O’Connor envisions a time when every system within Lahey is integrated or interoperable, improving quality and reducing costs. For example, O’Connor anticipates that Lahey management will be able to drill down into a specific surgical procedure performed by different doctors using different supplies, with variances tracked regarding patients, techniques, and time spent in the operating room. Being able to provide data on how these variances affect costs and outcomes would give management the ability to engage physicians in an evidence-based best practices discussion. If, for example, the outcomes of using a device from vendor A that costs US$1,000 are no different (or better) than the outcomes of a device from vendor B that costs US$3,000, suddenly something that was previously invisible to both doctors and administrators has been transformed into an opportunity to reduce costs and better manage care. “Physicians are people who act on information,” says O’Connor. “Provide them with good information, and they’ll respond.”
Collaboration Powers Success “In 10 years, I see a healthcare landscape significantly transformed by technology,” says Orion’s Viskovich. “People are going to be so much better informed at the point of care that outcomes will be much better and costs will be lower. For example, if a patient is diabetic and you’ve got a system that tells your primary care physician that it’s time for a foot check, the doctor can prescribe medicine that will prevent the patient from having his leg amputated in three months’ time. You’ve improved the outcome for the patient and saved the expense of surgery.”
In addition, electronic health records will drive increased collaboration between healthcare providers, payers, and patients. Deloitte’s Keckley points out that the current U.S. healthcare system is perfectly designed “to get the results it gets: high costs, some dramatic results, and a majority of poor ones.” But as Web-based tools and Enterprise 2.0 capabilities integrated with rich, searchable, robust data repositories improve physician decision-making and allow patients to make more-informed choices, that system seems archaic. This fact has been recognized at TOH, at US Oncology, and at the Lahey Clinic, all of which are leading the way in driving operational efficiency, collaboration, and a better standard of care for all their patients.
There are wide variations in input (sick patients) and output (patient outcomes) in U.S. hospitals. But these variations could be reduced significantly, as other industries have been able to do, by the dissemination of best practices that can be embedded in healthcare systems by the adoption of HCIT. “There’s a substantial upside to reducing inappropriate variation,” says Keckley. “Standardizing—aligning practices with evidence across all healthcare facilities and organizations—is a way to improve care and reduce cost. That’s huge. And that technology is available today. That’s why I’m optimistic.”