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2018: The Healthcare IT Outlook and Focus

David Reynolds

 

David Reynolds
President & CEO, ROI, Inc.

 

Change. You can watch it form and advance across the entire Healthcare landscape in 2018. The result will be an expanded focus on Healthcare IT as a driving factor in effectively managing the rapid changes in virtually every aspect of Healthcare operations. I was asked recently to help a client understand the impact of changes in Healthcare IT in this new year. Here are my thoughts about the shape of things to come.

OUTLOOK | Mega Mergers Advancing in 2018

On December 4, 2017 Illinois-based Advocate Health Care and Wisconsin’s giant Aurora Health Care announced a 50-50 Merger to create the 10th Largest Not-for-Profit hospital system in the country. Once completed in mid-2018, the Advocate Aurora Health entity will be a 27 hospital, $11 Billion Net Patient Revenue entity across two (2) states.

Just eight short days later, on December 12, 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are currently in discussions about a potential merger, which would create the nation’s largest healthcare system. The combination would create a Health System with a combined total of 191 hospitals in 27 states, and annual revenue of almost $45 billion.

The pace of these mega mergers impacts all Healthcare IT entities and the Healthcare IT market by constraining the availability of key resources, partners, and technology providers.

Over the next few years, the need for quality Healthcare IT resources will expand to facilitate effective execution of these events. This will create a bubble of need. However, this bubble, as with all bubbles, will likely burst at some point.

The smart Healthcare CIO must structure the organization to be lean and focused on core clinical and business needs and not on growing large IT fiefdoms. This should drive greater use of Managed Services for infrastructure, security, and other non-clinical IT functions. Organizations should focus on application consolidation and workflow solutions that directly lower costs and/or provide greater clinical throughput and outcomes. This will enable them to focus on what they are good at – providing systems for healthcare delivery.

FOCUS | Cybersecurity

Daily, we see cybersecurity breach reports in the media. However, when Healthcare institutions are impacted, consumers see this as “more frightening” than other industry breaches.

In the first eleven months of 2017, there were thirty-two (32) Hospital / Health System security breaches reported to regulatory agencies impacting more than 300,00 patients. Some breaches have driven court cases including one currently in front of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Supreme Court regarding UPMC. There are certainly more Healthcare-related security breaches that have occurred in 2017; however, due to the nature of the breach it may take multiple years before it comes to light.

Healthcare CIOs are constantly challenged with a cost/benefit of Cybersecurity spend. Many CFOs attempt to choose purchasing Cybersecurity Insurance, rather than providing CIOs the budget to properly secure the environments. The CIO must work cross-functionally throughout the organization to educate and partner with departments to help them understand the REAL impact of a breach and the impact on the brand.

The harm to the brand may impact the organization equally or even outweigh the financial liabilities of a breach. CIOs must drive this message in protecting their environments and gaining the required funding for this protection.

OUTLOOK | Provider-Centric Solutions

“Documentation Fatigue” overwhelms healthcare providers. This is increasing the cost of delivering services per-patient or per-procedure at the same time margins are squeezed. Healthcare IT departments must find or develop provider-centric solutions that allow physicians to “face the patient” and provide their full attention at the point of care. This space is largely undefined, but will grow in 2018.

FOCUS | Disaster Recovery / Preparedness

From August 28, 2017 to October 13, 2017, at least Twenty-Seven (27) U.S. Mainland Hospitals were forced to evacuate or close due to Hurricanes or Wildfires from Florida to California. This has increased the focus of Healthcare CIOs on how their environments must be prepared for accessing patient data when they are relocated temporarily or permanently due to a natural or man-made disaster. Additionally, a solid Disaster Preparedness plan allows first responders and emergency personnel to access these systems during the relocation process even when the hospital is offline.

It is imperative that Healthcare CIOs focus their overall IT needs with full adoption of Disaster Recovery / Preparedness through the use of virtualization, the migration to active/active environments, the use of Tier III and IV Uptime Institute Certified Data Centers, and by leveraging Public Broadband in a secure way during an event (or otherwise) to provide the proper level of access.

For more information, please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

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1 Organizations do not have to report the number of patients impacted in all jurisdictions.