Three Strategies to Tackle Health IT Trends in 2014
Guest post by Brian Schmitz, director of future product marketing for HP LaserJet and Enterprise Solutions, Imaging and Printing Group.
In today’s dynamic healthcare industry, it is important that providers embrace modern information technology and innovations to achieve organizational success. It’s no surprise that the health IT landscape is changing rapidly, driven by the interrelated trends of mobility, cloud, security and big data. This will fundamentally change the way that healthcare organizations communicate and collaborate moving forward. But, these health IT trends are not only driving change, they are also serving as the path to deal with many of the new dynamics created in today’s office environment.
In turn, healthcare organizations will need a “new style of IT” that helps them become more agile and efficient while reducing operational costs. In addition to these megatrends, changes to government regulations are driving an industry-wide shift to improve healthcare IT, which have increased healthcare IT spending projections to $34.5 billion in North America.
There will be an abundance of technology resources available to help healthcare providers facilitate this transition; however, IT decision makers must be able to identify the technologies that will work best for their business. The following three strategies are key consideration points when looking for new technologies to help you manage IT megatrends.
Benefit from Healthcare Big Data
Regulatory changes associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will create a surge of newly insured patients. The Congressional Budget Office expects that the PPACA will cover around 14 million of the uninsured in 2014 and 25 million by the end of the decade. There is a significant financial opportunity with these new patients, but it is important to consider that the number of practitioners will not immediately increase to accommodate this influx.
Investing in technology and tools designed to specifically address big data and the vast amounts of patients’ personal information will help healthcare organizations provide more personalized care to these newly insured patients. By selecting tools that help collect, store and search for patient information, healthcare organizations can increase productivity by significantly reducing time spent managing patient records. Converting documents into searchable digital formats is an important part of this process, and educating staff on how to properly scan and organize documents in their digital form will help make patient data more accessible and usable.
Once documents are uploaded to a central location, data analytics can be used to detect patterns in patient and staff behavior. This is how big data can benefit medical offices the most – when documents sit in filing cabinets and are seldom accessed, they aren’t as easily accessed and updated, and carry a high cost in terms of space. When the same files are converted into a digital, searchable format, they can be used for research and insight generation. Through analysis of patient records, doctors can confirm patterns in patient behavior and illnesses that they may have suspected but never had evidence to confirm. These localized insights can help them address patterns and develop better ways for the organization to treat the most common health issues, leading to a better overall patient experience. These same tools allow quick analysis of new patterns created by the flood of recently insured patients, giving healthcare organizations immediate insights.
Meet Mobility Demand for Medical Professionals
Whether assisting a patient or gathering test results, healthcare professionals are continually working on the go. This work style is made easier by smartphones and tablets—personal devices are steadily making their way into the professional environment. Physicians, nurse practitioners and healthcare administrators are embracing mobility throughout the office, as mobile devices help them make confident clinical decisions, reduce the likelihood of error and lower costs.
Using a mobile device allows medical professionals to have more than just EHRs at their fingertips – they essentially have the “medical world” in the palms of their hands. The use of a mobile device can make or break the time sensitive decisions medical personnel run into every day. This is why the adoption of tablets and smartphones in healthcare is at the forefront of improving patient care, and the trend of “always on” healthcare professionals will become even more prevalent in the near future. Recent survey results indicate that 82 percent of healthcare professionals expect to use a smartphone, tablet and a laptop computer routinely during a typical workday within the next 12 months.
Healthcare providers must adopt mobile technology to be compatible with the active lifestyles of today’s professionals. Tablets are becoming the medical charts of today and they give doctors, nurses and other medical staff access to the right data, in the right place, at the right time. This mobile technology removes the in-between of paper charting to data entry and dramatically reduces the chance of error. In addition to accuracy, tablets offer reference tools anytime, anywhere. Similarly, many hospitals are implementing single-sign on (SSO) solutions. Not only does this save on hardware costs and reduces IT management needs, but also simplifies healthcare records with billing information and speeds up the adoption of electronic medical records (EMR) by streamlining access to information.
Touch-to-print technology is another recent example of an innovation that increases mobility and makes it easier for professionals to handle daily tasks. Printers with touch-to-print capabilities streamline and secure the printing process by empowering users with near field communication (NFC)-enabled mobile devices to easily walk up to and print with just a touch. By simplifying the printing process, healthcare professionals are able to dedicate more time to improving the patient experience.
Secure What Matters Most for Practices and Patients
The additions of mobile devices and technology equipped with mobility features in the workplace offer obvious convenience benefits for healthcare professionals; however, they also elevate security concerns for IT managers and patients. Recent survey findings indicate that 81 percent of physicians use personal mobile devices to access patients’ personal health information (PHI). To maintain PHI security, healthcare IT administrators are tasked with finding a balance between the demand for mobility and confidentiality requirements for patient data.
Healthcare organizations no longer have to choose between “security” and “mobility” solutions, as the two have recently become more synonymous. Devices and solutions with integrated cloud capabilities and high levels of security, like mobile thin clients, can make it possible to secure business environments while meeting the mobile demands of employees and IT administrators’ security parameters. With mobile thin clients, data is secured on the server, not on the device which makes an organization’s sensitive information safe, even if the device is compromised, lost or stolen.
These strategies and technologies can help providers increase simplicity, agility and speed within their IT environment while lowering overall costs, giving them more time to focus on their core business: caring for patients.