Only three weeks into January and there already has been significant developments shaking up the healthcare industry, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) unveiling of the Next Generation ACO program and acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt’s startling comments about changes to the meaningful use program. 2016 already is shaping up to be a very interesting year for healthcare leaders and the health IT landscape. Healthcare Informatics Assistant Editor Heather Landi recently spoke with Harold (Hal) Wolf and Daniel Herman with The Chartis Group, a Chicago-based consulting firm, about the health IT trends and developments to watch for in 2016. Wolf is a director with The Chartis Group and national leader for its information and digital health strategy practice, and Herman also is a director and leader of the informatics and technology practice at the consulting firm.
What do you see as the top health IT trends that will impact healthcare leaders in 2016?
Herman: I see three things developing in 2016; one is getting value out of the electronic health records (EHRs). There have been a lot of capital investments and major investments as well as time and effort going into technology over the last several years, and we’re now on the other side of the curve and it’s about getting the value out of these investments and optimizing them.
And, two, I think people are going to be looking beyond the EHRs at other types of technologies to integrate into the health delivery network. There are a lot of mergers and acquisitions happening, but also there are different kinds of affiliations developing that are not necessarily mergers but might be just the formation of clinically integrated networks among different partners. So, with those affiliations, people are looking at how do we move information from one place to another to access value and cost and also provide patients access to their information as they go across these virtual networks.
Third, and we’re seeing this consistently and I think we’re going to see more this year, is the issue of governance and decision-making regarding how to balance supply and demand related to technology requests and capital investments. It’s an insatiable demand going on right now and there’s just a limited amount of funds to go around, so looking at how we work with operational leaders to own those decisions just like they would own decisions related to investments, expansion or building programs or building new facilities.
Wolf: That demand is such a critical and fundamental part of the building blocks that are happening inside the industry. There is this other significant demand going on in conjunction with personalized care in the digital space. So what’s beginning to happen is you’re seeing a tremendous amount of attention to governance inside organizations that are more complex than they were even just two years ago. The necessity to match IT investment and integrate it into the enterprise strategy is at an all-time high because to gain the capabilities that are necessary for mobility, for population care management, for investment and analytics, you really have critical IT dependencies that have to be funded and they have to support the enterprise strategy. So the integration between the IT strategy and the enterprise strategy never before has been greater and it’s sitting inside that governance sphere. And, the fundamental approach to that is to not look at projects as strictly IT projects, as these are actually all business projects that are supported by IT and are critical to the success of the enterprise. Starting with that mindset, it’s really changed the ability of organizations to work together and to think about all of this within the context of the overall strategy of the enterprise.
There’s no doubt that cybersecurity will continue to be a challenging issue in 2016. Do you see any changes in how healthcare leaders will tackle cybersecurity?
Herman: We all recognize that no matter how good your systems are—whether you’re the CIA, the NSA, or the Defense Department—people will try to find a way into the environment, so there will be, appropriately, a huge amount of focus on data security and cybersecurity in 2016 as there has been in the past, and it’s only increasing as we recognize vulnerabilities. The other issue, which is adding to that complexity, is that while healthcare has often been an “inside-out” type of enterprise, with the addition of mobility apps and the addition of reporting mechanisms, it’s really “outside-in” and you open up your enterprise every time to more susceptibility. In response, healthcare organizations are adding more security officers with greater capabilities to their organizations, and many of these security officers are coming from inside and outside the industry, and I think that will only increase.