Partnerships are key to bending the healthcare cost curve

Providers and technology solutions developers such as MEDITECH are under pressure to show their digital solutions can increase efficiency and effectiveness.

Healthcare is still a growing percentage of GDP. "We all need to drive that down," says Meditech's Helen Waters.

Years of developing and implementing electronic health records systems have yet to make a dent in the nation’s healthcare spending. And there’s no surprise that there’s growing demand and urgency for digital systems to start having an impact.

The technology undergirding such health records systems is advancing rapidly, supporting advanced computing capabilities such as genomic information, and features to assist with population health and clinical decision support.

But healthcare organizations are under increasing pressure to bend the cost curve, and technology suppliers must increasingly partner with these innovative systems, contends Helen Waters, executive vice president and COO of MEDITECH, a developer of electronic records systems.

The company this year was recognized by KLAS Research as Best in KLAS for its records solutions.

The notion of partnership is a theme for Waters, who believes that such relationships are important not only to restraining healthcare costs but improving the delivery of healthcare to patients by the entire industry. Her organization “is partnering with the industry as a whole – not just our customers – for how do we improve healthcare in the markets we serve, and certainly in our own country.”

Medical care cost trends

MEDITECH has offered healthcare technology products for 50 years, and has seen the inexorable rise in healthcare prices, especially in recent years. The industry needs to work together to bend the cost curve because there’s growing pressure to reduce the annual spend on healthcare services.

“When we started Meaningful Use (in 2009,) something like 17.2 percent of gross domestic product was being spent on healthcare,” she says. “We all need to drive that down; but we are now over 19 percent (of GDP). I’m fairly certain the cost of technology and electronic health records, just given the maturity of the segment…should be going down. And, in fact, we’ve seen the cost curve go up. So it’s baffling, but it’s frustrating to us, honestly, at times that this is not a conversation that people want to have.”

Cost is not the only challenge facing healthcare, and information technology developers need to join in an industry-wide effort to reverse current adverse trends.

“You have, across the board, exorbitant mounting cost pressures, stagnating or declining reimbursement, and we have economic uncertainty globally,” Waters notes. “In the U.S., we have inflationary fears and recession that trickles down to healthcare. We have a labor shortage of frontline clinicians and nurses, and IT resources that everyone is fighting for. And post the pandemic funding … you have systems with staggering losses that have to be dealt with.”

And the industry needs realignment to focus on new imperatives, such as a renewed focus on patient engagement and taking steps to support clinicians by reducing workloads and improving their ability to provide better care, through using the power of automation.

“I think of the challenges that a lot of health systems are having today financially, and the pinch that exists,” adds Adam Gale, CEO of KLAS Research. “It shows how important it's going to be to deliver long-term great delivery, great tools at an economical price that (providers) can run with. So that's been a strength of MEDITECH.”

New initiatives

For example, MEDITECH is working with Google to help bring search and summarization capabilities to patient health information in the EHR as well as to the vast quantities of medical information that clinicians must sift through to find information relevant to cases they’re managing.

“We have deep experience on the sophisticated capabilities on surveillance and ordering and clinical decision support,” Waters notes. “But could we lean into the real problem that faces healthcare today on clinician burnout, and the massive amounts of data that physicians and nurses are face with? And could we work with Google and take their expertise, which is clearly well-established in organizing large-scale information .. and work with them on a medically tuned search capability, so that we could make information more accessible and actionable, and do that within the record?”

Similarly, MEDITECH has released its “Expanse Genomics” enhanced EHR system, which the company says provides a new way to collect genetic information, pairing it with tools and resources that enable clinicians to make more informed clinical decisions for patients. The new system presents genomic data to clinicians as they mull treatment decisions and augments the raw data with other tools and information that can help enable more informed treatment strategies. Physicians can get pharmacogenetic alerts through embedded integration of drug data from First Databank, a provider of drug and medical device databases. The EHR also enables physicians to order genetic tests from within the system.

Development work on the MEDITECH solutions has proceeded in partnership with a wide range of customers, from large organizations to small rural facilities, who benefit from transparent communication with developers.

“Customer success is something that’s critically important to us,” Water says. “It’s making sure you have a base that feels that you’re listening, you’re acting, you’re delivering for them.”

The company’s approach involves interacting across the breadth of decision makers and users within organizations. “There’s very few decisions that are being made by a CIO or a doctor or by nurse,” she notes. Technology decisions “may be made holistically around concepts like population health management, like what do we do next to deploy and consider machine learning and AI algorithms, and how do they best help our organization?”

“MEDITECH is a development led company that tends to not get too far out ahead of themselves,” says Gale of KLAS. “And so, so culturally, they tend to do what they say they're going to do.”

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