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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.

4. Use emerging technology. To enhance care quality and boost efficiency, providers should consider wearable devices, cognitive computing and big data (since relational databases can't always handle complex healthcare data computations).

5. Build cloud-based business networks.Move healthcare IT services to the cloud if they don't offer core business or patient value - provided your CISO and compliance officer have reviewed HIPAA business associate agreements and have accounted for the fact that your organization's security perimeter now stretches to your business partner's firewall.

Organizations that don't address these needs face a foreboding future. Forrester says, they "will fail to deliver on the increasingly important information and process enhancements called for. They will be acquired by organizations that can harness these forces." Potential buyers include integrated delivery networks such as Kaiser Permanente and the Cleveland Clinic, Forrester says.

Healthcare IT Adoption 'Table Stakes for Survival,' Not Optional

It's a dire prognosis - as Snow puts it, "It's table stakes for survival; it's not competitive advantage" - but it need not be a frightening one. Consider that healthcare has moved from "no automation to speak of" to largely digitized EHR workflows in roughly a decade, he says, and the rate at which this $3 trillion industry is adopting information technology is actually "astonishing."

The challenge, of course, is threefold: The industry must spend money to improve efficiency; that means spending less on patient-centered care and, by improving efficiency, that essentially means spending money to reduce revenue.

To truly improve care, Snow says, healthcare organizations must look beyond their walls to two places. One is other industries. Kaiser CIO Philip Fasano, for example, came to the payer-provider from the banking industry, and other healthcare organizations would be wise to make similar hires, Snow says.

The second is overseas. The United States is great at innovation in healthcare itself but less so in care models. Health leaders in Denmark, for example, have recognized that the hospital bed is the most expensive part of medicine and have accordingly shifted their operational model to move care from the hospital to the clinic and the home.

This is inevitable in the U.S., Snow says - but, he asks, "What does that mean to technology and the consolidation that is or is not going to happen in the industry, and what does that mean to the contemporary dominant business models?"

What it means, Snow says, is that healthcare needs to use data as "brilliantly" as financial and brokerage services has been. Most providers have digitized so quickly that they don't know how to ask the right questions of their data - and now they face the "classic story," as it were, of welding the boat (empowering the art of medicine with the use of information) while floating in the ocean (providing care for the sick).


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