Q&A

Data sharing and automation optimize care at Unified Women’s Healthcare

By Lia Taniguchi | January 18, 2023

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Recently, athenahealth sat down with Jon Hofer, chief information officer at Unified Women’s Healthcare, a mission-driven collection of innovative healthcare brands that are dedicated to elevating care at all stages of women's lives. Hofer spoke about how more comprehensive, curated patient data can transform the moment of care to support faster, better clinical decisions and more holistic women’s care across the continuum.

How do you feel having the relevant patient information — and only the relevant information — intuitively presented within the clinical workflow can improve the moment of patient care?

In that moment of care, [the athenahealth EHR] does a really good job of having that information there to allow [doctors] to do their work in a relatively efficient manner. As compared to a lot of EHRs, we appreciate your interface and what you offer at that moment in time. But what’s coming next is what we are really excited about. As OB-GYNs there is some uniqueness about what our affiliated doctors do. OB is ultimately an episode, not an encounter, and most systems are geared around the encounter. We are working with athena to automate the OB flow sheet — a tool used by pretty much every OB practice since the dawn of time, but always on paper. Having that automated, having those important orders prepopulated, is really going to allow us to help doctors work more efficiently.

At Unified Women’s Healthcare, you have taken great pains to utilize automated clinical decision support. Can you describe where this automated support comes into your workflow and improves care?

I’m actually going to change your question a little bit and say it’s not where it comes in. It needs to be the workflow, it needs to come into all aspects of it. Doctors obviously know how to be doctors, but the system needs to include alerts — “guardrails” is the phrase we use. If we can automate a message saying “Hey, you’re about to make a mistake,” why wouldn’t we take advantage of that? Ninety-eight percent of the time the platform doesn’t have to bring anything to the doctor’s attention, but for the other 2% it should surface that one critical piece of data. Maybe it’s an issue she had in her previous pregnancy that is showing up again in her second — alerts can make sure the doctor doesn’t have to flip through pages and pages to find that information. It’s making the data smarter to help understand those 2%, supporting [doctors] with automation to make sure they're delivering better care.

Can you share how more complete access to patient data facilitates value-based care for your organization?

The doctors we support give excellent care, but they don’t necessarily get paid for that quality — that’s starting to change. At the end of the day, value-based care arrangements are asking doctors to look more holistically, but we need the full data (from payers) to help them do that. Without that holistic data, we can’t properly analyze the data and we’re not going to get where we need to go. The power is taking the conclusions of the analytics, putting it back into the clinical workflow and guiding the care doctors are providing. We would love to be doing more in our relationship with payers to get a true full claims view and have more details on our patients. With that there’s a huge opportunity for us to help doctors address care gaps.

For example, we have a pilot with a payer in North Carolina to focus on some of the patients the doctors see who don’t have a primary care physician. We are working with them to close care gaps and hit those quality measures that are usually handled by a PCP. Our goal is to have that care gap review baked into the workflow for all patients. But if we’re taking that extra effort, we want payers to compensate us for it. With the right relationships, the more resources you have, the more you can do in terms of getting people hooked in with primary care or closing their care gaps. 

So, is it fair to say Unified Women’s Healthcare has a vision in which you think about patients in a much more holistic way?

To date, our focus has really been on supporting reproductive care providers. But there is so much more that we can do. Like we are talking about building mental health screenings into the workflow; the doctor could be thinking about whether or not this patient would benefit from a mental health referral. We can build that into the automated workflow to make it easy for them to think about mental health. Especially because pregnancy brings out some of these challenges, menopause brings out some of these challenges. We are thinking about how to support fertility-care through CCRM and menopause-related resources through Gennev; we have set up a coordinated care model with a mental health company called Mindoula. We want to help doctors care for women from puberty to menopause and beyond, to strive for our Vision which is “for all women to have the best healthcare in the world.” We want to look beyond the traditional reproductive care. We are taking small steps right now, but I think there are big opportunities in the future.

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