Martha Thorne is the Senior Vice President and General Manager for Population Health at Allscripts. We recently sat down with her to discuss the importance of electronic health records (EHRs), the growing trend toward population health, and the ever-present need for data security. Read the interview below, watch a clip in the video posted above and let me know what questions you have about EHRs.
Intel: What is the importance of electronic health records (EHR) today and how are they progressing toward the future?
Thorne: EHRs continue to be an incredibly important tool for physicians and all health practitioners. What’s interesting to me is that there are many who consider EHRs to be a commodity. What we’re seeing now is that the EHR adoption rate has continued to grow, and what organizations are looking for today is more value. They are seeking ways to make it easier to do documentation, to make sure that information is available at the fingertips of the providers, and to make sure they are reaching out to the consumers and have a way to impact their health behavior. Healthcare organizations have to do all of this with very little extra budget.
Intel: How are consumers fitting into the healthcare information equation?
Thorne: One of the areas that’s really critical right now is consumer engagement. Not just patient engagement, but consumer engagement. There are many consumers who are high users of healthcare and need information about their healthcare status, clinical records, laboratory information and radiology, and diagnostic test results. Many consumers are now coordinating their own care and they’re having to go from specialist to specialist or their primary care to specialist and they need to be able to have that information and communicate appropriately with that next provider. What we’re also seeing in this space, which is really interesting, is that as consumers become more empowered, healthcare providers are needing to understand what it will take to get consumers more engaged in delivering changes to their own health status. So, this really is that next piece beyond just the basics of providing access to a clinical record, but now how do we make sure that we’re engaging with the consumer and they can impact their own health behavior?
Intel: What are you doing to focus on population health, and where do you see that headed in the next few years?
Thorne: Population health is a really broad category. It’s like describing the finance category with many applications underneath. We view population health the same way. There are a variety of different aspects of population health, but, ultimately, what it drives down to is providing a way of managing your patients, your consumers, in helping to improve the health status. First thing we have to do is understand what the current state is. We also need to understand how we’re now going to deliver a way to impact that current state and do it in a cost effective way. What we’re starting to see is information being delivered to providers, and then providers can take on a lot of different forms. It might be health coaches. It might be care navigators. It might be physician providers. It could be the surgeons. But we’re finding ways to deliver information at the point of care and where it makes the most sense, so that data could impact that health behavior of the patients.
Intel: What’s your view on information security now that data is more accessible to many sources?
Thorne: As we see healthcare information becoming more readily available, especially to consumers, they are going to be very interested in how we’re securing that data. What we need to do is look at how we can make information available in the cloud or another secure place that brings with it a high degree of confidence that the information is secure. I suspect that we’re going to see a whole new degree of security coming our way that we haven’t even yet imagined. My sense is that smaller startups could lead on this.
Intel: What type of healthcare IT trends are you seeing?
Thorne: There are several different trends in play right now. In the core EMR environment, we’re going to see a trend towards easier-to-use software for the providers that makes it very fast, simple and intuitive to do documentation and get the basics done. We’re also going to see inclusion of data analytics and genomics in organizing treatment plans. The second trend is a focus on better and more effective care coordination with the consumers. There are a number of different aspects to it, but different patients have different capabilities of engaging in their own health behavior. Ultimately, analytics is going to play a very important role, now and in the future, that will start to inform a lot of what we do and start to provide us with more information and more detail that will help us be more precise in terms of how we manage health. Lastly, we’re seeing a reduction in the inpatient census. What that’s doing is driving a higher inpatient volume in the post-acute network. We’re starting to see a shift towards patients being managed in the post-acute stay, which is more around the lines of home care, skilled nursing facilities and rehab facilities. Allscripts does very nicely with our Care in Motion suite and something that we’re going to continue to grow into the future to help manage those transitions of care and help those patients move back into a home setting where they’re less likely to have a preventable readmission.