EHR and Outcome-Based Health Care

We had a lot of fun putting together this month’s infographic on “The Fourth O,” our tongue-in-cheek ornithological representation of optical consumers. First, we consulted with our collaborators, the creative team at VisionWeb, and then we sought some additional input from social media. While we all enjoyed the process, the actual goal was the two-page spread that you, our readers, can now enjoy on pages 28 and 29.

I point this out to illustrate something similar occurring in health care reform. As the system of delivering care evolves from a fee-for-service model to one based on quality improvement and outcome data, practitioners will no longer be rewarded based on what they did. Now they will be measured by the result.

An integral part of this and something that has already started impacting eyecare practices is the implementation of electronic health records. To some ECPs, the financial incentives of $44,000 available over the course of five years for achieving the meaningful use of certified software programs would appear to be the goal. However, those incentives were put in place as a first step, to encourage practitioners to install EHR systems. Ultimately, however, it is the communication and coordination between practitioners that is the actual goal of implementing EHR, because it will improve the care that those practitioners, now acting as a well-informed team, will then be able to deliver to each individual patient.

Simply put, just as we enjoyed the process of putting together this issue’s infographic, the actual goal was the final product, in much the same way but on a much larger and much more valuable scale, that those who are implementing meaningful use EHRs surely enjoy getting incentives of $44,000. But ultimately, the goal is how having that software in place will improve patient care and overall health.