Healthcare IT Study and StradleyScape

Healthcare It:

Improving Quality of Care through Connectivity, Coordination & Engagement

           Healthcare information technology is the development, use and maintenance of specialized information systems that improve healthcare by increasing effectiveness, lowering costs, and creating connectivity between different stakeholders in the healthcare industry.

           Healthcare IT and many healthcare systems already are taking patient care to the next level.  For example, patients now have the option to self-check-in to hospital appointments by using a touch-screen kiosk.  Not only does this save the patient time, but also helps the care team by giving them instant access to patient-entered information they can use to better address the patient’s needs.  In addition to the health system level, technological advancements have also been made at the patient level. Individuals can now use various apps to monitor their health; interact with their care team; set reminders to take medications; measure their blood pressure, glucose level and heart rate; instantly access their medical records; and much more.

The Philadelphia region has more than its share of healthcare IT companies.  Generally, there are five broad categories of healthcare IT: (1) electronic medical records (EMRs);  (2) clinical care solutions; (3) personal health;  (4) claims management; and (5) IT infrastructure.  The StradleyScape© (version 2)[1] shows, by category, 92 companies that are operating within the region, demonstrating the robust nature and potential of the healthcare IT market.  For purposes of this article, we will focus on EMRs and clinical care solutions.

             A major trend involving EMR usage is increasing two-way connectivity between the EMR systems of hospitals (i.e., providers) and those of non-hospital-based doctors and labs.  Although many doctors’ offices already use specialized EMRs, many of them do not readily interface with hospital-based EMRs.  Thus, a major challenge in increasing efficiency is to integrate and connect the various systems.  An integrated system will work to connect and inform a patient’s care team and thereby improve the patient’s quality of care.

EMRs are increasing the ability of patients and caregivers to access records through various applications (i.e., mobile apps) from anywhere at any time.  Prior to these technological improvements, it could take up to several days to transfer a patient’s medical files, but now nearly everything can be done instantaneously.  As data is becoming more accessible and useable, the use of analytics by hospitals will be increasing, as will the use of data in clinical care systems (i.e., for chronic care management).  For these reasons, the need to develop a completely integrated system of health information exchanges is becoming more critical.

The 30-day readmission rule and recent movement towards accountable care is resulting in hospitals becoming risk-bearing entities.  We expect that this will drive hospitals and accountable care organizations to adapt by developing plans to effectively manage the associated risks and implement patient care, chronic care management and readmission reduction solutions.

            Another hot area of healthcare IT is patient compliance and patient adherence, the goal of which is to engage the patient through technology to follow his/her personal health regimen, such as an exercise program or taking prescribed medications.  We expect that pharmaceutical companies will see value in medication adherence programs and, in turn, will help support their further development and implementation.

One challenge to patient-centric healthcare IT solutions will be to encourage patients who are less tech-savvy to want to learn more about and become users of the many health management applications. Fostering confidence in the use of electronic databases is a vital step in increasing implementation of such systems and their further development.  Patients will be more willing to use technology systems as part of their everyday routines once they see the added value. Another challenge is to manage the inevitable concerns about data security and malfunctions in software.  Since it is impossible to eliminate risks of technological errors, it is important to establish adequate back-up systems and procedures for effectively and efficiently responding to these kinds of issues and preventing any future occurrences.

           As new systems and solutions are implemented, and technology continues to develop, the healthcare industry will continue to see increases in efficiency, effectiveness and the quality of care.  Hospitals that have already addressed connectivity issues likely will be early adopters of other solutions, while others will continue to focus on connectivity, and over the course of the next several years they will come together to expand the development and use of other healthcare IT solutions.

StradleyScape

[1]       The StradleyScape (version 2) is available at http://www.stradley.com/library/files/stradleyscape-final.pdf.

Stradley Ronon Team

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Dean Schwartz

Dean Schwartz is a partner in Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young’s Philadelphia office and co-chair of the firm’s healthcare IT practice group. He has more than three decades of experience structuring and closing important business transactions for his clients, which range from well-established businesses to emerging companies. He is also chair of the firm’s Emerging Business practice group and a member of the firm’s Life Sciences practice group. He can be reached at 215-564-8078 or dschwartz@stradley.com.

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Julia Rafferty

Julia Rafferty is counsel in the firm’s Philadelphia office and co-chair of the firm’s healthcare IT practice group.  She is also a member of the firm’s Emerging Business and Life Sciences practice groups and has significant experience representing life sciences companies in product liability cases and medical device trials. Julia can be reached at 215-564-8095 or jrafferty@stradley.com.

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Samantha Kats

Samantha Kats is an associate in the firm’s Malvern, Pennsylvania, office where she is a member of the firm’s life sciences and healthcare IT practice group. She focuses her practice on general litigation and represents clients in conferences, hearings, arbitrations, mediations and researching efforts. She can be reached at 484-323-1354 or skats@stradley.com.


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