How ICT can improve the health of healthcare

Like any other industry, the healthcare sector is striving to reduce costs and increase productivity. This has in turn forced healthcare IT professionals to pull up their socks.

Like any other industry, the healthcare sector is striving to reduce costs and increase productivity. This has in turn put healthcare IT professionals under pressure to find the most effective combinations of new technology to realise these improvements.

The transformation in the sector is being underpinned by four key drivers. Healthcare utilisation and healthcare financial models are evolving rapidly as patients change the way they choose to interact with healthcare providers. Combine those three factors with the unprecedented speed with which medical science is advancing; and you can see why IT professionals in the healthcare space need to be on their toes as healthcare providers adjust their IT strategies to meet market conditions.

In the developed economies around the world healthcare providers are not only tackling issues such as rising costs but also 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 seen an influx of new financing and payment models to decrease provider cost while giving more value to the consumers of healthcare.

To combat disease and illness medical professionals are becoming more innovative in their treatments while the expanding their areas of treatment from medical sites such as hospitals to engage patience in a mobile setting.

Transforming healthcare utilisation

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 while simultaneously burdensome on time for both patient and provider. Patients are also looking to access healthcare services across borders; whether they are across counties, states or nations.

To combat this, healthcare providers are looking to technology to help solve part of the problem they face 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 to deliver for IT professionals as 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.

Evolution of healthcare financial models

Revenue models for the industry are under pressure. In countries like England, the Nordics and Australia, funding from governments is changing from being calculated on process measures to outcome based models that factor in quality of life and early detection of diseases. Globally the trend for healthcare costs is increasing, with one of the key metrics being the ratio of healthcare cost to GDP.

Expect to see increase use of business intelligence platforms that allow various elements of the organisation to become less reliant on each other for information, therefore increasing speed to decisions as they utilise more sophisticated reporting and dash-boarding tools. Essential to achieving this is linking together disparate data warehouses that reduce the compartmentalisation of data while increasing visibility. Finally, building on top of these BI platforms will be analytical capabilities that overlay the systems providing real-time prediction of performance, losses and failures in process.

Patients are interacting with healthcare providers differently

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

It’s in this area we see the rapid deployment of small mobile first applications, the use of private or customised social networks all intersected with analytical tools that bring deeper diagnostic capabilities (think IBM Watson used as an invisible front line doctor!). In fact research shows that by 2017, 30 per cent  of patients will regularly use mobile social commerce apps to engage their healthcare provider and access their health information.

Therefore IT will evolve patient portals from tools to access tests or medical records and send messages to enhanced patient engagement and experience, and personalisable tools for care management. IT will also be tasked with the development of tools to improve the use of mobile and social applications that moves beyond simple to more personalised, meaningful and impactful relationship-building tools.

Medical science and IT

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

In the coming years we’ll see these areas expand to include personalised medicine as well as better point-of-care tools with real-time individualised patient risk predictors and actionable care metrics. However, the technology that is getting the majority of attention from the industry is electronic healthcare records (EHR).

EHR projects are large scale transformational projects that aim to simplify the complex and disparate nature of medical record keeping. EHR projects are considered to be the most complicated, expensive and politically charged 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.

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

Extreme application focused systems deliver VDI solutions to provide a foundation for building out the latest healthcare services such as Telehealth, and mobility capabilities that can securely connect the clinician with the 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 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. 

Matthew Oostveen, VCE CTO for Asia Pacific & Japan

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