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Industry-First Interview: Are Healthcare Leaders Ready to Trust the Cloud? One New Study Says Yes

September 10, 2013
by Mark Hagland
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The results of a new study seem to indicate a greater openness to cloud solutions on the part of healthcare IT leaders

On Sep. 16, the Detroit-based Covisint, a healthcare IT vendor specializing in cloud-based solutions, will release the results of a study conducted by the Atlanta-based Porter Research and sponsored by Covisint, and which was based on interviews with 49 senior healthcare executives, 20 of whom were CIOs and other senior IT executives.

Among those senior healthcare executives interviewed for the study, 58 percent rated their confidence in cloud computing to access information from disparate locations, on a scale of 1 to 5. That finding is significant, despite the limited size of the survey cohort, since, at the same time, 72 percent of respondents stated that they plan to submit reporting to the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) to obtain reimbursements and avoid penalties in the value-based purchasing program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Meanwhile, a majority of respondents (60 percent) also report that their physicians access a community view of patients’ care plans via electronic health records (EHRs), while about half (49 percent) of respondents will use their current EHR vendors to address their secure-messaging needs within the next year.

In assessing the results of the study, Cynthia Porter, president of Porter Research, noted in a statement that “Healthcare is changing with a vengeance, and companies who excel at improving the cost and quality of care will benefit from these findings. We set out to determine where the true, industry game-changers were,” Porter added, “and the results were-eye-popping. For instance, how revealing was it that 59 percent of the nation’s leading healthcare execs place a high importance in cloud-based technologies, even though the industry is still greater than 70-percent paper-based?” Significantly, one-third of respondents said that their EHRs lacked critical population health management and reporting capabilities.

One week prior to the public release of the full study, John Haughton, M.D., Covisint’s CMIO, gave HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland an industry-first interview regarding the study’s findings and his perspectives on where cloud computing to support population health management and healthcare reform, stands right now. Below are excerpts from that interview.

How would you characterize attitudes towards the cloud right now among healthcare and healthcare IT leaders? We at HCI continue to hear a variety of opinions on the subject.

I found it interesting that [the Orem, Utah-based] KLAS [Research] found that, among those healthcare IT executives whose organizations are already using the cloud, those using the cloud gave cloud vendors an average score of 4.5 on a scale of 5 in terms of their satisfaction with data security. At the same time, 66 percent of those not yet using the cloud cited concerns over data security and operational control as reasons for their continued hesitation. I think those findings from KLAS put our findings into some perspective.

Is there any particular result in the study you’d like to highlight?

I think that the result of the fact that we’re now sitting at nearly 60 percent of senior executives saying that all this stuff is OK and works and is trustworthy from the cloud means, we’re on the downhill side now. And I think it’s a marker. So it’s not, do I need to go to the cloud? But rather, how can I make the cloud work for me?

What is the key thing that our readers should be aware of, overall?

I think that this research helps to validate that we’re moving from the initial phase of electronic records in healthcare, which really was implementation of islands or individual-facility-centric, to a hunger in the market for access to real-time information at the point of care, and across the care team and across organizations. And the real key is the real-time update. So we get obtain that information and bring it forward, and I think the business drivers are also lining up, as more organizations move forward. One person has talked about having one foot in the fee-for-service canoe, and one foot in the risk canoe, and the idea of having real-time, trusted information becomes critical.

And the idea of the cloud broker, which isn’t fully embedded in healthcare yet, emerges. The idea is that everything becomes a network of networks, and the data becomes the application. When it’s put together into a usable fashion, then that’s the application that can be rendered inside an EHR or a device and possibly become available to the patient; the critical piece is having the information available to use. And to do that, you need the cloud; and it also lines up with some of the deeper partnerships between payers and providers.

At Covisint, we’re seeing payers asking, how do we connect with this real-time engagement with the provider and the patient? We call that the last mile. And the original disease management involved call centers at the plan; but now, you can get data in real time on both the analytics sides, but also, Mrs. Smith is leaving the hospital, and the hospital uses hospitalists, and so Dr. Jones in the community didn’t even know that Mrs. Smith was in the hospital. And what’s valuable to get into the community is the real-time sharing of information to the physician in the community, and both providers and payers want that. For the physicians, they’re trying to improve their star rating; and for the payer, they’re trying to reduce costs.