The mood at HIMSS this week was one of barely rational exuberance. America's hospitals are on a building spree, and they are putting new technology infrastructure into their new facilities. They are also in a major round of updating the software they use to run their processes. The exuberance at HIMSS came from the financial success of the major vendors of hospital IT systems like Cerner and Epic, and the significant moves made into healthcare by IT giants like IBM, GE, Philips, Siemens, Microsoft, Cisco and Intel. The concept of interoperability combined with the sprouting regional health information networks (RHIOs), and support for greater standardization and product certification from committees out of David Brailer's office, is also leading to optimism.
However, the clouds may be gathering on the horizon. With the nation's budget deficit, Medicare payments will come under increasing pressure in the future and the move to high-deductible insurance plans may threaten the ability of hospitals to make up the difference from private payers. The only place where the health system has a chance to pick up the slack is in dramatically increasing their labor efficiency and improving their care processes. That is going to be very hard work but it is, after all, why they're spending all this money on IT. In the end, continued exuberance will depend on results. - Matthew