by David Chou

Era of integrated platforms

Jun 07, 2017
Healthcare IndustryTechnology Industry

The trend of a healthcare system's application portfolio is shifting to an integrated platform vs a best of breed portfolio. We will discuss the top three key ingredients for this approach.

big data consolidation
Credit: Thinkstock

As health systems continue to extend their services beyond inpatient and outpatient care, incorporating a robust integrated platform has become mission critical for CIOs. This article will highlight the three key ingredients for integrated platforms from an operator’s perspective:

1.)     The ability to scale while maintaining interoperability with legacy systems,

2.)     Drive patient engagement,

3.)     Add innovation.

Before we dive into the three ingredients, it is important to first define what an integrated platform is.  An integrated platform is comprehensive of a practice management system, a billing system that keeps pace with the changes in healthcare reimbursement, and a robust electronic health records system that promotes interoperability across the care continuum.

The First Ingredient: Scalability and Interoperability

PWC noted 2016[1] as the “year of merger mania” and 2017 yields a similar track as last year as health systems continue to capture pieces of the care continuum.  It will therefore be imperative for integrated platforms to capture both continual and episodic care into a shared EHR (electronic health record) system otherwise we risk continued fragmented care.  Thus, integrated platforms must be agile enough to allow a system to scale into newer or alternative services.  For large health systems it will be imperative for these systems to talk; interoperability with legacy systems.  It should then come as no surprise that when senior IT healthcare executives were asked which type of EHR development projects would be their focus in 2017, “60% of survey respondents said improving interoperability…”[2]

The Second Ingredient: Patient Engagement

The healthcare industry has also become increasingly consumer-driven.  While healthcare lags the private sector when it comes to customer experience, the low-hanging fruit is simplifying a burdensome complex process during a stressful time for most people.  The business opportunity is to drive down operating costs through DIY services.

From mobile health to robust portals, integrated systems enable health systems to be ahead of the patient engagement curve.  The successful health systems will tie control of the care continuum while also focusing on the patient as a consumer.  Some say it is a retail mentality of healthcare, but the successful health systems will be providing evidence-based care with a strong patient experience.

The Last Ingredient: Add Innovation

The last key ingredient for integrated platforms is adding innovation: from business process management (BPM), data exchange to artificial intelligence (AI).

Business Process Management

In the same poll of EHR development, senior IT healthcare executives indicated that “55% [were focused on] improving workflow.”[3]    We are already seeing this as platforms strive to make systems more efficient with Epic “Care Everywhere” variants, e-faxing and even unique cost structures from flat-rate license fees to percentage of collection models that ensure assistance in collectables, denial management and offerings that keep systems ahead of alternative payment models (APMs).

Data Exchange

With the influx of risk-based contracting and APMs based on quality components, systems are scrambling to capture meaningful patient data and specifically align around data exchanges.  Electronic health information is now being moved from several directions; beyond the historical inputs at the point of service.  Technology is now making this information bidirectional.  With websites like PatientsLikeMe[4] and biometrics through wearables, information is increasingly inputted directly from the patients.  Integrated platforms must make these exchanges meaningful and accessible for all users.

Artificial Intelligence

Whether you agree with Elon Musk’s AI apocalypse prediction or not, we must acknowledge that AI has a significant application to healthcare.  Notable names such as IBM Watson and Google Deepmind Health project are at the core of machine learning algorithms on the verge of breakthroughs in oncology and medical records management, respectively. As an operator, AI’s impact on healthcare is pervasive, from Customer Service, to HR, to Marketing, and even Care and Diagnosis Decision-making support.  This is the time for senior IT executives to explore and include a part of the project portfolio around AI.

As health systems continue to scale and evolve more patient-focused care, they must incorporate innovative integrate platforms to stay ahead.  This article was co-authored by Neil Pithadia who is the Director of Tenet Physician Services over Northern California.

[1] pwc “US health services deals insights: Q1 2017 update.”

[2] “2017: The Year Ahead in Healthcare Information Technology.”

[3]  “2017: The Year Ahead in Healthcare Information Technology.”

[4] PatientsLikeMe: a patient network and real-time research platform