In general, there are two routes to take in modernizing IT infrastructure. In one, C-suite executives make requests of IT on a project-by-project basis—this is aimed at tactical success, but the downside is that the technology may become obsolete even before the project is completed.
With the other approach, executives look more holistically at the way business is changing, so that they can build a flexible, scalable system to meet current and future needs. That makes more sense in order to optimize IT dollars for long-term value.
Looking at trends in the industry, there are four key health drivers that can be viewed as opportunities to sculpt a long-term IT investment strategy.
Competition. Healthcare is a highly competitive environment, with constant consolidation and new technology adding even more pressure. In fact, according to a recent PwC report, the U.S. Health Services industry reported more than 200 deals for the eleventh quarter in a row, with deal values significantly higher than previous quarters. More companies have higher cash levels and are looking to use it to make more deals.
As this trend continues, data integration challenges become even greater, thanks to disconnected legacy IT systems. With competitors large and small seeking to gain or keep a competitive advantage, it is critical to realize faster time-to-value by creating a 360-degree view of data with increased transparency, agility and speed. The shorter the integration timeline, the quicker the organization can realize the business value of the deal.
Payers and providers are also faced with a need to migrate from a reactive to a proactive IT approach, as the regulatory landscape continues to evolve and change. A consistently changing regulation environment means consistently changing IT systems and protocols. Whether looking at the Affordable Care Act, MACRA, privacy laws or something new, old systems can inhibit innovation because they are typically slow and hard to modify.
This divide in IT architecture means that while many are still working on transitioning from paper-based reporting, others are discussing the possibilities of artificial intelligence and blockchain. As competitive dynamics continue to shift, one thing is clear: if you’re just treading water, you’re falling behind.
Consumerism. IDC recently reported that the wearables market is going from an “awareness phase” to one about “getting the experience right.” IDC also expects the wearables market to nearly double by 2021. Consumers of healthcare services are actively seeking the same experience from healthcare they get everywhere else. Price transparency, quality comparisons, "order ahead,” payment flexibility and accuracy will differentiate one service provider from another where "shopping" for everything has become the norm.
Like retail, healthcare entities will need to use all their data to understand their customers and differentiate themselves. Retailers gain loyalty and deliver individualized experiences by analyzing staggering volumes of data to derive real-time insights and build 360-degree views of the consumer.
Developing a truly consumer-centric healthcare experience starts with the basic notion that patients and members are consumers first. Some of the top experiences these new health consumers are looking for include comprehensive health information, easy search capabilities, privacy protection, accuracy and reliability.
Patients who are more actively engaged in managing their health tend to have better outcomes, spend less and cost the system less. This kind of engagement is crucial for healthcare organizations in the new competitive consumer-based world of healthcare.
As an easy first step, stop using the excuse that “healthcare is different” than any other business.
Data growth. Healthcare data is growing at an almost unimaginable pace, outpacing most other industries, with some estimates predicting a staggering 25,000 petabytes of data by 2020. For context, just one petabyte can hold 500 billion pages of standard printed text.
Patient-generated data, research data, clinical data, claims data, demographics, social media data and regulatory data often live in silos sprawled across several systems. Not only is the amount of data growing, but so are the types of sources from which it is being gathered. Wearables, emails and even text messages can hold vital information.
Many enterprise architectures, particularly those with relational technology as their backbone, include a variety of data silos that require proprietary hardware—at an additional expense—to scale. What’s more, some healthcare data strategies have proliferated data lakes so widely that they struggle to retrieve, use, manage or fully ensure the security of all of their data.
Healthcare systems need a flexible, secure data strategy that can keep up with the industry’s velocity and changing business models. This is no longer just an IT issue; the entire organization should adopt a data-centric approach.
Security. IDC’s first prediction in its Worldwide Healthcare IT 2017 Predictions report is that ransomware attacks will double by 2018. Hackers are tirelessly searching for vulnerabilities in the networks of all sizes. Their objective is a simple one—to acquire the protected health information (PHI) of patients and consumers, which is worth 50 times more than credit card information.
Data is more important to people than ever, but that doesn't mean every employee should have access to everything stored in databases across the company. The weakest link is still the human user.
For instance, on the heels of the announced $115 million settlement of a lawsuit, Anthem is now dealing with news of another data breach of about 18,500 of Anthem’s Medicare members. Although the circumstances are different, the result is the same. Confidential data once again is slipping into the wrong hands.
It's relatively simple to grant or not grant access to documents. Granting or not granting access to specific elements of a document—such as Social Security numbers, full names and addresses—becomes much more complicated and much more important.
If a healthcare organization’s data governance and security policies, and more importantly, actual practices and technology, aren't keeping up with the hackers’ tool kit or effectively managing insider threats, the consequences are endless.
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