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Two Health IT Trends Paving the Way for Our Future


Retail clinics offer lower costs and higher accessibility for consumers. Photo via Perficient.

At the IHT2 Health IT Summit, which met in Cambridge from May 19 to 20, 2015, participants and speakers discussed the future of healthcare technology, considering everything from retail clinics to effective patient engagement methods.

We walked away from the event with ideas on two trends paving the way for the future of our healthcare system:

Retail clinics will fill gaps in care.

About half of CVS Health MinuteClinic patients seek care at times that are convenient for them, such as nights, weekends, and holidays – and they’re doing so at a fraction of the cost of visiting other sites of care, according to Tobias Barker, MD, Vice President of Operations at the Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health MinuteClinic. The typical wait time for patients at these clinics is 20 minutes, and patients spend about 20 minutes with a provider during their visit.

The CVS MinuteClinic is now working with the Cleveland Clinic, Emory Medical Center and UCLA Health System to figure out how to fill gaps in care. One way that the MinuteClinic proposes to fill these gaps is by connecting to affiliate healthcare organization’s EHRs, an initiative that’s been underway for about 3.5 years, according to Barker.

Within this solution, if a Cleveland Clinic patient in Florida goes to a MinuteClinic, the team there can pull up their patient’s record to determine medical lists, allergies and problem lists. They can then help to fill those gaps in care.

“[Through a message within the EHR] the affiliate may say, if you see this patient before us, they need their A1C check. They’re diabetic and we haven’t been able to get to them in time. We see them, obviously, for [the reason] they came in, as well as filling those gaps in care,” Barker said. The team at Barker’s MinuteClinic can also update patient records so that the information is accessible to the patient’s primary care provider, too.

It also seems that MinuteClinics are shifting payment models. In 2000, most MinuteClinics started as “cash businesses”; today, about 85 percent of MinuteClinic’s patients have third-party coverage, Barker says. MinuteClinic now has contracts with about 300 payers.

Successful patient engagement won’t just be about technology.

Bruce Metz, senior vice president and CIO at the Burlington, Mass.-based Lahey Health, says patient-engagement technology is “very interesting.” He insists that successful patient engagement is really a cultural and behavioral change issue for both patients and healthcare providers, rather than a technology issue.

“Changing behavior is really, really hard. It’s probably one of the hardest things that we have to do as an organization. So, if [you lead] with the technology just for its own sake, you’re not going to get the kind of results you’re looking for,” he says.


Aine Cryts

Aine Cryts

    Aine (“ONya”) Cryts is an on-staff contributing writer for MedTech Boston. She's a political scientist by education, a writer and marketer by trade. She has written for various healthcare technology publications and also served as marketing director at several healthcare software companies in the Boston area. Cryts is an avid volunteer, pet lover and long-distance runner. Story ideas are always welcome.

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