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By Rick Jennings
In my opinion, it is a great time to be an information technology professional in healthcare. I perhaps have a “right angle” view having spent 20-plus years in other industries before jumping into healthcare. For the last six years, I have found the “digital deficit” in healthcare technology to be simply astounding.
The landscape of proprietary, point solutions for each major healthcare specialty is like a blast from the past looking at the financial services, manufacturing, or service industries a decade-plus ago. It reminds me of the days before enterprise-level resourcing planning (ERP), client relationship management (CRM), or supply chain management (SCM) systems – handfuls of small point solutions to handle a specific function. Clients were left own their own to stitch these discrete elements into some form of enterprise level system – usually with significant integration and operation expense.
Complete Healthcare Solutions
As a result of relentless global completion, these industries finally had to reinvent their core cost structures. They refused to buy more of the same IT and key vendors responded with new end-to-end solutions. Solutions like ERP (SAP, Epicor, NetSuite), CRM (Salesforce.com, Rightnow), and SCM (i2, Manugistics) emerged taking out broad swathes of old expensive, rigid systems. An entirely new second level of “plug and play” specialty modules popped up that could be easily integrated into these new, enterprise-level fabrics being spun across large and small businesses. Out of this information technology revolution came approaches like “Software as a Service,” “Web Services Interfaces,” “Business Process Re-engineering,” and “Services Oriented Architectures.”
Cost Reduction through Efficiency and Quality
So, now here sits healthcare with its plethora of rapidly-aging, expensive-to-maintain, point-legacy IT systems, with little to no technology budgets for modernization. Declining reimbursements are driving the need for cost reduction through efficiency and quality. An increasingly “survival oriented” set of actions is showing up in major health system business plans. The payers are exercising power by wanting more for less. Oh yeah, and the ultimate market maker, the consumer, emerges as the one with choices.
No Secure Access to Radiology Images
We can stream high definition TV from the Olympics in China, yet healthcare IT struggles to get referring physicians secure access to radiology images. Daily we process billions of dollars in secure financial transactions from bill paying to electronic funds transfers, yet healthcare IT slows to a crawl debating that IT security is “not ready” for PHI. I know, for me, my bank account information is just as, if not more, critical, sensitive, and potentially damaging as the name of my doctor and last test result.
EMRs are Game-changing
As I see the new IT landscape in healthcare, the electronic medical record (EMR) systems are the equivalent of the game-changing ERP, SCM, or CRM solutions. The EMR marketplace is being flooded with solutions from large well established vendors, agile new upstarts, and software powerhouses entering healthcare. A number of EMR solutions are emerging based on SaaS, cloud and mobile architectures with the single purpose of enabling pervasive access to information in easier to implement and operate solutions.
Enterprise-wide EMR Integration
We at vRad are in the first wave of modern specialty solutions that integrate at enterprise level to this EMR-dominated future architecture. As health systems modernize via these EMR investments, we are helping by bringing a completely new radiology solution to the game. We want to help our clients by enabling them to “plug in” a complete radiology IT solution to their EMR world.
We built our cloud-based radiology solution over the last seven years for our 378 radiologists to read 7 million radiology exams per year. vRad’s RIS and PACS had to be efficient and cost effective or we could of never connected to the 2,700-plus hospitals we serve today. All it takes to access our vRad Enterprise Connect suite of RIS, PACS, and Referring Physician tools is an internet connection and a commonly available desktop, laptop or mobile device. The days of on-site PACS systems with big price tags, large servers and storage needs, and high maintenance costs are rapidly coming to an end. Information technology at the enterprise level should have performance and cost efficiency driven by scale. Why set up a discrete RIS and PACS environment for say, seven Radiologists and 140,000 exams per year, when you could plug into the same technology used by 60-plus on-site radiologists and over 300-plus cloud-based radiologists reading 20,000 exams PER DAY.
Cost Effective Healthcare IT
Enabling our clients to use this world-class, next generation vRad technology on a simple per-study charge with little to no implementation expense is like the icing on the cake – let’s get started! Pick your flavor of EMR and we rapidly integrate our cloud solution to take orders, deliver radiology results, and even use our FDA-approved web image viewer inside the EMR’s patient record.
Healthcare IT is way behind other industries in using modern, low cost, highly secure technology solutions. We don’t have to be the smartest IT managers, we just need to be quick in taking proven concepts and using them to help health care IT catch up.
What other ways does health IT reduce costs?
Rick Jennings is Chief Technology Officer of vRad, a technology-enabled national radiology practice and the largest telemedicine company in the world.