In our previous post we discussed how we were going to take a step back and cover the basics of EMR and Meaningful Use.  Last week we published a post that discussed the definition of Meaningful Use entitled EHR Meaningful Use 101: Defining Meaningful Use.  This week we will talk about what the future of meaningful use will bring, post initial implementation, and how this has the potential to impact healthcare by reducing costs and improving outcomes.

 How Meaningful Use Can Impact the Future of Healthcare

Overall, there are basic predictions that experts have put forth on ways in which Meaningful Use may impact healthcare.  Let’s take a look at them:

the future impact of meaningful use

Now let’s dive into what this really means:

EHR Meaningful Use: Better Clinical Outcomes

EHR technology when appropriately utilized can improve clinical outcomes by allowing for the analysis in trends in treatment and diagnosis to find out what type of care, and what level of care is optimal for a patient.  For instance, EHRs have the ability the type, frequency, and duration of treatment as well as several other factors.  Utilizing predictive modeling, which we talk more about here, it is possible to monitor what type of care works best for a specific type of patient with a specific type of condition.  For instance, if it is found that people suffering from depression achieve a better clinical outcome, or reduction of their symptoms, when more frequent follow up care is provided, this can be turned into a “best practice” or clinical norm of treatment so that the positive results can be had for all patients with depression through more frequent follow up visits.  Similarly, if patients with diabetes achieve better clinical outcomes when treatment is provided in association with education regarding their condition, and this outcome is evidenced over a wide data set of patients over a long period of time, it can also be developed into a best practice.  EHR technology will allow physicians and healthcare organizations to tweak treatments to individuals based on hard facts of what works best for most patients, while still taking into consideration the specific treatment preferences and obstacles that may be posed by a specific patient.

Improved Population Health Outcomes

When we discuss population health outcomes, what we are essentially talking about is the big picture perspective of how EHRs can improve treatment not for individual patients, or individual conditions, but can positively impact patient health across entire populations.  EHRs facilitate population health management that utilizes a variety of medical and non-medical interventions to help improve the outcome patterns for populations.  In the future EHRs could generate data that shows that certain segments of the population are more prone toward obesity, or mental health issues.  Care for this entire population can then be developed with interventions which would aim at eliminating or decreasing the likeliness of these incidents within this population.  Population health management will certainly include intense disease management, particularly for those with chronic or co-morbid conditions, but can also be utilized to improve the overall wellness of large segments of individuals.

EHR Meaningful Use: Increase Transparency and Efficiency

Transparency and efficiency are the hallmarks of many aspects of healthcare reform which are on the horizon, and similarly touch EHR implementation hopes for the future.  EHRs have the ability through the gathering of data to allow for transparency in knowing which segments of the population and which illnesses are most costly to treat, thus allowing for more dedicated resources and means of disease management to be dedicated to these issues.  There is also an emphasis on transparency related to cost of care.  Through the implementation of EHRs across multiple large organizations and segments of the patient population, there will be the ability to show a more accurate, or transparent, cost of care, and how that care relates to overall patient outcomes.

Efficiency in relation to EHRs will be had on two main fronts: Efficiency in treating people to achieve the best level of clinical outcomes through demonstrated treatment strategies that work, and efficiency in internal operations and communication.  In relation to efficiency in treatment, we discussed how EHRs have the capability to improve clinical outcomes,  likewise this increases the efficiency in the provision of care for healthcare providers.  If we know that certain interventions are helpful for a condition, and other interventions show no increase in clinical outcomes, then healthcare resources can be directed at obtaining the best result through the most efficacious proven effort.

Efficiency in clinical operations and internal operations will also be an offset of EHR Meaningful Use implementation.  Providers working in different fields and different facilities will be able to collaborate toward patient care in a way which will break down communication barriers and encourage the holistic treatment of a patients condition.  The ease of use of EHRs will further increase efficiency from an administrative perspective eliminating multiple duplicate entry processes related to charts and billing which can help organizations streamline internal processes and decrease administrative costs.

How EHR Meaningful Use will Empower Individuals

EHR has a wide reach in its ability to empower individuals, from increasing patient engagement through strategic efforts, to allowing patients to have more knowledge regarding their healthcare choices and tailoring their care around their specific needs, EHR Meaningful Use Criteria will allow broad advancements in the power of individuals if implemented correctly.  One of the greatest potentials here, and also one of the most controversial, is allowing patients complete access to their medical records so that they can better complete at home care requirements and make more independent decisions about their care moving forward.

More Robust Research Data on Health Systems

As we have previously reported in a post entitled How Predictive Modeling Can Save Healthcare we discussed how EHRs will allow for the gathering of data to shape healthcare in a meaningful way which will allow for advancements in cost control and improved quality in the future.  Prior to EHRs there was no data set for large segments of healthcare available to draw conclusions on.  With the advancement of EHRs the flood gates of information, information sharing, and complex predictive modeling will be opened allowing for numerous improvements across a number of areas which have the potential to revolutionize healthcare for entire populations.