So the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is upon us. What will stick and what won’t is a huge unknown. What is known is that every day, healthcare organizations are producing mountains of data, the amount of which is projected to grow to a staggering 25,000 petabytes by 2020—for context, just one petabyte can hold 500 billion pages of standard printed text. Future trends in IT buying will be dominated by the need to operationalize all of this data, keep it secure, and be agile enough to quickly adjust to the ever-changing “new normal.”
1. On-Demand Technology Purchasing
The on-demand economy is not a trend, it’s here to stay. No need to “stock up” on anything anymore, you can just order it from Amazon as needed—which is probably why Staples just announced it would close 70 more stores. Even for industries late to adopt it, i.e. healthcare companies, are becoming more accustomed to flexible pay-as-you-go buying, such as purchasing cloud services as demand increases. And in this spirit of “I’ll buy it when I need it,” organizations are beginning to re-think their approach to software licensing. Gone are the days of purchasing enterprise-wide licenses in anticipation of possible future requirements. Instead, software and IT purchases are being undertaken with the philosophy of buying only what’s needed today and leaving purchasing for tomorrow’s requirements to tomorrow.
2. A New Approach to Mergers & Acquisitions
Two of the largest planned mergers and acquisitions in healthcare, between Cigna and Anthem, and Humana and Aetna – have recently been shut down by antitrust lawsuits brought by the Department of Justice. So, what’s next for these companies that will still want to scale? A piecemeal approach—comprised of purchasing hospitals, physician practices, and smaller health plans—is likely, and this strategy will inevitably lead to even more complex data and system integration nightmares due to the higher number of unique systems being brought into the mix.
3. Future Proofing IT Investments
The healthcare industry is tied-up in expectation. Trumpcare uncertainty, and the passage of the AHCA does little to quell the uncertainty and has made companies more reluctant to embark upon major IT initiatives. To future-proof their investments, organizations will look at their software purchases through a new lens. For instance, rather than buying an app that prepares their institution for MACRA, they now have to question whether or not future compliance regulations will ever become reality. In the face of ambiguity the key will be agility, not just “there’s an app for that.”
4. Ransomware Fear
As healthcare organizations continue to integrate more apps into their workflows, the vulnerabilities that accompany these apps increase the risk that organizations will fall prey to cyber-attacks. The theft of PHI jeopardizes the integrity of hospitals and the privacy, reputation, and identity of their patients. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, 88% of all ransomware attacks are carried out against hospitals. It’s not surprising. As hospitals store and require quick access to current patient information (i.e., treatment plans, medical histories) to deliver urgent care—they are particularly vulnerable to cyber crime. Despite investments of billions of dollars on security—data theft continues to flourish and grow in sophistication. Cybersecurity will be, or at least should be, a consideration in every buying decision.
5. EHR Contract Renewal Considerations
As the single largest software expenditure for every hospital and health system in the country, healthcare organizations are taking a closer look at their current EHR environments and upcoming contract renewals. It’s not as simple as it once was. Rather than buying and hosting EHR systems in-house, many organizations are choosing to purchase EHR software licenses and services through the cloud. There’s a lot to consider with this arrangement, e.g., the vendor’s data security capabilities, support and responsiveness, and any “prenup” termination clauses that don’t stipulate guaranteed data access and easy transition from one system to another in the event of “separation.” Healthcare organizations should be able to disentangle themselves from an EHR vendor without undue difficulty or business disruption.
About the author: Bill Fox is the VP of Healthcare and Life Sciences at Marklogic. He has held leadership positions at Change Healthcare, Lexis Nexis and Booz Allen. He is the former Deputy Chief of Economic and Cyber Crime at the Philadelphia District Attorney's office and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, and a national recognized thought leader on data strategy and cyber security in healthcare and life sciences.