Unlocking the potential for the highest-quality care

Enhanced Health Information Technology Represents a Critical Piece in Unlocking the Potential for the Highest-Quality Care

My previous blogs focused on four of the five key actions necessary to achieve the “Triple Aim” of better health, better care and lower costs, namely: (1) create a culture of health (2) revitalize and grow primary care (3) implement payment reform (4) achieve greater alignment of the health system.

Dr. Michael Cropp, Independent HealthPart one of this two-part blog addresses a fifth and final key action – the need to enhance health information technology. This is a critical piece in unlocking the potential for the highest-quality care. It includes accelerating the adoption and use of health information technology and electronic medical records, along with providing stakeholders with incentives to use them.

Independent Health has taken a lead role in supporting this important action, through my role as founding board chair for HEALTHeLINK, an unprecedented collaboration among area hospitals, health plans and physicians to safely share valuable and timely clinical information, and promote connectivity among health care providers throughout Western New York.

As a pioneer in the secure and efficient exchange of clinical information, HEALTHeLINK is improving the delivery of care, enhancing outcomes and helping control health care costs. The system connects health care professionals to crucial information when it is needed most.

To date, nearly 600,000 people in the region – about 40 percent of all adults – have signed up to make their medical records available through HEALTHeLINK, making it one of the leading clinical information exchanges in the U.S.

David Ellis, M.D., FACEP, an emergency room physician at Erie County Medical Center, credits HEALTHeLINK for helping him make timely decisions regarding patient care, often without knowing the patient’s medical history.

“In the emergency department, every patient is a new patient,” Dr. Ellis says. “We have to quickly find out what is going on with that person, what is happening with them and where this episode they’re presenting fits into their overall course of care.”

Dr. Ellis says one of the beauties of the HEALTHeLINK system here in Buffalo is the involvement of all the major components of our health care system, including Independent Health.

In addition to promoting the exchange of clinical information, HEALTHeLINK now provides 98 percent of the laboratory results and 95 percent of the radiology reports generated in our region.

And use of the clinical information exchange continues to grow. There were more than 610,000 queries for patient data through HEALTHeLINK in 2013, up from 197,000 in 2011.

HEALTHeLINK is also taking steps to eliminate waste in the local health care system and improve patient safety, as evidenced by a recent study regarding multiple computed tomography (CT) scans, which will be the topic of my next blog.

Michael W. Cropp, M.D., is president and CEO of Independent Health in Buffalo, New York, and Chairman of the Board of the Alliance of Community Health Plans.