With more than 90% of hospitals on track to implement certified EHR technology and the first trickle of organizations completing their initial Stage 2 reporting, the focus of health IT development teams is shifting away from infrastructure and towards optimization, says the Spring 2014 Essentials of the US Hospital IT Market report from HIMSS Analytics. Organizations are currently investing in tools to deepen their understanding of internal operations with an eye towards bed management, revenue cycle management, and financial modeling.
“This is a side of the market that I think is important but are truly secondary to where the market has been over the last few years now,” said Lorren Pettit, Vice President of Market Research for HIMSS Analytics, to EHRintelligence. “There’s been an unnatural market in healthcare created by meaningful use and its financial incentives. The federal government has been focusing the market, the providers, on the EMR. But you have these non-clinical, operational applications which are still critical to the hospital, that have been pushed off the radar screen because the providers can only have so many balls up in the air.”
“There is a pent-up need for improvements,” he added. “Because the focus has been on the clinical side for so long, all these operational applications have been aging in place, and so that there will eventually be a breaking point where these applications finally get too old, and the market will just have to say, ‘Okay, we need to really re-address our operational applications.’”
The growing interest in bolstering non-clinical operational capabilities may be an indicator that that time has arrived. A general reduction in the amount of inpatient care is seriously challenging the revenue cycles of many smaller hospitals, forcing some to close their doors and others to radically overhaul their financial strategies in order to stay solvent. Hospitals are increasingly turning to financial technologies in order to streamline and automate their revenue practices, but unlike the clearly mandated pathway towards meaningful use, the business side of the healthcare industry is more or less a free-for-all.
“There really doesn’t seem to be one single defined strategy or path that providers are taking as it relates to their operational applications,” Pettit said. “They’re looking for efficiencies in a multiplicity of places, so it could be in financial modeling; it could be in bed management. What really strikes me is how varied the most attractive opportunities are. They just seem to be all over the board. Providers just know that they need to become more efficient, and so they’re just looking for all the lowest hanging opportunities.”
“The projected sales volume for financial modeling products is just way off the charts in comparison to everything else. And that sort of smells right, because you think of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and health care reform, population health – all the buzz words in healthcare,” he continued. “It really does focus around analytics and how you can project forward to figure out ways to keep your doors open. Financial modeling is really the one area that a lot of organizations are really going to be trying to get their arms around in the next few years.”