It may not be obvious, but the healthcare industry has been preparing for an enormous dinner party. Over the last several years, innovation vendors like AirStrip have been adding ingredients to our fridges and pantries based on numerous requests from customers. Metaphorically, this would be just about anything you can imagine that will transform clinical collaboration. At this point, companies can support a wide variety of different use cases across the continuum of care. However, the next phase is for healthcare industry to sit down at the table since it has been set up already for the big dinner party. The table and the settings are the EMRs, EHRs, medical device companies, among others. If we keep replacing them we will starve to death. Now, we need to spend more time figuring out what exactly the healthcare providers are trying to cook – getting to know their specific use cases by clinical service lines and working backwards with the ingredients that already exist, rather than waiting for food to appear magically at the table.
Health IT is often considered a silent partner in healthcare – not seen by patients, but a critical part of the system. As we celebrate National Health IT Week, it’s important to realize that although health IT already has a long history, the constant and rapid evolution of this space continues to transform the market. Information has been collected and stored for years, but the promise of clinical decision support has us at the cusp of all this information becoming valuable in new and innovative ways.
Just a decade ago, I was documenting patient encounters in paper charts. Although the transition to electronic medical records (EMRs) has been perceived as slow, in the grand scheme of medicine it actually happened almost overnight. These systems were not designed with our continuously changing workflow in mind, with user interfaces and workflows that aligned to our practices. They served as repositories for patient information, but did little else. In fact, our workflow changed to support the EMR, sometimes to the detriment of the patient. Instead of focusing directly on the patient, we often must split our time and attention between the patient and the computer terminal.
This week marks my 22nd HIMSS Conference. Each year, the industry comes together to highlight our latest and greatest achievements, discuss how to overcome the latest regulatory challenges and, in general, brainstorm how to improve healthcare. After two decades, we’re still working out this last part. There’s no easy solution to this, but I think there are two key pieces we should be focusing on – not just this week, but as the industry continues to evolve.
It’s hard to remember a time when Big Data wasn’t all the rage; it’s harder still to believe that we’ve barely reached the tip of the iceberg with its potential. The healthcare industry has made strides with managing the patient data it’s collecting, yet there’s still so much more that both providers and their vendor partners can be doing to leverage Big Data to improve patient care. While we’ve established a foothold, here’s where I think we’re heading next year.
All the mainstream chatter and media coverage around healthcare this year covers up the fact that there is little real action and few success stories to point to. Expect 2014 to be the year that the industry gets taken to task on several key issues:
- On risk – The big headline is going to be the relative lack of traction for risk-based models. For all the talk about the benefits, the incentive is still in place for hospital systems to continue to leverage or create structural advantage in marketplaces – allowing them to pass along rates to payers and protect margins. This shift in models will not happen until hospitals and health systems have maxed out their OPEX savings and consumers are outraged enough with insurance costs to run to Kaiser-like models. Continue reading