The Next Step in the Evolution of Health Technology

The statements contained in this document are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CMS. The authors assume responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in this document.

By Jorge Rodriguez, Chief Information Officer

As healthcare continues to evolve, so does the role technology plays in helping providers make the best decisions for their patients. A big part of healthcare technology is delivering as much patient data to a provider as possible. BrainStream is the next step in the evolution of electronic medical records (EMRs) and is helping ilumed lead the way to population health. Let’s look at how far healthcare technology has come in the past 50 years.

What is an EMR?

EMRs are an invaluable resource tool for professionals in the medical field. Simply put, an EMR is a digital record of a patient’s medical history, lab results and more. This electronic record is stored in the cloud and can be accessed by healthcare providers nationwide.

The History of EMRs

Believe it or not, the first iteration of what we now know as an EMR originated way back in 1968. Developed by Dr. Lawrence Weed, Problem-Oriented Medical Records, or POMRs, were comprised of five main facets:

  • A foundational database consisting of the most complete medical history possible
  • A comprehensive list of potential problems the patient faces
  • Initial diagnostic, therapeutic and patient education plans for treatment
  • Daily progress notes to construct a narrative about the patient’s progress
  • A final discharge summary that contains a defined resolution of every active problem

POMR laid the foundation for the first iteration of the EMR, which was developed in 1972 by Clement McDonald in conjunction with the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis. The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) was the first major organization to implement a fully integrated EMR system, now called VISTA (Veterans Health Information System and Technology Architecture). Used for ordering medication, lab tests, procedures and more, VISTA gives providers a holistic view of their patients’ overall health profiles at a glance.

By the 1990s, providers began to use EMRs as assistive technology instead of a digital copy of a patient’s paper records. The Internet also played a major role in boosting the popularity of EMRs among providers. As EMRs began to be stored in the cloud, providers no longer had to worry about using large amounts of hard-drive storage space. Cloud storage and access also allowed patients to view their own EMR data for the first time, boosting engagement and allowing for greater transparency between providers and patients.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) helped put the final piece in the EMR puzzle. Prior to HIPAA, EMR developers didn’t have to conform to any standards, and providers were using various EMR platforms that did not integrate with each other. HIPAA compliance required that all EMR platforms offer common protections to protect patients’ privacy, such as auto data backups, data encryption, audit trails and access control.

In addition, EMRs began moving toward centralized systems in the 2000s. Though these systems were still nowhere near as sophisticated as modern-day EMR technology, they encompassed all the foundational elements we know today. Despite this, EMR was still just becoming a thing in the early 2000s. A lot of patient files were still on paper, and adoption rates of EMR platforms were still slow. As of 2010, only 29% of independently owned clinics were using EMRs, and hospital-owned outpatient clinics.

Over the past decade, more providers have seen how EMR technology elevates their practice. Having access to a patient’s total health profile not only eliminates room for error but also displays the data they need to make real-time patient-care decisions. No need to mail or fax records from one clinician to another, as in the old days, providers can automatically harvest data and use it to make new recommendations for a patient’s care plan while they are still in the exam room.

EMR and The Future of Healthcare Technology

As of 2019, nearly 90% of all office-based physicians in the U.S. were using some type of EMR/EHR system, according to the CDC. It is clear that EMR technology is not going anywhere and will only continue to improve in the coming years, thanks to advances like BrainStream, ilumed’s proprietary patient data analytics platform. BrainStream works in conjunction with EMRs, using industry knowledge mined from decades of healthcare experience to effectively calculate patient risk scores, determine Medicare Risk Adjustment (MRA) scores and more.

The data harvested through BrainStream is then displayed in an easy-to-use, easy-to-read format alongside the data generated by providers’ preferred EMR platforms, allowing them to make data-driven decisions that give patients the best possible health outcomes. Providers are able to get the total picture of their patient’s health, including any potential risks of catastrophic events, social determinants of health or other complicating factors.

Best of all, the data generated by BrainStream can also be accessed by ilumed’s non-clinical support teams, who connect patients to various valuable resources and programs. BrainStream’s next-level healthcare technology helps providers fill in the blanks, acting as a portal into patients’ lives that allows them to keep up with their care management between visits.

The Takeaway

The past 50 years have brought monumental change to the way we provide healthcare. The future of EMR technology combined with exciting advances like BrainStream is on pace to improve individual patient outcomes as well as population health. For more information on ilumed’s role in healing healthcare through technology, contact us.

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