Remote health project eschews 'data overload'

The Western New York Beacon Community (WNY) has a lot going on. The network is one of 17 Beacon Communities funded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, and it's using that money for several remote health projects.

The WNY Beacon uses its HIT infrastructure to notify physicians when a patient is discharged from the hospital or long-term care and to reconcile medications a patient is taking--even to help translate information about prescriptions into multiple languages--to improve adherence. 

Powered by HEALTHeLINK, a collaborative effort among Western New York state healthcare providers and payers to share clinical information, data-sharing permeates many of the Beacon's initiatives.  

Dan Porreca, HEALTHeLINK executive director, spoke in a recent National eHealth Collaborative webcast about how Beacon is working with physicians to get them to embrace remote health technology and how to get clinical data into their hands--without overwhelming them. 

It started, he said, with the physicians themselves.

"Back in December of 2009 when the funding opportunity came up for the Beacons, the first thing we did was we got a physician advisory group together ... At the end of the day, technology for technology's sake doesn't mean anything. We need to make sure that we're providing something of value to the providers in this community."

The group decided that they'd spend their share of the Beacon Community program funding to continue building on state-funded grants that focused on information exchange with an eye toward improving diabetes care by controlling cost and improving outcomes.

Technology and health data, of course, play a big role in WNY Beacon's objectives. The idea is to get more and better information to physicians in a timely manner, Pecorra said.

That goes for the remote monitoring pilot, too.

"This part of the project is working with primary care physicians to select patients that are high risk and ... also working with some home care agencies within our community that are already providing services in the community. [It links] up the patients with their providers with an eye on not overloading physicians with data," Porreca said.

The program identifies, though registries, high-risk patients who would benefit from remote monitoring. Home health agencies monitor the data. If the nurse or care manager determines there's something of significance that the primary care provider should know about, they send that information to the physician.

The data is delivered in a concise and easy-to-read manner for the physician to view within their own EHR, avoiding "data overload."

"Otherwise, we are accumulating the data and aggregating the data so a treating provider can go into our virtual health record, that patient record look-up function, and look at the aggregated data and look at the trends for a patient. The blood glucose, blood pressure and weight readings are the three specific things," Pecorra said.

There are 110 participants enrolled in the remote health program; the goal is to hit 150 patients in the next few months. Physicians love it, Porreca reported. They've seen success with their current patients and are asking to enroll more of their patients.

Among the lessons learned? It's not just about technology.

"Things never go as fast as you want. What we're dealing with is change. Technology itself is not going to do it. We need to identify and work very closely with the clinician 'believers,'" he said. "I can give 100 presentations but one conversation with a peer is a lot more meaningful." he said.

Another piece of advice: Don't underestimate the importance of process and work flow.

"The best technology in the world will not work properly or deliver expected results if not used in an effective way," he said.

"You put technology in the physician's office, you enable the technology, but if they don't change the process and work flow within the office to utilize it or ... this will not be successful, and it will lead to frustration. In a lot of ways, technology becomes the easy part. There's policies, there's standards, there's work flow change and, at the end of the day ... there has to be a level of trust."

To lean more:
- check out the National eHealth Collaborative website
- read about the Western New York Beacon Community on ONC's Beacon Communities page 

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