Healthcare Technology Featured Article

May 01, 2013

Expert: Healthcare Technology is Lagging Behind

Healthcare is one of the biggest hot button issues – touching us in every corner of our lives as a major social concern. In fact, Americans spend more on healthcare than any other nation – a whopping $2.7 trillion in 2012 – and it is rising each year. Yet, earlier this year, the Atlantic reported on the results of a study by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine that found the health of Americans ranks below 16 other developed nations.

According to Insight Research, health care IT spending will grow 9.7 percent annually between 2012 and 2017. That compares to an annual 6.4 percent growth rate in overall healthcare spending. It’s hard to fathom that with the number of advancements we’ve made in terms of medical technology and healthcare that the U.S. ranks so far behind other countries.

If information technology has revolutionized other sectors such as financial services, why is healthcare so far behind?

In 1969, nearly 43 years ago just weeks after NASA put men on the moon, the automated teller machine emerged, changing the financial industry forever. The ATM invention has been a convenience for customers and has saved banks billions of dollars as consumers used it as the main method to perform their banking needs. Phil Fasano, executive vice president and chief information officer of Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plan and health care providers, contends health-care IT is in the exact spot the financial services industry was in 1969.

Fasano cites the emergences of the electronic health records (EHR), which revolutionized the way physicians are able to care for their patients, as a way the health-care system effectively uses technology to improve health care and reduce costs. Fasano says market research suggests that heath care IT is poised to grow at an even faster rate than overall healthcare spending.

Neal Patterson, CEO of Cerner Corporation, is the developer of the world’s largest stand-alone developer of healthcare IT systems. Patterson likened the journey of computerized heath care as pushing a “500-pound marshmallow up a hill” but now insists that health care’s moment of digital transformation has arrived. “It is finally happening,” he told Forbes. “Without a doubt in my mind, it is happening this decade.”

According to the report, Cerner has seen a 9 percent growth in the past five years, and another 22 percent of growth in earnings.

Based on Patterson’s immense success, investing in innovative health, Fasano says, is ripe, especially in the area of cloud computer, big data analytics and mobile health:

Cloud computing

Cloud computing is one disruptive technology that makes setting up and running an electronic health record faster, simpler and more affordable. Bain & Co. suggests that the move to cloud computing could cut costs from 30 percent to 40 percent compared to legacy IT systems.

Big data and analytics

At Fasano’s own company, Kaiser Pernanente, the nation’s largest not-for-profit health plan and health care provider, the 1-2 terabytes of data they’ve collected every day since 2003 have resulted in a patient database that’s larger than the Library of Congress. Kaiser’s system can analyze and leverage this massive dataset with a variety of tools: predictive analytics, clinical decision support, data mining and natural language processing, among others.

Mobile health

Mobile capabilities offer incredible opportunities to advance the way healthcare is administered, chiefly through telemedicine (the delivery of care via telecommunication technologies like video) and telehealth (remotely provided preventive health services, such as patient education and e-mail consultation). It’s all about high-tech tracking and high-touch connection.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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