This week on NVTC’s blog, Innovation Health CEO Dave Notari shares how health IT has made serious progress, closing communication and care gaps.
The healthcare industry hasn’t traditionally been known as an early adopter when it comes to implementing the latest technology – as folks in the heart of the Northern Virginia technology community know all too well. But over the past few years we’ve made some serious progress.
Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law there’s been a dramatic national up-tick in the use of personal health technology (think Fitbit!), as well as technology designed to help consumers navigate the healthcare system and make better choices on behalf of their families.
When technology is implemented within a progressive and proactive health care management model, we start to close communication and care gaps, reduce medical errors and encourage healthy habits. Northern Virginia is a hub of tech innovation, and technology is poised to improve the health care experience for residents in three very important ways over the next few years.
Improving Health Literacy
In early 2015 a Kaiser Family Foundation survey  found that there were 11 million newly insured adults as of December 2014. For some, it may have been their first experience with enrolling for health coverage and having to learn a wide array of health and health benefits terms. Health care language can be difficult to understand, and with high deductible health plans (HDHP)s on the rise, understanding coverage needs and what is available in-network is more vital than ever before. With the right consumer tools and simpler language, health providers and businesses can make health information clearer to consumers, aid decision-making, and ensure that they are informed and able to choose the plan that works best for them and their family.
Many of us expect that buying and selecting our health plan should be as easy as buying a pair of shoes—as insurers begin to implement this type of technology we can expect that to become more of a reality.
Improving the Quality of Care
When it comes to improving the overall quality of Northern Virginia healthcare, technology provides opportunities for better coordination and collaboration among key stakeholders. Our health care system today is characterized by fragmentation, inefficiency and waste. In addition, it’s not as convenient or connected as it could be. Deploying technology to connect hospitals, physicians and providers would transform the way healthcare is currently delivered and provide numerous benefits to NOVA consumers.
Take, for example, someone who needs to see a specialist. Before electronic health records (EHRs) and technology that allows doctors to electronically share patient health information were available a Primary Care Physician (PCP) would have to fax the patient’s chart to a specialist, the patient or doctor would have to call to ensure the information arrived, and if it did not the patient would have to rely on her memory to recount for the doctor her entire medical history. Today, doctors using EHRs and health information exchange technology have the ability to seamlessly coordinate their patients’ care and share critical patient data, which lessens the hassle factor for patients. Additionally, certain technologies can even allow patients to review their own secure personal health records, pinpoint in-network doctors and facilities, get cost-saving pop-up alerts and use digital ID cards for all of their check-ups and appointments.
Beyond making patient health records more accessible, technology can also help identify patients who may be at risk of certain conditions or those with potential gaps in care so doctors can act to prevent complications.
Technology has the ability to help consumers understand the cost of services before they are actually accessed—something I personally found useful a few months ago when my son was in need of a CT scan. My wife was referred to a doctor, and like most moms was going off of the doctor’s recommendation without any insight into places she could have the CT performed or what the cost would be at different facilities. This is pretty common. Using a health care payment estimator tool I was able to find all of the different care sites and costs in a five-mile radius of our home. The result? My son received a CT scan for $250 rather than the doctor’s recommended site which was $600. Since I have a HDHP, I saved an additional outlay of $350—all thanks to technology!
It is safe to assume that technology is going to transform the healthcare space. By continuing to look for and implement new technologies and solutions we have the ability to improve patient and employer education, improve health outcomes, and save money on health costs.
 Rachel Garfield, Katherine Young, Adults who Remained Uninsured at the End of 2014, (The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2015), Issue Brief