“The HITECH Era and the Path Forward” Sheds Insight on Digital Healthcare
Baton Rouge, LA – Insurance companies, providers and patients can expect more free flow of data in the healthcare system, through advances in healthcare IT and greater adoption of electronic health records and digital tools, to drive better decision making and improved outcomes.
This is the premise of “The HITECH Era and the Path Forward,” an article published in the Sept. 7, 2017, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The lead author is Dr. Vindell Washington, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana chief medical officer and a former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Washington co-authored the article with three other former national coordinators – Dr. David Blumenthal, Dr. Karen DeSalvo and Dr. Farzad Mostashari. The authors describe how the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, passed in 2009, led a majority of healthcare providers to implement electronic health records and digital data sharing. Washington and his co-authors offer suggestions to continue advancing healthcare IT in the digital age.
“We are in position for a great leap forward in health information technology,” Washington said. “A digital health system holds the promise of empowered patients and better-informed providers. Caregivers can work together to track patients’ health outcomes and know if they are making progress. And better information lets health insurance companies and government programs that are spending healthcare dollars on behalf of members and citizens know they are purchasing services of high value. The bedrock of all of this is a robust healthcare IT infrastructure.”
Washington and his co-authors suggest building on the expansion of electronic health records that occurred under the HITECH Act by incenting providers to offer patients more access to health information and integrating different systems to share data and drive greater health outcome improvement.
“Our future focus is health, not just healthcare,” Washington said. “We want to empower patients at home with access to tools – like digital monitors and wearables - that can help improve general health status. And if well members become patients, we need these additional tools to better support them. Healthcare payers and providers can capitalize on these new data streams to intervene sooner and lower the risks of hospitalizations or severe illnesses.”
As a local example of how data sharing is leading to health improvement, Washington cites Blue Cross’ Quality Blue Primary Care program, in which the insurer makes claims data available securely to primary care providers so they can know more about their patients’ health histories. This lets Blue Cross and the Quality Blue doctors work together to close gaps in care, e.g. reminding patients about important screenings, tests or shots they should have.
Quality Blue is now in its fourth year, and results validated by Tulane University’s School of Public Health show the program is getting better health results for patients with conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease, and it is holding down costs.
The article is available in the current edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, online at www.nejm.org. To request a printed copy, please contact the journal online at http://www.nejm.org/page/about-nejm/reprints or call 877-241-7159.
In addition to this article, Washington is featured as an alumni profile in the Fall 2017 edition of Harvard School of Public Health’s magazine, which comes out this month. The magazine describes Washington’s federal service and career-long interest in health IT.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Founded in New Orleans in 1934, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is a private, fully taxed mutual company, owned by policyholders—not shareholders. It is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and is governed by a Louisiana Board of Directors.
The company and its subsidiaries provide group and individual health insurance plans, life and disability insurance, group voluntary products and administrative services to Louisiana residents. With headquarters in Baton Rouge and eight district offices around the state, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to improving the lives of its customers by providing them with health guidance and affordable access to quality care.
For more information, contact:
John Maginnis, (225) 295-2405
Dianne Eysink, (225) 295-2022