A futuristic view of healthcare encourages creative approaches to distributing care while cutting costs. One might imagine, for example, “bedless” hospitals or virtual care centers, according to PwC’s Health Research Institute.
But, here and now, provider organizations have more basic technological needs in pursuit of better care for their patients. Let’s take a look at several zones of emerging activity aimed squarely at making a near-term impact.
Data analytics emerged as the hottest healthcare IT topic among HIMSS16 conference attendees surveyed by Stoltenberg Consulting in early March. Nearly one-third of respondents said correlating data from diverse and dissimilar sources is their most daunting challenge. Thirty-seven (37) percent of attendees reported having data analytics programs “well underway,” but acknowledged a lack of resources to complete requested initiatives. Similarly, 36 percent said they need assistance to further develop early-stage analytics projects.
Hospitals and Health Networks reports that predictive analytics systems are being used to identify patients at high risk for hospital readmission; shorten hospital stays after specific operations, such as joint replacement; and schedule staffing resources while keeping overtime to a minimum.
Nearly 86 percent of healthcare executives surveyed last month by consulting firm Digital Collaboration Services (DCS) said coordinated care improvement efforts are important to their organization’s 2016 goals. Projects planned for this year include: improving transitions of care with patients and their families; reducing hospital readmission rates; improving patient experience measures; enhancing transitions of care between facilities; coordinating care across post-acute facilities; implementing chronic care management strategies; and refining medication adherence initiatives.
Most surveyed executives, about 55 percent, roll out care coordination improvement projects with existing resources, and another 27 percent spread budget allocations across multiple departments for such projects. However, only about 13 percent have a dedicated budget for care coordination activities, according to DCS.
A new report issued in late April by the Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange and the Louis W. Sullivan Institute for Healthcare Innovation acknowledged that addressing gaps in care is a “critical issue for stakeholders” and will become increasingly important as value-based care efforts mature. Still needed are standardized quality measures and methodologies for actionable information exchange among providers, payers and patients, the report said.
Application programming interfaces (APIs)
“This year has seen a surge of enthusiasm and support for APIs specifically around facilitating access to EMR systems,” according to Chris Bradley, CEO and co-founder of technology developer Mana Health.
Bradley predicts APIs becoming more readily available to help access and handle data previously isolated in EMRs. He expects “a surge in the number, scope and ambition of healthcare applications, and with it, hopefully, an equally drastic improvement in quality of care.”
The HL7 data exchange standard known as FHIR holds promise as one means of using APIs to make clinical workflows more intuitive and actionable for providers while helping consumers aggregate health information.
More than 80 percent of senior IT executives working for hospital-based organizations reported current use of cloud services in a mid-2014 survey conducted by HIMSS Analytics. Respondents most commonly defined cloud services in terms of application hosting, disaster recovery/backup and primary data storage. Only 6 percent of the surveyed executives said their organization had no plans to use cloud services in the future.
From its established base, cloud services technology will grow 16.5 percent across industries during 2016, according to IT advisory firm Gartner. Cloud system infrastructure services “continues to be the strongest growing segment as enterprises move away from data center build-outs and move their infrastructure needs to the public cloud,” noted Sid Nag, research director at Gartner.
Tying together the trendlines
As healthcare organizations move forward in these essential areas, technology companies like NetDirector stand ready to assist. Note that NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange integration solution enables the movement of clinical and financial data among disparate systems while adhering to HIPAA security and HL7 compliance standards.
Whether designing a big data project from multiple sources, closing gaps in care delivery and communication, or assimilating APIs and EMR systems, HealthData Exchange manages integrations within a network of formerly separate healthcare systems. And it does so through the cloud, with a zero-footprint solution — no need for hardware or software on premises.