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The "New Normal" Reflected in HIT Investments

November 8, 2011
by Gabriel Perna
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Even during a time of economic uncertainty, more organizations are investing in healthcare IT to get up to pace

Healthcare IT is quickly becoming the most significant economic investment for patient-care healthcare organizations according to a recent survey from the Charlotte, N.C.-based Premier healthcare alliance. In a survey of 743 healthcare providers, approximately 40 percent of the respondents said they expect their largest capital investment over the next 12 months to be in HIT and telecommunications. The survey is a part of Premier’s semi-annual Economic Outlook report, which discusses the economic trends in healthcare.

Six months ago, 34 percent of healthcare providers said HIT would be their largest capital investment. The jump over the past six months according to Premier chief technology officer Denise Hatzidakis is proof of the ever-changing landscape in healthcare. Even during a time when most healthcare organizations are trying to reduce costs and capital budgets for 69 percent of the respondents have hit a plateau, HIT investing has become a necessity.

Timing is Everything
As the healthcare industry begins to advance into the digital age, the federal government is pushing it along with incentivizing regulatory acts such as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act/Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (ARRA-HITECH). Meanwhile, healthcare delivery that relies on connectivity is becoming more mainstream. This has added up into significant HIT investments for providers.

“The stars are truly aligned to move the HIT/telcom focus forward,” Hatzidakis says, breaking it down into two key drivers. “The regulations and reimbursement is a significant driver. The incentives are to go HITECH; if don’t have an electronic health record, you don’t get reimbursed. The other driver is this coordinated, connected care. Getting that information together, how do you integrate all the data that makes up the full view of the patient?”

Coordinated care has lagged behind because of a lack of connectivity. When there are varying pieces of patient data spread across different repositories, and the repositories can’t communicate with each other, it doesn’t give a full view of the patient, says Hatzidakis. This could lead to prescribing problems, and it also doesn’t allow doctors to get past episodic care. Thanks to evolving integration technologies, coordinated care is fixing those past mistakes.

Levels of Tech Investment
According to Hatzidakis, not every organization in Premier’s membership of approximately 2,500 hospitals and 78,000 other healthcare sites is on equal footing when it comes to HIT investments. There are early tech-savvy adopters making large investments into more complex, innovative systems. Then there are other organizations that are investing in the regulatory, day-to-day investments.

“Across our membership, we see a whole continuum,” Hatzidakis says. “There’s a bell curve. There are the two ends and the midpoint is probably doing just enough. The majority of organizations I think are just starting to kick the tires, ask questions and try to understand what everything means.”

As more organizations move beyond regulatory based investments, Hatzidakis expects the investments in technology to move beyond the walls of the provider. She also sees a lot of investments in data analytics. “It makes information actionable,” she says. “It’s how you turn data into something that can help people make better decisions.”

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