Guest post by Ken Comée, CEO, CareCloud.
The healthcare industry remains at a crossroads as providers and healthcare IT professionals confront a rapidly changing business and regulatory landscape. With factors like rising patient cost obligations, growing payer complexity, and the inevitable shift to a value-based payment environment weighing on them, medical practices nationwide are in search of new IT solutions to support them. The rapid pace of cloud adoption across all sectors is a prominent example. The market for cloud solutions is one of the fastest growing areas within healthcare, but it’s not solely a private sector phenomenon; the federal government’s cloud-first strategy finally gained traction in 2015, prompting a FCW analyst to predict accelerating momentum for federal cloud initiatives over the next three to five years.
One of the strongest factors driving cloud momentum among medical practices today remains security concerns: with growing IT complexity increasing security risks, cloud options remain an attractive plug-and-play alternative to on-site servers that allows healthcare providers to minimize vulnerabilities. But modern cloud solutions also allow providers to maximize practice management capabilities and offer faster time to value. And, with features like pay-as-you-go pricing, cloud solutions don’t require a big upfront investment, making them a popular choice with budget-conscious healthcare organizations.
Another key factor driving practice adoption of modern, cloud-based solutions is the need more efficient workflows to support effective patient billing. The patient share of healthcare costs is growing rapidly in the US. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, out-of-pocket costs have grown three times as fast as overall healthcare costs. And, the average deductible has skyrocketed from $584 in 2006 to $1,318 in 2015. Practices need solutions that can help them implement controls and analytics as patients become responsible for a greater share of costs.
As a result of these and other factors, cloud technology now plays a pivotal role in healthcare, and cloud-based healthcare IT solutions are becoming increasingly important in helping practice successfully navigate this new environment. So what’s in store for 2016? Here are some healthcare IT trends to watch:
A more modern, intuitive software experience: The consumerization of healthcare IT has begun in earnest, and that means practices are looking for design-centered products that deliver intuitive solutions. Cloud-based healthcare IT solutions that move beyond Web 1.0 to provide a consumer-focused user experience (UX) will be the clear winners.
Flexible, pay-as-you-go services: Today’s practices are looking for greater business model flexibility, so healthcare IT solutions that offer both SaaS models and software-enabled services are positioned to garner greater market share in 2016, as are solutions tailored to the ambulatory care space. Practices that are looking to control staffing costs and beef up back-office support will gravitate toward flexible, pay-as-you-go solutions.
Developer-friendly core IT solutions and extensible platforms: Cloud-based healthcare IT solutions built on an open platform are displacing legacy solutions as in-house engineers seek extensibility to eliminate data silos and medical groups look for platforms that allow them to integrate additional software and services to address the specific needs of their practices. A flexible, open platform with developer-driven APIs will allow developers to build powerful solutions that can be quickly, seamlessly and securely integrated.
The challenges physician practices face today are formidable, and as CareCloud’s Practice Profitability Index shows, doctors have persistent concerns. But the survey also reveals increasing optimism for 2016 and beyond, driven in part by the wider availability of healthcare IT solutions. As 2016 comes into sharper focus, look for physicians to increasingly use cloud-based technology to improve revenue cycle management and patient engagement. With the right business partner, practices can successfully navigate a constantly evolving environment.