2012 was a year of significant change in the healthcare industry, especially as it pertained to the evolving role of IT. From federal standards guarding patient privacy to innovations that aim to deliver new levels of interconnectivity long absent in the hospital environment, the past year was simply the beginning of what promises to be an exciting time for hospital CIOs and IT teams as they explore new ways of delivering superior patient care through the innovative use and management of data. Here are a few events that we feel mattered most:

  • Release of Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements: The release of guidelines required to meet Stage 2 of Meaningful Use requirements showed more than ever the importance of data availability. From the ability to exchange data at transitions of care to requiring that patients have the ability to view, download, and transmit their health information online, MU2 further emphasized the need for a comprehensive data management plan.
  • Security breaches and enforcement: Although not a bright spot, the increased enforcement of privacy rules led to heavy fines and tarnished reputations for institutions that mismanaged sensitive patient data and/or fall victim to a data breach. Strict enforcement of laws protecting Protected Health Information (PHI) is a step in the right direction.
  • Consumers open up to data sharing/distribution of PHI: Research showed that consumers were growing increasingly comfortable with sharing of PHI, due to the growing belief that it will have a positive influence on their quality of care. 60% of individuals who participated in a survey felt that greater visibility of their personal health information among doctors, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies would improve coordination of their care.
  • The Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) market is heating up: According to multiple industry reports, vendor neutral archives have moved to the forefront of healthcare IT spending. However, many administrators remain unaware that VNA technologies used on their own are insufficient for the highly critical task of ensuring image availability. Furthermore, it is widely predicted that as VNA adoption increases, there will be increased demand for larger integration of non-DICOM and non-image data.
  • Clinical and enterprise IT departments are coming together to abandon data silos in favor of a data management approach spanning the entire hospital: Many of today’s EHRs store electronic data in silos. According to Healthcare Technology Online, the true impact of the health IT movement will be realized when data can be shared seamlessly and securely among different systems and providers. Additionally, the vice president and CIO of MedCentral Health System was quoted as saying, “The real focus is integrating the products with everything else. It’s no longer a compartmental piece and a nice little system to have running over there. Meaningful Use certainly changed the game on us, for sure. And it’s only going to get more integrated down the road.” Like the enterprise market in the 90’s (from silos of mainframes to networks of computers and client servers), the hospital will need a solution that can store, protect and share data. As a result, the move toward a healthcare data management solution that caters for clinical and administrative data, across the entire hospital, will become inevitable.

We expect 2013 to lead to further change aimed at improving coordination among providers with a shared goal of leveraging data to enhance patient care. With more data stored in EHRs, institutions can now begin to utilize business intelligence to analyze that information to better address patient needs. With this comes the prospect of patient portals becoming truly dynamic exchanges of information between patients and providers, effectively moving more services online (a key requirement of MU2) and offering patients a deeper glimpse into their medical histories.

Perhaps, though, the most important change we expect to see is the continued integration of data. Currently, healthcare IT is moving rapidly, and is storing impressive volumes of information ranging from EHRs to medical apps, all of which reside in different locations. For BridgeHead Software, helping hospitals harness their data, store it safely, share it effectively, and use it to enhance the quality of care for patients is an immensely important objective, and one we’re eager to deliver. Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2013.