Apple Leads Big-Name Tech Charge Focusing on Health Data

Apple’s $921 billion market valuation, perched atop the Fortune 500, reflects investors’ belief that the company’s relentless growth should continue in coming years. And an iPhone-based health record product, a test version of which Apple released in late January, could be a pivotal part of the expected progression.

“We view the future as consumers owning their own health data,” Apple COO Jeff Williams told CNBC.

The new Health Records section, accessible from the iPhone’s Health app, lets users stream in encrypted data (e.g., allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and vital signs) from leading EHR systems. The idea empowers consumers to share passcode-protected data on-demand with their primary care doctor or hospital personnel.

As of March, nearly 40 U.S. hospitals had signed on to participate in Apple’s Health Records project.

Industry Reaction

David Harlow, who heads a healthcare law and consulting practice, pointed out the long-term promise inherent in Apple’s initiative: allowing more people than ever before to access their own health data more easily. If the pilot succeeds, he added, healthcare systems of all sizes across the country would be able to connect their respective EHRs to the Apple conduit.

Indeed, among a dozen Health Records beta sites interviewed by research firm KLAS Enterprises, all recognized the product’s potential to facilitate patient-provider interaction and help consumers improve care self-management. Patient record portability should be possible soon, according to 59 percent of beta testers, with associated benefits (giving patients access to their data, using the data to engage patients, and integrating data into patient care) expected within six months.

At the same time, however, Harlow cautioned that Apple faces several short-term challenges:

  1. Health Records is currently limited to personal health record data, not the full scope of EHR data.
  2. iPhone users account for only 15 percent of the overall smartphone market (although physician iPhone usage hovers around 75 percent).
  3. The pilot’s relatively small size limits demonstration of data integration from multiple provider organizations.
  4. Data flows only in one direction — from provider to patient.

Harlow concluded that it’s not yet possible to predict whether Health Records will become ubiquitous, although consumer advocates like Apple’s approach to handling end-user data. (It stays on the phone and Apple won’t be mining it for other purposes.)

Nonetheless, a practical consideration — some patients have to pay their provider more than $500 for a single medical records request, while others encounter an annual subscription fee, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report — could disrupt emerging data-sharing models. In this environment, Apple has gotten a head start on allowing patients to own and control their health data, even across disparate systems.

Integration in the Healthcare Ecosystem

NetDirector views these developments in a positive light as they relate to integration advances across healthcare. If Health Records and similar projects take flight, cloud-based platforms such as NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange will assist with streamlined adoption and implementation. The net result will be the ability for healthcare stakeholders to quickly and accurately put in place patient-centric services.

For more information on HealthData Exchange, please contact us or request a free demo.

Health Data is a Prime Target: How to Minimize Risk

Health Data is a Prime Target: How to Minimize Risk

More than 60 percent of healthcare organizations suffered a data breach in the past 12 months, according to information security researcher Ponemon Institute. In total, over 5 million healthcare records were exposed or stolen among entities studied by Ponemon.

Recent incidents show no abatement in cybercriminals’ attraction to healthcare data. For example, Florida Hospital reported earlier this month that patient information on 12,724 individuals might have been exposed through a malware infection on three of the organization’s websites. Three months earlier, St. Peter’s Surgery & Endoscopy Center in New York disclosed that hackers had potentially gained access to server-based medical records of nearly 135,000 patients.

Healthcare in the Crosshairs

Approximately 7 million patients will have their data compromised by hacks in 2019, estimates consulting firm Accenture, racking up billions of dollars in costs to hospitals and health systems.

What makes the healthcare particularly vulnerable?

A Computerworld report explains that healthcare data, which includes personal identifiers and medical histories, can be sold virtually unchallenged over time on the black market. In contrast, financial data often becomes useless once a breach has been discovered and passcodes changed. Cybercriminals, aware of the premium value of healthcare records, focus their attacks in pursuit of the greatest possible returns.

Other factors contributing to healthcare’s data security liability include:

  • increasing access to medical records as entities share information across integrated sites of care;
  • legal requirements to store medical records for extended periods of time;
  • efforts to connect electronic health record systems, often relying on unsecured patches that can open the door to unauthorized entry; and
  • inadequate education of employees about modes of cyberattacks.

On a broader scale, but not to be discounted, foreign governments’ so called “state actors” may attempt to accumulate healthcare data that could help in social engineering of future attacks. Such a tactic might deploy emails to individuals who have a specific medical condition — with malware linked to prompts for more information.

Risk Mitigation

Big data sets in healthcare, despite ever-increasing volume, can be managed through ongoing risk assessments and implementation of preventative security controls, such as continuous monitoring programs. However, those measures come at a cost that must be weighed against the uncertainty of threat protection.

“Each organization needs to evaluate risk and its security needs in the context of its organizational and business requirements to determine where it makes the most sense to invest their people, time and financial resources,” advises Christine Sublett, a member of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthcare Industry Cybersecurity Task Force.

NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform deserves consideration as healthcare organizations work through their cybersecurity evaluations. The system combines HIPAA-based security and HL7 standard interfacing compliance — with attestations available upon request. Additionally, NetDirector uses a physically secure Peak10 facility for hosting customer data. This approach ensures data integrity without the need for additional IT investment and the associated risk of self-managing connection points among exchange partners.

For more information on HealthData Exchange, please contact us or request a free demo.

Predictive Recurrence: The Fight Continues Against Opioids

U.S. opioid overdose deaths spiked five-fold between 1999 and 2016, culminating in 42,249 fatalities two years ago, according to official statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The government figures also estimated 11.5 million Americans misusing prescription opioids and 2.1 million people confirmed with opioid use disorder.

Federal response has prioritized better addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services, along with improved public health surveillance and new approaches to pain management.

Meanwhile, academic and private sector entities are making headway applying technology to combat the nationwide epidemic.

How Technology Can Help

Researchers at the University of Colorado investigated how frontline physicians could identify patients susceptible to chronic opioid use. A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine (February 2018) applied a statistical model to retrospective electronic health record (EHR) data and correctly predicted chronic opioid therapy (COT) — a measure of future chronic opioid use — in 79 percent of hospitalized patients.

Integration of the COT model within EHRs could enable clinicians to “provide early patient education about pain management strategies and [potentially] wean opioids prior to discharge while incorporating alternative therapies for pain into discharge planning,” says the research team’s report.

Among the variables incorporated into the model: medical and health diagnoses; substance and tobacco use disorder; chronic or acute pain; surgical intervention during hospitalization; past year receipt of opioid or non-opioid analgesics or benzodiazepines; opioid receipt at hospital discharge and morphine equivalents prescribed per hospital day.

Lead author Susan Calcaterra, MD, told Health Data Management, “The nice thing is that all of the data required to assess risk are available already documented in the EHR, and providers do not need to ask for additional information from patients.”

The research team, which anchored the study at a Denver safety-net hospital, plans to expand its work to validate the model in a wider patient population.

Separately, a paper released (May 2018) by health information network Surescripts focuses on technologies that could inform decisions at the point of care with more actionable intelligence. The paper points out that standard transactional information flow — captured in medical and medication histories, electronic prescriptions, provider communications and medication adherence alerts — could help close the loop on drug diversion and improper dispensing.

Simply increasing use of current technologies could have a significant impact on curtailing the opioid epidemic, the paper emphasizes. Author Paul Uhrig writes, “[The] good news is that health data and information technology exist today that can lead to better care decisions and curb fraud and abuse.”

Automated Tracking

Likewise, NetDirector is actively engaged in leveraging integration technology in support of addiction recovery caregivers. Cloud-based integration with state-sponsored controlled substance databases allows seamless monitoring and comparison of data to ensure that recovering patients are not seeking drugs beyond their treatment program.

Integration is live for North Carolina, with application to other state programs available on demand. Delivered on a platform-as-a-service basis, the Controlled Substance Tracking Model is priced per data extraction/use. For more details on pricing and delivery, contact NetDirector or request a free demo.

Technologies That Impressed at HIMSS18

Last month in larger-than-life Las Vegas, nearly 50,000 healthcare IT professionals and vendors convened for HIMSS18, the industry’s yearly focal point. Attendees sought common ground in improving care and business operations through the use of technology.

Reports from the conference yielded a wealth of new information from more than 1,000 exhibitors and scores of expert presenters. And — indicative of a setting where anything could happen — Jared Kushner and Magic Johnson stopped by to share their respective insights on better access to patient data and health, leadership and community-building.

But at the heart of the event, discussion of challenges and pursuit of new ideas revealed common themes among those serving at healthcare organizations and their counterparts on the developer side. The infographic below summarizes key aspects of health IT’s ongoing quest to support better patient outcomes in a fiscally sustainable ecosystem.

 

 

NetDirector’s cloud-based HealthData Exchange addresses these points of emphasis through low-cost, high-speed, secure data and document sharing capabilities among hospitals, physician practices, nursing facilities, pharmacies, labs, imaging centers, vendors, government agencies and insurance providers. The format- and transport-agnostic technology eliminates the need to maintain multiple interfaces while ensuring data consistency and integrity.

For more information on the HealthData Exchange platform, please contact us or request a free demo.

Disruptive Technologies Make Their Mark for Healthcare Providers

Despite uncertainty about national healthcare policy, investors continue to fuel the red-hot health technology sector, which leverages innovation in the quest to improve outcomes, streamline care and cut costs.

Digital health startup firms banked $23 billion in venture funding over the past seven years, according to analysis from Rock Health. In 2017 alone, digital health investments hit an all-time high approaching $6 billion, with a record number of “mega-deals” (each exceeding $100 million) coming to fruition. Repeat investments also reached a peak last year, indicating confidence in future growth.

Rock Health’s research reveals the top value propositions funded during 2017:

  • Consumer health information (investments of $1.6 billion) — Empowering individuals to better understand their own health and the overall healthcare system.
  • Clinical decision support and precision medicine ($811 million) — Delivering timely information to providers to help inform care decisions and/or tailor the prevention, management or treatment of disease.
  • Fitness and wellness ($752 million) — General health maintenance and promotion, where illness prevention does not associate with a diagnostic billing code.
  • Disease monitoring ($517 million) — Using biometric devices to track specific clinical conditions.
  • Disease diagnosis ($493 million) — Identifying specific clinical indications.
  • Non-clinical workflow ($482 million) — Managing administrative operations such as scheduling and billing in a provider setting.

In short, digital health has aggressively moved past the fledgling stage. From here, innovators will need to demonstrate much more than a unique idea. They’ll be asked to show verifiable advancement in building, sustaining and scaling a profitable business model.

Imminent Innovations

Venture capitalists aside, doctors and researchers agree that technology-backed breakthroughs will figure prominently among major medical developments expected in 2018.

Cleveland Clinic, which annually publishes a top-ten list of innovations vetted by an internal panel of physicians and scientists, predicts disruption in areas such as diabetes management, telehealth and centralized monitoring of hospital patients.

For example, a closed-loop insulin delivery system, essentially an artificial pancreas, will improve outcomes for Type 1 diabetes patients and increasingly be reimbursable by insurers this year, according to the report. The system will continuously link a monitoring device to an insulin pump to stabilize blood glucose at an unprecedented level, rather than requiring the patient to determine how much insulin to inject.

Also on the immediate horizon, distance health technologies will be widely adopted, with 90 percent of healthcare executives reporting active or emerging telehealth programs. Telehealth is now integrated with more than 19 million patients using attachable devices to record and report medical information. The technology will remove geographic barriers to care, enabling timely treatment to vulnerable populations at significantly reduced cost.

We’ll also see provider organizations implementing “mission control”-type operations, through which off-site personnel use sensors and high-definition cameras to monitor patients’ blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, oxygen level and other essential readings. This type of system can double the number of monitored patients per technician while initiating advance warnings of trouble in areas such as cardiology wards.

The Agility Factor

Disruptive healthcare technologies typically incorporate some aspect of data integration geared toward actionable intervention or prevention that justifies initial and ongoing investment. The takeaway for healthcare decision-makers is that traditional spending on day-to-day IT activities will give way to hand-picked services available through the cloud.

“The role of the chief information officer won’t be so much operations and keeping disks spinning and data centers powered as much as it will be integration and figuring out how procured cloud services fit together,” observes John Halamka, MD, CIO at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“So you might even imagine that IT departments will start to shrink because so much of what we have done in the past with internal staff will be done with cloud-hosted services,” Halamka continues. “And the great joy of this is that if you don’t like one cloud-hosted service, you can change it. So it’s going to give you some agility.”

NetDirector’s cloud-based HealthData Exchange precisely fits today’s model for disruption with low-cost, high-speed data and document sharing capabilities. For more information on the HealthData Exchange platform, please contact us or request a free demo.

Healthcare Giants Attack Rising Costs, Pursue Greater Efficiency

Whether on the vendor or provider side, the business of healthcare isn’t getting any easier. Across the sector, companies and caregiver organizations are tightening their respective belts while firing up initiatives to increase efficiencies.

At the end of last year’s third quarter, EHR developer athenahealth — which supports a nationwide network of more than 100,000 providers and 100 million patients — reported a 7 percent earnings shortfall. The company simultaneously announced several cost-cutting measures, including a 9 percent workforce reduction, shutdowns of redundant business operations, and sell-offs of real estate assets and a corporate jet.

Athenahealth CEO Jonathan Bush said the moves reflected the company’s “changing mindset as we evolve the way we do business.”

Additionally, the firm revealed a major follow-up move this month by naming former General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt as athenahealth chairman. Immelt previously grew GE’s healthcare technology business from fledgling status to a $20 billion operation during his tenure.

Immelt is viewed as a “door opener” and deal closer among hospital and health system C-suite executives, an area where athenahealth has lagged competitors, according to George Hill, an analyst for RBC Capital Markets.

Referring to Immelt’s appointment, Bush added, “Jeff shares our vision for more connected, efficient and human-centered healthcare … Like us, [he] believes a platform-oriented business and technology strategy is fundamental to executing against that vision.”

More Heavy Hitters Step In

Healthcare’s door swung open again recently when the powerhouse trio of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase revealed plans for a partnership aimed at cutting costs and improving services.

Initially, the enterprise will focus on healthcare system improvements for their collective 1.1 million employees. Nonetheless, the independent new company will strive to leverage technology to simplify the healthcare throughout the country.

Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett said combined resources within the group would be tasked with reining in healthcare’s “ballooning” costs while enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes.

Adam Fein, president of Pembroke Consulting, commented that the new, as-yet-unnamed organization could help physicians and patients make more informed and cost-effective decisions.

Idris Adjerid, management IT professor at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, told CNBC that Amazon, in particular, could play a strong role in bringing artificial intelligence and information-sharing platforms to healthcare. “We find that technology initiatives that facilitated information sharing between disconnected hospitals resulted in significant reductions in healthcare spending,” Adjerid noted.

What remains to be seen, however, is the full scope of the companies’ collaborative effort.

Robert Field, professor of health management and policy at Drexel University, predicted that the alliance would leverage technology to change healthcare delivery across the board. “We’re going to lose the personal touch in healthcare, but perhaps we need to be going in [that] direction,” Field observed. “We don’t have the corner bookshop the way we used to, and we don’t have a corner pharmacy the way we used to. Healthcare is going there one way or another.”

Staying Ahead of the Curve

NetDirector agrees that technological innovation will steer healthcare toward brighter days ahead in terms of fiscal stability and enhanced patient care.

Cloud-based integration and strong record management — hallmarks of NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform — create not only cost savings but also greater efficiencies on the non-revenue-generating side of the patient lifecycle. In doing so, the platform increases the number of patients a provider organization can reasonably sustain.

For more information on HealthData Exchange, please contact us or request a free demo.

Workflow-Aware Outreach Contributes to Healthcare Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity presents a huge, ongoing challenge for healthcare organizations across the board. Information systems, medical devices, and patient data must be protected at all times, but many hospitals and practices cannot afford to retain in-house personnel solely dedicated to security. At the same time, they often lack the technology infrastructure needed to identify and track security threats and subsequently translate threat data into action.

What’s more, healthcare workers regularly and mistakenly assume their IT network and supported devices function with a low level of cybersecurity vulnerability.

An industry task force, established by the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, reported to Congress last June with recommendations for shaping an urgent response. The group set forth expectations for healthcare cybersecurity and called for increased protections for and resilience of IT systems and supported devices. The task force also addressed human factors by emphasizing workforce readiness enabled by improved cybersecurity awareness and education.

An Effective Action Plan

Forward-thinking facilities recognize that disparate IT systems and devices must interoperate within a unified scheme. For example, when Marin General Hospital, located north of San Francisco, updated system-wide security in 2016, the executive who led the project went beyond filling in technology gaps.

Jason Johnson, Marin’s chief information security officer, told Healthcare IT News: “We took a different approach to focus on the person and people [involved] because we knew that would be the hardest needle to move and the most difficult to change.”

Johnson’s team instituted mandatory security awareness training, going so far as to integrate it within new employee orientation. Additionally, the project team interviewed clinical staff to gain an understanding of their daily workflows. That effort identified caregivers’ top channels of email communication, which paved the way for the build-out of encryption “tunnels” that could seamlessly lock down emails containing patients’ protected health information.

The results? One year after the project started, Marin reported a 50 percent drop in system vulnerabilities, along with 100 percent staff participation in security awareness efforts. Click rates on malicious emails fell from 63 percent to a practically non-existent 0.5 percent.

Departmental outreach was key, concluded Johnson. “Once people were convinced it was a good idea and everyone was onboard, security became a requirement,” he explained. Every new project or contract now requires a standardized security review.

Integration and the Human Factor

As the Marin case shows, technology integration can flourish through an approach that takes into account human responsibilities on the front lines of care. Healthcare is notorious for dependence on “tribal knowledge” — individualized bits of information residing in staff members’ heads or scribbled on post-it notes — and such vulnerabilities often aren’t readily apparent. However, workflow-based analysis takes into account human factors prior to revamping core processes.

Further, technology such as NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange platform, which automates the sharing of clinical and billing data, frees up labor resources by simplifying the integration process. As a result, care providers can spend more time focusing on patient needs while technologists keep a watchful eye on ever-present compliance and cybersecurity issues.

For more information on HealthData Exchange, please contact us or request a free demo.

On the Horizon: What Healthcare Technology Needs in 2018

The year ahead will usher in an imposing financial squeeze for hospitals across the country. Moody’s Investor Service expects the healthcare sector’s operating cash flow to contract by 2 to 4 percent through 2018 as facilities grapple with lower insurance reimbursements and higher expense growth. Accordingly, hospitals and health systems must leverage information technology (IT) to optimize operations, sustain strategic initiatives and drive disruptive innovations.

Leading organizations will move beyond using IT to automate formerly manual processes. Instead, they’ll build IT-powered business models to align with predictive/ proactive care delivery while empowering patients to take charge of their own health.

As in recent years, healthcare executives remain rightfully concerned about enhancing cybersecurity, countering potential attacks and preparing for response by moving more of their IT infrastructure to the cloud.

They also see competitive opportunities to scale up IT in areas such as consumer-facing technology, data analytics, and virtual care. As such, integration will be key to merging patient-generated data with health records, exploring genomic testing as part of a move toward personalized medicine, and providing reimbursable care or monitoring for remote patients.

Paths Forward

Many industry observers point to cloud-based systems when explaining attempts to “future-proof” technology investments. “[Cloud computing] can offer a dramatically lower total cost of ownership than traditional on-premises solutions by eliminating maintenance fees and upgrade costs, and by requiring much less effort to install and operate,” says Mark LaRow, CEO of patient-matching technology vendor Verato.

At the same time, healthcare organizations stand to benefit from enhancing existing IT platforms, especially where revenue-driving processes and workflows overlap. In particular, providers are looking for ways to facilitate operations through automated insurance eligibility processes, mobile/ online payment applications, and cost estimation tools.

Additionally, advanced hospitals and health systems recognize that increasingly accepted value-based payment models require ongoing patient engagement measures. Advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) notes that providers need to obtain a comprehensive view of patient interactions. “An ability to derive meaningful information from linking disparate data about patients becomes a differentiator for an organization in a competitive market,” comments Winjie Miao, chief experience officer at Texas Health Resources.

Meanwhile, 88 percent of insurers plan investments in technology to improve the healthcare experience for their members. With providers and payers moving toward shared goals in data aggregation and analysis, “2018 could be the year [that] health sectors rally around the patient experience,” according to PwC.

A Platform Built for Integration

NetDirector’s subscription-model integration services fall squarely in line with healthcare organizations’ IT needs in the coming year. From a broad perspective, NetDirector’s HealthData Exchange normalizes data to standard HL7 or other formats, enabling systems to seamlessly share clinical and billing data. While complementing existing IT investments, the platform streamlines clinical workflow and communications while reducing administrative costs.

NetDirector also remains adaptive to changes in the healthcare ecosystem, such as those anticipated for 2018. New integrations can be configured based on evolving customer needs — and on standards and protocols defined by healthcare’s governing bodies.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.

NetDirector and myCatalyst Partnership Relieves Data Troubles and Eases Integration Process for Improved Healthcare Outcomes

TAMPA, Fla.Jan. 3, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — NetDirector, a cloud-based data exchange and integration platform, has further solidified its presence in the healthcare data environment through a partnership with data-centric, actionable analytics and reporting company myCatalyst, Inc. This collaboration will allow both companies to grow their already strong data integration capabilities, and ultimately improve patient care coordination for all their clients.

With a focus on care coordination and P4O reimbursement models through the support of clinically integrated networks, myCatalyst compiles data from all areas and providers involved in member/population health management. myCatalyst surpasses the limits of data warehousing and, with the collaboration of NetDirector, provides seamless integration with other vendor systems. This includes synchronizing member data and providing physicians and employers with the opportunity to develop a proactive, strategic approach.

The partnership focuses on providing a cloud-based, zero-footprint data integration solution that will allow myCatalyst to connect to even more Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems and Hospital Imaging Systems (HIS).

Robin Foust, co-developer and co-owner of myCatalyst, shared that “joining the NetDirector ecosystem will help myCatalyst connect faster with even more EHRs and HIS systems, and provide for better coordination between components of healthcare. This will allow our customers to achieve optimal efficiency and healthcare outcomes through data integration and collaborative care.”

With the volume and quality of data in healthcare continuing to surge, it is important for companies to leverage that data towards population health and information-driven patient care. The combination of NetDirector and myCatalyst allows healthcare providers and organizations to quickly and accurately exchange data through a multitude of interfaces available to them, without doing the heavy lifting themselves and taking on the additional responsibility of managing data in the cloud.

Using results from encounters, assessments, biometric data, medical, pharmacy claims, and more, myCatalyst compiles data onto a dashboard, and provides the tools necessary to enable physician practices to track patient progress, identify gaps in care, and achieve optimal financial and healthcare outcomes, and to provide data analytics and reporting to support the same for the populations and patients being served (ACO, Employers, Clinically Integrated Networks, Direct-To-Primary Care [DPC], and more).

“Our partnership with myCatalyst is a major step towards providers leveraging the wealth of data available to them,” said Harry Beisswenger, CEO of NetDirector. “We’re excited to be able to assist in bringing a service like myCatalyst to more employer groups and healthcare providers efficiently and securely with our cloud-based HealthData Exchange.

More about NetDirector:

NetDirector provides a secure cloud-based data and document exchange solution for the healthcare and mortgage banking industries to deliver seamless data integration between parties. NetDirector bridges gaps created by disparate systems & technologies by allowing companies at any location to share data & documents securely over a single internet connection with any other member of the ecosystem. Our approach allows trading partners to collaborate and exchange data in a seamless, bi-directional, real-time manner. With security and longevity as a focus, NetDirector is a certified HIPAA Compliant and SOC II Type 2 certified company, a 6-year member of the prominent Inc. 5000, and currently processes more than 9 million transactions per month. Learn more at web.netdirector.biz.

More about myCatalyst:

myCatalyst (MCI), is a private Health Information Exchange (HIE) and system support for population health, providing data integration, actionable prescriptive analytics, meaningful reporting, care coordination support, service solutions & more – resulting in optimal financial and healthcare outcomes for populations served, and the organizations serving those populations.  MCI is known for collaborative problem solving to ensure client and program success.

Learn more by contacting: Help@myCatalyst.com

How 2017 Became the Year of Integration

When all’s said and done, 2017 may be best remembered as the year big business put an indelible stamp on healthcare. Sure, we’ve had similar maneuvers in the past from the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft, but each of those initiatives struggled with consumer connection, especially when it came to individuals surrendering their personal health information.

What’s different this time? Drugstore chain CVS Health’s proposed (subject to regulatory approval) buyout of insurance giant Aetna — at $69 billion, the largest health insurance deal in history— could transform pharmacy storefronts into community health clinics, giving patients streamlined access to primary care, medications and insurance services in unified hubs.

Some industry experts acknowledge potential systemic efficiencies that would accompany this type of vertical integration. However, they also caution that consolidation could trigger insurance network restrictions and a move toward “transactional care,” in which patients see doctors for isolated consultation without any established history or context of treatment.

Other observers see the purchase more as a preemptive move by CVS to fend off retail kingpin Amazon’s interest in pharmaceutical distribution (particularly for expensive and difficult-to-obtain specialty drugs). Amazon has acquired pharmacy licenses in 12 states and has kicked off discussions with generic drugmakers, according to media reports.

Whatever the true motivation — and it very well could be a combination of all factors outlined above — healthcare models are undeniably trending toward large-scale integration as 2017 draws to a close. And that’s sure to bring opportunities and challenges to stakeholders, including IT companies, along the way.

Integration in Various Forms

As 2017 began, advisory firms counseled hospital executives to integrate clinical delivery with financial sustainability in preparation for almost certain payment cuts. One health system followed such a course, slashing annual operating costs by $12 million in just six months by focusing solely on reducing excess lengths of stay. That type of integration works around mutual biases: (1) clinicians worrying that cost-cutting would jeopardize care quality and (2) financial teams perceiving doctors’ resistance to data analysis that would measure costs.

Meanwhile, along healthcare’s leading edge, IT initiatives pushed forward throughout the year. “I believe an urgent priority for our healthcare system is to move from the traditional one-to-one model to a more efficient, time- and place-independent care delivery system,” commented Joseph Kvedar, MD, vice president of connected health at Partners Healthcare.

Kvedar’s remarks accompanied the Personal Connected Health Alliance’s release of new design guidelines for sharing patient-generated health data with providers via HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) specifications. The guidelines support data integration into electronic health records (EHRs) from 26 vital signs sensors and 40 health/ medical/ fitness devices for remote monitoring of chronic diseases, as well as health and fitness measures.

In related ways, we saw positive disruption in data exchange between payers and providers, setting the stage for real-time alerts that would help prescribing physicians prevent drug-drug interactions or other potentially harmful outcomes.

Additionally, EHR vendors did their part to integrate cloud-based versions of traditional systems, bringing cost-effective processes and simplified technology contracting to small hospitals and physician practices.

As we witnessed, a lot can happen over the course of a year. Continued progress in integration will depend on straightforward but flexible options for sharing data and documents across the healthcare ecosystem. NetDirector offers those exact capabilities in its HealthData Exchange platform so that care facilities don’t have to worry about managing — and staying ahead of — the ever-changing technology curve.

For more information, please contact us or request a free demo.