From The Editor | February 26, 2010

Are We At A Health IT Tipping Point?

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Last week, I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Barry Chaiken, current HIMSS Chair and recently appointed CMO at Imprivata, an authentication and access management company. Our conversation revolved around the steps that need to occur in order to improve the accessibility of information, quality of care, and cost effectiveness within the U.S. healthcare system. According to Chaiken, two primary obstacles have prevented the healthcare industry from making significant strides in these areas. The first is the challenge of getting disparate health IT systems to effectively integrate with one another. The second is convincing healthcare organizations to truly change their workflow processes to make best use of the technologies available. However, Chaiken feels the healthcare industry is on the verge of a tipping point that will allow the healthcare industry to overcome these obstacles and accelerate positive change.


Chaiken believes that emerging technologies, such as the access management solutions offered by Imprivata, are becoming instrumental in streamlining communications between health IT systems. "For years, the healthcare industry has had countless IT products available to it that all do incredible things," says Chaiken. "However, the problem has always been that these systems didn't integrate effectively with one another and didn't complement a clinician's actual day-to-day workflow." For example, unlike other occupations, most physicians have a completely different workflow on a day-to-day basis. They may work out of their office on one day and from a hospital on another. The locations in which clinicians work are dynamic and so are the systems they need to leverage in which to enter and access data. Using each of these disparate health IT tools typically requires the physician to enter a unique user name and password for each application, which can be extremely inefficient and burdensome. Emerging access management solutions, like Imprivata's OneSign platform, link these disparate IT systems together and allow a physician to use a single sign-on to access all the applications they may need to use throughout the day, whether they are within their office, a hospital, or other location. Solutions such as these are helping healthcare facilities connect all the pieces of their health IT infrastructure together, providing a foundation in which to optimize efficiency.


While emerging technologies are helping to streamline health IT system integration, they won't single-handedly influence a healthcare organization to modify its internal processes. However, according to Chaiken, process changes are beginning to be influenced naturally by environmental factors. "Every day an older physician retires and a younger physician enters the workforce," says Chaiken. "The work lives of these younger physicians revolve around technology. In fact, many new medical graduates are even evaluating the sophistication of hospital IT systems as a deciding factor in selecting residency programs. When the younger generation begins to assume CMO, CIO, and other leadership roles within healthcare organizations, the industry will focus more heavily on technology adoption and process improvement." Other factors, such as the government stimulus around EHR meaningful use and the possibility of healthcare reform, may also be influential in creating a health IT tipping point in the short term. However, I, like Chaiken, believe improving the quality and affordability of healthcare lies more in effective change management than it does in technology adoption.

Ken Congdon is Editor In Chief of Health IT Outcomes. He can be reached at