A new report from consulting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers, “Top Nine Health Industry Issues in 2009: Outside forces will disrupt the industry,” certainly carries a relevant title. There are some pieces of bad news in the report—and that’s to be expected, considering the recession into which the nation is currently plunging. Yet in summary, the report’s authors state that “Innovators in the health industry may be able to profit and grow their business in 2009, despite adverse economic realities and a prediction that the economy will continue to slow. However, to do this business leaders will also have to face additional external forces including new financial realities, regulations, technology and a new president and Congress.”
Interestingly, and not surprisingly, the sixth of nine trends cited in the report is titled, “Technology is a powerful health extender.” The report’s authors see IT as empowering patients and as helping provider organizations to move forward in improving patient care and documenting such improvements. The three major implications the authors cite (each trend articulated in the report concludes with three "implications"): “Healthcare providers will focus on how to improve their performance scores. Seeking out process improvements and documenting care will become a priority for healthcare institutions that want to avoid ‘never events.’” And, “Having an adequately staffed and well-trained clinical workforce will be more important than ever.”
I think, though, that as meaningful as it is that number 6 of the nine trends this report’s authors cite is information technology, it is at least as important that number 7 is entitled, “Hospitals must perform to get paid.” The PriceWaterhouseCoopers people look at CMS’s forward progress on pay for performance, and the heavy implications of that progress for hospitals. And they note that “To improve their scores, hospitals will need to focus on their performance and quality of facility care scores, which are published on the CMS Hospital Compare Web Page.” For implications in that area, the authors note that providers will increasingly focus on how to improve their performance scores; that “seeking out process improvements and documenting care will become a priority for healthcare institutions that want to avoid ‘never’ events”; and that “Having an adequately staffed and well-trained clinical workforce will be more important than ever.”
Clearly, the PriceWaterhouse report’s authors are affirming what others have been saying for some time now: that IT will be a key facilitator for hospitals as they work to satisfy increasing demands on the part of public and private purchasers and payers of healthcare. With CMS moving perhaps faster than some might have expected, it will be the smart hospital organizations that move forward on their learning and developmental curve on IT-facilitated quality improvement and documentation. As with so many other imperatives, there’s no time to waste in working forward on this one.