Many involved in the enormous shift now under way in health care IT are sounding the alarm: This bus is headed over a cliff. The changes are coming too fast, and health care organizations are not equipped to do the job alone.
Health care organizations started out behind the eight ball: Their IT infrastructure was inadequate; their in-house IT skills were insufficient; and the costs required for implementation were prohibitive in a cash-strapped environment.
Against that backdrop, consider what they’re being asked to accomplish:
- Create an interoperable “meaningful use” system.
- Integrate strict patient privacy considerations imposed by the Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act (HIPPA), including ensuring that only appropriate workers have access to electronic patient records.
- Protect the data from continual attempts by hackers to steal information or crash networks.
- Work with other health care organizations to ensure that records “follow the patient.”
Is it any wonder that health care executives ranked tech issues, including hiring enough qualified IT staff, at the top of their list of worries?
New Study Reflects Health Care Execs’ Growing Worries
The results of a new market analysis on health care managed IT services can be seen as a direct reflection of those worries. The study, from the research firm MarketsandMarkets, forecasts that the worldwide health care IT outsourcing market will grow at a compound annual rate of 7.6 percent, from $35 billion in 2013 to $50.4 billion by 2018.
Factors driving the growth, according to analysts, are the pressure to control health care costs, a lack of in-house expertise, rising demand for integrating solutions and government mandates such as “meaningful use” and the need to conform with a new international coding system.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, many organizations are opting instead to trust a team of experts with a proven track record.
“Over the years, outsourcing has surfaced as a successful business model that mitigates the burden of administration, procurement, accounting, logistics and other tasks, and develops cost-effective business processes,” the analysts said in a press release. “The health care industry, which faces the challenge of delivering the best patient care at an affordable cost, has been opting for outsourcing IT solutions.”
Among international regions, North America commands the highest share of the global healthcare IT outsourcing market, largely due to the above-mentioned demands and problems.
IT Talent Shortage Helps Drive Outsourcing Demand
One important driver in the move to outsource is the talent pool, which is not keeping up with demand, at least in the United States. According to a new report from Randstad Healthcare, demand for health care IT staffing remained high in the second quarter.
A recent survey conducted by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) indicated that 67 percent of 163 hospitals or health care systems surveyed face a shortage of qualified IT staff. That figure was up nearly 10 percentage points from a similar survey conducted two years earlier.
That was among the reasons CHIME has joined other industry groups in urging the federal government to delay Meaningful Use Stage 2 standards for electronic health records. Last week, the nonprofit Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society issued a similar plea.
“The speed at which healthcare transformation is occurring requires the healthcare community to develop a realistic approach to ensure the health IT infrastructure … results in robust and secure information exchange and care coordination,” HIMSS chair Scott MacLean said.
Among the factors in that “realistic approach,” it would appear, is the use of IT managed services to provide the expertise that health organizations simply cannot develop overnight.