The U.S. healthcare system currently does not operate very efficiently. Doctors are paid by insurers for the volumes of procedures they provide, rather than for keeping their patients healthy. This results in high numbers of unnecessary tests and in many cases, poor quality.
However, recent developments may turn this situation around. Aspects of the healthcare reform law promise to incentivize keeping patients healthy, emerging models of care put far greater emphasis on building a relationship with patients and electronic heath records are making it simpler for providers to track their patients' progress.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is probably the greatest advancement toward creating preventative care models in recent history. The bill is loaded with measures that seek to prompt providers to keep their patients healthy through the use of tools like electronic health records and other means.
According to the Society for Public Health Education, the bill establishes a National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council; creates a public health fund for promoting prevention; creates a taskforce dedicated to preventative strategies; establishes a grant for community-based programs and institutes a grant for school-based wellness programs.
The act also gives individuals access to web-based tools that can help them make more informed decisions about their own health, including advising them on treatment options for certain conditions. This a part of an overall strategy to get patients more involved in their own care through technology and communication tools.
Patient centered medical homes also figure prominently in the healthcare reform bill. The law establishes community health teams that are intended to support this model of care and also sets up research programs to study outcomes of medical homes.
The patient centered medical home model of care is becoming increasingly common. It involves a primary care physician who uses tools like electronic health records to track the progress of their patients and coordinate services with other specialists. Studies have indicated that it is particularly effective when treating chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Technology plays a major role in allowing these types of practices to efficiently manage the care of their patients. A recent report from the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative said that electronic health records and other types of technology are enabling this model of care to improve quality and efficiency, lower costs for patients, measure improvements, develop new payment methods and facilitate learning.
Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, which collaborated on the report, said that it would help guide the future of patient centered medical homes and further their goal of improving quality and efficiency in healthcare.
"With passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, we have entered a new era that will ensure health care security for all Americans by improving access, quality and efficiency in our system," she said.. "This report indicates that key stakeholders are in agreement on the need to promote patient-centered, coordinated care through changes in the way we pay for and deliver care."
The need for using tools like electronic health records to improve the quality and efficiency of the healthcare system has never been greater. Chronic diseases are becoming increasingly common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report stating that 79 million people have pre-diabetes, while another 26 million have diabetes.
Electronic health records and preventative care have all been shown to improve the ability of doctors to treat these conditions. Current trends in healthcare are making it easier for medical professionals to use these tools.