At the HFMA 2011 ANI Healthcare Finance Conference, Benjamin Chu, MD, MPH, regional president of Kaiser Permanente Southern CA addressed a large crowd Monday afternoon, attesting to the interest in IT integration to lower costs and measure quality. In 2009, Kaiser reached full integration after a $4 billion investment in population information technology.
"It's not just putting the medical record on an electronic format," Chu said. "It is the tools for us to get a glimpse at the patients we are treating and then we can analyze the data to see how we are doing."
The population health management tool used by Kaiser Physicians allows doctors to view the gaps in care using a digital chart. For an individual patient, the chart allows doctors to track if the patient is up to date on visits, procedures, and screenings.
The tool sends reminders about when patients are due back for an appointment or a procedure. The tool organizes the data to determine which populations are at risk, thus physician can improve care.
The average American sees a physician four times per year and the average visit time is 13-15 minutes for face-to-face contact, there is no feasible way for a physician to educate a patient thoroughly in that limited about of time, Chu explained. In order to supplement that time, the population health management tool can help send out reminders, updates, and wellness information to patients.
Chu compared the tool to a mirror, with an honest reflection showing how well physicians are addressing gaps in care and their patients' health.
"Before this tool all a doctor could say was that, 'I'm doing my best,'" Chu said. "Ignorance is bliss."
Using the tool, data shows if bloodstream infections have decreased, if more people are coming in for breast cancer screenings, and much more valid information to analyze hard-to-reach populations.
As a result, physicians can more accurately assess if they are providing the right information and services to their patients.