2014 has been a year of dramatic change within healthcare. The pressure on healthcare organizations to support “business transformation” and keep up with regulations, coupled with the rapid pace of data growth, is forcing CIOs to seek alternative solutions. The question for healthcare providers becomes, how to manage all of these challenges while still keeping the needs of patients and medical professionals top of mind. NetApp’s Monty Zarrouk, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager, Healthcare for NetApp talks about what he is seeing with customers today.
2014 seems to be a very important year in healthcare in regards to how technology is driving change. Can you give a quick overview?
Monty Zarrouk: The healthcare industry historically has operated with traditional IT systems and has been slow to adopt new forms of technology that could streamline operations---and perhaps more importantly---centralize data in one organized and accessible place. Regulation is one of the major obstacles for technology innovation in healthcare, but another key reason is the lack of integration of data among healthcare organizations such as doctors or hospitals, etc.
While 2014 is a year of change for healthcare organizations it’s certainly not the beginning. As part of a major industry initiative, the United States Department of Health and Human Services is spending $25.9 billion over many years to promote and expand the adoption of health information technology under the HITECH Act.
Can you elaborate on the HITECH Act and why it is important?
MZ: One of the most impactful components of the HITECH Act is the meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs). Therefore, the goal is not just adoption, but 'meaningful use.' This has some profound implications not only for healthcare organizations but also for patients.
EHRs enable clinical data to follow patients between care giving situations for better decision making. When I think about the future I believe we will see healthcare highly customized for each individual, using real time information from EHRs while considering individual preferences. That is good news for everyone and the achievement of a great goal for human health.
With Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) driving increased focus on the value of data, how will patient healthcare be affected?
MZ: Providing valuable information to providers at the point of care (POC) and having data readily accessible in real time is changing healthcare in a big way. Imagine the possibilities for care in the emergency room. Educated decisions based on patient history could be made faster and more often. Issues such as allergies could be quickly avoided and medical errors decreased.
How are the cloud and mobility being leveraged and considered for use in the healthcare sector?
MZ: It is well know that the cloud increases efficiencies while decreasing costs. But the healthcare sector is behind in terms of adoption due to patient privacy regulations such as HIPAA. Many medical organizations want to preserve data within their own “walls.” However, by adopting a hybrid cloud infrastructure, healthcare providers can easily manage data seamlessly across IT environments – from the doctor’s workstation to the datacenter to the cloud. Providers can better respond to growing data requirements instantly without disruption to critical applications or physicians.
Clinical mobility solutions, which include access from mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and other bring-your-own-devices (BYOD), are a growing area in healthcare technology. The use of mobile devices for healthcare, from the IT and physician perspective, is placing new demands on healthcare organizations as they face complex challenges around device adoption, patient engagement, improved workflow, BYOD management, and access to clinical and patient data in real-time. Yet, the ability to provide important patient-facing data at the point of care is heavily dependent on the mobility of the data involved. Secure access to patient data as well as general healthcare data is a topical discussion right now, and an indicator of the future advances inhealthcare, which will be enabled through technology.
Can you give some examples of what some healthcare organizations are doing to leverage innovation in IT to create better patient care?
MZ: Regardless of the challenges or approach to cloud, healthcare organizations are using technology to cut costs and to provide better patient care. Some examples:
What can we expect in the future?
MZ: Change is happening and more is coming as we witness the ongoing evolution in healthcare IT but it won’t all happen immediately. What makes this an exciting time, is that this year especially, some of the key transformations are becoming more visible to patients and healthcare providers.
Fifty percent of healthcare organizations are part of the Healthcare Information Exchange today. We must continue to increase that number so that information can be accessible anywhere at any time for the benefit of the patient. There will also be a need for more analytical data included in EHRs, which will give healthcare providers the critical information they need at POC and to reduce errors.
If we don't work hard to drive down healthcare costs, we could face enormous budgetary challenges for many governments around the world. Everyone is affected by changes in healthcare. By leveraging technology we can make a difference and deliver what matters most, healthier living for everyone involved.