Health Care IT: 10 Best Practices for Coordinating Care With Digital Tools
As doctors and hospitals form accountable care organizations (ACOs) to qualify for financial incentives from positive patient outcomes under the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare, health care providers are going to need IT tools to coordinate care electronically. Care coordination is essential to avoid duplicate treatment and to prevent medical errors. Whether it's a doctor, hospital, home health agency or health insurance payer, health care organizations are all at different levels of implementing IT. In fact, many are still mailing health records to other members of care teams, which could take a few days. Even if a patient travels from a primary care doctor to a specialist down the hall in a medical building, the patient often carries records in a paper folder rather than their being accessed or transmitted digitally. For health care providers to properly exchange information and coordinate care, it should be in "near-real time," Sira Cormier, a principal in the health care group at CSC, an IT services integrator, told eWEEK. A phone or fax machine may not be fast enough. Digital methods include secure email using the federal Direct Project Protocol. We spoke with Cormier to find out how health care providers can best use IT resources to coordinate patient care.
Start With Secure Email
"Use any means you've got to send the information electronically," Cormier advised. A clinical summary containing the patient's diagnoses, current medications and allergy info can be sent using basic tools, such as secure email. "Being able to send that information is one of the bigger challenges for coordinated care, and often the information can't get there in time," she said. "Leverage any tools you can in order to be able to create a clinical summary in a format the next provider can take advantage of," said Cormier. Messaging electronically in near-real time should be faster than paper, Cormier noted.