Study shows how health IT helps health care industry achieve the triple aim

Achieving the triple aim has been a goal for the majority of providers and organizations. Many have adopted electronic health records and other health technology to assist them in reaching the three objectives of the triple aim, which include enhancing patient experience and satisfaction of care, improving population health and cutting current health care expenses. 

Tools that come as features of EHR systems, such as e-prescribing and patient portals, are known to aid practices in accomplishing the triple aim. However, a new study found that although health IT plays a major role in enhancing multiple important aspects of patient care, there are many outdated products that present obstacles to achieving the triple aim. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. 

Health IT proves advantageous for meeting triple aim
A number of health IT professionals, payers, government employees and providers were interviewed by researchers from the University of Edinburgh. The goal was to ask in-depth questions that reveal whether health IT systems have helped practices meet all three aspects of the triple aim. 

The results showed that the vast majority of health professionals in the 47 interviews conducted felt that health technologies did play a major role in helping organizations successfully work toward health care reform and create new initiatives to cut their costs. 

However, the participants also expressed that older EHR systems were difficult to use and made it hard to improve health information exchange. This also made it challenging to improve patient engagement. Many of the interviewees also noted that value-based care where reimbursements are determined by level of care and data should replace fee-for-service payment models.

The interviewees agreed that the massive increase in the number of EHR systems was a result of the HITECH Act. Hospitals, ambulatory care settings and provider practices began adopting health IT to participate in the EHR Incentive Programs to receive financial incentives. 

The importance of investing in effective health IT
The interview participants also discussed how general EHR systems make it hard to achieve all aspects of the triple aim because these were developed in an old base code designed for large hospital billing purposes. The respondents explained that features like interoperability and health information exchange are also essential aspects that health IT should help them with. However, many interviewees did not feel that their EHRs are equipped to aid them in improving these. 

"I also think we have done just a God awful job doing clinical data exchange – health information exchange," one health care executive stated during his interview. "So it is just maddening to hear all of these 'success stories' about health information exchange when we are really doing a really bad job of it globally or nationally at least. I can't speak about other countries and so there are different issues there, and just for example many of the health information exchanges will cease to exist because they don't have a sustainable business model."

Some hospitals in New York have taken steps to meet the triple aim of health care objectives, including the South Nassau Communities Hospital, which started a "Heart Healthy Bundle" to assist heart failure patients transition from the hospital to home. Similarly, the Rochester Regional Health System has created a patient-centered medical home to enhance communications and care coordination throughout the medical care sector.

Another way to meet the triple aim objectives is investing in specialty EHR systems. Unlike general EHR technologies, these focus on a practice's specific needs and unique requirements. Many of these systems were designed by experts in the industry that the EHR is created for, developing only the templates and documents that doctors and their patients need to increase patient satisfaction and cut costs.