An interesting story by Jeff Krasner in the Globe today about an expansion of the physicians network in the Partners HealthCare System. For those of you unfamiliar with the business, every academic medical center (BIDMC, too!) tries to build an extensive network of physician groups and community hospitals to generate referrals to the main tertiary center.
There are federal rules that make it impossible to require doctors in the network to refer patients to the downtown hospital. This is indirectly noted in the story:
[The] chief executive of the Partners' physician organization said the affiliation agreement doesn't require Tri- County doctors to send patients to Partners hospitals.
But here's the key. If those community doctors are tied into a proprietary patient information system, they will tend to refer to the "mother ship" that hosts that information system (as well as to other affiliated hospitals). The story goes on:
But should they choose to send patients to Partners hospitals, referrals and medical records transfers will happen more smoothly.
This is an obstacle to enabling consumer choice of providers. So the societal issue is whether we should require that patient information systems be able to talk to one another so that referring doctors do not encounter this computer-generated friction in sending patients to an out-of-network tertiary hospital. What do you think?