In our first blog post in this series, we introduced the concept of implementing a holistic, community-wide platform in order to achieve truly effective population health management. What we believe to be the 'holy grail' of population health is the integration of comprehensive clinical and claims data all in one place – and Orion Health is doing it. 

This is a sustainable infrastructure that enables quality, coordinated care and reduced financial risk as our industry shifts towards value-based care.

Some believe that to achieve this 'holy grail' there needs to be a centralized electronic health record (EHR) system with embedded population health management capabilities. However, this idea is not terribly realistic. A typical EHR database is closed and structured by design—it is meant to capture interactions between a provider and patient—but there is so much more data being captured outside of those interactions, such as genomics, patient-reported data and much more. Data from wearables, wellness applications and medical devices can be extremely valuable and fill in the gaps so that providers have all the information they need to care for their patients.

Most EHRs are not designed to handle data like this coming in unfiltered, as they can't aggregate, normalize and analyze it to make it meaningful at the point of care. As a result, we need a much broader database of patient data sourced from trusted platforms so that providers can view a more complete patient profile and prescribe shared care plans accordingly.

Last month, the ONC's JASON Task Force recommended that the government re-align the EHR Meaningful Use program to expand to include interoperability. 

Micky Tripathi, co-chair of the task force noted, “Current interoperability approaches are functionally limited and need to be supplemented and gradually replaced with more comprehensive API-based models,” and stated that Stage 3 and associated certification will be “important drivers in the long transition to a public API-based health information exchange model.”

As the majority of the industry now understands, EHRs are not designed to be strong at supporting interoperability. However, EHR vendors are being pushed to achieve it. Why not use the right tools for the job and lay down a foundation external to the EHR that can handle interoperability and centrally manage privacy and security across all systems, similar to the foundation external to practice management systems that was established by claims clearinghouses several years ago? By centralizing this process within a community, organizations can greatly improve care coordination.

To continue this series, we will outline Orion Health's next-generation approach to population health management, focused on a holistic, community-wide platform. Check in next week to read about our first step in this process – the Platform.