How HIT Can Make Care Transitions Safer

Gienna Shaw, October 17, 2011

So much can go wrong during so-called transitions of care. Lack of communication and coordination with primary care physicians when a patient is discharged from the hospital, for example, can compromise patient safety, lead to ED visits and readmissions, and cause a host of other problems.

So how can health information technology make care transitions safer and more seamless?

That was the question posed at a working meeting of developers, healthcare providers, patient organizations, technology companies, health IT experts, and officials from government agencies in Washington, DC, on Friday. Kaiser Permanente sponsored the event along with the John A. Hartford Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Participants worked to identify immediate and short-term technology solutions to improve care transitions and brainstormed new ideas.

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"It is increasingly clear that health information technology, implemented in a patient-centered way, has vast potential to help us reduce the number of injuries, accidents, and re-hospitalizations that are causing stress and harm to patients, particularly older patients, every year," Christopher Langston, PhD, program director of the John A. Hartford Foundation, said in a statement.

Participants cited poor communication and coordination among providers and lack of patient input as the most pressing problems. Among the most promising solutions are more effective risk stratification as well as better use of home monitoring, mobile health, and telehealth and IT systems to allow primary care providers to track their patients along the continuum of care and to facilitate a feedback loop among patients, providers, pharmacists, and others.

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