LAS VEGAS -- Technological innovation is used often in healthcare to improve patient outcomes, but when it comes to children, aggregating data at the individual and population level is critical, said Stephen Quirk, CEO of Youth Emergency Services and Shelter in Des Moines, Iowa, and Larry Seltzer, general manager and senior director of Netsmart, in a presentation at HIMSS16 on Wednesday.
Quirk, no stranger to working with children with health and behavioral issues, said that Medicaid privatization prompted him to seek a partner to help modernize the provider's electronic health records.
In particular, he realized it wasn't enough to diagnose and treat the immediate problem. Often, it was helpful to examine the circumstances of a child's life -- family dynamics, history of substance abuse, and other "social determinants" that can dictate how compliant a child is with his or her care plan.
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[Also: See photos from Day 3 of HIMSS16]
In short, YESS needed better continuity of care.
"You need to reach out to your provider partners to reign all of the data into one place," said Seltzer, whose company has been working closely with YESS. "You need to be aware of gaps in care -- understanding all of that knowledge and placing it in the hands of a care coordinator or social worker to get more engaged."
The goal, he said, is to exchange data in consistent and meaningful ways; lab data, immunization data and other information should all be sent to or shared with inpatient mental health centers, substance use centers, hospitals, primary care practices and any other entities that may be involved in a patient's care.
Information technology, he said, can be an advocate for the best health decisions for a child.
[Also: See photos from Day 2 of HIMSS16]
Data aggregation is key, and Seltzer maintained there's a significant return on that investment. According to a YESS study, 93 percent of respondents reported they felt better about themselves and their care plan, and 88 percent of the children studied reported better overall functioning.
On top of that, Seltzer said there are cost savings achieved by moving youths out of detention centers and hospitals and into the care of private nonprofits like YESS. Since implementation of the data aggregation model, he said there's been an increase in high school graduations and test scores, and a reduction in substance abuse and thoughts of suicide.
"Anyone who has access to those records is privileged to be able to see all that information," said Quirk.