From The Editor | January 14, 2010

10 Healthcare IT Trends To Watch In 2010

The Potential Cost Of A Medical Device Tax

Coming Soon: The Top 10 Health IT Trends For 2011

My modest 877-word article (below) generated such interest last year that it became the most viewed piece of content on Health IT Outcomes (nearly 10,000 page views to date). It got us wondering ... what if we expanded on this concept? What if rather than relying on the opinion of one journalist, we polled some of the most notable thought leaders in the health IT industry to see what they think the biggest trends for 2011 will be? Couldn't this serve as a valuable reference document for healthcare facilities across the country struggling to prioritize their IT initiatives? We thought so. That's why we're developing a special publication titled The Top 10 Health IT Trends For 2011. This first-ever print edition of Health IT Outcomes will be launched at the 2011 HIMSS (Health Information and Management Systems Society) conference and feature detailed descriptions of the top health IT trends from the industry's foremost experts. A list of confirmed contributors to date are listed below as well as links to more information on this special issue. Don't miss out on this one-of-a-kind HIT resource!

Confirmed Contributors To Date:

Dr. David Blumenthal,
national coordinator of health
information technology
Dr. Barry Chaiken,
HIMSS chairman
Shahid Shah,
The Healthcare IT Guy

With a major push toward healthcare reform and the appropriation of nearly $20 billion in federal stimulus funds as part of ARRA (The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act), 2009 was an action-packed year for the healthcare industry, particularly healthcare IT. 2010 promises to be even more dynamic as healthcare organizations prepare for upcoming industry changes and position themselves to take advantage of government incentives. The following are 10 trends I feel will drive the healthcare IT market this year:

  1. EMR Adoption Gains Momentum — According to the latest statistics from HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), only 0.5% of U.S. hospitals currently have a complete EMR (electronic medical record) system that provides data continuity throughout the institution. Hospitals and healthcare systems will install, integrate, and enhance EMR systems at an accelerated pace in an effort to demonstrate "meaningful use" and capitalize on ARRA incentives.
  2. PHRs Earn Legitimacy — PHRs (personal health records), once rejected by providers and academics, will become recognized as a viable method in which to transport patient data and will complement EMRs and EHRs (electronic health records). Advances in secure personal storage, smart card, and software technology will help drive this trend.
  3. Cost Containment Is Paramount — The United States currently spends more than $2.5 trillion annually on healthcare, and this figure is expected to jump to $4 trillion by 2015 if nothing is done to control escalating costs. The Obama administration will begin to scrutinize healthcare spending at every level and reward hospitals that are the most cost-effective. Healthcare institutions will respond not only by implementing new systems like EHR technology, but will also look to implement systems and processes that allow them to maximize their existing spend by eliminating waste. Spend analysis, workforce management, and revenue cycle management technologies will all be instrumental in helping hospitals cut costs, maximize human resources, reduce overtime, and expedite claims resolution and payment.
  4. Alternative Care Delivery Models Emerge — Traditional healthcare delivery models will begin to give way to alternative models of care outside of physicians' offices and hospitals. Expect to see an increase in the number of worksite and retail health clinics, as well as an upgrade in the scope of services these facilities provide. Home health services also will prosper, driven largely by adoption of telehealth and remote patient monitoring technologies.
  5. War Waged On Medicare Fraud — Medicare fraud is estimated at nearly $60 billion a year. Determined to eradicate this type of waste, the Obama administration has increased its fraud and abuse budget for 2010 by 50%. Document management, workflow, enterprise search, and data security technologies will be instrumental in streamlining processes and helping Medicare administrators validate claim authenticity.
  6. Increased Focus On Outbreak Preparedness — Bioterrorist threats and pandemic outbreaks such as H1N1 have put pressure on healthcare organizations and public health officials to have systems in place to respond to major public health emergencies. GIS (geographic information system) technologies can be instrumental in planning for potential emergencies as well as tracking outbreak patters. Likewise, document management, data capture, e-forms, and workflow technologies can help healthcare organizations quickly gather, organize, and research data related to the health emergency.
  7. Patient Safety Initiatives Intensify — Patient care and safety is the number one priority of most healthcare institutions. In 2010, technology will enable hospitals, clinics, private practices, nursing facilities, and mental health institutions keep their patients safer than ever before. Examples of technologies focused on patient safety include bedside medication administration systems (to prevent negative drug interactions or dosage errors), diagnosis support software (to prevent missed, incorrect, or delayed diagnosis), and patient tracking systems (to prevent wandering patient tragedies).
  8. Healthcare Professionals In Short Supply — Demand for healthcare services will begin to outpace supply of trained healthcare professionals. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities will need to make more effective use of their staff to ensure all shifts are covered appropriately. Outside help and temporary staffing won't always be readily available. And, when it is, you will be charged a premium for their services. Workforce management and advanced scheduling technology can help you reduce labor costs and turnover, while improving productivity.
  9. Storage And Business Continuity Concerns Abound — Nearly 30% of the data stored on the world's computers today are medical images, and this figure continues to increase. Healthcare institutions consistently need to upgrade their storage systems to accommodate for their ever-increasing stream of patient data. Furthermore, healthcare facilities need to ensure this data is always available to provide continual uptime and a consistent quality of care. Finally, this data needs to be easily replicated and restored in the event of disaster because patient records can't be replaced.
  10. Physician Groups Join Healthcare Systems — The percent of hospitals employing physicians has nearly doubled since 1994. Expect this trend to continue in 2010 as physicians seek to join forces with healthcare systems in an effort to quickly enhance their technological capabilities. For example, selecting and implementing an EHR is an undertaking many private practices have yet to engage in. Furthermore, many physicians don't want to deal with the headache that comes with installing an EHR system. By joining a healthcare system that already has an EHR established, the physician group can quickly become eligible for ARRA incentives while avoiding a lot of the system implementation legwork.