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Forrester outlines IT imperatives for healthcare providers in the U.S.

Brian Eastwood | March 26, 2014
Healthcare providers such hospitals, medical offices and clinics face an unsettling reality, according to a recent Forrester report: Embrace the cloud, big data, mobile and other emerging technology or get acquired by a healthcare organization that's successfully been there and done that.

Few deny that the healthcare industry in the U.S. faces tremendous pressure to change. Few deny the role that technology will play in stimulating this change, either.

Uncertainty creeps in, though, when healthcare organisations try to address their healthcare needs. This is especially true of healthcare providers - the hospitals, medical offices, clinics and myriad long-term care facilities that account for roughly 70 percent of healthcare spending and that have spent much of the 21st century rushing to catch up to other vertical industries.

Most providers, says Skip Snow, a senior analyst with Forrester, are "very new to the idea that they have all this structured data in clinical systems." That's largely because, until recently, the mission of the healthcare CIO was ancillary to a provider's core mission. IT often fell under the CFO's domain, Snow says, since it focused so much on business systems.

Today, thanks to electronic health record (EHR) implementation, "The entire patient record is in [data] repositories," Snow says. "Trying to make sense of it is a huge challenge."

Healthcare Organizations Struggling With IT Must Adapt or Die
Snow and his colleagues recently published a report outlining five technology imperatives for U.S. healthcare providers.

Such measures are necessary, they write, because "In no other industry has technology been called on to so significantly alter the fundamental relationships that are occurring in the delivery of healthcare today ... Technology has frequently been managed on a case-by-case, need-by-need basis without a strong road map being in place, which is the core of good enterprise architecture."

Forrester outlines the following technology imperatives for healthcare providers:

1. Clean up data. At a minimum, an organisation should be able to import and export HL7-standard continuity of care document (CCD) files; on top of that, providers should create a metadata infrastructure that maps common medical taxonomies to structure information management models and build protected health information (PHI) security into core business processes.

2. Invest in customer and patient insight. This requires an investment in clinical, operational and financial data management tools, including master data management and data governance and complete with shared "vocabularies for core business entities."

Healthcare data analytics must be appropriately scaled, too; complex reporting and natural language processing (NLP) tools are great, but Forrester cautions that few healthcare providers are "sophisticated" enough to make such technology work.

3. Embrace mobile. Use mobile health as a bridge between remote patient monitoring and EHR systems, Forrester suggests, as this eases concerns patients have about the complexity of telehealth. Help doctors determine which of the tens of thousands of health apps "in the wild" are worth their time and their patients' time. Ultimately, see mobile for what it is: A way to improve collaboration among increasingly disparate care team members.


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