Improving Patient Care and Reducing Costs in Healthcare

By Jason Lee, Director of Healthcare and Security Forums, The Open Group

Recently, The Open Group Healthcare Forum hosted a tweet jam to discuss IT and Enterprise Architecture (EA) issues as they relate to two of the most persistent problems in healthcare: reducing costs and improving patient care. Below I summarize the key points that followed from a rather unique discussion. Unique how? Unique in that rather than address these issues from the perspective of “must do” priorities (including EHR implementation, transitioning to ICD-10, and meeting enhanced HIPAA security requirements), we focused on “should do” opportunities.

We asked how stakeholders in the healthcare system can employ “Boundaryless Information Flow™” and standards development through the application of EA approaches that have proven effective in other industries to add new insights and processes to reduce costs and improve quality.

Question 1: What barriers exist for collaboration among providers in healthcare, and what can be done to improve things?
• tetradian: Huge barriers of language, terminology, mindset, worldview, paradigm, hierarchy, role and much more
• jasonsleephd: Financial, organizational, structural, lack of enabling technology, cultural, educational, professional insulation
• jim_hietala: EHRs with proprietary interfaces represent a big barrier in healthcare
• Technodad: Isn’t question really what barriers exist for collaboration between providers and patients in healthcare?
• tetradian: Communication b/w patients and providers is only one (type) amongst very many
• Technodad: Agree. Debate needs to identify whose point of view the #healthcare problem is addressing.
• Dana_Gardner: Where to begin? A Tower of Babel exists on multiple levels among #healthcare ecosystems. Too complex to fix wholesale.
• EricStephens: Also, legal ramifications of sharing information may impede sharing
• efeatherston: Patient needs provider collaboration to see any true benefit (I don’t just go to one provider)
• Dana_Gardner: Improve first by identifying essential collaborative processes that have most impact, and then enable them as secure services.
• Technodad: In US at least, solutions will need to be patient-centric to span providers- Bring Your Own Wellness (BYOW™) for HC info.
• loseby: Lack of shared capabilities & interfaces between EHRs leads to providers w/o comprehensive view of patient
• EricStephens: Are incentives aligned sufficiently to encourage collaboration? + lack of technology integration.
• tetradian: Vast numbers of stakeholder-groups, many beyond medicine – e.g. pharma, university, politics, local care (esp. outside of US)
• jim_hietala: Gap in patient-centric information flow
• Technodad: I think patents will need to drive the collaboration – they have more incentive to manage info than providers.
• efeatherston: Agreed, stakeholder list could be huge
• EricStephens: High-deductible plans will drive patients (us) to own our health care experience
• Dana_Gardner: Take patient-centric approach to making #healthcare processes better: drives adoption, which drives productivity, more adoption
• jasonsleephd: Who thinks standards development and data sharing is an essential collaboration tool?
• tetradian: not always patient-centric – e.g. epidemiology /public-health is population centric – i.e. _everything_ is ‘the centre’
• jasonsleephd: How do we break through barriers to collaboration? For one thing, we need to create financial incentives to collaborate (e.g., ACOs)
• efeatherston: Agreed, the challenge is to get them to challenge (if that makes sense). Many do not question
• EricStephens: Some will deify those in a lab coat.
• efeatherston: Still do, especially older generations, cultural
• Technodad: Agree – also displaying, fusing data from different providers, labs, monitors etc.
• dianedanamac: Online collaboration, can be cost effective & promote better quality but must financially incented
• efeatherston: Good point, unless there is a benefit/incentive for provider, they may not be bothered to try
• tetradian: “must financially incented” – often other incentives work better – money can be a distraction – also who pays?

Participants identified barriers that are not atypical: financial disincentives, underpowered technology, failure to utilize existing capability, lack of motivation to collaborate. Yet all participants viewed more collaboration as key. Consensus developed around:
• The patient (and by one commenter, the population) as the main driver of collaboration, and
• The patient as the most important stakeholder at the center of information flow.

Question 2: Does implementing remote patient tele-monitoring and online collaboration drive better and more cost-effective patient care?
• EricStephens: “Hell yes” comes to mind. Why drag yourself into a dr. office when a device can send the information (w/ video)
• efeatherston: Will it? Will those with high deductible plans have ability/understanding/influence to push for it?
• EricStephens: Driving up participation could drive up efficacy
• jim_hietala: Big opportunities to improve patient care thru remote tele-monitoring
• jasonsleephd: Tele-ICUs can keep patients (and money) in remote settings while receiving quality care
• jasonsleephd: Remote monitoring of patients admitted with CHF can reduce rehospitalization w/i 6 months
• Dana_Gardner: Yes! Pacemakers now uplink to centralized analysis centers, communicate trends back to attending doctor. Just scratches surface
• efeatherston: Amen. Do that now, monthly uplink, annual check in with doctor to discuss any trends he sees.
• tetradian: Assumes tele-monitoring options even exist – very wide range of device-capabilities, from very high to not-much, and still not common.
• tetradian: (General request to remember that there’s more to the world, and medicine, than just the US and its somewhat idiosyncratic systems?)
• efeatherston: Yes, I do find myself looking through the lens of my own experiences, forgetting the way we do things may not translate
• jasonsleephd: Amen to point about our idiosyncrasies! Still, we have to live with them, and we can do so much better with good information flow!
• Dana_Gardner: Governments should remove barriers so more remote patient tele-monitoring occurs. Need to address the malpractice risks issue.
• TerryBlevins: Absolutely. Just want the information to go to the right place!
• Technodad: . Isn’t “right place” someplace you & all your providers can access? Need interoperability!
• TerryBlevins: It requires interoperability yes – the info must flow to those that must know.
• Technodad: Many areas where continuous monitoring can help. Improved IoT (internet of things) sensors e.g. cardio, blood chemistry coming.
• tetradian: Ethical/privacy concerns re how/with-whom that data is shared – e.g. with pharma, research, epidemiology etc
• efeatherston: Add employers to that etc. list of how/who/what is shared

Participants agreed that remote patient monitoring and telemonitoring can improve collaboration, improve patient care, and put patients more in control of their own healthcare data. However, participants expressed concerns about lack of widespread availability and the related issue of high cost. In addition, they raised important questions about who has access to these data, and they addressed nagging privacy and liability concerns.

Question 3: Can a mobile strategy improve patient experience, empowerment and satisfaction? If so, how?
• jim_hietala: mobile is a key area where patient health information can be developed/captured
• EricStephens: Example: link blood sugar monitor to iPhone to MyFitnessPal + gamification to drive adherence (and drive $$ down?)
• efeatherston: Mobile along with #InternetOfThings, wearables linked to mobile. Contact lens measuring blood sugar in recent article as ex.
• TerryBlevins: Sick people, or people getting sick are on the move. In a patient centric world we must match need.
• EricStephens: Mobile becomes a great data acquisition point. Something as simple as SMS can drive adherence with complication drug treatments
• jasonsleephd: mHealth is a very important area for innovation, better collaboration, $ reduction & quality improvement. Google recent “Webby Awards & handheld devices”
• tetradian: Mobile can help – e.g. use of SMS for medicine in Africa etc
• Technodad: Mobile isn’t option any more. Retail, prescription IoT, mobile network & computing make this a must-have.
• dianedanamac: Providers need to be able to receive the information mHealth
• Dana_Gardner: Healthcare should go location-independent. Patient is anywhere, therefore so is care, data, access. More than mobile, IMHO.
• Technodad: Technology and mobile demand will outrun regional provider systems, payers, regulation
• Dana_Gardner: As so why do they need to be regional? Cloud can enable supply-demand optimization regardless of location for much.
• TerryBlevins: And the caregivers are also on the move!
• Dana_Gardner: Also, more machine-driven care, i.e. IBM Watson, for managing the routing and prioritization. Helps mitigate overload.
• Technodad: Agree – more on that later!
• Technodad: Regional providers are the reality in the US. Would love to have more national/global coverage.
• Dana_Gardner: Yes, let the market work its magic by making it a larger market, when information is the key.
• tetradian: “let the market do its work” – ‘the market’ is probably the quickest way to destroy trust! – not a good idea…
• Technodad: To me, problem is coordinating among multi providers, labs etc. My health info seems to move at glacial pace then.
• tetradian: “Regional providers are the reality in the US.” – people move around: get info follow them is _hard_ (1st-hand exp. there…)
• tetradian: danger of hype/fear-driven apps – may need regulation, or at least regulatory monitoring
• jasonsleephd: Regulators, as in FDA or something similar?
• tetradian: “Regulators as in FDA” etc – at least oversight of that kind, yes (cf. vitamins, supplements, health-advice services)
• jim_hietala: mobile, consumer health device innovation moving much faster than IT ability to absorb
• tetradian: also beware of IT-centrism and culture – my 90yr-old mother has a cell-phone, but has almost no idea how to use it!
• Dana_Gardner: Information and rely of next steps (in prevention or acute care) are key, and can be mobile. Bring care to the patient ASAP.

Participants began in full agreement. Mobile health is not even an option but a “given” now. Recognition that provider ability to receive information is lacking. Cloud viewed as means to overcome regionalization of data storage problems. When the discussion turned to further development of mHealth there was some debate on what can be left to the market and whether some form of regulatory action is needed.

Question 4: Does better information flow and availability in healthcare reduce operation cost, and free up resources for more patient care?
• tetradian: A4: should do, but it’s _way_ more complex than most IT-folks seem to expect or understand (e.g. repeated health-IT fails in UK)
• jim_hietala: A4: removing barriers to health info flow may reduce costs, but for me it’s mostly about opportunity to improve patient care
• jasonsleephd: Absolutely. Consider claims processing alone. Admin costs in private health ins. are 20% or more. In Medicare less than 2%.
• loseby: Absolutely! ACO model is proving it. Better information flow and availability also significantly reduces hospital admissions
• dianedanamac: I love it when the MD can access my x-rays and lab results so we have more time.
• efeatherston: I love it when the MD can access my x-rays and lab results so we have more time.
• EricStephens: More info flow + availability -> less admin staff -> more med staff.
• EricStephens: Get the right info to the ER Dr. can save a life by avoiding contraindicated medicines
• jasonsleephd: EricStephens GO CPOE!!
• TerryBlevins: @theopengroup. believe so, but ask the providers. My doctor is more focused on patient by using simple tech to improve info flow
• tetradian: don’t forget link b/w information-flows and trust – if trust fails, so does the information-flow – worse than where we started!
• jasonsleephd: Yes! Trust is really key to this conversation!
• EricStephens: processing a claim, in most cases, should be no more difficult than an expense report or online order. Real-time adjudication
• TerryBlevins: Great point.
• efeatherston: Agreed should be, would love to see it happen. Trust in the data as mentioned earlier is key (and the process)
• tetradian: A4: sharing b/w patient and MD is core, yes, but who else needs to access that data – or _not_ see it? #privacy
• TerryBlevins: A4: @theopengroup can’t forget that if info doesn’t flow sometimes the consequences are fatal, so unblocked the flow.
• tetradian: .@TerryBlevins A4: “if info doesn’t flow sometimes the consequences are fatal,” – v.important!
• Technodad: . @tetradian To me, problem is coordinating among multi providers, labs etc. My health info seems to move at glacial pace then.
• TerryBlevins: A4: @Technodad @tetradian I have heard that a patient moving on a gurney moves faster than the info in a hospital.
• Dana_Gardner: A4 Better info flow in #healthcare like web access has helped. Now needs to go further to be interactive, responsive, predictive.
• jim_hietala: A4: how about pricing info flow in healthcare, which is almost totally lacking
• Dana_Gardner: A4 #BigData, #cloud, machine learning can make 1st points of #healthcare contact a tech interface. Not sci-fi, but not here either.

Starting with the recognition that this is a very complicated issue, the conversation quickly produced a consensus view that mobile health is key, both to cost reduction and quality improvement and increased patient satisfaction. Trust that information is accurate, available and used to support trust in the provider-patient relationship emerged as a relevant issue. Then, naturally, privacy issues surfaced. Coordination of information flow and lack of interoperability were recognized as important barriers and the conversation finally turned somewhat abstract and technical with mentions of big data and the cloud and pricing information flows without much in the way of specifying how to connect the dots.

Question 5: Do you think payers and providers are placing enough focus on using technology to positively impact patient satisfaction?
• Technodad: A5: I think there are positive signs but good architecture is lacking. Current course will end w/ provider information stovepipes.
• TerryBlevins: A5: @theopengroup Providers are doing more. I think much more is needed for payers – they actually may be worse.
• theopengroup: @TerryBlevins Interesting – where do you see opportunities for improvements with payers?
• TerryBlevins: A5: @theopengroup like was said below claims processing – an onerous job for providers and patients – mostly info issue.
• tetradian: A5: “enough focus on using tech”? – no, not yet – but probably won’t until tech folks properly face the non-tech issues…
• EricStephens: A5 No. I’m not sure patient satisfaction (customer experience/CX?) is even a factor sometimes. Patients not treated like customers
• dianedanamac: .@EricStephens SO TRUE! Patients not treated like customers
• Technodad: . @EricStephens Amen to that. Stovepipe data in provider systems is barrier to understanding my health & therefore satisfaction.
• dianedanamac: “@mclark497: @EricStephens issue is the customer is treat as only 1 dimension. There is also the family experience to consider too
• tetradian: .@EricStephens A5: “Patients not treated like customers” – who _is_ ‘the customer’? – that’s a really tricky question…
• efeatherston: @tetradian @EricStephens Trickiest question. to the provider is the patient or the payer the customer?
• tetradian: .@efeatherston “patient or payer” – yeah, though it gets _way_ more complex than that once we explore real stakeholder-relations
• efeatherston: @tetradian So true.
• jasonsleephd: .@tetradian @efeatherston Very true. There are so many diff stakeholders. But to align payers and pts would be huge
• efeatherston: @jasonsleephd @tetradian re: aligning payers and patients, agree, it would be huge and a good thing
• jasonsleephd: .@efeatherston @tetradian @EricStephens Ideally, there should be no dividing line between the payer and the patient!
• efeatherston: @jasonsleephd @tetradian @EricStephens Ideally I agree, and long for that ideal world.
• EricStephens: .@jasonsleephd @efeatherston @tetradian the payer s/b a financial proxy for the patient. and nothing more
• TerryBlevins: @EricStephens @jasonsleephd @efeatherston @tetradian … got a LOL out of me.
• Technodad: . @tetradian @EricStephens That’s a case of distorted marketplace. #Healthcare architecture must cut through to patient.
• tetradian: .@Technodad “That’s a case of distorted marketplace.” – yep. now add in the politics of consultants and their hierarchies, etc?
• TerryBlevins: A5: @efeatherston @tetradian @EricStephens in patient cetric world it is the patient and or their proxy.
• jasonsleephd: A5: Not enough emphasis on how proven technologies and architectural structures in other industries can benefit healthcare
• jim_hietala: A5: distinct tension in healthcare between patient-focus and meeting mandates (a US issue)
• tetradian: .@jim_hietala A5: “meeting mandates (a US issue)” – UK NHS (national-health-service) may be even worse than US – a mess of ‘targets’
• EricStephens: A5 @jim_hietala …and avoiding lawsuits
• tetradian: A5: most IT-type tech still not well-suited to the level of mass-uniqueness inherent in the healthcare context
• Dana_Gardner: A5 They are using tech, but patient “satisfaction” not yet a top driver. We have a long ways to go on that. But it can help a ton.
• theopengroup: @Dana_Gardner Agree, there’s a long way to go. What would you say is the starting point for providers to tie the two together?
• Dana_Gardner: @theopengroup An incentive other than to avoid lawsuits. A transparent care ratings capability. Outcomes focus based on total health
• Technodad: A5: I’d be satisfied just to not have to enter my patient info & history on a clipboard in every different provider I go to!
• dianedanamac: A5 @tetradian Better data sharing & Collab. less redundancy, lower cost, more focus on patient needs -all possible w/ technology
• Technodad: A5: The patient/payer discussion is a red herring. If the patient weren’t there, rest of the system would be unnecessary.
• jim_hietala: RT @Technodad: The patient/payer discussion is a red herring. If the patient weren’t there, rest of system unnecessary. AMEN

Very interesting conversation. Positive signs of progress were noted but so too were indications that healthcare will remain far behind the technology curve in the foreseeable future. Providers were given higher “grades” than payers. Yet, claims processing would seemingly be one of the easiest areas for technology-assisted improvement. One discussant noted that there will not be enough focus on technology in healthcare “until the tech folks properly face the non-tech issues”. This would seem to open a wide door for EA experts to enter the healthcare domain! The barriers (and opportunities) to this may be the topic of another tweet jam, or Open Group White Paper.
Interestingly, part way into the discussion the topic turned to the lack of a real customer/patient focus in healthcare. Not enough emphasis on patient satisfaction. Not enough attention to patient outcomes. There needs to be a better/closer alignment between what motivates payers and the needs of patients.

Question 6: As some have pointed out, many of the EHR systems are highly proprietary, how can standards deliver benefits in healthcare?
• jim_hietala: A6: Standards will help by lowering the barriers to capturing data, esp. for mhealth, and getting it to point of care
• tetradian: .@jim_hietala “esp. for mhealth” – focus on mhealth may be a way to break the proprietary logjam, ‘cos it ain’t proprietary yet
• TerryBlevins: A6: @theopengroup So now I deal with at least 3 different EHR systems. All requiring me to be the info steward! Hmmm
• TerryBlevins: A6 @theopengroup following up if they shared data through standards maybe they can synchronize.
• EricStephens: A6 – Standards lead to better interoperability, increased viscosity of information which will lead to lowers costs, better outcomes.
• efeatherston: @EricStephens and greater trust in the info (as was mentioned earlier, trust in the information key to success)
• jasonsleephd: A6: Standards development will not kill innovation but rather make proprietary systems interoperable
• Technodad: A6: Metcalfe’s law rules! HC’s many providers-many patients structure means interop systems will be > cost effective in long run.
• tetradian: A6: the politics of this are _huge_, likewise the complexities – if we don’t face those issues right up-front, this is going nowhere

On his April 24, 2014 post at, Tom Graves provided a clearly stated position on the role of The Open Group in delivering standards to help healthcare improve. He wrote:

“To me, this is where The Open Group has an obvious place and a much-needed role, because it’s more than just an IT-standards body. The Open Group membership are mostly IT-type organisations, yes, which tends to guide towards IT-standards, and that’s unquestionably of importance here. Yet perhaps the real role for The Open Group as an organisation is in its capabilities and experience in building consortia across whole industries: EMMM™ and FACE are two that come immediately to mind. Given the maze of stakeholders and the minefields of vested-interests across the health-context, those consortia-building skills and experience are perhaps what’s most needed here.”

The Open Group is the ideal organization to engage in this work. There are many ways to collaborate. You can join The Open Group Healthcare Forum, follow the Forum on Twitter @ogHealthcare and connect on The Open Group Healthcare Forum LinkedIn Group.

Jason Lee headshotJason Lee, Director of Healthcare and Security Forums at The Open Group, has conducted healthcare research, policy analysis and consulting for over 20 years. He is a nationally recognized expert in healthcare organization, finance and delivery and applies his expertise to a wide range of issues, including healthcare quality, value-based healthcare, and patient-centered outcomes research. Jason worked for the legislative branch of the U.S. Congress from 1990-2000 — first at GAO, then at CRS, then as Health Policy Counsel for the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (in which role the National Journal named him a “Top Congressional Aide” and he was profiled in the Almanac of the Unelected). Subsequently, Jason held roles of increasing responsibility with non-profit organizations — including AcademyHealth, NORC, NIHCM, and NEHI. Jason has published quantitative and qualitative findings in Health Affairs and other journals and his work has been quoted in Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal and a host of trade publications. He is a Fellow of the Employee Benefit Research Institute, was an adjunct faculty member at the George Washington University, and has served on several boards. Jason earned a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Michigan and completed two postdoctoral programs (supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health). He is the proud father of twins and lives outside of Boston.

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Filed under Boundaryless Information Flow™, Data management, Enterprise Architecture, Enterprise Transformation, Healthcare, Professional Development, Standards

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