Is the Future Here Now?

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 - Beth Walsh - Portrait
Beth Walsh, Editor

While it may seem that all the different responsibilities on your plate will converge only in some future alternate reality, there just may be underlying parallels already in play.

For example, patient-centered medical homes and meaningful use are two sides of the same coin, according to Jeff Hummel, MD, MPH, medical director for clinical informatics at Qualis Health, a Seattle-based nonprofit quality improvement organization.

In my conversation with Hummel for this issue's article about patient-centered medical homes, he pointed out that meaningful use Stage 1 was designed to identify key pieces of technology that have to be used appropriately and efficiently for a practice team to function as a medical home.

"In fact, when we first started the regional extension center three years ago, we tried to create crosswalks so that people functioning on medical home models could see that meaningful use was not a distraction at all but actually fit into the plan," he says. To really operate as a medical home, a practice must change its workflow. Technology is simply the infrastructure for the medical home.

Looking ahead to Stage 2, Hummel says the focus on quality improvement is ideal for medical homes. Practices that think like medical homes understand how reporting on diabetes, heart disease and other conditions all work together. "They can start to see improved outcomes."

Are efforts such as meaningful use, patient-centered medical homes and more starting to integrate at your facility to produce effective results?

Further advances in technology will only continue to impact healthcare, according to the keynote address at this year's annual conference of AAMI, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. Daniel Kraft, MD, MBA, head of two healthcare technology companies and chair of the medical track at Singularity University in Silicon Valley, said that people generally think linearly to solve problems. However, thinking exponentially has more potential.

"If you had a lily pad and it just divided every single day, you would have a billion lily pads in a month," he said, encouraging attendees to consider ways to leverage existing and developing healthcare technologies "to impact the future of our own health and of healthcare, and to address many of the major challenges that we have in healthcare today—from the exponential costs to the aging population to the way that we don't use information very well, the fragmentation of care, and often the very difficult course of adoption of innovation."

He pointed out that most healthcare dollars are spent over the course of the last 20 percent of people's lives. "What if we could spend in a way to incentivize physicians and the healthcare system and ourselves to … [better] leverage technology?" he asked.

Meaningful use criteria, the beginnings of changes to the reimbursement system and more are converging with technological advancements to eventually create a new normal. Has the future arrived at your facility?