Still Room for IT Innovation in Healthcare Tech Marketplace, NJTC Panelists Say

A panel discussion on connected healthcare, held during the New Jersey Technology Council (NJTC) Health Information Technology Summit in Princeton on July 19, 2012, revealed how much more healthcare IT companies need to do to make connections between data and real patient outcomes.

As moderator Al Campanella, strategic business growth and analytics EVP for Virtua (Marlton), said, the market is facing big challenges regarding interoperability, personalized medicine and mobile health. Campanella pulled together a diverse group of panelists, who also pointed out gaps in big data analytics between the information needed and the software available to get at it, issues surrounding privacy and security, and legislative and regulatory challenges. They also identified significant opportunities for industry companies that can fill those needs.

Data analytics and analysis tools are needed to help address the problem that Kenneth Gross, Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers (Camden) director of research, is seeing. Gross is dealing with a familiar problem brought close to home: some 1 percent of the population is responsible for 30 percent of healthcare system costs.

Gross said his mission is to identify patients who use the system more than they should, and do something about it. Many of those patients return to the hospital because they have neither health insurance nor the transportation to venues that can refill their prescriptions, so they are not going to the doctor.

Business intelligence tools aren’t enough to help with this challenge, Gross said. “We need population intelligence tools, especially around accountable care and healthcare delivery,” he added. In addition, those tools are not immediate enough, Gross said. “We currently get a daily feed that tells us who is in the hospital and who has had two or more visits within the last six months.”

However, that feed doesn’t tell him who is an oncology patient and who is pregnant, since patients with those conditions aren’t covered by the program. “We are dealing with people with multiple chronic conditions or social factors that are getting in the way of healthcare,” Gross said. Each morning his organization has to go through medical records, trying to figure out which people belong, and looking for indicators. “We could use predictive analytics technology in real time,” Gross said.

The organization now works with claims from the three hospitals with which it has contracted, and it doesn’t receive that information until the end of the year. “That just doesn’t work for us,” Gross said. “We’ve found that if we can intervene with patients at bedside and start working with them before they get discharged, we can help them navigate the system from that point on. We need real-time data.”

A major challenge noted by Todd Fisher, VP of MobleMD (Yardley, Pa.), a division of Siemens, is how to meaningfully engage patients. Fisher noted that health information exchanges (HIEs) are held back in their attempts to deliver information to patients whenever and wherever they need it. “We’ve aggregated a lot of information and have gotten much data off paper,” he said, but inhibiting progress is the “healthy tension” around the laws surrounding privacy and security.

Fisher said the industry has to figure out what its obligations are, as it disseminates and aggregates information, and how to eliminate identities as it creates data on large populations. “The challenges moving forward include aligning legislation with the behavior changes that have been requested by our administration, to make sure that when we digitize all this information, we are able to use it in ways that are truly beneficial,” he said.

Looking at healthcare technology in a more disruptive way, Kelly Lewis, president and CEO of Allied Health Information Exchange (Harrisburg, Pa.), said he looked forward to a time when one or two brands made everyone so comfortable with exchanging healthcare information that no one would worry any more about privacy abuse. Added Lewis, “We need to create a brand, like a MasterCard or a Visa,” that would create a comfort level such that people will allow their health information to be exchanged under the right circumstances. It would be inherently compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) so consumers would know that, as with the financial data held by MasterCard and Visa, their health data would remain secure and private.

Oracle (Reston, Va.) enterprise solution architect Adrish Sannyasi said many of the changes occurring at healthcare organizations could benefit from the change-management systems offered by companies like his. He added that larger organizations in particular could be helped by the structure and multiple offerings of a company like Oracle. “You may need a modular product that can sit on top of a general EMR [electronic medical record],” to connect modular specialist applications, he said.

Ending the discussion, David Shepard, senior VP of vertical market and product sales at IO Data Centers (Phoenix), said, “What I am hearing from others in the industry is, over the past six years there has been an increase in health information data breaches,” coupled with increased HIPAA enforcement. “There is a lot of concern about security, both physical and logical, for mission-critical applications. The concern about compliance extends to business associates and contractors,” he added.

“As a data center provider, we need to make sure we have the controls in place…to protect patients and providers,” Shepard said, adding, “We also need to have the right systems and protections in place to guarantee that our systems are always on.”

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