Delivering on the promise of decentralized, community-based care

July 24, 2014
Why? Well, it’s easy enough for any consumer of healthcare services, or patient, to understand. Would you prefer to sit in a busy hospital waiting room surrounded by sick people or conveniently park your car in front a small, specialized clinic that’s designed for easy access and a care experience aligned to your needs?

While this decentralized, patient-centric care model is theoretically better for us as patients, it won’t be if the right technology considerations aren’t made. The challenge lies

in whether these geographically distributed outpatient facilities, owned by either a health system or physician group, will have access to the clinical systems, collaboration tools and IT support needed to provide us with modern and well-coordinated care. Patient and family experiences must be a priority in these outpatient settings, which requires clinician and staff efficiency and better coordination across medical specialties and facilities, regardless of where the facility is located or what entity owns it. To make this convenient, patient-centric model of care a reality, providers must invest in three core technology areas:

  1. Centralized IT infrastructure, applications and support: While distributed, community-based facilities make sense, distributed IT does not. No provider has the resources to staff every outpatient facility with big IT teams. Instead, large providers are reducing data centers, centralizing and virtualizing their clinical systems and desktops, and moving to remote support models that scale with outpatient facility growth. Smaller providers are turning to hosted electronic medical record (EMR) solutions like Cerner Millienium or hosted IT services offered from large integrated delivery networks (IDNs) and cloud-based service providers. Moving to a centralized or cloud-based model increases business efficiency, allowing a fewer number of people to support more users across a variety of locations. This approach also centralizes protected health information (PHI) in a well-protected data center, ensuring that smaller facilities don’t increase the risk of data loss.
  2. Network optimization and security: As providers centralize IT services, they must invest in their networks to ensure an optimal experience for clinicians and staff working across distributed facilities. Providers are investing in networking technologies that optimize a branch-like experience, ensure that critical applications get prioritized and protect critical data as it runs over the network. A centralized IT model and the network connection cannot be a roadblock to clinician and staff productivity, or the patient experience.
  3. Modern communication and collaboration: Providing specialized and personalized patient care requires coordination and communication among clinicians and staff – both within and outside of that stand-alone facility. The community-based care model presents a challenge as facilities and individuals become more geographically distributed. But providers are taking a modern approach to drive communication and collaboration, introducing secure, HIPAA-compliant video conferencing, instant messaging, mobile email and secure texting solutions that enable caregivers to work together, removing location-based limitations to better patient outcomes. Simultaneously, these communication and collaboration tools can be used to drive personalized interaction between caregivers and patients, inside and outside the outpatient facility walls. These tools offer new ways to get information out to patients and their families, not just through patient portals, but also through the communication methods patients rely on for their everyday lives.

With these simple forms of communication, busy patients and families can increase their contact with physicians and clinical staff to help implement care plans at home or help drive lifestyle changes that reduce costs associated with chronic, preventable diseases.

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