So I sat down with UPMC CIO Dan Drawbaugh recently to discuss what looks exciting on the technology horizon and where his organization is investing. UPMC is a $10 billion nonprofit company that crosses many lines in healthcare -- it's a huge care provider, a 2-million-member insurance company, a research institution, employer of 55,000 people and even an investor in technology companies.
Here are some of the emerging areas that are high on Drawbaugh's list, and that struck me as underappreciated:
1. Healthcare Reform And Risk Management Technology
Healthcare providers are going to need software systems that help them manage their risks -- that help them act more like health insurers, Drawbaugh says. Accountable care organizations will be responsible for the health of a certain patient population, and they'll get payments based on people's wellness and health improvements. Doing so means healthcare providers -- hospital and physician groups -- bear more financial risk if patients get sicker than expected.
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UPMC has a joint venture with the Advisory Board Company called Evolent Health that markets UPMC's platforms for providing this kind of care along with consulting developed through the Advisory Board to help caregivers manage this new realm. Providers will have to focus more on managing chronic diseases such as diabetes, and they'll have to process payments in new ways -- based on wellness metrics rather than doctor visits and treatment procedures.
Will companies pay up for another software platform for this effort, after having invested in electronic records, physician order entry software, practice management systems, etc.? The management challenge and financial risk may be one reason more than half of healthcare providers aren't sure if they'll pursue accountable care organization (ACO) status, a recent InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities survey finds.
It's hard to say analytics is underappreciated, given today's big data frenzy, but you could say analytics is under-implemented. Only 15% of providers in the InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities survey have implemented big data analytics initiatives. (We will publish the full survey Monday at informationweek.com/healthcare.)
Most providers are focused on getting their electronic health record systems in place, and then making sure the data can be shared among systems. The next step, though, will be making sense of that data. That will mean using it in support of clinical decision making, and increasingly, combining health records with personal genetic information to personalize decisions.
UPMC is part of a $100 million, five-year effort with IBM, Oracle, Informatica and dbMotion aimed at advancing analytics' use in healthcare for personalized medicine.
UPMC's efforts don't only focus on the patient. It's also looking at analyzing doctors and understanding who gets the best results at the lowest costs. That's difficult today, says Oscar Marroquin, a practicing physician who's directing UPMC's efforts to measure physician effectiveness. If a doctor's cost or outcomes compare unfavorably, "most of us will say, 'My patients are sicker than someone else's,'" says Marroquin.