This past May, the U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT asked healthcare stakeholders: What should healthcare look like in 2030, and what should interoperability have enabled by then?
According to a blog post published this week by Deputy National Coordinator Steven Posnack, the agency received more than 700 submissions in response over the course of the next few months.
As Posnack explained, the agency “analyzed each statement and looked for trends, groupings, combinations, and other affinities.”
The resulting theme statements ran the gamut from shifts in individual and care delivery experiences to changes at health systems.
“I for one was energized and learned a ton reading through each of the outcome statements. I know the staff here at ONC did as well,” said Posnack.
WHY IT MATTERS
As Posnack noted, radical transformation in healthcare is possible – and the stakeholders who responded to the agency’s open call seem to think so too.
They believe, for instance, that by 2030, individuals will no longer fill out paper forms for any healthcare encounter or process.
All referral and transition of care data will be electronic, they predict, and care teams will be able to integrate electronic data from both within and outside of the healthcare system as part of workflow.
“Health professionals will be able to use best-in-class software applications and services in combination with electronic health records to enhance care delivery and decision-making within clinical workflows,” said one theme statement.
Another foresaw interoperability enabling at-home care and price comparison of services, procedures or drugs. Some of the predictions may be relatively close at hand.
For instance, stakeholders said patients should have internet-based access to their past and present data from clinical and administrative sources – which is already possible in some instances.
They also said patients could seek care without having to provide information themselves and would have tools available for controlling how their data is shared.
Health professionals will also spend less time on administrative tasks and more time caring for their patients, helped along by integrated clinical and administrative process data, some stakeholders hoped.
Other statements seem like loftier goals, given the current reality of our healthcare system.
“Public health response and preparedness will be driven by real-time data that allow public health agencies to quickly identify when and where infectious disease outbreaks occur and maintain insights about health system capacity,” said one theme statement – likely reflecting on present-day issues with COVID-19 information infrastructure.
“Reporting for public health, quality measurement and safety will all be completed automatically and electronically,” said another. Respondents also wanted a reduction in duplicate testing and preventable safety events.
They also seemed to recognize the role information can play in enabling discoveries: “Researchers will be able to use inclusive, representative datasets to compare the real-world performance of treatments, procedures, devices, and drugs.”
THE LARGER TREND
Despite ONC’s recent deadline for several interoperability-related benchmarks, implementation has been varied.
For instance, studies have shown that although interoperability in cities is improving, small hospitals are lagging behind.
Still, many hospital leaders predict continued investment in interoperability tools and initiatives over the next five years.
“A good bit of interoperability is required by the 21st Century Cures Act and federal interoperability programs. These are the table stakes,” said OhioHealth’s Dr. J. Michael Kramer in an interview with Healthcare IT News. “Despite the regulation and incentives, organizations have not reliably connected or fully implemented.”
ON THE RECORD
“In terms of what’s next, we (obviously) encourage you to keep pushing forward on interoperability because these 2030 outcome statements are what’s at stake,” said Posnack.