Slideshow Facing Financial Peril: I.T.’s Role in Rescuing Academic Medical Centers

  • March 23 2012, 4:11pm EDT
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Facing Financial Peril: I.T.’s Role in Rescuing Academic Medical Centers

A research report from PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute analyzes the future of academic medical centers. In researching the report, PwC combined face-to-face interviews with 26 AMC leaders, an online survey of 100 AMC executives and a Web survey of 1,000 consumers. Following are highlights and key findings.

Looming Financial Threat

AMCs face a loss of up to 10% of their traditional revenue, according PwC’s report, from cuts in Medicare funding, revamped payment policies for teaching organizations, accountable care payment models and compliance with emerging quality standards.

Nearly 40% of executives surveyed cited difficulty in meeting meaningful use and other I.T. incentives as a factor in revenue losses.

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I.T. Creativity Required

But there is hope for academic centers via adopting technology creatively to cope with shifting economics, the report says.

“More AMCs are developing innovative practices that will burnish their brands as research and treatment leaders, but they are also leveraging them to reinvent teaching, speed up research and reduce the costs of treatment,” the report says. “The historical ways of attracting patients are becoming obsolete.”


According to PwC, telemedicine is one valuable tool that can be used to extend the reach of the AMC. In the survey, 69% of AMC leaders recognized telemedicine as an initiative they were likely to undertake.

By using remote monitoring of ICU patients at two community hospitals, the University of Massachusetts Memorial Health Care was able to treat more patients, improve outcomes and reduce costs at the same time.

Virtual Home Visits

The University of Kansas Medical Center is building out a fiber optics network throughout its home base of Wyandotte County.

The set-up sets the stage for live video streaming directly into patients’ homes. In addition, the center is using the infrastructure to conduct virtual classes in remote areas. By training new primary care physicians where they live, U-Kansas is looking ahead to solidify its referral base, PwC notes.

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Simulation Training and Credentialing

Training medical students on life-like, but computerized mannequins is the next big foray for medical education, PwC notes. And some AMCs, like Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston, are applying simulated learning environments to physician credentialing.

There, physicians learn—and demonstrate competency in—new minimally invasive techniques

The AMC as Information Hub

In addition to modernizing their training environments, AMCs stand to gain by developing evidence-based practices and predictive analytical tools, PwC notes.

“EHRs are just the starting point to this process,” the report says. Nearly 90% of the surveyed AMCs have either begun investing or plan to invest in I.T. staff to manage this data.

4.5 Million and Growing

In one example of I.T. analytical sophistication, St. Louis-based BJC HealthCare has built a clinical repository capable of accessing and analyzing data once scattered across 4.5 million patient records in various systems. PwC says that data analytics is the future of EHRs—more so than mere data automation at the point of care.

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Shared EHRs

In the survey, 54% of AMC leaders noted they would be collaborating with other medical centers and sharing EHRs over the next five years.

One notable example is the Care Connectivity Consortium, formed by Mayo Clinic, Geisinger Health System, Kaiser Permanente and others. The project seeks to enable comparative effectiveness research across a broader range of patients.

Technology Transfers

Software and other forms of technology innovation can be an added revenue stream for AMCs. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, for example, has generated more than $20 million in revenue through a partnership with McKesson, which sells a commercial version of the AMC’s order entry system.

“Tenacity and business know-how are essential to navigate the complicated path to marketing AMC intellectual property,” the report notes.

More information

For the complete report, “The Future of the Academic Medical Center: Strategies to Avoid a Margin Meltdown,” click here.