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Pricewaterhouse Coopers Forecasts Top Health IT Trends

Analyst firm predicts that the industry will undergo an extreme strategy makeover in 2011, due to federal mandates, continuing cost pressures, and consumer demands.

Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Health IT Boosts Patient Care, Safety
Each year, PwC's Health Research Institute identifies the issues that it believes will influence the health industry agenda in the year ahead. For 2011, the top six issues are:

1. Record spending on HIT in 2011 is likely to increase demand for skilled HIT professionals, an expanded role for CIOs, and increased merger and acquisition activity among organizations looking to share the cost and benefits of HIT integration.

2. Significant changes in benefit plan design, plan pricing, and the health plan landscape can be expected as insurers adapt to a new medical loss ratio. Despite of the ruling this month on the constitutionality of the individual health insurance mandate, states will have to continue moving forward on developing health insurance exchanges (HIEs).

3. New risks and opportunities may emerge as payment models shift from fee-for-service to new models that focus on performance, health outcomes, and shared cost savings in ACOs.

4. Health organizations may feel the trickle-down effect of decreased utilization by price sensitive consumers.

5. A further uptick in merger and acquisition activity is one way health organizations may share administrative burdens and IT investments, gain market share, and fill strategic gaps.

6. Pharmaceutical companies see an opportunity to increase their visibility with consumers, influence health outcomes, and reduce healthcare costs while increasing revenue using digital strategies and technology. The use of mobile health and wireless technologies by all health organizations is expected to continue to surge.

Taking A Deeper Look At The Issues

Following is a more in-depth look of PwC's top issues for health industry organizations in 2011:

Booming HIT Business

The HIT spending boom is driven by: (1) federal requirements that hospitals and physicians meet at least Stage 1 requirements for the Meaningful Use of EHRs to qualify for federal stimulus funds in 2011; (2) an aggressive timetable for massive back-office infrastructure upgrades to comply with new medical coding requirements that will add five times the number of diagnostic and inpatient codes and compel providers and payers to use the new HIPAA 5010 electronic transaction format, which will require more than 1,300 system modifications by January 2012; (3) final FDA rules that will mandate online reporting of adverse events related to medical devices, resulting in possible new tracking technology throughout the supply chain.

Stage 1 Meaningful Use requires hospitals and physicians to provide patients with an electronic copy of their health record upon request. But consumers are not asking. Nearly half of consumers (49%) surveyed still call their doctor's office to request paper medical records. While the EHR policy goal is to help consumers participate in shared medical decision-making, only 13% of consumers have ever been asked for input into what they would like to see in their EMRs or how they would like to use them.

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