The Healthcare IT Industry

Health information technology (HIT) is increasingly viewed by the media as the most promising tool for improving the overall quality, safety and efficiency of the health delivery system. It is generally seen as a means to improve operational efficiency, reduce medical errors, and expand access of affordable healthcare. HIT classified applications for prescribing to include electronic medical records (EMR), clinical decision support (CDS), and computerized physician order entry (CPOE).

HIT companies are very attractive mix of digital tech, electronics and healthcare. The promise of increasing efficiency in the healthcare system, reducing errors, and expanding access all are great promises. Data from Dow Jones VentureSource indicates that $633 million was invested in healthcare IT companies and projects in 2011, the highest figure since 2001. This represents a 22 percent increase from the $520 million reported in 2010. The healthcare IT sector saw investment of $329 million in 2009, indicating that many investors see the industry as ripe for innovation and continued development.

Healthcare Finance News reports that many investors see healthcare IT as a lucrative market due to the increasing automation of processes in clinical environments and the continued adoption of healthcare IT infrastructure, including medical informatics technology. Many analysts and experts believe that despite continued development and interest in medical technology companies, there is still room for significant growth in the market.

The focus on healthcare IT implementation has been driven in part by the Obama Administration’s financial incentives, such as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ meaningful use initiative.

There are a few hurdles that HIT companies face:

  1. Privacy and Security. We have already seen major financial and other corporations hacked to gain financial data. The safetty of putting patient data on the claud will be paramount.
  2. Infrastructure issues. Currently the ecosystem does not work well together. Companies and applications are built in silo’s. Cross app functinality is going to be needed.
  3. For moblie aplication, there are some more hurdles, including limited moblie devices, limited population (how many seniors do you see with an iPhone) and online app stores do not provide the transparency needed for complicated and possibly regulated medical apps.

Some of these challenges may change soon. Payment changes to hospitals on how they are reimbursed has groups looking at how to better address patient care after they leave the hospital. The payment change was created by the federal health law and is known as the Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program. It is part of the government’s effort to shift away from paying hospitals and doctors based on the quantity of care they provide with no regard for how good a job they did. Hospitals receive bonuses for reducing the occurances of patients returning to the hospital. To ease the implementation of services and to ensure cohesion, insurers like Aetna are getting into the game.

AETNA has been acquiring and building consumer and doctor focused HIT programs and platforms. And then on Friday April 26th Aetna Inc. and Baptist Memorial Health Care, the largest hospital group in Memphis, unveiled a plan to partner doctors and hospitals on data-driven teams to push down health costs for employers with up to 3,000 workers.

Aided by information technology, physicians and hospitals in the Baptist Select Health Alliance will follow a patient’s care, said Dr. Henry Sullivan, a Memphis obstetrician and chairman of the alliance board.

Click here to read more from MedCity News.

Still regarding the second hurdle, Infrastructure issues. Currently the ecosystem does not work well together. Companies and applications are built in silo’s. Cross app functinality is going to be needed. This remains one of the biggest probelems for HIT. Can we really afford to have multiple platforms and networks for our medical systems? Look at the challenges we face with digital books. Authors, and publishers, and different marketplaces that have different file types and different hardware. None of which are built to work outside of their system. Sure it revolutinized the industry, and made lives easier. But I still don’t understand why I can’t share my Kindle books with another friend with a Kindle, let alone an iPad.

Another problem, although not outlined above is user adoption of mobile HIT devices. When looking at cost savings and increasing efficiency and the growth potential for mobile user HIT devices, user adoption has to be take into account. We already have a hard time getting patients to take the prescribed medications, if we move to a system whe patients are monitored remotely by their doctors, how likely are they to adhear to the use of the device or understand how to use it. Looking at where our healthcare dollars are spent. Seventy-five percent of America’s health expenditures are attributable to chronic disease, and two-thirds of spending over the last 25 years is attributable to the rise in chronic disease. As the U.S. population continues to grow older, the incidence of chronic disease is expected to increase. It is predicted that 60 percent of individuals age 65 or older will be managing more than one chronic condition by 2030.

So the largest part of our healthcare market is going to be retires and the elderly, not the age demographic you would pick for early technology adoption.

To give you an idea where things currently stand for HIT, the healthcare provide world is: 95% computerized for revenue (billing), 50% computerized for medical records, relatively no one is connected to any kind of cloud based system. But the industry is projected to grow considerably. The world healthcare IT market was $99.6 billion in 2010 and it is expected to grow to $162.2 billion in 2015, at a CAGR of 10.2% from 2010 to 2015.

Click here for a list of the top HIT companies.

With the recent boom of the it and digital community fueled by facilities like 1871 and Sandbox, and our large medical schools and industry here in Chicago. It is no surprise that Chicago has a large and growing Heath IT and Health 2.0 community. Click here to learn more.

Addmitedly, this is not an area that I am not very familiar with, but I am looking forward to learning more about it and featuring some local HIT companies.

This is a conversation, not an editorial. Did I forget something, get it wrong or do you agree? Please Comment, Like, Re-Tweet and Share

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