Analyzing Industries Part 2: Healthcare

Like any other industry, healthcare is striving to reduce costs and increase productivity. Healthcare IT professionals are under pressure to find the most effective combinations of new technology to realize these improvements.

In my second industry-themed blog post, I will be examining healthcare, exploring the four key drivers that are transforming the industry:

  1. Healthcare utilization
  2. Healthcare financial models
  3. Patient and healthcare provider interactions
  4. Medical science

How are healthcare providers’ IT strategies changing in the coming years?

Healthcare providers in developed economies around the world are facing similar challenges, including rising costs and a fundamental shift in the way healthcare services are accessed.

As populations age, there is a measurable increase in the cost of providing healthcare, which is compounded by shifts in the rates and types of illnesses being treated by clinicians. This has resulted in an influx of new financing and payment models to decrease provider costs while giving more value to the healthcare consumers.

To combat disease and illness, medical professionals are becoming more innovative in their treatments, while expanding their areas of treatment from traditional medical sites (e.g., hospitals) to engage patients in mobile settings.

Healthcare utilization is transforming

One of the by-products of an aging population is an increase in the treatment of chronic disease. By their very nature, chronic diseases are expensive to treat and time consuming for both patient and provider. Another by-product is access to healthcare services across borders, whether patients are across counties, states or nations.

Healthcare providers are looking to technology to help solve these problems, specifically through the use of telehealth services. Telehealth services extend the range that healthcare can be delivered while reducing the need for clinicians to travel, which increases efficiency and productivity.

This convenience and efficiency is complicated for IT professionals to deliver because they are heavily bound by regulatory requirements, security implications of patient records being outside the firewall and the need for gold standards in network, application, device and compute performance.

Healthcare financial models are evolving

Revenue models for the healthcare industry are also under pressure. In countries such as England, the Nordics and Australia, government funding is changing from being calculated on process measures to outcome-based models, which factor in quality of life and early disease detection. The trend for healthcare costs is increasing across the globe, with one of the key metrics being the ratio of healthcare cost to GDP.

Expect to see more business intelligence (BI) platforms that enable various organisational elements to become less reliant on one another for information, therefore increasing speed to decisions as they utilize more sophisticated reporting and dashboard tools. This can be achieved by linking together disparate data warehouses, which reduces data compartmentalization and increases visibility. Finally, analytical capabilities can be built on top of these BI platforms, which will provide real-time prediction of performance, losses and process failures.

Patients are interacting with healthcare providers differently

From a technology perspective, this change in interaction between patient and provider can be looked at as enabling patients with better information, creating tools that help patients self-diagnose or monitor illnesses, and creating social communities to provide additional services to patients ranging from support groups to treatment resources.

It is in this area that we see rapid deployment of small, mobile applications and the use of private or customized social networks, which can intersect with analytical tools and bring deeper diagnostic capabilities (such as using IBM Watson as an invisible front line doctor!). In fact, according to Gartner, “By 2017, 30% of patients will regularly use mobile social commerce apps to engage their healthcare provider and access their health information.”[footnote]Predicts 2014: Healthcare Delivery Organization IT Leaders Published: 27 November 2013 G00258117[/footnote]

Therefore IT will evolve patient portals from simple tools that access tests or medical records to robust platforms that can send messages to enhance and personalize patient engagement and experience. IT will be tasked with the development of these tools to be more personalized, meaningful and impactful for building relationships.

Medical science is constantly transforming 

Historically, IT has been one of the most important drivers behind the transformation in medical science. Areas such as genomic sequencing, industrialization of medicine and diagnostics all owe their success on the ability to take advantage of IT.

In the coming years we can expect these areas to expand to include personalized medicine as well as better point-of-care tools with real-time, individualized patient risk predictors and actionable care metrics. However, the technology that is getting the majority of attention from the industry is electronic health records (EHRs).

EHRs are large-scale transformational projects that aim to simplify the complex and disparate nature of medical record keeping. They are considered to be the most complicated, expensive and politically charged project currently being deployed in the industry. According to Gartner, through 2017, annual spending on medical informatics needed for EHR optimisation will trend toward five times the initial informatics costs.[footnote]Predicts 2014: Healthcare Delivery Organization IT Leaders – G00258117[/footnote]

The VCE perspective

VCE offers specific industry-based solutions that are geared to solving the most critical issues faced in healthcare IT departments today.

Vblock Specialized Systems for Extreme Applications deliver VDI solutions to provide a foundation for building out the latest healthcare services, such as telehealth and mobility capabilities, which can securely connect the clinician with patient records, irrespective of device or location.

High-end systems provide the perfect solution to the problem faced by IT in healthcare as they scramble to implement EHR projects. With the large amount of storage, processing and network power needed to support an EHR, we understand that IT will require scalable and high-performance systems that can expand to support the rapidly increasing amounts of data being pushed through.

About the Author: Matt Oostveen