By: Sean Caltabiano PharmD Candidate c/o 2015, Minjoo Park PharmD Candidate c/o 2015, & Elissa Tam PharmD Candidate c/o 2015
With special thanks to Dr. Vibhuti Arya, PharmD, Assistant Clinical Professor, St. John’s University, the Primary Care Information Project, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Queens, NY.
As part of our rotation at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with our preceptor, Dr. Vibhuti Arya, the three of us attended the annual New York State Mini-HIMSS (Health Information and Management Systems Society) Conference on April 23rd in New York City.
Before attending the conference, we had no idea what HIMSS was or what impact it had on pharmacists and healthcare. After doing some research, we learned that HIMSS is “a non-profit organization that focuses on providing leadership in healthcare information technology management. By improving and supporting healthcare information and management systems, the organization hopes to achieve high quality patient care at the lowest practical cost. HIMSS believes that with good technological utility, there can be better care delivery to patients by all healthcare professionals.”1
After registration and breakfast, we met with Anthony Ferrante, an officer in various HIMSS chapters and our liaison at the event. He welcomed us and spoke to us about HIMSS and their mission to use information technology to focus on better health. Kris Kusche, the New York HIMSS President, then gave the opening remarks and introduced the first speaker: the executive director of the New York eHealth Collaborative, Dave Whitlinger. He talked about a universally accessible, public utility program of clinical health information called the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY) that should enable collaboration among patients, providers, payers and public health officials to improve the quality of care. SHIN-NY will also have several services such as statewide patient record lookup, notifications such as alerts, statewide secure messaging and lab results delivery. Whitlinger also shared the exciting news that on March 31st, 2014, the New York State Legislature had approved $55 million in funding for SHIN-NY. Hopefully, this amount of money means there will be better and more effective coordination of care for the various communities of patients across New York State when this program gets implemented.
The second speaker, Frank Winters, regional representative from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, talked about the Affordable Care Act, especially as related to accountable care organizations (ACOs). ACOs are groups of healthcare professionals that promote seamless coordinated care by evaluating data to improve patient outcomes, managing resources carefully by accessing the same electronic health records, and proactively reaching out to patients with advice and reminders. ACOs were established as part of Affordable Care Act in order to reduce duplication of services and overall, reduce medical costs. These ACOs are generally evaluated according to four key domains: 1) patient/caregiver experience, 2) care coordination/patient safety, 3) preventative health, and 4) at-risk population. The ACOs must meet these quality targets in order to share in savings, and the amount of savings shared depends on quality performance. Thus, instead of getting fees for each of the services health professionals administer (e.g. individual labs, treatment and consultations), they are now getting fees for performance and the quality of care these providers deliver.
The third speaker was Kelly Cronin, Director of the Office of Care Transformation in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, who spoke to the audience about the use of health information technology-enabled care transformation to coordinate interoperability among various areas of healthcare. She talked about how the current state of electronic health records (EHF) and data exchanges are disparate and not longitudinal, but through meaningful use of EHR technology, she hoped for a more integrated way of relaying health-related information among health professionals and patients alike. Mary Ann Christopher, President and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, was the fourth speaker. She talked to the audience about leveraging information for effective home and community-based care. In her presentation, she stressed the importance of maintaining low costs while improving access to health and the quality of care by transforming healthcare into a patient-centered and community-centric delivery system. She emphasized the use of technology such as text messaging or phone calls as a tool to engage and communicate with patients and to encourage self-management, as well as to share information across disciplines, providers and settings. After these speaker presentations, three different track sessions were held with one track focusing on healthcare transformation, the second track on security and privacy, and the third track on clinical informatics.
Attending the conference allowed us to realize how much technology can be integrated into the healthcare system to improve the coordination of patient care. Usually when we think about healthcare, we focus on the patient-physician relationship and the drugs that help alleviate or combat diseases. However, technology can be used appropriately to deliver pertinent information and can help drive these relationships and improve delivery of care. Even as pharmacists, we are an important part of the healthcare system that can help improve and provide the optimal care to patients by using technology effectively to communicate with our patients. As Dr. Arya said, “As health information technology continues to evolve, students and pharmacists would benefit from knowing what is on the horizon and think of innovative ways to help improve patient outcomes using technology. Whether engaging patients directly in the use of technology, or thinking back end data analytics, all students and pharmacists have an opportunity to get involved and ger creative!”
- HIMSS New York State Chapter. Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. www.himssnys.org. Accessed July 17, 2014.
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