As healthcare’s shift toward value-based care progresses, industry researchers are finding that technology that boosts patient engagement, harnesses all available data for informed decision-making, and enables more effective treatments will be increasingly vital for health systems to succeed. But limited resources and lack of reimbursement for these technologies remain significant barriers, according to a new report.
The research makes up the third annual “Top of Mind for Top Health Systems” survey from the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM), an organization jointly operated by GE Healthcare, Nokia, and UPMC. Based on a survey of 70 leaders at 65 health systems across the country, the report, focuses on three priority areas — patient engagement, data aggregation and analytics, and precision medicine.
According to researchers, “These three areas are highly connected to the shift from fee-for-service to value-base care. As provider organizations continue to shift their payment models and take on more risk, there is a greater need for data visibility so that organizations can manage their most at-risk populations and make better care decisions. Patient engagement is a large component of organizations’ efforts to be more proactive about keeping patients healthy. Finally, precision medicine is seen as a future-looking way to improve patient treatment and lower the cost of care.”
The Utah-based KLAS Research conducted the latest survey from May through August 2019. Nearly half of the respondents were chief information officers (CIOs), while the rest were at the executive and director level.
The data revealed that health systems are currently investing heavily in patient engagement and data aggregation/analytics. In other research conducted by KLAS, nearly two-thirds of respondents planned to invest in data aggregation and analytics technology—including fully integrated electronic medical records (EMRs) and population health data aggregation tools. In this same research, two-thirds also cited patient engagement technology—such as patient portals, telehealth, patient education, and customer relationship management systems—as a top investment priority.
In contrast, relatively few organizations are currently investing in precision medicine technology. However, 62 percent of those surveyed in last year’s Top of Mind research felt it would be a high-impact health IT area within the next five years.
Additional key findings from the report include:
- Patients are increasingly demanding a digital experience on par with what they have in other, more technologically advanced industries, but adoption is still low. Organizations report that, on average, 3 percent of patients have adopted the technologies that are available to them, and 82 percent of survey-takers said their health system’s patient portal, which is commonly an extension of the EMR, is the dominant technology for engaging with patients. Similarly, recent research published in Health Affairs found that while hospitals are giving almost all of their discharged patients access to view, download, and transmit their health data, only about 10 percent of those with access are using it.
- The ability to aggregate and analyze data from multiple sources is essential for health systems that want to produce better outcomes and reduce costs. On average, respondents reported having 71 percent of data from clinical sources integrated; leaders said an average of 61 percent of all patient data, including claims and other non-clinical data, was integrated. Limited resources, lack of data standards and poor data normalization were cited as the greatest barriers to complete data aggregation.
- With its potential to improve clinical outcomes, precision medicine is a growing area of interest for health systems. However, high barriers to entry and uncertain funding models so far have limited adoption. Nearly 70 percent of interviewed organizations report low maturity or no deployment of precision medicine efforts. Reimbursement and earning a return on investment were cited as the biggest roadblocks to adopting precision medicine.
“Health systems are moving toward a risk-based world where they will have a bigger financial stake in better managing the health of their patients. Having access to complete patient data and analyzing it, keeping patients engaged in their health and delivering more effective treatments, are essential to managing risk,” said Pamela Peele, Ph.D., chief analytics officer of UPMC Health Plan and UPMC Enterprises.
Peele, who is a member of the steering committee for the CCM, added, “Finding the money to deploy these important technologies, while managing the other financial pressures health systems face, is a challenge for all healthcare providers.”