Healthcare, IT, and the Struggles of Adoption
The healthcare industry has made more progress with digital technology than many people think. However, it still has some significant gaps to fill.
For many, the momentous 2013 crash of the Affordable Care Act website, Healthcare.gov, is a potent symbol of the healthcare industry’s reaction to digital innovation generally, according to the International Business Times. That was a public sector issue, of course — nevertheless, healthcare at large is stuck with the reputation for being a technological laggard.
This may be a popular assessment, but is it a fair one?
The healthcare industry, in all reality, has thrived in multiple areas of digital and IT adoption. Most often, the digital progress of providers, insurers, and developers is overshadowed by the newsworthy advancements of the tech industry at large. It’s unrealistic for us to expect medical companies to lead the digital charge, however, because the current industry disruptions are predominantly consumer-lead. Unlike tech companies, healthcare is primarily focused on improving human health, not rolling out the latest consumer gadgetry.
Still, shifting demands from consumer health-seekers are a reality that healthcare companies must face. Like it or not, they have some catching up to do.
So far, producers have embraced technology much in the same way that your average consumer has. Walk into just about any doctor’s office today, and you’ll be met with a host of tech that wouldn’t have existed five years ago. Many doctors now log patient info onto laptops and tablets, and patient form-filling on similar devices is now commonplace.
As of 2014, as PwC reports, 45% of physicians accessed e-health records on mobile devices, 41% used them to prescribe medications — a roughly 30% increase from 2010. As one would expect, interest in these areas is booming: the U.S. invested $6 billion in digital health last year, with patient and consumer experience tech topping the list (the report free to download, from StartUpHealth). The days of scrawled, illegible doctor’s notes are just about over.
At the same time, integrating digitization into the supply side has created efficiencies in core processes. For example, many hospitals identify patients and accurately track their treatment progress by scanning digital QR codes attached to their hospital bracelets, according to Ars Technica. Bill processing has become largely automated, as has the sending of prescriptions to pharmacies.
These are all aspects of what McKinsey describes as the second wave of IT adoption: integrating core processes, digitizing records, and providing tech at an end-user level. All this has given rise to legislation like the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), which provides incentives for U.S. providers to adopt the use of electronic health records (EHRs).
However, healthcare is still struggling to adopt the third wave of IT integration, and there are several hurdles it must overcome before it can do so.
The big obstacle to ubiquitous tech adoption is the specific, inflexible nature of the healthcare itself: it isn’t as free to swiftly change their service models as other industries. Stringent regulations (HIPAA being the most important), privacy concerns, related issues in democratizing data, and old-fashioned bureaucracy continue to slow the pace of digital change.
As Forbes observes, many providers have become frustrated by the fact that, while they have access to EHRs, troves of recorded data, and digital tools, they often lack the means to make practical use of them. Many healthcare IT systems are non-compatible, lack the bandwidth to process data effectively, or require key infrastructural upgrades to run digitized systems, according to InformationWeek.
As Accenture notes, scaling IT rapidly (including hardware and the cloud) and leveraging software effectively are becoming core competencies in the digital healthcare universe.
Infrastructure capacity management tools, such as TeamQuest, can give healthcare providers a significant advantage in the delivery of digital services. TeamQuest’s Vityl product suite automates the complex data collection and analysis required to effectively optimize IT infrastructure performance in the most cost-effective manner.
By providing at-a-glance insight into the health and risk of their digital services, IT managers can resolve performance issues before they affect the end user. The result is a more satisfying customer experience, without overspending on infrastructure or operations.
It’s predicted that healthcare industry will need to manage an astounding 25,000 petabytes of data by 2020, according to Wayne State University, five times that of 2012. Medical providers, insurers, and developers aren’t headed towards any less digital integration than we’ve seen so far — to meet the digital demands of tomorrow, they need to begin finding solutions today.
(Main image: Sebastien Wiertz/flickr)