Health Informatics Will Help ShelterCare Demonstrate the Importance of Its Work
Talking about health informatics is likely one of the least interesting ways to start a newsletter article, but it is something that we all should be increasingly aware of and focused on. Health informatics is guiding the decisions, funding, resources and attention at all levels of healthcare. It is the driving force behind the phrase “data-driven decision-making,” which is a core component of ShelterCare’s recently completed and board-adopted strategic plan for the next three years.
Health informatics uses essential data—including clinical guidelines, information aggregated out of the electronic medical record, information from collateral providers, health information management systems and regional data from public health—to improve the overall effectiveness of care delivery and generate identifiable outcomes. It is these outcomes that ShelterCare and all healthcare providers are expected to change to demonstrate the improved health of our community, one individual at a time.
There are numerous (and a growing number of) entities that define the targeted changes in health that must be met to achieve—or dare we say, exceed—expectations. In Oregon, we generally focus on the Oregon Health Authority−identified Coordinated Care Organization (CCO) Metrics, the targeted changes in health of Oregonians that will determine the overall success or failure of our state’s groundbreaking Health System Transformation Initiative. These 17 targeted measures run the continuum of health issues from frequency of screening for depression to controlling high blood pressure or diabetes. However, the great question and challenge for ShelterCare is who gets credit for an individual’s change in their health status.
For more than a decade, hospitals, primary care providers, specialists and insurance companies have been tracking health data that is generated from electronic health records, health information systems, and claims data. This data gets reported and used as a rating system for increased reimbursements rates and incentive payments. Often, social service agencies have been left out of these payments, for the most part because they lack the data analytics necessary to support the notion that they have made a difference in changing health. This omission occurs despite the fact that we know that less than 20 percent of health improvement occurs from treatments, hospitalizations, or doctors’ visits. It is our actions, efforts and resolve every day that makes a difference in our health and the health of the individuals who access services. It is our ability to address the social determinants of health that will drive and sustain improved health of our clients.
The good news is that in this next wave of health transformation, social determinants of health is finally getting some of the attention needed to truly change our community’s health. However, the challenge remains that we must be able to demonstrate that our work, effort and focus are identifiable, measurable and that we are able to bring this data forward in an aggregate manner. An added challenge is that our array of services does not fit nicely into a single category or line of service that is identifiably responsible for creating change in the health of an individual.
The work of ShelterCare is essential for changing our community’s health. We provide a level of care that makes improving health possible. Our goal now is to take the amazing work we do and demonstrate the value and importance in a manner that is accepted in the health arena: using health informatics.