Health IT 'underdeveloped' to manage complex care patients

When it comes to management of patients with complex, high-cost conditions, health IT and analytics efforts are "underdeveloped," according to researchers from Boston-based Partners HealthCare and the Commonwealth Fund.

In a perspective article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Clemens Hong, M.D., and Timothy Ferris, M.D., of Partners, and Melinda Abrams of the Commonwealth Fund say that, for instance, better algorithms could be created to pinpoint patients whose care today could lead to lower output costs tomorrow. They also say that population management tools are in need of improvement.

Hong and Ferris also serve as authors on a Commonwealth Fund brief published this month that focuses on how to build successful complex care management programs. Among their suggestions in the brief, they call for increased sharing of timely information.

To that end, in the NEJM article, they say health information exchanges could help move patient data back and forth among complex care management team members.

"Specific incentives that encourage providers to share key resources--such as patient registries, CCM staff, health information technology platforms and analysts to support quality-improvement efforts--can help practices to achieve economies of scale and reduce their costs," the researchers say.

In January, National Coordinator for Health IT Karen DeSalvo said the next phase of the ONC's efforts--beyond Meaningful Use--will focus on harnessing health IT for population health.

"That is the major next chapter that we must undertake as part of the president's major domestic policy initiative," DeSalvo said. "[T]o see the promise of health information technology in the clinical interface for the health systems and the population and community at large to come to fruition."

In ONC's recently published outline of its 10-year plan for interoperability, improved population health is seen as a primary motivation.

To learn more:
- here's the NEJM perspective article