Fragmentation of care is a major flaw in the current health care system. One of the goals of health care reform is to remedy that fragmentation by improving patient care coordination. Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), for example, require that providers understand how their patients are using health care services and communicate with other providers about their patients’ care. Experts agree that one key element of coordinated care is direct, peer-to-peer communications which has largely disappeared from today’s health care delivery environments. (1)
Medical Imaging trends and technology.
Hospital systems across the country are looking for ways to operate more effectively and efficiently in the wake of sweeping changes created by the Affordable Care Act. Mergers and acquisitions offer one road for hospitals to cope with this new healthcare climate. In 2012 there were 105 hospital mergers, a 100 percent growth rate over hospital merger numbers from 2005 to 2006. Indicators show this trend continuing: mergers and acquisitions increased 10 percent in the first quarter of 2014 compared to first quarter 2013. This provider consolidation has created giant hospital systems, some of which rival Fortune 500 companies in size, with equally large health IT infrastructures.
What will the average patient have in common with Angelina Jolie in the near future?
Like Jolie, who in 2013 opted for a double mastectomy based on a positive test for the BRCA1 gene, patients will make critical health care decisions based on access to and understanding of their health care data. This shift of power from doctor to patient is the topic of Eric Topol, MD’s new book “The Patient Will See You Now.” In it Topol writes that Jolie “symbolizes the new era of medicine, whereby access to critical information about oneself, leads to the individual’s empowerment to make a pivotal choice that determines one’s fate.” (1)
Like every other sector of health care, the practice of radiology is being profoundly impacted by reform. Radiologists in particular are feeling the squeeze of the Affordable Care Act and other health reform initiatives in the area of payment reform. While imaging is a critical element of patient care, radiology’s fee for service payment model doesn’t mesh well with declining reimbursements and health care reform’s focus on value. Radiologists work behind the scenes of patient care, overseeing the generation of patient images, reading and interpreting them and then providing reports to referring physicians, most often without direct contact with either the referring physician or the patient. When radiologists stay in the reading room, their value to the patient care cycle remains hidden as well.
As we wrap up 2014, I’m very pleased with the progress we’ve made. We’ve had another record revenue year and acquired a number of significant new customers, including a huge win at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, we continued to significantly advance our core technology platform, PureWeb®, and have added tremendous new functionality to our leading healthcare enterprise-viewing solution, ResolutionMD®.
Stroke care is extremely time-sensitive; minutes can mean the difference for patients between recovery and permanent disability, or even death. Patients in rural areas, or even city boroughs, who don’t have local access to a stroke specialist waste precious time getting transported to specialists’ care. With stroke care “time is brain.”
For the past 20 years, telestroke has offered a solution to this problem, linking local doctors via video conferencing systems with stroke specialists to consult on patient care. A 2013 study from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences concludes, “Stroke patients treated at telestroke hospitals had a significantly lower mortality rate than those treated at non-telestroke hospitals, with the same cost of care.” 
As health care operations transform to comply with the Accountable Care Act (ACA), an equally powerful and broad shift in the delivery of patient care is gaining strength: telehealth.
Online learning has fundamentally changed the way many people initially gain and enhance skills. Enabled by easy-to-use technologies, “e-learning” provides flexible training options for professionals who need to keep up with their day-to-day work schedule while staying atop the latest developments in their industry.
Early desktop applications were targeted at automating existing manual processes. Take Computer Aided Design, which made it possible to create, edit and save a drawing digitally - imagine the countless hours spent doing this on paper. In healthcare, early telehealth applications linked patients and doctors without an office. But while each made things more efficient, they didn’t fundamentally change what could be done.
CMS reimbursement update and impact
In July of this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a fee schedule update that expands reimbursable telehealth services to include annual wellness visits and psychotherapy. Industry groups from the American Medical Association to the American Telemedicine Association and the American Hospital Association have released official statements supporting the changes. Reimbursement is consistently cited as a primary barrier to telehealth adoption and any expansion of covered services is good news, particularly coming from CMS which pays health care costs for 50 million Americans through Medicare.