BluePath Report: A View from the Field on California's Health IT Progress

March 04, 2014

Since meaningful use incentives began payout in 2011, provider use of electronic health records (EHRs) has been under a bright and wide spot light. With recent implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), patient-centered care, access to care and other health reform tenets are moving into that same beam. While these trends may be capturing the attention of the health care industry, are they having an impact in the field?

We recently interviewed 20 health IT experts, key stakeholders and public and private payers to answer this question. Our results, published by the California HealthCare Foundation in a report titled "Beyond Meaningful Use: Perspectives on Health IT Progress in California," explore progress and setbacks in health IT adoption, how health IT use is evolving under health reform, and what the future holds for health IT. Below are some highlights on what we learned.

Currently available electronic health records (EHRs) need continued enhancements and updates to support ACA's and providers requirements for more effective and efficient care. "The vast majority of EHRs available in the marketplace required more time by our providers, not less. We decided to build our own tools engineered to support team-based care, enhance the patient-doctor relationship, and increase overall productivity," comments Tom Lee, co-founder Epocrates and founder and CEO of One Medical Group.

Still, meaningful use incentives did spur implementation of these currently available EHRs, which has in turn built a foundation to support health reform. "The EHR meaningful use program has been critical to establishing an electronic infrastructure for health reform. It is impossible to manage a risk-taking or shared-savings arrangement without an EHR," says Dr. Paul Tang of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

The use of health IT is already impacting population health outcomes. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) combine clinical data with administrative, financial and community-based information using HIT to identify opportunities to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs. "The transition to gaining a population view and meeting the needs of our patients who are not actively seeking care is happening much faster than we ever imagined," explains Rich Roth, vice president of strategic innovation at Dignity Health.