and rewarding hospitals for keeping patients healthier.  EMRs allow them to streamline data, reduce errors, and make more accurate diagnoses which clearly leads patients to a healthier future.

However, it is important to note that while simply having health data available via EMRs is a huge component to Obamacare, another equally (or more) important aspect is data analysis.  Lots and lots of patient records means lots and lots of information.  Without a way for healthcare providers to access this information efficiently, use it, and share it, EMRs provide significantly less value.  Luckily, health IT leaders are well aware of this and have been preparing as much as possible.  In the past, we’ve talked about big data and population health management and this is a key element with Obamacare. Obama’s plan makes it essential for healthcare professionals to interpret this data on behalf of the patient as well as use it to uncover health trends for the larger population.

To date, the main holder of big data for the U.S. has been the Department of Health and Human Services.  Until recently, the information Health and Human Services held was not widely accessible.  In 2010 that changed when the department decided to release data on issues such as hospital quality, nursing home patient satisfaction, and regional health care system performance to 45 entrepreneurs to see what they could do with the information to improve healthcare.  As a New York Times article explains, the entrepreneurs were given 90 days to see what they could come up with and reconvened at the first “Health Datapalooza” to present their apps and other devices.  Since 2010, two more Health Datapaloozas have been held with the number of entrepreneurs attending and innovations developed skyrocketing.

With the need for more electronic medical records systems, big data storage and analysis tools, and apps to assist with population health management, it is no surprise that many credit Obamacare with opening the door for health IT companies to start up or expand.  In the future, it is a safe bet that we will see more and more health innovations emerge related to EMRs and big data.

Excite Health Partners
Excite Health Partners is committed to advancing patient care through talent and technology.  We offer healthcare IT services nationwide.  Contact us online or call us at 877-803-5804 for more information.