While there has been plenty of debate over healthcare legislation, the one thing that can’t be argued is that healthcare IT is changing faster than ever, and while the this particular market can be challenging for solution providers just breaking in, the effort is certainly worth it. For those just entering the healthcare market (or those looking to spruce up their product offerings), here are five healthcare technology trends to watch in 2013 and beyond.
1. Analytics Avalanche
Statistics from Frost & Sullivan (www.frostandsullivan.com) indicate that there exists a wide-open market for data analytics software within the healthcare vertical. The research firm’s recent “U.S. Hospital Health Data Analytics Market” report states that a mere 10 percent of U.S. hospitals had health data analytics tools in place in 2011. However, this figure is expected to trend upward sharply, with approximately 50 percent of U.S. hospitals expected to have deployed some type of analytics solution in 2016. Such an increase represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37.9 percent.
The most desirable tools in this category, and those with the greatest financial return for solutions providers that offer analytics applications, will be those that integrate financial and administrative information with data contained in patients’ electronic health records (EHRs). “To transform healthcare, all data have to come together in order to get a clear picture of what is happening with individual patients and patient populations in terms of clinical treatment and outcomes, costs and reimbursement, and resource utilization,” says Nancy Fabozzi, Frost & Sullivan’s principal healthcare analyst and the author of the report. “Hospital executives will increasingly view these data elements as a core asset that must be leveraged to support every organizational goal, including financing, reimbursement, recruiting, and—most importantly—patient care.”
According to Frost & Sullivan, investments in analytics software will follow on the heels of EHR deployment. As of 2011, approximately 35 percent of U.S. hospitals had put into place either a basic or comprehensive EHR system. By the research firm’s estimates, 95 percent of U.S. hospitals will have EHR systems in place when 2016 rolls around, representing a 22.1 percent CAGR.
2. Crazy For the Cloud
VARs with experience in cloud computing will likely be able to leverage their knowledge to move into, or become more rooted in, the healthcare vertical. The reason: Hospitals and other healthcare entities, payers among them, have already begun to move more and more healthcare data into the cloud, and to apply data analytics to better manage healthcare costs and stave off competition by identifying and addressing patient needs earlier. “Healthcare Cloud Computing Market—Global Trends, Challenges, Opportunities & Forecasts,” a recent report by MarketsandMarkets (www.marketresearch.com), characterizes cloud computing as a “boon” to the healthcare industry. In 2011, the report states, cloud technology adoption within in the healthcare industry was estimated at 4 percent and valued at $1.7 billion. Meanwhile, the compound annual growth rate of the cloud computing market in the vertical is expected to rise by 20.5 percent between 2010 and 2016.
VARs must keep in mind the many variables healthcare concerns consider when deciding whether to move forward with cloud initiatives.
Consider the case of Orlando Health, a Fla.-based, not-for-profit private health network with 14,000 employees, multiple inpatient and outpatient facilities located across Central Florida and 2,000 affiliated physicians.
Brian Comp, Orlando Health’s chief technology officer, information services and his colleagues looked very carefully at TCO, taking into consideration not only the anticipated initial capital outlay, but maintenance costs and the very real possibility of the need to upgrade Orlando Health’s data storage technology down the road. However, they were unwilling to base their decision entirely on economics; other concerns came into play. Orlando Health wanted reasonable assurance that only authorized parties would have access to data stored in the cloud, that cloud storage performance levels would rival those provided by its own data centers, and that the vendor would, as Comp puts it, be around for the long haul. Had the solutions provider, which the executive prefers not to name, not addressed all of these factors, the deal would not have been pursued any farther.
3. Desktops Go Virtual
The healthcare vertical is extremely ripe for desktop virtualization solutions that afford clinicians a single point of access to a wide range of patient data, in many cases including images, from multiple departments (e.g., the emergency room, laboratories, etc.) and sources (e.g, hospital charts), notes Mike Carter, a principal of VAR eGroup (www.egroup-us.com).
Edward Ricks, vice president of IT and CIO at eGroup client Beaufort Memorial Hospital in Beaufort, S.C., concurs. “Fast, secure access to personal desktops that follow users throughout their shifts, combined with the increased security and decreased maintenance that result from data never being stored on the device, have made virtualized desktops very appealing to both health care providers and IT departments,” he notes. “With the benefits being so clearly understood, it is no surprise that the technology is being rapidly embraced in healthcare.”
Beaufort Memorial Hospital had initially engaged eGroup to virtualize its data center applications using VMware vSphere from VMware (www.vmware.com), Cisco (www.cisco.com) Unified Computing System (UCS) servers and EMC (www.emc.com) storage solutions. Building on the success of this implementation, the health care system hired the VAR to extend visualization to more than 400 concurrent virtual desktop users outfitted with Samsung (www.samsung.com) Zero Client computers. The visualization application combines Imprivata (www.imprivata.com) OneSign Single Sign-On software and the Tera2 PcoIP solution from T eradici (www.teradici.com); together, the two solutions enable one-touch desktop roaming and authentication via PC-over-IP.
Applications are deployed to the hospital’s virtual desktops using VMWare’s ThinApp, with remote desktop access extended to staff members’ mobile devices (home PCs, notebook PCs and tablets). At the start of the workday, each user taps his or her ID badge to log into the virtual desktop, which is populated with and logged in to all applications the individual is authorized to view and utilize. The entire “contents” of this virtual desktop follows the staff member throughout the day, with no need to log in or out of individual applications.
While many clients are attracted to desktop visualization by its power to streamline access to necessary information on the clinical and administrative sides alike, eGroup leverages other benefits to make the sale. These benefits encompass faster application provisioning, enhanced security, reduced hardware maintenance time and decreased hardware maintenance costs.
4. mHealth on the Move
On the non-consumer side, mHealth adoption includes the use of mobile devices, particularly tablets, to update patient charts as well as access to EHR data, decision support systems, drug reference materials and the like. “By using technology we can go out and make a difference in the quality and cost of care,” Scott Lundstrom, top researcher at IDC Health Insights (www.idc-hi.com), told attendees of a Healthcare IT Summit presented by UBM Technology (www.ubm.com). “The answer to doing more with less in healthcare is getting closer to the patient.” with mobile and MHealth as one means of doing so.
The forecast for mHealth is indeed rosy, which portends good news for VARs. According to Transparency Market Research (www.transparencymarketresearch.com) the global mHealth market will exhibit a CAGR of 41.5 percent in the next five years, hitting $10.2 billion by 2018. That’s a significant increase from the $1.3 billion mark reached in 2012. Pawan Kumar, head of the research firm’s ICT and semiconductor practices, chalks it up to the increasing popularity of smartphones and the uptick in chronic diseases.
“The introduction of newer and improved mobile health applications in the market is helping the healthcare providers to cater (to a higher) number of patients in less time with significant cost saving,” said Kumar. “Faster development of 3G and 4G networks is also expected to fuel the further growth of the market.”
At USF Health in Tampa, Fla., the Wand application from Allscripts (www.allscripts.com) is being used to enter patient information onto an iPad at the point of care, saving four to six minutes of time per patient and, more importantly, allowing physicians a more personal connection to patients than they would have were they to input the data into PCs, according to a spokesperson. Physicians within the healthcare system are now bucking for the deployment of solutions that would bring clinical decision support and diagnostic applications to their mobile devices.
5. Remote Monitoring Not So Far Out
An offshoot of mHealth, remote monitoring involves the collection, by patients, of their own health data using bluetooth-enabled devices, such as blood pressure cuffs, weight scales and pulse-oximeters. These data are wirelessly transmitted to healthcare providers, who access them on highly secure portals that must be designed to comply with HIPAA Security Rule requirements.
Transparency Market Research deems remote monitoring the fastest-growing segment of the mHealth market; statistics released by the firm indicate that remote monitoring technology generated 63 percent of overall mHealth technology revenue last year.
The sales “carrot” for mHealth technology is its potential to significantly lower healthcare costs: With mHealth solutions in place, some patients’ length of stay in the hospital can be reduced, as can the frequency with which follow-up visits to physicians must occur. In many instances, healthcare providers can handle patient loads with a smaller pool of human resources than might otherwise be required.
Solution providers and healthcare technology resellers might consider adding a video component to customers’ remote monitoring solutions. Live, on-demand, two-way video enables a personal connection for the patient and doctor, extending the relationship beyond the hospital walls,” says Geeta Nayyar, M.D., Chief Medical Information Officer, AT&T Business Solutions (www.corp.att.com/healthcare). Video, she explains, makes it possible for physician to see clinical signs and indicators, such as skin color, mood and affect, and determine whether a patient is utilizing devices and medications appropriately.