The Healthcare Impacts of Recent Technology Trends
By Phyllis Teater, AVP & CIO, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
The explosion of technology trends has impacted all industries to a startling degree. In particular, the trends related to Mobility, Big Data, Cloud Solutions, and Networking seem to be ones that have the potential to change the way companies and even industries do business. Many industries have particular impacts related to these new trends and healthcare is no exception.
Healthcare has some specific themes that complicate the impact of new technologies. The most important of these are the safety and quality requirements for patients. This takes the form of a unique twenty-four by seven life-safety environment that brings new meaning to business continuity, response times and robust solutions. In an acute care world such as an inpatient hospital or emergency department, seconds and minutes matter. Even in an ambulatory environment, when a patient needs a prescription renewed to feel better, the availability of technology solutions is the only way to address those needs in real time without a trip to an urgent care or the emergency room.
Secondly, healthcare has some formidable regulatory challenges that impact technology related to privacy, security, and accreditation. The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 as well as subsequent updates define the privacy and security direction of the industry and are well-publicized with difficult requirements and the regular imposition of fines that escalate with the number of records breached. In addition, accreditation bodies such as the Joint Commission have explicit standards related to the management of information that impact technology solutions. Mobility: Healthcare stakeholders have the traditional administrative and life needs that are so well served by the mobility movement and are such a part of today’s culture. These include a personal, often-replaced smart phone which has connectivity to work, home, and the Internet. In addition, some stakeholders h a v e unique needs related to mobility in healthcare.
The healthcare workforce must be mobile to care for patients. As clinicians go on rounds in the hospital, they need connectivity to review results, order tests, take calls from other patients, etc. In order to provide this capability and protect patients’ privacy and security, organizations work through BYOD policies that are difficult to implement with clinicians and researchers. A recent study by Becker’s Healthcare Review suggests 59 percentof organizations in healthcare do not encrypt mobile devices.
Patients also have unique mobile needs as they interact with their healthcare providers, look for a doctor, schedule appointments, order prescription refills and pay their bills. This is particularly challenging as the ability to dictate BYOD policies is non-existent with patients. It is a balance between ease of access to care and security in order to address their needs.
Cloud: Cloud Services provide the same benefits to healthcare as other industries, but the uptake has been significantly slower. This is due in the largest part to HIPAA concerns. There has been some movement for applications whose basis is not patient data, such as help desk systems, ERP systems, etc. Large providers, especially, who have made the investment in infrastructure operations, are still for the most part housing their Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems in their own data center.
Big Data: Big Data has the most promise to change the game in healthcare. Healthcare data ranges from phenotypic data (traditional numeric and textual data collected during examination, diagnosis, and treatment), imaging data (primarily radiologic and cardiovascular), into the newer frontier of genotypic data (genetic data), still used primarily in research. Once genetic data becomes part of standard care, the storage needs for healthcare will grow astronomically due to the size of these data sets. Utilizing
Big Data tools with the continuum of complexity and size represented by healthcare data is a must to move from the reactive healthcare of the past to deliver the predictive, preventive and personalize d healthcare of the future. The advent of healthcare reform with the triple aim of higher quality, lower costs and increased access to care requires complex data analysis of populations of patients in order ensure the delivery of the right care, at the right time, for the right patient.
Without the promise of Big Data, this analysis will not be possible and the aims of healthcare reform will not be realized. Medical research also relies on data and more and more on Big Data concepts to understand the correlations between data to generate hypotheses and use the subsequent discoveries to innovate new care models, treatments and therapies and in the end, cures. Some of the recent data analysis advancement will feed the imaginations of research in a way that has not been possible before.
Networking: Like all industries, without the network backbone of connectivity many of the technological concepts of today, let alone the advanced concepts above, would not be possible. The network configuration in healthcare must take advantage of all advancements in security in order to ensure the protection of patient information. In addition, the large data needs of imaging and genomics require network throughput that is pushing limits previously unseen. Much of this is within organizations that simply want to move data from perhaps an instrument that performs genotyping to the system where the data can be analyzed and stored. In addition advanced wide area network capabilities must be addressed for multi-site trails and studies.
Telemedicine is a broad field enabling remote care in a number of different ways and relies on site-to-site networking. Telemedicine can improve access to care and save on costs, but requires simple to- use connectivity between systems and sites where a clinician and a patient can originate a secure session reliably and with ease on a moment’s notice.
Healthcare, behind the curve on technology adoption for so many years, is finding new ways to leverage technology innovations. Technology is the corner stone of advancement to change the lives of patients and the future of medicine.