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Four benefits of electronic health records

Leaders from industry, academia, and health care discuss the rollout of this technology at The Atlantic’s sixth annual Health Care Forum

Today The Atlantic Health Care Forum brought together leading policymakers and industry experts in medicine, public health, and nutrition to have conversations about the state of the nation’s health care system. The event was sponsored by Siemens, Surescripts, WellPoint, GSK and PhRMA. Real World Health Care attended to share insights from the panel “Health Care Tomorrow: Examining the Tools and Technologies that Will Revolutionize the Future Health Care System.”

Jamie Elizabeth Rosen

Jamie Elizabeth Rosen

Much of the discussion centered around electronic health records, which are increasingly being rolled out in huge hospital systems after the federal government incentivized their adoption to the tune of billions of dollars five years ago. Four themes emerged from the panel, which included top executives from Johns Hopkins Medicine, athenahealth, PhRMA, and Carolinas HealthCare System.

 

1. Enhancing collaboration.

Electronic health records facilitate a team-based approach to hospital care, as well as allowing for better coordination between hospital systems. “What we’re going to see is it’s going to drive team-based clinical care because everyone in the system will have access to the same medical records,” said Dr. Paul Rothman, Dean of the Medical Faculty and Vice President for Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University and Chief Executive Officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “You’re going to see an [increased] level of collaboration not only between delivery systems, but also between the patient and the health care provider.”

However, Ed Park, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, athenahealth, warned that the decades-old technologies that many hospital systems are using are limited in their capabilities. “The current crop of [electronic health records] are documentation tools instead of care management tools,” he said, adding that they are primarily for use by insurers and lawyers. “What I fear is health systems beginning to buy their way into their own prisons that are built of their own IT…as opposed to dealing in an open environment,” he said.

 

2. Enabling patient-centered care.

Electronic health records enable patients to reap greater benefits from telehealth. “Having your information on your iPhone: that’s not far away,” Dr. Rothman said. “[Patients are] going to do EKG’s at home. They’re going to be measuring their blood sugar at home. The patient will have control of the data.”

Electronic records also hold the promise of helping to solve age-old problems in the U.S. health care system, including keeping contact with patients to encourage them to take prescribed treatment regimens. “There is almost $350 billion a year in inefficiency because of lack of compliance and adherence with medications,” said John Castellani, President and Chief Executive Officer, PhRMA. “If you could just get an improvement in whether patients take the medicines that are prescribed, you could capture this great savings.”

“You have kids who have kidney transplants, and you can give them reminders on Facebook that they have to take their medications,” Dr. Rothman added.

 

3. Targeting therapies for increased success.

Electronic medical records can help health care providers ensure that they prescribe the treatments most likely to work for their patients.

“What I think is the promise of electronic medical records is our ability to find subsets of diseases through the broad diseases we treat,” Dr. Rothman said. “Asthma isn’t one disease. Obesity isn’t one disease. Diabetes isn’t one disease. We are going to be able to find subsets of diseases and target therapies [that work]. That’s when you’re going to see efficiency and return on investment.”

 

4. Harnessing the power of big data.

Our health care system has already begun to see the benefits of ‘big data’ with examples such as the discovery of drug side effects and interactions through mining consumer web search data. “We have to use the technologies to bring down the cost of the drug discovery process,” Castellani said.

“Just taking care of the patient, we capture data,” said Dr. Roger Ray, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Carolinas HealthCare System. “That allows us to know when a patient…may be at risk for hospital readmission. Having the ability to mine [data]…makes a difference for patients.

“We all, each of us, remember with longing a simpler time when we could scribble and walk off and our job was done,” he added. “What we know now is that’s not very good for the patient. We had no standardization allowing us to help patients avoid lots of different bad outcomes they could have.”

 

Have electronic medical records impacted your health or that of your patients? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Smoking Out Nicotine Addiction: What’s Working in the War on Cigarettes

With CVS Pharmacy’s recent announcement that cigarettes and other tobacco containing products will no longer be sold in its stores, Real World Health Care has been crunching the numbers on the success of anti-tobacco efforts and reviewing recent advances in smoking cessation. Here’s what we’ve found:

  • #1. Smoking still holds the unfortunate distinction of causing more preventable deaths than anything else.
  • 8 million. That’s how many lives have been saved by 50 years of anti-smoking efforts, according to a recent study by researchers from Yale University.

    Jamie Elizabeth Rosen

    Jamie Elizabeth Rosen

  • 19%. That’s the current smoking rate in the U.S., down from a whopping 42% five decades ago when U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry published the first report on the negative health impacts of smoking.
  • 3,000. The number of young people who still try their first cigarette every day. Almost 700 become regular smokers.
  • 7,600. The number of store locations that will no longer sell tobacco products as a result of CVS’s decision. Under the Tobacco Control Act, the Food and Drug Administration cannot mandate what retailers sell, although interestingly it does have the power to mandate the amount of nicotine in cigarettes in addition to advertising restrictions and general standards for tobacco production

Public consciousness, regulation, and education on the harmful effects of tobacco are all factors in the tremendous progress that has been made in saving lives. The World Health Organization’s global recommendations for tobacco control are known as the MPOWER measures and include the following:

WHO_MPOWER

With the efforts of both public and private sector actors, 2014 could be a watershed year for tobacco control in the U.S. In addition to CVS’s tobacco ban, several new initiatives on the part of the government and private industry have already been announced this year that address components of MPOWER:

  • Earlier this month, the FDA launched a new media campaign targeting youth. “We are addressing one of the biggest public health problems in this country and in the world,” FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said. “It’s something the FDA has not really done before in terms of a broad public health campaign of this magnitude but it’s something that we are so pleased to be doing because it matters for health.”
  • Walgreens and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare announced a smoking cessation initiative. Along with resources to help quit smoking, Walgreens’ new Sponsorship to Quit provides smokers with 24/7 tips and tools, celebrations for milestones, a free consultation and other valuable support systems for smokers in their journey to quit. MinuteClinic also provides online tips, tools and facts to help smokers kick their habits.

Have you or anyone you know succeeded in quitting smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products? Have you seen an effective campaign against tobacco? Post to the comments section to share your impressions of what works.