American Well, for instance, recently teamed up with Tampa-based University of Southern Florida Health to provide telehealth services to residents of The Villages, a large retirement community northwest of Orlando. The company has also partnered with Allscripts to integrate telehealth functionality into patients' EHRs. The system is being piloted at USF Health, and the EHR vendor plans to expand it to selected customers nationwide in January, 2013.
Finally Sentara Healthcare, a large healthcare system with locations across Virginia, has struck a deal with MDLIVE, a Sunrise, Fla.-based firm, to provide physicians with telephone and online video consults with patients in Virginia and to serve as a referral network for patients who need to be seen in person.
EHR vendor shakeout. Healthcare providers have more than 600 certified EHR systems to choose from if they want to qualify for Meaningful Use financial incentives. It's likely many of these vendors won't survive 2013 for several reasons. Some smaller companies have jumped into the market too quickly, hoping to get a quick return on their investment without making much of an investment to begin with.
At a recent InformationWeek Healthcare Virtual Event, Mark Wagner, senior research director at KLAS, explained that EHR vendors are so busy selling systems that they barely have time to support the ones they've installed, much less create a platform that meets all of a provider's needs. That kind of over commitment is sure to build resentment and a bad reputation among hospitals and practices with little or no internal IT support staff. The resulting winnowing process may put some EHR vendors out of business, but the surviving companies will likely offer services that ultimately improve patient care.
[ Technology can't solve all problems. Read When Medical Informatics Clashes With Medical Culture. ]
Clinical Analytics Most EHR systems fall short when it comes to heavy duty analytics. Many can generate simple reports but that's just not enough to meet the demands placed upon providers to meet various government mandates on interoperability and clinical performance. And providers are starting to see that EHRs by themselves have limited potential.
"In the clinical space, there was a belief that if you put in an EHR, all your problems of interoperability would go away," according to John Edwards, a director at PwC, commenting on one of their recent surveys. "There is evidence in the survey that providers were realizing that the 'silver bullet' of EHRs needed to be enhanced with clinical informatics people."
Close to half of providers expect to add technical analysts in the next two years, while 35% will hire additional clinical informaticists, according to the survey. Some 70% of insurance companies will boost staffing on the technical side of clinical analytics and 30% will add informaticists.
Similarly a recent report from Frost and Sullivan says hospitals will soon see a significant increase in the use of analytics tools. Their latest figures show that while only 10% of U.S. hospitals implemented health data analytics tools in 2011, that number will grow to approximately 50% adoption in 2016.
It's unlikely the healthcare industry is going out of business any time soon, no matter how effective it becomes at delivering patient care. But by the same token, developments in all five IT hot spots suggest we're moving in the right direction.