Healthcare may have had an impressive 2012, but the year ahead is going to be an even wilder ride. Obamacare will start ushering 38 million newly insured patients into the system, while we face a shortage of caregivers and primary care physicians. Health systems will continue to buy physicians groups, test out new accountable care and pay for performance models, and try to avoid getting their hands slapped on readmissions and other quality measures. Healthcare IT will continue to both empower and stifle clinicians. It all sounds like a tall order, but from where I sit, we’re also going to see some really positive and exciting moves in 2013:
1. Welcome to the new health care workforce – In 2013, we’re going to see a healthcare labor force realignment. With our primary care shortage and focus on readmissions and population health, we’re going to need to position someone between the patient and the physician to keep patients engaged in their care. Enter the case manager, and enter mobility – because hospitals are going to need to implement new formulas for taking better care of patients outside of the hospital. Instead of layoffs on the hospital side, health systems need to reallocate and redeploy those employees into new roles – a good thing for the economy overall.
2. Location, location, location – there will be many – With IDNs buying up multiple facilities, clinicians will no longer be practicing in one location. But they certainly can’t be everywhere at once. Managing a large group of patients in a range of environments means that clinically relevant, live and historical data will have to come to them. Any physician practicing in a region that has 10 hospitals is going to demand a tool to make their life easier and enable them to practice medicine in a better way. As a result, “virtualizing” physicians is going to be key in 2013 – especially as they need to access to all members of a care coordination team, including case managers, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who may be anywhere from a hospital to a surgical center to a lab to a CVS Minute Clinic.
3. Health IT innovation will drive hospital competition – I really started to see the impact of this when one of our customers starting putting billboards on the freeways that said, “Your EKG will be here before you do.” Not only were they using mHealth IT to attract patients, but it was also a significant centerpiece of their marketing and advertising campaign to attract physicians around workflow and lifestyle improvement. Implementing a game-changing system is one thing, but looking at innovation and technology as a way to increase patient traffic and attract the best physicians is something we’ll see much more in 2013.
4. Health IT vendors that can’t show ROI won’t make it – Health systems are at a point where they are looking to consolidate and streamline IT systems. When a new technology is introduced, no longer will CTOs be asking, “Well, who’s going to pay for that?” Those times are long gone. Hospitals don’t have any money to spend. So the vendors need to show not only that their technology works and is widely accepted by clinicians, but also need to demonstrate that they understand the flow of money in each health system and the specific formula for the value they bring. The ROI has to be not only financial but clinical (outcomes improvement) as well as organizational (staff efficiency and satisfaction). The win/win has to be for providers, vendors and ultimately the patients.
5. Mobility + bring-your-own-device will be essential – None of the above will be possible without a solid mobility strategy. A big part of that is delivering the right data (clinically relevant) about the right patient to the right caregiver at the right time utilizing the right tool (mobile device). For clinicians, it’s no longer acceptable to only view static EMR data through a web browser on a mobile phone. Multiple data types make smart phones essential for displaying images, waveforms, etc. Patients are also going to need to use mobile phones to engage with their caregivers – those in large metropolitan areas to rural underserved communities can get by with just a flip phone, where case managers can send a text with a medication reminder or scheduling a follow up visit. On the clinician side, there has to be an ability to put that text into the workflow, documenting that the message was sent and the response received. And that information has to be secure to a level that is only supported by few vendors in the industry. Mobility, coupled with bring-your-own-device, will enable care coordination teams to do their jobs better and bring patients into the fold.