By Gary Palgon, VP Healthcare Solutions, Liaison Healthcare Informatics
Over the last twenty years, the advanced supply chain industry and others have used computer technology to make their operations more efficient. One more recent enhancement is using cloud-based services. This enables the outsourcing of IT operations, allowing organizations to reduce their capital costs and lower the bar to innovative forms of data exchange. The networking between the different stages of the supply chain can allow better exchange of data and more accurate information on customer demand, reducing inventory and its associated costs.
The health-care IT industry could stand to benefit from this example. The HITECH Act
and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act both push for the digitization of patient medical and health records, while the latter also requires states to create their own health information exchanges (HIEs) and the individual insurance mandate will lead to more people getting health insurance and seeing doctors. The trend of hospitals transforming into Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) networked with other caregivers, doctors, and laboratories also necessitates increased data interoperability, while harmonizing data standards is needed to avoid delays in processing information, especially in life-threatening situations. All this will produce a vast flood of data those involved in healthcare will need to handle.
Rahm Emanuel once said to not let a crisis go to waste. The “crisis” of increasing demand for healthcare IT will necessitate new solutions, and attempting to meet the challenge by building one’s own IT infrastructure won’t cut it. The cost will be high, and the example of Pets.com and Webvan shows how high infrastructure costs can doom a venture that cannot generate sufficient revenue before the initial investment — in this case, private money — runs out. Using the much cheaper but just as effective option of cloud computing will save more of the initial money to deal with later problems and eliminate the ongoing cost of replacing obsolete software and hardware. Although healthcare IT is presently behind other fields in cloud computing, the new “crisis” may provide the incentive necessary to not only catch up to others, but exceed them.
Until next time,