I hope you were as interested as I was in the whys and wherefores of the dominance of the United States in the healthcare IT market; I wanted to hear more — and now you will, too. I spoke with Andy Flanagan, a Senior Vice President at Siemens charged with growing the healthcare IT business in America and a refreshingly candid fellow. He was hanging out at the busy Siemens booth at HIMSS14 here in Orlando.
“We’re in a unique situation,” he began. “Our healthcare costs per capita are essentially double that of any other average country. Everyone is trying to reduce costs and still have a positive outcome. We have huge inefficiencies; 30 percent of what is spent on healthcare is waste.”
Flanagan said our reliance on healthcare IT is being driven by the consumer and the patient, as in other industries. “IT is a defense mechanism for the delivery model to get more efficient,” he continued. “Hospitals aren’t implementing IT just to reduce costs. They are doing it because of external pressure to serve the patient better, to retain the patient and to survive as a delivery system. Cost is a byproduct of achieving better outcomes. The goal is excellence.”
So, whither the IT market? “It’s going to continue to grow,” said Flanagan. “Most processes in hospitals, in ambulatory settings remain paper-based. IT expansion will continue for another decade.” Some of the technology will be disruptive, he said, radically altering the status quo. “It’s the merging of technology, one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy, with healthcare representing 17 percent of our GDP. You put those two together and the healthcare IT market is going to be a focal point for 10 years.”
As for where IT innovation will take us, Flanagan said “you’re going to see hospitals communicate seamlessly. You’re going to see your smart phone, your smart watch serve data and receive data in a highly personalized fashion. The patient will become effectively the center of the IT world.
“We’re going to see IT become self-aware,” he said, eerily echoing the evolution of the HAL computer in the classic 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. “In fact, we’re already doing it with Fitbit. Permission-based awareness will continue.”
Flanagan said the crowds around the Siemens booth testified to the fact that his customers know this is coming. He has a 15-year history at HIMSS and I asked him when things tipped for IT. “When doctors started valuing technology beyond the machine — in some cases, when it revolved around billing and getting paid faster — that probably was the beginning,” Flanagan said.
Set your smart watch — time to embrace healthcare IT.
(health IT / shutterstock)