Helping Health Care Information Technology Catch Up

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In my opinion, it is a great time to be an information technology professional in health care. I perhaps have a “right angle” view having spent 20+ years in other industries before jumping into health care. For the last 6 years, I have found the “digital deficit” in health care technology to be simply astounding.

The landscape of proprietary, point solutions for each major health care specialty is like a blast from the past looking at the financial services, manufacturing, or service industries a decade plus ago. 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 to their own to stitch these discrete elements into some form of enterprise level system – usually with significant integration and operation expense.

Complete Health Care 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 health care 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 health care 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 health care 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 health care, the electronic medical record (EMR) systems are the equivalent of the game-changing ERP, SCM, or CRM solutions. The EMR market place is being flooded with solutions from large well established vendors, agile new upstarts, and software powerhouses entering health care. 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.

Cloud-based Radiology

We built our cloud-based radiology solution over the last 7 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+ 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, 7 Radiologists and 140,000 exams per year, when you could plug into the same technology used by 60+ on-site radiologists and over 300+ cloud-based radiologists reading 20,000 exams PER DAY.

Cost Effective Health Care 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.

Health care 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.

-Rick Jennings, vRad, Chief Technology Officer

What other ways does health IT reduce costs?

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