As healthcare responds to the growing number of patient data regulatory mandates and an increasing shift towards consumerism, providers look to healthcare IT innovators like MEDHOST to provide them with solutions that maintain a long-sighted view of the trends impacting the healthcare industry.
We chatted with MEDHOST Chairman and CEO Bill Anderson to discuss some of the current healthcare industry trends he believes will most impact our customers in the coming years and what MEDHOST is doing now to meet those needs.
MEDHOST: What big healthcare industry trends is MEDHOST focusing on when guiding the development of future product offerings?
Bill: Today, we see four significant, continuing trends that we must be prepared to support for our customers. The first is continuing and potentially expanding regulation, second the increased IT complexity driven by regulation, third the continuing pressure on community hospital margins, and lastly the beginning of true consumer involvement in managing their healthcare.
MEDHOST: Describe how increased healthcare regulation is impacting providers.
Bill: Many healthcare providers believed that regulatory mandates affecting IT would decrease after the completion of Meaningful Use Stage 3. However, the impending regulations impacting the IT portions of the 21st Century Cures Act are changing that view.
The initial phase of 21st Century Cures IT requirements mandate that systems make healthcare data available to a variety of interested parties. A likely date for expected compliance with these mandates is January 2022. However, compliance will create challenges since a complete schedule of requirements is not expected before December 2019. This timeline will necessitate that systems be built and installed in 24 months, despite requiring an overall development effort comparable to MU3 investments. Two additional requirements relating to perinatal care and opioids are now optional, but history tells us that in most cases, optional requirements are ultimately mandated.
Additionally, not only is the scope of IT regulation increasing, but the pace is also accelerating. ePrescribe for Controlled Substances (EPCS) for example was mandated at the beginning of 2021. However, refusal by major pharmacy chains to accept orders without EPCS after the end of 2019 has virtually compressed the timeline to January 2020.
Regardless, MEDHOST will continue to ensure our customers are provided with the technology and support needed for the ongoing operational requirements of these mandates.
MEDHOST: How has healthcare IT’s complexity increased due to healthcare regulation?
Bill: At the inception of Meaningful Use, many community hospitals only had core clinical systems without comprehensive financial platforms. New regulations have resulted in the increased complexity of clinical applications, which created the need for additional support systems.
For example, healthcare’s evolving service breadth and complexity, as well as transaction volume, has led to a need for larger and more complex hardware and network infrastructures. Large volumes of high value information exposed to wide area networks has also made security a critical concern. Moreover, the increased dependency on IT systems has also increased the demand for effective and reliable disaster recovery solutions.
MEDHOST: What solutions does MEDHOST provide to solve for the heightened need of disaster recovery solutions?
Bill: Growth in market complexity has strained the capacity of many facilities, making it challenging to keep pace with increased hardware requirements. Additionally, many healthcare providers are finding it difficult to recruit skilled IT staff and the hiring costs can be taxing.
MEDHOST has been investing in its EHR hosting service for more than a decade. We also continue to invest in expanding services like disaster recovery. During this time, we have seen a shift from customers generally hosting systems on-premise to wide adoption of our hosted solution.
We are now introducing services to support customers who continue to prefer on-premise hosting. These services include managing upgrades, and monitoring hardware, application, and network performance. We also provide other services like Emergency Department configurations, updates, and desktop support. Our goal is to make utilization of MEDHOST products easy at every setting in the healthcare industry.
MEDHOST: With all the new complexities you’ve covered, what is being done to ensure that MEDHOST customers are able to keep up with the fast-pace changes of the 2020 Healthcare Trends Forecast?
Bill: One of our top goals is making sure our products are easy to use and have measurable effectiveness. End-user training is a major component of that.
Our software is highly configurable and designed to accommodate modern healthcare’s diverse workflows. Today, this customized approach may become more difficult as we face increasingly complex applications and healthcare staff turnover. With those challenges mind, we’ve come up with what I like to call a “best practices” approach to implementation.
Best practices mean MEDHOST systems will be configured to closely follow the workflows assumed in our application designs. The uniformity of these implementations will allow us to offer role-based, on-line education to the most critical users. This offering is designed to coincide with a facility’s new employee on-boarding so those team members can start off with the best training possible.
MEDHOST: You mentioned continuing pressure on community hospital margins. What is MEDHOST doing to help its customers with this problem?
Bill: It’s a problem that has many causes and MEDHOST can help in a variety of ways. Our products are right up there with best of breed critical components like patient accounting and emergency department systems. However, we can deliver a significantly lower total cost of ownership for those tools. We do this by focusing our efforts on the areas of our enterprise program that have the highest value for our customers. A good example is YourCare ContinuumTM.
Acquiring clinical practices is a survival strategy for many facilities and these new practices are likely to have diverse IT platforms that are expensive to replace. Replacement might also cause unnecessary disruptions in various parts of the facility and needlessly have a negative impact on physician satisfaction. YourCare Continuum seeks to provide integration and single product functionality across a variety of products, thereby preserving our customers’ existing IT investments. Some of the benefits include:
Our outsourced services are also allowing our customers to realize some of the benefits of the economies of scale enjoyed by multiple facility entities. Specifically, in rural community hospitals it can be very difficult to find trained revenue cycle management professionals. In addition to that challenge there is a high amount of turnover in that area of healthcare operations. With outsourced business office services, we are able to provide our customers with direct access to specialists experienced in every component of revenue cycle management.
A good example would be working with a specific claims expert, or someone who knows how to maintain contracts that cross multiple facilities. In every case, the core focus is to make certain our customers are getting paid what they are fairly owed year after year, without wasting internal resources.
MEDHOST: What signs do you see pointing to the accelerated healthcare consumerism or involvement in managing their own healthcare?
Bill: Prior generations’ healthcare was managed by their primary care physician and their affiliated inpatient facility. Today’s generations are influenced by changing healthcare economics and growing personal service preferences. They seek care from broader service offerings such as urgent care facilities, in-store clinics, and telemedicine. Most will not look to a primary care physician to manage their healthcare so they must manage that care themselves.
As with many of their activities, this new brand of patient will turn to their smartphone for guidance. Those who choose to rely on a device for healthcare guidance will expect the same level of quality and functionality in a healthcare app that they experience in their other apps. Historically, healthcare has generally opposed information sharing with the patient or highly functional apps. With Apple and Google entering into the healthcare information market, combined with regulations opening up data sharing, we expect to see less barriers and increased participation.
For years MEDHOST has offered both highly functional iOS and Android apps as well as other ways to consolidate patient records across providers through the YourCare® product line. This collection of services allows patients to get the functionality they expect from a healthcare application while helping providers keep patients in the facility’s ecosystem.
Technology has always been a great catalyst for change. In the past decade, advancements in information technologies have changed how patients want to interact with their data. These innovations in technology have also vastly impacted the way we live and how we choose to take care of ourselves.
In the next year, and those to come, healthcare information technology will continue to play a larger role in not only raising the bar for industry standards, but in improving the day-to-day life of the patient-consumer. At all times, and even more so when regulations and market trends call for innovation and adaptation, adherence to a policy of proactivity will continue to help MEDHOST meet the needs of both our customers and their patients.