The benefits will accelerate in 2013, Halamka adds, when more data exchange among organizations will be required. It is this exchange of data–rather than its mere collection–that should eventually reduce redundant care, such as duplicate procedures or prescriptions.
But it remains to be seen how the effort will fare. Meg Aranow, the chief information officer at Boston Medical Center, points out that despite these incentives, hospitals are still facing financial strains brought on by the shaky economy. “Money is being redistributed and reduced in the health-care market,” she says. “So the challenges are considerable, particularly for hospitals and physicians that did not get a head start on this work during better financial times.”
Boston Medical has been an early adopter. It has made electronic connections with several urban community health centers, whose patients often visit Boston Medical to see specialists or receive emergency care. Those connections, only installed in the past year or two, now mean Boston Medical’s doctors can see the electronic records of such patients. But though the connections have provided anecdotal benefits, it’s still hard to prove that patients were better cared for, for less money.