The healthcare industry has some good news for high-tech companies. According to survey results released at the annual Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference held March 3 through March 7 in New Orleans, 2013 is shaping up to be another year that will see healthcare organizations spend millions of dollars on hardware, software, and IT staffing services to improve the delivery of healthcare.
The 2013 HIMSS Leadership Survey, which relied on responses from 298 Chief Information Officers (CIOs), IT directors, and other executives at approximately 600 hospitals throughout the United States, found that nearly one quarter of respondents identified security systems (22 percent) as their top infrastructure focus, while another 18 percent cited servers/virtual servers, and 16 percent said they will focus on mobile device connectivity to their healthcare enterprise.
offering opportunities for hardware, software, and services vendors.
If you've been following the healthcare industry's adoption of technology over the last four years, you will know that under the provisions of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, hospitals, physician offices, and clinics are required to implement electronic health records (EHRs), which digitizes patient records and liberates clinicians from using paper charts of patient information.
Incentives for records transition
To assist with this effort, the federal government is offering financial incentives to hospitals, physician offices, and other healthcare facilities to install EHRs under the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs. So far, the federal government has shelled out more than $11 billion to hospitals and physician offices that have adopted certified EHRs and have proven that they are meaningfully using the technology by meeting certain requirements set out under a three-stage government process.
Since the HITECH Act was passed, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have issued final rules for Meaningful Use Stage 1 and Stage 2, and the agency is currently working on the rules for Stage 3. The three-stage process outlines the necessary requirements for the adoption of EHRs and describes the clinical data that must be included to meet quality reporting measures.
Why are companies like Dell, Hewlett-Packard Co., NetApp Inc., and Apple Inc., all focused on the impact of EHR adoption?
For a start, as more patient information populates EHRs, the deluge of data must be stored, securely transmitted, and effectively analyzed by a plethora of technologies. Servers and storage hardware to store and manage the data, as well as cloud computing platforms that help physicians easily access patient information will be deployed. Health organizations also need more bandwidth, supported by telecommunications equipment, to transport large volumes of data via the Internet.
Because the healthcare organizations are generating petabytes of data, the need for analytics tools that can identify trends and patterns in clinical data, as well as tools that can sort through financial and administrative information are also needed. Then there's the increasing use of smartphones and tablets by physicians, nurses, and other clinicians as they access data on their handheld devices. Investments to build telehealth technology platforms, to facilitate video sessions between physicians and patients located at different sites using HD videoconferencing equipment and other supporting technologies is also on the rise.
That said, the news from this year's HIMSS conference suggests that high-tech companies are eager to offer their hardware, software and services to an industry that is moving ahead with the requirements outlined in Meaningful Use Stage 2, which asks for more clinical data reporting and will require more technology to support the effort. According to the HIMSS survey:
Now that a majority of IT executives report having achieved Meaningful Use Stage 1, many leaders have turned their attention to MU Stage 2. In fact, findings reveal that more than one-quarter (28 percent) of organizations have identified the implementation of the systems needed to achieve Meaningful Use as their key IT priority. One-quarter (25 percent) of respondents also reported that they will invest a minimum of $1 million to achieve Stage 2.
One company that wants a piece of the action is Dell. The company announced a partnership with Red Hat, Intel, and VMware to open a dedicated center where hospitals can test and deploy a new option for running Epic Systems' electronic health records (EHR) software on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. According to the release:
Last year, Epic added Red Hat Enterprise Linux to its list of target platforms. Until then, the software exclusively ran on AIX and other UNIX servers. With the potential lower total cost of ownership of running the software on Dell Intel x86 servers, this combination could be a cost-effective option for hospitals.
Motorola Solutions, Inc. is also keen to expand its customer base in the healthcare sector, and showcased its latest healthcare mobility solutions, which include the MC40 HC handheld mobile computer that provides clinicians the opportunity to access patient data, as well as the SB1 smart badge, which is a wearable device that gives healthcare workers the ability to scan a barcode, and connect via push-to-talk with their co-workers.
While economic uncertainties still prevail, and many original equipment manufacturers face enormous challenges, it's nice to know that the healthcare industry offers significant opportunities for OEMs. Let's hope the high-tech industry can offer the right technology, at the right price as the nation seeks to modernize its healthcare system for the 21st century.