A logical paradox seems to currently apply to the understanding and management of healthcare information technology (HIT) costs: although healthcare providers face common problems, they don’t often collaborate in solving their problems in a common manner.
For example, most people in healthcare agree on the following:
- HIT is critical to the success of healthcare organizations
- HIT is complex, resulting in less than ideal mastery by clinical users
- Costs must be reduced
Despite these seemingly universal perceptions, healthcare leaders and managers generally do not benchmark their costs relative to other comparable institutions, and sometimes don’t even aggregate and systematically evaluate their own costs.
How have we arrived at this state? Ask a healthcare manager or IT manager, and he or she might say:
- I’m so busy putting out fires every day that I don’t have the time to study the big picture.
- My job is keeping the technology running and the users happy; it’s somebody else’s job to worry about the money and strategy.
- If my boss figures out how much I’m spending, she’s going to cut my budget.
- What’s the point? Nothing around here ever changes anyway.
The point is that HIT is critical to your success, systems are too complex, and costs are too high. The industry is ripe for change. Here’s what I believe is going to happen. Healthcare IT will consolidate around four general system categories:
- Clinical information systems (Hospital Information Systems/ ambulatory EMRs)
- Enterprise imaging systems (radiology, cardiology, anatomic pathology, surgical/endoscopic imaging and associated information all in one system)
- Financial management/ business analytics systems
- Patient engagement systems
Healthcare providers will own far fewer systems with far fewer interfaces, and benefit by a significant drop in costs. If you doubt that will happen, consider the following: Do you own a smartphone? Can you remember when you instead required a phone, pager, camera, recorder, contact manager, and GPS tool to do less than what your smartphone does today?
In addition, HIT will provide self-learning tools responsive to the role and expertise of the user. These tools will interface using industry standards, particularly the standards required by federal meaningful use regulations, including direct messaging. Healthcare systems that embrace this vision will achieve lower costs, higher efficiency, superior quality, and unparalleled customer engagement. In short, they will dominate the healthcare marketplace.
How can you be one of the institutions that thrive in this new healthcare world? As with all self-improvement projects, begin with self-assessment. To begin, let’s focus on two arenas:
- Enterprise Imaging Systems—Do you currently know the inventory of IT vendors required for your entire imaging enterprise to function? Do you know what you spend with each vendor per year? Do you know your internal IT support costs and how that compares to your peers and competitors? Do you know what an Enterprise Imaging System can do for you? Do you think you can’t afford to change, when the fact is that you can’t afford to stay the same?
- Patient Engagement Systems—Do you know what a patient engagement system is? How do you reach your patients today for the purposes of scheduling, pre-registration, collection of required meaningful use data, education, appointment reminders, marketing and results delivery? Do you think that specialties like radiology, cardiology, anesthesiology, and pathology don’t need to engage consumers?
Now is the time to get busy. Contact us
and let Merge help you get your self-assessment started.
Murray A. Reicher, MD FACR, is the Chief Medical Officer at Merge Healthcare.