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Advanced Health IT Infrastructure Supports Value-Based Care

Organizations are looking to their health IT infrastructure as a foundation for value-based care initiatives.

Solid health IT infrastructure supports value-based care incentives.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- There are many strategies organizations can use in the realm of revenue cycle management. However, healthcare organizations are looking to their health IT infrastructures to further fulfill value-based care incentives.

Entities are interested in cutting costs by consolidating IT infrastructure resources and using advanced technology to more accurately diagnose patients at the point of care.

Healthcare organizations continue to embrace value-based care models as they replace fee-for-service care with strategies that will lower overall costs while increasing the quality of patient care.

CMS has several value-based care models that promote accountable care and reimburse providers that follow guidelines, rewarding them for cutting down on patient readmissions and improving outcomes.

AMIA states  in a paper that significant progress has been made in the digitization of health IT infrastructure, however many IT environments contain legacy systems that are not designed to support the transition to value-based care.  

READ MORE: Value-Based Performance, Resource Management Vital for HIT

“Provider organizations pursuing new models of health care delivery and payment are finding that their electronic systems lack the capabilities needed to succeed,” said AMIA. “The result is a chasm between the current health IT ecosystem and the health IT ecosystem that is desperately needed.”

“Both the technologies themselves and the application of those technologies and the data they contain urgently need improvement to support the transition to value-based care.”

Many healthcare organizations are hindered by traditional health IT systems that are not compatible with new technologies and cannot support the introduction of new, advanced solutions into the IT infrastructure.

Value-based care places new infrastructure requirements that demand better means of information exchange and communication.

Many healthcare organizations still use fax machines to exchange information, according to AMIA. While fax machines are not necessarily less secure than more advanced means of communication, they do not integrate well with other health IT systems, such as EHRs and analytics. 

READ MORE: Value-Based Care Revives Interest in Healthcare ERPs

The progress towards advanced value-based care IT infrastructure lies with the technology healthcare providers are willing to adopt.

Providers face gaps in their current health IT ecosystems, including a lack of standardized APIs for external data access so clinicians can gather all patient medical data. Advanced analytic tools can also create gaps in HIT ecosystems.

Inadequate API standards hurt healthcare interoperability for organizations transitioning to value-based care because clinicians are not provided with all the information they need to gain a full view of a patient’s medical history.

For example, if a patient is admitted to the ER, that information may never be communicated to their primary care physician. The physician may not know valuable information about the patient that needs to be considered for the patient’s long-term health.

Lack of information may also sabotage the patient’s analytic results, concluding in an inaccurate diagnosis and causing the patient to return several times, costing the provider money.

READ MORE: Value-Based Care Needs Purposeful Health IT Interoperability

Standardized interoperability via APIs gives clinicians access to all of a patient’s medical information, resulting in more accurate initial diagnoses. This eliminates return visits due to lack of information.

How organizations can use advanced technology for value-based care

Entities are now reaching for more advanced infrastructure technology to consolidate IT resources and move towards value-based care incentives. Consolidating and virtualizing certain infrastructure technologies also gives clinicians faster and more streamlined access to patient information and tools.

Virtualized infrastructure is one of many technologies gaining popularity in health IT. Virtualizing desktops, networks, and data centers are several ways healthcare organizations can consolidate on-premises resources and use the scalability of cloud computing.

Software-defined infrastructure (SDx) solutions are different virtualization technologies deployed in an IT infrastructure, replacing traditional hardware using abstraction. SDx is programmed and used to automate solutions within an IT infrastructure by virtualizing certain solution functions using abstraction and cloud services. SDx includes software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined data centers (SDDC), and software-defined storage (SDS).

While a full software-defined data center (SDDC) is still out of reach for most healthcare organizations, software-defined storage (SDS) can be used to manage data storage by separating the hardware from the software that manages it.  

By decoupling the data storage programming controls and the physical hardware, organizations can share storage workloads across physical servers within a network to make better use of available server space.

Virtualizing certain parts of health IT infrastructure also make it easier to move workloads to the cloud saving money on hardware and resources, according to ClearSky Data CEO Ellen Rubin.

“Things the customer feels don’t need to live in their data center anymore, like VMware environments, are moved to the cloud because they take up a tremendous amount of resources,” said Rubin. “The VMware environment is already virtualized and organizations are willing to consider that it doesn't have to sit on physical gear.”

“It’s easier to move a VMWare environment to the cloud than workloads that haven’t been virtualized,” she added. “There are characteristics of the application that make it more cloud friendly.”

Virtualizing components of IT infrastructure and eliminating hardware saves organizations money and it cuts down on the amount of time clinicians spend logging into and out of secure applications.

In the face of value-based care, fast and secure logins are critical to increasing the quality of patient care. Virtualizing clinician desktops allows them to consistently log into their own personal desktop environment from any secure thin client.

The virtual environment eliminates the need to log into and out of individual applications so clinicians can spend more time interacting with patients and IT administrators don’t have to worry about secure access for each individual application.

Considering virtualizing parts of health IT infrastructure will assist organizations in meeting value-based care goals by saving money on IT infrastructure gear long term and giving clinicians a more direct and secure way to access patient information.