released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that at least 200,000, or 1 in 4, deaths from heart disease in the U.S. could be avoided each year with better prevention and treatment. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S., with 1 in 3 Americans developing the disease in their lifetime and over 2 million Americans suffering from a heart attack or stroke each year.
What is required to improve prevention and treatment of heart disease?
According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent wide-spread adoption and use of EHRs and other medical information technology systems creates "the best place to start” in this effort. But what do EHR’s have to do with saving people from heart disease? More than you might think.
Kaiser Permanente Colorado discovered this first hand in a 2-year randomized trial of innovative EHR use. They discovered that LDL-C measures can remain controlled in most patients discharged from a cardiac disease management program by using an EHR to help patients keep in touch with caregivers electronically.
Health information technologies, like electronic health records and health information exchanges, can also help physicians:
- track clinical quality metrics related to the ABCS outlined by the Million Hearts® campaign (see chart below)
- engage patients in their care by providing them with the health information and clinical summaries they need, particularly those patients with chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease
- use clinical decision support tools, patient registries and patient reminders to more aggressively manage the care of high risk patients
- coordinate care of high risk patients among multiple providers
Fair warning, however – there is nothing magic about plugging in an EHR. From our experience working with over 2,000 providers to implement electronic health record technology and meet Meaningful Use requirements, we have found that the key to saving lives has more to do with how the technology is used than the technology itself. That’s why M-CEITA assists providers with things like Targeted Process Optimization (TPO), to help redesign practice workflows to effectively leverage technology and other tools that improve patient care.
Through TPO, we help physicians focus on one or two key opportunities for process improvement leading to improved quality outcomes. Our research has identified several key processes, such as referral tracking or chart prep, that can be aligned with best practices using Lean concepts to reduce risk, improve care coordination and aid in the capture and improvement to specific clinical quality metrics. When EHRs are used to store, track and communicate critical patient health information, that’s where life saving measures can be realized.