For anyone that has worked in or around healthcare, it’s known that meaningful use drives the practices of many hospitals and healthcare systems today. Meaningful use is what these healthcare systems must achieve using certified electronic health record (EHR) technology in order to receive monetary incentives from the government. The end goal of this process is to A) get healthcare systems to adopt a digital workflow and B) ensure that the workflow implemented is efficient.
At the HIMSS 2014 conference, I spoke with many CIOs and CTOs of healthcare systems, and every one acknowledged that the monetary incentive and meaningful use mandates are necessary for these large health organizations to get up to speed with the digital world in which we live. However, there’s growing sentiment that similar mandates outside of patient record information will be necessary in the near future.
After all, these health organizations are businesses and have the same rules, regulations, and workflows. They deal with litigation constantly, they’re subject to compliance mandates, and they’re forced to run all internal business processes like any other company. As one CIO told me, the meaningful use mandates for EHR are great – but they take the focus away from “the other areas where we’re bleeding money.”
The problem is that there’s no requirement for these organizations to implement more efficient systems around their eDiscovery, compliance, or internal records-keeping processes. The software designed to address these needs tended to be implemented on a mostly as-needed basis rather than with a long-term perspective. The result is that their non-EHR data – emails, files, IMs, etc. – is copied and moved to multiple places around their environment in order to carry out standard functions like application of retention settings for records keeping, or performing preservation and collection for eDiscovery.
The end result of these fragmented systems is an unnecessary abundance of data from multiple copies, which exist in so many places throughout the environment that it’s often impossible for administrators to know where all the data is. Aside from the risk profile that results from this loss of data control, these organizations experience skyrocketing storage costs that add to the expensive workflow processes.
What companies are left with is a vicious cycle of expensive workflows perpetuated by the software intended to help them. One might think that the “financial bleeding” would be enough for health organizations to resolve these discrepancies, but unfortunately a lack of capital has become the norm for many in this space. After all, over half of US hospitals are operating in the red right now.
So how can this problem be resolved? One CTO insisted that it’s time to move away from EHR – there’s a good base in place for the future. The focus needs to move to establishing a central system for all workflow involving non-patient unstructured content, so that these health systems aren’t spending millions unnecessarily; studies have shown that for large companies, a reduction of 3% in in time spent on legal holds alone would result in $1 million in savings per year. A central place to perform all workflow processes without having to continuously copy the data sounds ideal.
The idea of centralizing to reduce costs and achieve greater efficiency is nothing new. Hospital and healthcare mergers are the norm in this day and age. I spoke with the CTO of a healthcare system that is the product of 8 hospitals in Pennsylvania that have recently joined together. The CTO told me that the idea of pooling together resources, information, and budgets was the only choice they had left. The expectation is that this centralization of resources will ultimately result in a more efficient, cost-effective healthcare system for the business and the patients. So the question remains, why not do the same with your data?