Few deny that the health care industry in the U.S. faces tremendous pressure to change. Few deny the role that technology will play in stimulating this change, either.
Uncertainty creeps in, though, when health care organizations try to address their health care needs. This is especially true of health care providers -- the hospitals, medical offices, clinics and myriad long-term care facilities that account for roughly 70 percent of health care spending and that have spent much of the 21st century rushing to catch up to other vertical industries.
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Most providers, says Skip Snow, a senior analyst with Forrester, are "very new to the idea that they have all this structured data in clinical systems." That's largely because, until recently, the mission of the health care CIO was ancillary to a provider's core mission. IT often fell under the CFO's domain, Snow says, since it focused so much on business systems.
Today, thanks to electronic health record (EHR) implementation, "The entire patient record is in [data] repositories," Snow says. "Trying to make sense of it is a huge challenge."
health care organizations struggling with IT must adapt or die
Snow and his colleagues recently published a report outlining five technology imperatives for U.S. health care providers.
Such measures are necessary, they write, because "In no other industry has technology been called on to so significantly alter the fundamental relationships that are occurring in the delivery of health care today ... Technology has frequently been managed on a case-by-case, need-by-need basis without a strong road map being in place, which is the core of good enterprise architecture."
Forrester outlines the following technology imperatives for health care providers:
1. Clean up data. At a minimum, an organization should be able to import and export HL7-standard continuity of care document (CCD) files; on top of that, providers should create a metadata infrastructure that maps common medical taxonomies to structure information management models and build protected health information (PHI) security into core business processes.
2. Invest in customer and patient insight. This requires an investment in clinical, operational and financial data management tools, including master data management and data governance and complete with shared "vocabularies for core business entities."
health care data analytics must be appropriately scaled, too; complex reporting and natural language processing (NLP) tools are great, but Forrester cautions that few health care providers are "sophisticated" enough to make such technology work.