What’s Next in Health IT?

Recently, Evolve Exchange, a provider of medical cloud-based network infrastructure, published several reasons to speed up your meaningful use Stage 2 development and the points are interesting, and frankly, accurate.

In a nutshell, they are:

  • The government and those in healthcare will not walk away from the computerization and technical advancement in the space.
  • Any EHR vendor that hopes to survive, without investment, is going to fail.
  • Those vendors that are only MU Stage 1 certified will have difficulty retaining its user base.
  • The cloud is coming.
  • Resources (time and dollars) to attain MU Stage 2 are far greater than what many vendors are able to invest.

This isn’t meant to be a discussion about vendor contraction, though it could be. However, Evolve Exchange’s feedback seems to provide talking points to a bigger issue, one discussed recently on this blog about the delay in ICD-10. The point is simple: In an ever-evolving, highly regulated industry like healthcare, nothing ever stays the same and change is constant. Thus, all the conjecture about where we as an industry are headed because of meaningful use and ICD-10.

Perhaps that’s an over simplification of what’s going on currently, of course. Healthcare IT seems more like a very busy and very full airport – Atlanta, for example – where flights are coming in and going out while others are circling the skies above waiting for an available runway. The process isn’t necessarily chaotic, but beautifully orchestrated, in a way. With these two most prevalent “distractions” – ICD-10 and meaningful use – many are left wondering what’s next for health IT (or perhaps more appropriately, what other issues need a little focus while the holding pattern continues to hold).

Here are likely some of the biggest issues we’ll all soon be talking about a little more than we may be currently:

  • Replacing or updating health systems’ VOIP infrastructure
  • Medical device integration – electronically collecting data from the bedside machines
  • Mobilization of EMR applications
  • The fact that HIPAA now has more teeth and enforcement is being stepped up
  • Patient engagement (a given, and this year’s buzz term)
  • Improving security of healthcare information and patient data (currently a topic seeing a good deal of coverage – Kaiser Health News, Dark Reading and Health Data Management, for example.)

Of these prevalent issues, improving information security is likely going to be the most pressing of the these issues, especially in the wake of high-profile HIPAA violations and its expanded enforcement of the Privacy Rule. Organizations will be forced to improve how they address their patients’ private information, and having plans for doing so.

Next, and probably the stickier of the wickets that will need to be addressed, is going to be nailing down patient engagement. Very comprehensive, of course, patient engagement means IT departments throughout healthcare will likely be expected to support patient engagement with technologies – some yet to be determined – like apps and portals that are secure and accessible to patients both within their facilities, in hospitals and in the ambulatory setting. This, more than all the rest, may lead to the most excitement throughout healthcare and will likely give those of us involved in guiding the implementation of health IT the most to be excited about, from a technology perspective.

If nothing else, this should excite patients as they are finally becoming the center of the IT conversation, probably something that we all should have been discussing long before now. If nothing else, what’s next in health IT should be a very exciting time.

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