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Healthcare IT Leaders Need More Technology

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.

Electronics Upside

Healthcare spending on healthcare services will grow again in 2013,  offering opportunities for hardware, software, and services vendors.

Healthcare spending on healthcare services will grow again in 2013,
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.

Data crunch
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.

31 comments on “Healthcare IT Leaders Need More Technology

  1. SP
    March 15, 2013

    Nice Article. I remember a conference where GE helathcare posed this problem of storing patients records. They infact were sponsoring some of the medical institutions to store patient record but looking at the number of patients per day and the space required to store medical records, the big data was really an issue. I agree Healthcare IT leaders need more technology.

  2. Ariella
    March 15, 2013

    In the US, electronic health record adoption is encouraged by the regional extension program, which provides grants for equipment and training. I'd imagine programs like these can work anywhere, so long as there is funding for them.

  3. Wale Bakare
    March 15, 2013

    @Ariella, you are right. I think challenges surrounding IT healthcare sector a major factor for this. Knowing quite well that even US and other top countries facing with safety and reliability issues.

  4. FLYINGSCOT
    March 15, 2013

    I am heartily encouraged by this and all efforts to get healthcare high tech.  Only this morning I read of a UK guy who was told he had inoperable brain disease by the NHS (too dangerous to attempt it) so he emailed his brain scans to surgeons in the US who thankfully replied to him and annotated the scan prints to show him how the procedure could be done more safely.  This encouraged the UK doctors to do the op and he made a full recovery.  Imagine this collaboration all over the world ?

  5. The Source
    March 15, 2013

    SP,

    Thanks for reading the article and for your interest in healthcare IT.  You mentioned big data, which is a very complex issue that health IT executives are trying to cope with. This is one area that is rife with opportunities. One example of a company taking the lead is IBM. They recently announced a partnership with WellPoint, Inc. and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centers.  IBM will apply analytics and natural language processing capabilities based on the Watson computing system.  These computing capabilities will be combined with the clinical knowledge base, including genomic data, to create an evidence based decision support system that will assist in the treatment of cancer. Like you, SP, I pray for a cure for cancer and many other diseases.    

    Thanks for reading this article.

     

  6. The Source
    March 15, 2013

    Ariella, 

    The adoption of electronic health records has really taken off since the federal government decided to provide payments to those hospitals and physicians who install EHRs. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reported that the percentage of doctors adopting EHRs has increased from 48 percent in 2009 to 72 percent in 2012. The government's efforts to fund the  Medicare and Medicaid  EHR Incentive Programs has made a significant difference, and the numbers reflect that.

    Thanks for reading this article.

  7. Ariella
    March 15, 2013

    @thesource yes, that's exactly what the regional program is for. I'd imagine it can be duplicated, but with so many countries cash-strapped, I don't know if they can afford to fund such a program now. 

  8. The Source
    March 15, 2013

    Wale,

    Health IT leaders are very concerned about protecting patient information and reports of the failure of healthcare organizations to protect patient data is increasing.  For example, last year South Shore Hospital, based in Weymouth, Mass., paid $750,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that it failed to protect patients' electronic health information (ePHI). The hospital was charged with losing 473 unencrypted backup computer tapes containing the names, social security numbers, financial account numbers, and medical diagnoses of 800,000 individuals.  There are more examples that I could cite, and I'm sure there will be more incidents like this one in the future.

  9. The Source
    March 15, 2013

    Ariella,

    Apparently, when compared with many developed nations the US is behind several other countries in the adoption and use of EHRs.  At least that's what a recent survey by the commonwealth fund shows. Here's a related link to that story:

    http://journal.ahima.org/2012/11/28/study-us-lagging-behind-other-developed-countries-in-ehr-adoption/

     

  10. Ariella
    March 15, 2013

    Thanks for the link, according to its report, the Netherlands had the highest usage of EHRs at 98 percent. The UK and New Zealand are close behind at 97. 

  11. The Source
    March 15, 2013

    Ariella,

    These nations are not as wealthy as the US, which is the largest economy in the world. You have to ask youself why are their healthcare systems so technologically advanced while our system has lagged behind.  This could be part of the reason why our healthcare system costs so much, because we have not automated healthcare worlflows and business processes to the extent that is required to drive efficiency into the system. That's my thought for now.

  12. The Source
    March 15, 2013
    FLYINGSCOT,
    Can you update me on Britain's National Health Service.  I've heard that while it still provides good healthcare coverage it's not enough and many people are buying private health insurance as a back up plan.  Is that the case?  
  13. Ariella
    March 15, 2013

    @The Source I think it is a rather complicated issue that can't just be measured in terms of technology. Though I don't really know so much about how it work abroad, I would think that having a socialized medical system in place leads to greater uniformity, including more massive adoption of EHR. In the US, where each medical facilility and practitioner operates fairly independently, they really need to be sold on buying the new technology. I agree that much is very wrong with the American health system, yet I still hear about people coming to this country when they need especially risky surgery or treatment and want the very best doctors for it.  

  14. Ariella
    March 15, 2013

    At the end of 2011 Forbes ran an article called, The Ugly Realities Of Socialized Medicine Are Not Going Away. It pointed out, among other things,  “many Canadians travel to the United States and pay out of pocket for treatments and procedures, as they feel the wait in Canada is too long and harmful to their health.” With respect to the UK's health system, it said: 

    A report released in October by Britain's health regulator found that a stunning 20 percent of hospitals were failing to provide the minimum standard of care legally required for elderly patients.


    As part of the study, inspectors dropped by dozens of hospitals unannounced. They found patients shouting or banging on bedrails desperately trying to get the attention of a nurse. At one hospital, inspectors identified bed-ridden patients that hadn't been given water for over 10 hours.

    The upcoming austerity measures will only amplify maladies like these.

    The NHS is broken – and not in some superficial way that a simple tweak would fix. The incentives are wrong. The government's main priority is keeping costs low – not providing quality care. Patients can't choose how they receive their care – it's one-size-fits-all medicine. And the entrenched NHS bureaucracy has no reason to improve efficiency.

     

  15. hash.era
    March 16, 2013

    I think it is important to figure out the risks involved in it first. Then answer the risks so there will be less critics. The things will be easy to move. Just because it demands technology we should not take a risk and get too much of technology involved in it.     

  16. elctrnx_lyf
    March 16, 2013

    The healthcare information technology space needs more and more standard development in terms of what is the hardware equipment and software needs. Today's OEM companies definitely want to get the piece of pie to make sure they are investing in sustainable future.

  17. hash.era
    March 17, 2013

    @eltrnyx: Yes true but those should be practically possible as well. If not it's no use.  Most of the time things are kind of limited to a piece of paper.  

  18. SP
    March 18, 2013

    Ya I agree funding can definitely help. I remember moving to canada and all my medical records were electronically stored.

  19. SP
    March 18, 2013

    wow hats off to the technology and doctors. Saved a human life!

  20. SP
    March 18, 2013

    Welcome! Thanks for updating on IBM's initiative. So much agree on technology solving or atleast aid in solving diseases and making impossible possible. There are many people in the world who cannot travel across countries or states for better medical treatment. If technology can help their home doctors to take better actions its just awesome.

  21. SP
    March 18, 2013

    Agreed. People prefer going to US as they have the best of doctors, infrastructures, utterly professional and good social sturcture. But the cost is  very very high. You still have to pay good amount from your pocket even though you have the best of insurance. Canadian healthcare system on the other hand doesnt take any money from the citizens and legal workers.

  22. The Source
    March 18, 2013

    SP,

    Canada pays for its healthcare system from the taxes it collects from its citizens. There is no free ride anywhere.  

     

  23. The Source
    March 18, 2013

    elctrnx_lyf,

    On the topic of standards, there is a Health IT Standards Committee that makes recommendations to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on standards, implementation specifications, and certification criteria for the electronic exchange and use of health information. You can read more about the comittee here: http://www.healthit.gov/policy-researchers-implementers/health-it-standards-committee

     

  24. The Source
    March 18, 2013

    SP,

    IBM provides a fantastic example of how technology can be used to enable clinicians to improve their workflow. In this case the Watson Supercomputer's data analytics capabilities will be used to help physicians make decisions on how to treat cancer patients. What a wonderful contribution and a worthwhile endeavor.   

     

  25. SP
    March 19, 2013

    Agreed. That's a good way to return to people what they collect as form of tax. Coming back to discussion on IT needs of healthcare, whereever part of world it is, this is a growing issue and needs to be addressed sooner. Especially in countries like India and China where populations are huge and the amount of medical data storage would also be higher.

  26. Taimoor Zubar
    March 19, 2013

    I think much of the technology related development in the healthcare sector will be in the area of mobile devices. Already Motorolla has started to invest in mobile solutions related to healthcare, as mentioned in the blog. Other companies will look to come up with their own versions of mobile hardware/software to provide healthcare support to patients in remote areas. Even the role of mobile networks will be critical in this.

  27. Taimoor Zubar
    March 19, 2013

    I think the primary reason why healthcare is being targeted towards selling new technology is because this area has been grossly neglected while technology continued to empower other commercial avenues. Now that those markets seem saturated, companies have shifted their focus towards healthcare to make and sell the latest technology to. I don't think there's a humanity-related intention behind it – the motive is primarily towards profits.

  28. The Source
    March 19, 2013

    SP,

    An electronic health record (EHR) helps physicians access a patient's health information much faster when compared to having a patient's record stored using paper charts.  It's also much easier to exchange data electronically among physicians and other clinicians.  An EHR keeps track of critical information related to a patient's health such as blood pressure readings, glucose levels, prescriptions, diagnosis and even a patient's family history. It takes a lot of technology to support a nation where each individual's medical data is stored in an EHR.

  29. The Source
    March 19, 2013

    TaimoorZ,

    There has been steady growth in the adoption of tablets and smartphones by physicians and other clinicians. Here's one data point for you.   Last year, Manhattan Research found that 62 percent of doctors were using tablets in 2012, which was up from 35 percent in 2011. The use of mobile devices in healthcare will only grow in the years ahead.  

  30. The Source
    March 19, 2013

    TaimoorZ,

    You raise a very interesting point here.  Why is it that so many other industries – the airline industry, the insurance industry and the banking industry – have automated their workflow while the healthcare industry has lagged behind in adopting technology?  As we know, when business process automation takes place it saves money. How much money are we going to save by increasing the adoption of IT across the healthcare sector? These are valid questions that should concern us at this time.

     

  31. Taimoor Zubar
    March 29, 2013

    Last year, Manhattan Research found that 62 percent of doctors were using tablets in 2012, which was up from 35 percent in 2011.”

    @The Source: The data seems encouraging but it would also be interesting to see what kind of applications the doctors used in healthcare and what the overall impact on the patients because of the use of these tablets.

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