Healthcare IT – What Areas of Spend Will Grow Throughout 2021?

By Rich Staas

Director of Client Services, NPI

March 24, 2021

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In 2019, Deloitte published a blueprint for a forthcoming transformation of the healthcare industry. In it, they claimed “health in 2040 will be a world apart from what we have now.” Little did they know that events in 2020 would drastically accelerate this transformation, accompanied by a burst of innovation in healthcare IT.

Today, experts believe the healthcare industry is well into the first stage of a two-decade overhaul. Deloitte’s experts add: “This future will likely be driven by new business models, scientific and technological breakthroughs, consumers armed with highly personalized data, and regulations that encourage change. We see this as an unstoppable transformation, meaning that it will happen regardless of policy or the actions of individual stakeholders.”

For healthcare IT procurement practitioners, that means one thing – get ready. Disruption in the healthcare industry has only just begun and it will have a material impact on IT spend. Hospitals and other care-side organizations can expect to invest more heavily in areas of healthcare IT that will expedite transformation and break down barriers to change. In this post, we highlight four areas where we’re already seeing our healthcare clients accelerate investment.

Broader Implementation of EHR to Share Patient Data

The pandemic exposed glaring gaps in the ability to share patient data digitally across healthcare providers. NPI expects to see a significant amount of investment in this arena with broader implementation of EHRs across health systems as well as a broader shift of the IT ecosystem to the cloud.

Cloud-based systems give providers the ability to access patient data from anywhere as well as the ability to coordinate care and share patient data in clinical environments that combine telehealth and on-site care. Another benefit? It can help reduce the overhead costs of managing on-premise IT infrastructure.

Telehealth and Virtual Care Services

Traditional healthcare delivery systems may have once pushed back against telehealth, but those days are far behind us. Telehealth isn’t just here to stay – it’s the new normal. Many healthcare organizations that were behind the curve made large investments in this technology at a time when they were losing a significant amount of money because of the absence of elective surgeries. Now that patients (and providers) are used to the convenience of fewer in-office appointments, there’s no turning back. Instead, healthcare organizations are looking for new ways to fully leverage the advantages of telehealth to provider better patient care and compete with new methods of healthcare delivery.

And the competition is formidable. Consumer powerhouses like Walmart, Best Buy and Amazon are all getting into the healthcare business. Sam’s Club is offering members a subscription-based healthcare service while Best Buy and Amazon are making flip phones that would help seniors connect with clinicians. Amazon is taking it a step further by expanding access to its telemedicine platform, Amazon Care. Until recently, it was only available to Amazon’s Washington-based workforce but could soon be available to its entire employee base as well as to other companies across the U.S.

Artificial Intelligence

There are few advancements in healthcare IT that have the potential to be as radically disruptive as AI. One reason is because a large portion of patient care delivered today is “highly algorithmic and predictable” as described by Deloitte. A survey conducted by Optum in 2020 showed 83 percent of healthcare organizations have an AI strategy in place and 56 percent said they were accelerating or expanding their AI deployment timelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another key finding was 59 percent of healthcare executives anticipated AI would deliver tangible cost savings within just three years (a 90 percent increase from 2018).

AI has the ability to automate healthcare workflows, simplify the communication and analysis of complex patient data, improve patient outcomes, and alleviate burdensome workloads that have come to characterize the modern patient care climate. In other words, the ROI is clear and compelling.

Data Security

Healthcare IT has long been an information security target for bad actors, and the scale and frequency of data breaches within the healthcare industry continues to grow. There were nearly 600 data breaches in the healthcare industry in 2020 – a 55 percent spike from 2019 – and the average cost per breach increased by 10 percent. A whopping 37 out of 50 states suffered more breaches year over year.

Healthcare organizations are increasing their spend on security solutions that will protect patient data – about $18 billion in spend is estimated for 2021 with a 20 percent annual increase through 2026.

Getting More Mileage From the Healthcare IT Budget

Historic disruption is reshaping the healthcare industry as well as healthcare IT budgets and spending. It’s an exciting inflection point in the industry, but there are risks on the sourcing front. Acceleration in transformation and innovation mean many healthcare IT procurement practitioners will be buying new solutions and/or working with new vendors for the first time. There are new implementation cycles, professional services requirements and internal knowledge gaps.

The risk of overspending in these areas of healthcare IT is alarmingly high. Healthcare organizations need visibility into what constitutes a fair price, what licensing/subscription choices best meet their usage requirements, and what levers are available to them during the contract negotiation process. It’s important they deploy healthcare IT purchase optimization best practices that will ensure they pay a price that’s at least at or better than market for not just purchases in these still nascent categories, but for every IT purchase. Doing so will ensure they get more mileage out of every budget dollar spent.

Interested in learning more about healthcare IT purchase optimization best practices? Let us know.

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