Rapid Expansion of Healthcare IT is Impacting Health Systems, Patient Care and Investment Strategies, Say Industry Experts

In 2013, $2 billion was invested in healthcare information technology across the U.S. This drove growth of technology-enabled companies that are transforming the operations of major health systems, accelerated the adoption of electronic medical records and improved clinical and in-home care for patients. The huge uptick in interest and activity in healthcare IT is reshaping the entrepreneurial and investment landscape of the broad-based sector, said industry experts during a panel discussion on Tuesday at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium (MGCS).

“We’re seeing a shift toward accountability and collaborative care, with greater emphasis on patient outcomes,” said Dan Armijo, vice president and director of information and technology strategies at the nonprofit Altarum Institute. “There are a lot of places where collaboration can be empowered by technology.” Population health management, he added, is another target area where advanced IT solutions can help to inform technology policy, modernize public health systems, improve information flows to state systems and foster quality and safety gains for patients.

“We’ve seen a great deal of focus within our system on patient transition management, which offers opportunities for entrepreneurial companies,” remarked Kristyn Aalto, director of innovations at Henry Ford Health System. To meet this need, start-ups are developing Web-based solutions designed to manage the workflow and information sharing challenges associated with transitioning patients between care settings.

“The biggest challenge is around data sharing,” stated Saurabh Sinha, co-founder, president and CEO of emids Technologies. “It is still a big question mark. Can the business model stand? Who will pay?” While there is ample technology to enable data sharing, newer care models and changing reimbursement incentives highlight the importance of managing the care of individuals with complex health issues across multiple sites and across entire episodes of care. “It is difficult to create a longitudinal data view of a patient,” Sinha said. “That is the heart of the matter.”

The consumerization of healthcare IT, especially mobile applications, offers another viable route for entrepreneurial companies to take. Among the most promising opportunities are:

  • Telemedicine
  • Fitness mobile apps
  • Data-monitoring devices
  • Management tools for high-needs patients at home
  • Patient portals to vetted medical information

Given the sheer volume of innovation in healthcare IT, entrepreneurs need creative strategies to break through the noise and sell their products and services to healthcare institutions. The panelists who joined  Armijo at MGCS offered these tips:

  • Align your products/services with client incentives and workflow
  • Find a motivated employer to pay for your IT tool or innovation
  • Convince a clinical group to adopt your cost-saving or efficiency-improving technology and ensure the benefits accrue directly to that department
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