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Aligned Solutions Require a Shared Language

by Lauren H. Fifield, Senior Policy Advisor

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that our growing roster of writers includes our CEO, senior leadership, folks from product strategy, user experience, as well as clients. I’m a little different. I manage government affairs and in this role I think of myself as equal parts nerdy evangelist and early warning system. I do the wonky blocking and tackling for our clients—in many ways, a service for them just like the CSC or account management.

In order to share what I learn on Capitol Hill or in San Francisco or points between—and transmit from that early warning system—I will be contributing to this blog regularly. Between posts you can look for me @lfifie on Twitter if you want to get deeper on the wonky stuff.

Truth be told, I think I’ve got one of the coolest jobs around – OK, one of the coolest in HIT at least. I get to represent a company whose leadership doesn’t just think big but actually does big, innovative things.  When I look out at the health care policy landscape and dream up all the ways we might tackle health care’s thorniest problems, I know we will be right there in the middle of the mess, trying to find a solution.

As such, I experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance at the Care Continuum Alliance Forum 11 in San Francisco earlier in September. 

The Care Continuum Alliance is an organization that brings together members of the health care industry that are committed to improving population health through wellness initiatives, chronic care and quality management, care coordination, and so on.  Given that athenahealth is the only alliance member from the EHR services community, I didn’t exactly expect to be the belle of the ball. 

However, I was continually surprised by the number of enthusiastic-but-curious greetings we received:

“Is this conference really relevant to you?” Yes.

“You're a software vendor, right?” No.

“What’s your role in this space?” Really?

At first, I couldn’t understand what was happening.  I’ve seen firsthand through our Meaningful Use pilot just how the athenaClinicals quality management platform can lead to better quality and improved patient care.  And our ability to place relevant quality measures at that elusive point-of-care has recently been validated by NCQA in our partnership on a PCMH Accelerator program. We believe the EHR is critical to delivering the right information to providers at the right time—foundational to quality improvement, accountable care and care coordination endeavors. 

But when I attended sessions during the forum I realized what was happening.  While the sessions reflected the most talked-about initiatives in the HIT industry, they were speaking a slightly different language.  The health care industry has grown so complex and so fast that silos of expertise have formed with the players running down parallel tracks looking for the same solutions but blind to those on either side. There needs to be more cross-pollination, collaboration and learning so we can better realize the power of speaking the same language to develop aligned solutions for providers and patients. 

Stay tuned for the lowdown on National HIT Week in Washington, D.C.

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