Written by Frank Fortner, President and COO of Iatric Systems
Without conjuring up dramatic images of a zombie apocalypse, the healthcare IT industry finds itself in yet another unprecedented time period. In this post-EHR era (as some call it) we have largely achieved the goal of digitizing health records. According to adoption statistics at health.gov, 96% of hospitals had certified EHR technology by the end of 2015. Since the implementation frenzy first brought about by Meaningful Use, EHR sales have slowed down — apart from the steady change fueled by the ongoing consolidation of hospital systems.
So, in this new era of healthcare IT, where there is still some uncertainty about the future of the ACA and regulatory IT demands (despite the recent MU3 relaxation news), what is it hospitals need badly enough to justify spending for it? And how would any vendor best meet these needs to not only survive but thrive? I believe there are several basic, but important things hospitals require today, including (but not limited to) the following:
Nobody wants to end up on the evening news, but those darn bad guys are constantly upping their game. Ransomware, social engineering, malicious hacks, even the occasional snooping - this is what keeps CIOs (among several others) up at night. An increasing portion of the IT budget is being dedicated to protecting patient data and mitigating potential cyber risk. In a recent example, one hospital system paid $10M to recover from a cyber attack. Perhaps a million dollars of prevention is worth ten million of a cure.
Having spent the (often big) money on an EHR, now is the time to work on fine tuning it to best support end users of the system. Streamlining workflows, making systems interoperable, and improving usability for clinicians will be strong themes for some time to come in this new era. After all, this is what EHR owners should (and would like) to be doing, but of course, more Meaningful Use is on the way to once again slow down the wheels of innovation and optimization.
These days, more systems are connected, and health information exchange (the verb) is truly becoming the norm, but semantic interoperability (the ability to easily understand and make sense of data from system to system) is still to be solved. So the interoperability game may have changed some, but it’s far from over.
Money talks. For many hospitals today, margins are hovering around 1%, often lower. Therefore, if you can help providers increase reimbursements, you might have a winning business on your hands. From revenue cycle improvements to the more complicated clinical efficiencies such as smart pump programming, solutions that show an ROI will at least have a chance of being considered in this environment.
Quality is the new black, in terms of being a driver for reimbursement. Further, quality and patient satisfaction scores are becoming much more visible to the Googling public, which has a profound effect on market share. For example, if healthcare consumers live in a region in which they have a choice of hospitals, you can bet that quality and consumer reviews will affect which facilities get the biggest market share. Given a choice, wouldn’t we all as consumers choose the place with the highest care quality grades?
So, if I’m even close to being right on what hospitals need today, then for vendors to survive in this brave new world, they will need proven offerings capable of addressing one or more of these key areas. And of course, you still have to factor in things like stellar customer service, competitive pricing, a solid reputation, etc.
As I mentioned earlier, I have only named a few provider needs that quickly came to mind for me. If you believe there are others that deserve mention, please feel free to follow up with comments.