After many long months of discussion and debate, the first draft of Meaningful Use has come out. I’m optimistic about what I see -- what’s been laid out seems to focus on driving real outcomes improvement in the health care system.
It’s important that we keep this in mind -- that we’re not just trying to implement technology. We’re trying to improve the performance of the health system. And our willingness to succeed should only be exceeded by our willingness to prepare, and as part of that preparation, we must ensure that flexibility, scalability, and interoperability are inherent traits in the system. Why? Because, health is fundamentally data-driven. Nobody -- physicians, consumers, hospitals, insurance companies, governments -- can make good decisions without good data.
So driving data liquidity -- that is the ability for data to flow throughout the system -- has to be the critical focus. For years, we’ve been building systems in a “top-down” way to reach information, but what we need to do is build from the information up. One thing Carol Diamond said at a Health Affairs event that I attended with her really struck me -- the idea of bringing the question to the data -- leaving the data where it is and bringing the question/problem/issue to it. For a long time, what we did as an industry was use expensive research grants and complex tools to cull and compile data that was intended to answer one specific question, and by the time we’d sorted through the data enough to answer that question, it was either out of date or ten other, more pressing questions had popped up in the meantime. What we need is a system that unlocks all of the data that exists already in the health care sphere, and allows it to flow between silos so that when questions arise, we can bring those questions to the data for quick, evidence based answers -- rather than the other way around.
Given this, as discussions/refinements continue around meaningful use, I believe it’s critical for the following to be a part of the final definition:
· We can’t just capture data, it must be available in “real-time” in order make the right decisions and improve outcomes -- whether we’re talking about patients or populations.
· We have to enable data to become liquid -- specifically, doing this by separating data from applications. This is one of the recommendations from a study by the National Research Council of the National Academies that takes a look at what types of computational technology and investments are best for improving health outcomes. Let the excuse not be that the data is trapped in systems that we built, that we have to wait for standards.
· We’ve got to give consumers access to their data -- not just in static form -- but empower them with an electronic copy so they can easily share it, use it, add to it–creating a lifelong health data asset.
· We should accelerate the objective of having PHR access to EHR data to the 2011 Objectives and Measures. There is no need to wait until 2015. These technologies are available today and will bring real, sustainable benefits, not just for consumers, but for the overall health care system.
· We must ensure that we do not have an overly-prescriptive certification regime that focuses on certifying features and functions every-other-year. This will produce the unintended consequence of stifling innovation. Software vendors will be forced to develop towards a certified feature list rather than look for new and better ways to improve clinical processes and health outcomes,