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What if being USEful actually made Technology Meaningful

By Matt Gretczko 03.04.15
Reading time: 3 minutes

Doctor at Computer

Meaningful use – it’s a huge buzz word, and rightfully so. Whether you agree or disagree with the manner in which it has been “implemented” (and the intricacies of the guidelines), it has been a driving factor in pushing healthcare organizations towards greater technology adoption. Money, especially in Healthcare, remains a rather significant momentum driver for many organizations.

According to Healthit.gov, Meaningful Use is defined as the following:

Using certified electronic health record (EHR) technology to:

  • Improve quality, safety, efficiency, and reduce health disparities
  • Engage patients and family
  • Improve care coordination, and population and public health
  • Maintain privacy and security of patient health information

Ultimately, it is hoped that the meaningful use compliance will result in:

  • Better clinical outcomes
  • Improved population health outcomes
  • Increased transparency and efficiency
  • Empowered individuals
  • More robust research data on health systems

The concern by many though is that although the above goals were honorable and well intentioned, many technologies that hit this standard did not consider the users of the technology. Therefore, many EHRs were focused more on successfully driving more efficient billing than being a great tool for clinical practitioners. This is an important lesson learned because as Meaningful Use becomes expanded to other technology offerings, it is critical to not solely pick a technology based upon this certification.

Yes, being Meaningful Use certified is an important component, but being certified does not really mean its “Useful”.

Let’s take patient portals as the next logical iteration. Patient Portals are intended to drive greater collaboration and access to information. According to Healthit.gov, “just making a portal available to patients will not ensure that they will use it. The portal must be engaging and user friendly, and must support patient-centered outcomes. The portal also must be integrated into clinical encounters so the care team uses it to convey information, communicate with patients, and support self-care and decision-making as indicated.” This is absolutely correct. Further, if we are really looking for the ideal state, these portals must also ensure that the data/information is not siloed so that a patient gets a comprehensive view of their data.

One of the reasons why this is often difficult is that patients currently do not control their own data. We need to think about access to data from both a provider’s perspective (what if I work at a private practice and an affiliated hospital) but also from a patients perspective (what if some of my data is coming from multiple places).

But how do you get there?

Clearly, it will take some time for this to become the reality. However, in the interim, as organizations investigate patient portal solutions, it is important to recognize how they might be coordinated across community, network, state, and regional levels. These solutions can be more coordinated and collaborative if they focus less on a point solution and more on developing a portal or community that is a service or application operating on a broad platform that can easily and effectively integrate multiple entities.

The impetus for moving towards a patient portal is important, but its even more significant to ensure that Healthcare organizations, big or small, or focusing on the usefulness of these offerings as opposed to just checking off a box. Stay tuned as larger technology platforms enter the meaningful use space to demonstrate what is possible.

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