Electronic health records are only the first piece in the population health puzzle, says JASON in a new report.
The Office of the National Coordinator is focused on a lot more than increasing adoption of electronic health records these days, and is starting to turn its attention to leveraging the nation’s growing health IT infrastructure for the ultimate goal of achieving effective, individualized health for every patient. After recognizing the need to move far beyond the clinical documentation EHRs can record, HHS is seeking stakeholder comments on a new JASON report that investigates how to bring population health management into the healthcare system by expanding the use of data analytics to encompass what happens outside the physician’s office.
“If we’re to have an accurate picture of health, we need more than what is currently captured in the electronic health record,” write National Coordinator Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPPH, MSc, Jon White, MD, and Michael Painter, Senior Program Officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in a blog post for HealthIT Buzz. “That’s why the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) asked the distinguished JASON group to bring its considerable analytical power to bear on this problem: how to create a health information system that focuses on the health of individuals, not just the care they receive.”
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“Why is it important to pursue this ambitious goal? There has been an explosion of data that could help with all kinds of decisions about health,” the post continues. “Right now, though, we do not have the capability to capture and share that data with those who make decisions that impact health—including individuals, health care providers and communities.”
The JASON report promotes the idea of the “learning health system” that connects EHRs and other health IT infrastructure with multiple streams of data that are not traditionally associated with healthcare, including social media and socioeconomic information. Care coordinators can help providers synthesize these data streams while providing patients with a way to navigate the increasingly complex healthcare ecosystem.
Stakeholders can help to also encourage the development of data integration by creating products that take advantage of open APIs and rely on data standards that allow for interoperability. The health system should also take advantage of the work of focused non-profit institutions that promote causes related to specific populations, such as elder care or heart health. These institutions already enjoy strong community trust and a deep understanding of their targeted conditions or causes, which can help providers better support wellness and provide resources to patients.
“This report, done in partnership with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, comes at a pivotal time: ONC is in the process of developing a federal health IT strategic plan and a shared, nationwide interoperability roadmap, which will ensure that information can be securely shared across an emerging health IT infrastructure,” DeSalvo and her co-authors explain. “We’re excited by the potential to take this emerging data and turn it into useable information to build a Culture of Health—a nation where everyone has the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives.”
“We encourage everyone — consumers, providers, employers, purchasers, health IT developers and others—to take a look at the report and share your comments. We look forward