A problem that has plagued patient care is Information fragmentation. The effects stem from the number of practitioners that patients see, the therapy, treatment, procedures, and medications they receive, and the disconnection among them all. How can a patient’s medical history be shared among their providers, for both physical and behavioral health, for optimal care? Is an electronic health record system the communal patient records answer?
The Impact of Fragmented Healthcare
Fragmentation is the major underlying cause of the healthcare industry’s information-related complications.
Researchers from the Commonwealth Fund indicated that half of U.S. primary care physicians (PCPs) get information from specialists about changes to their patients’ medications or care plans. With this group’s ties to behavioral health, the gap cuts both ways. Psychiatric prescribers and therapists are unaware of the medical issues of their patients, and PCPs miss the mental health complexities, many tied to their physical ailments. Often multiple specialists are referred by PCPs, which further complicates (fragments) the patient’s quality of care.
The fiscal part of fragmentation is worthy of inspection. 40% of PCPs said they often referred patients to social services or other community-based resources. The lack of universal health coverage, high out-of-pocket spending, and disjointed services patients received, were noted as barriers to improving healthcare data-sharing coordination.
The patient quality of care, and provider risk mitigation, encompassed misdiagnoses, inappropriate medications, duplicate tests, and legal issues. Though by coordinating pertinent information among everyone involved in the care continuum, a common solution can be implemented to improve clinical and financial outcomes.
The EHR System Connection
Currently, the healthcare environment – both providers and patients – must work together to decide who has access to aspects of a person’s information. Electronic health record (EHR) systems decrease the fragmentation of care by improving its coordination. EHRs integrate and organize patient health information and facilitate its distribution among all patient-authorized providers involved in their care. This encapsulates both inpatient and outpatient treatment environments.
EHR benefits are particularly useful with patients who are:
- Seeing multiple specialists, behavioral and medical
- Receiving (or have received) treatment in emergency department settings
- Transitioning between care settings
This Web-based software enables selective patient information sharing through patient portals, where providers can be named as caregiving delegates. Through these portals, people can select which provider can access their records, acting as their delegate of health.
The benefit of this environment is selective confidentiality. If a provider and a patient decide that multi-treatment access is beneficial to bridge practitioner collaboration to create the best possible patient outcomes, a permission-based connection can be established. This happens on a per-provider basis, with patients in control of their personal health information (PHI). They choose who sees what. When they identify the value of sharing their medical records with their psychiatric practitioners and counseling therapists, they experience more effective care.
As the industry and regulations of healthcare continue to change, how PHI is available will also shift. Ultimately, quality of care is everyone’s priority, though it’s how the provider collaboration is facilitated that is constantly in question. The payer industry also benefits from quality care, lowering reimbursement costs.
Maintaining an accurate version of a patient's clinical data of their received care impacts health outcomes while reducing costs. EHRs provide the best method to increase interoperability ability. The key to this platform’s beneficial use to reduce information fragmentation is patients and providers working together to decide the benefits of collaboration for each area of treatment.