June 1, 2010
If health IT is to meet the challenges of a reformed healthcare system, the industry needs greater investment in health IT innovation, more integrated systems, and a focus on finding ways to enable patients to better manage their health, a Hewlett Packard executive says.
In an interview with InformationWeek, Harry Kim, HP's director of enterprise business healthcare, argued that the United States is not driving the level of innovation needed to meet the new healthcare realities.
"We have the best medical technology, but our information technology to bring it all together is lacking investments. It lacks the structure inside the country to drive progress," Kim said.
According to Kim, the healthcare industry currently invests more in medical technology than health IT, and the imbalance is having an impact on vendors' approach to providing solutions in healthcare.
"When you compare IT investments with medical technology investments, IT always loses and what wins is medical technology investments in, for example, the latest MRI, CT scan, or mammogram equipment. With this medical technology you are essentially building expensive islands of information," Kim said. "The lack of investment around information technology to bridge those disparate information sets together, that's where the lack in investments has been," Kim explains.
Kim's observations are supported by a recent Dow Jones VentureSource report that revealed that venture capital investments in the medical software and information services segment dropped from 17 deals totaling $69 million in the first quarter of 2009 to eight deals totaling $53 million during the corresponding period in 2010, a 77% decline.
This lackluster investment climate occurred during a recession, but also at a time when the government signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which authorized $19 billion to assist in the development of a robust health IT infrastructure.
HP is closely working with federal and state authorities as the ongoing push to revamp health IT continues. For example, HP handles 35% of all Medicare and Medicaid claims in the United States and each year performs 2.4 billion healthcare transactions, including 1 billion healthcare claims. HP's work with healthcare providers, hospitals, home health providers, and insurance companies, both in the United States and abroad, has given Kim greater insight and a sense that healthcare technology won't provide a quick fix.
"Right now we need to simplify the technology experience in healthcare. It's too complicated. We have too many point solutions, too many vendors, too many competing point products, and none of this stuff can get integrated together," Kim said.
He noted that HP will bring its handheld devices, laptops, storage, and other technology together as it provides solutions that capture information at the point of care and store patient information which can be retrieved when needed.
"We want to have a converged infrastructure and data center in the background where we are managing, integrating, and archiving all of this information in the back office system," Kim said. "Eventually, we need to express this information back into the workflow. We have to simplify how information is captured, managed, shared, and turned into intelligence," Kim added.
According to Kim, while technology is important, its main purpose is to support a person's wellness, which encompasses four factors: healthcare, the genes we are born with, the environment in which we live, and the lifestyle we lead. Kim said these trends indicate that healthcare needs to be much more personal, and those offering technology solutions should focus their attention on providing individuals with data that helps them make informed decisions about their health.
"I think this word 'patient' will probably change over time in the healthcare context. I think patients will just be viewed as consumers," Kim said. "Going forward we need to empower individuals to manage their own health, we need to understand our own personal genetic profiles and the decisions we make daily to get the best care for our health needs," Kim added.
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