A major problem with the healthcare system today is fragmentation. From a lack of integration among systems to well-intentioned initiatives that misalign with other purposeful measures, fragmentation is hurting healthcare. From the local to federal level, innovative programs are not scaled up or out successfully, and the industry misses out on what could bring value to the market. Inefficient resource allocation has led to waste and an annual spend approaching nearly $10K per person in the US alone. Doesn’t sound like an issue to you? For the best healthcare system in the world, that might be okay. However, the US ranks last among 10 other industrialized nations (that spend less) according to the Commonwealth Fund’s 2014 report. This issue of fragmentation in healthcare is one of many, and it’s one that unified communications (UC) can feature prominently in fixing.
The electronic health record (EHR), which initially began as a billing system, has morphed into a juggernaut that offers the type of extensive coordination and portability that healthcare desperately needs. It is no wonder that the government rolled out an initiative in 2009 to have all eligible entities using EHR’s and to accelerate Health Information Technology (HIT) adoption. The desired goal of interoperability is much like the cohesiveness provided by unified communications in the enterprise. The talk today involves integrated delivery systems (IDSs), coordinated networks for collaboration between the healthcare entities internally and externally to the populations being served, and the promise they offer to reduce costs and improve healthcare. This movement towards integration necessitates that UC be a swift and responsive partner to healthcare in this effort. UC has already done for the enterprise what healthcare sorely needs. If the past is prologue, the results should include increased employee productivity and cost savings, both of which will benefit the healthcare system enormously.
The maintenance of EHRs comes with a missive known as meaningful use. In other words, the EHR should be used for the improvement of a number of measures such as quality, access, engagement, care coordination, and public health in general. Also, accountability for the EHR includes the maintenance of privacy and security of the record, as further provisioned by the HIPAA laws. The platforms and applications developed in UC for compliance reporting and recording are an absolute must have for healthcare today. It is the responsibility of the industry to support the meaningful use mandate. While the marketplace may indeed be fragmented and have organizational challenges, UC should consider itself tasked with an important duty to use its technology to help healthcare create uniform standards for integration from the behemoth health systems down to individual providers. What UC knows about scale and scaling, is invaluable.
Only coordinated efforts across many interrelated industries can fix the fragmented healthcare system. To do its part, the unified communications industry can and should be proactively representing all its solutions’ features and benefits to the healthcare market. That would be an important step in the right direction for both UC and healthcare.