For healthcare tech purchases, focus on value

In the shift toward value-based care, savvy chief information officers will focus on buying effective services, not mega-expensive hardware, according to Dick Escue, CIO of Valley View Hospital in Colorado.

He argues that investing in "big iron" IT systems can be crippling for healthcare organizations without ever producing a measurable return on investment. Those systems add on fixed costs, such as maintenance and operating costs, hardware upgrades and personnel, he writes at Becker's Health IT & CIO Review.

Meanwhile, lighter-weight cloud services can bend the cost curve by providing tangible value, such as better-coordinated care, higher reimbursements and fewer days in accounts receivable.

"IT shouldn't be synonymous with the department you lead to keep your tech running. Instead of purchasing tools, let's start purchasing IT for growth and productivity, and pay for it accordingly," Escue writes.

He also urges CIOs to take a page from the consumer IT handbook and insist upon effective consumer-driven tools. Focusing on patient experience--with secure email and text, population health reminders, online scheduling and bill pay--and high-functioning EHRs for providers can prevent out-of-network migration.

And vendors should be forced to earn your loyalty, he says. Rather than IT being the major cost center of the past, "buy services, and do it from a vendor competing on value. Save your organization millions of dollars and begin making IT a strategy for growth," Escue says.

The market for cloud services in healthcare is expected to hit $3.5 billion in 2020, Frost & Sullivan reported recently. The report pointed to the cloud's big advantages as operational efficiency, lower upfront costs, access to on-demand capacity and quick deployment.

However, concerns about security and privacy remain among the factors limiting adoption. Healthcare organizations in particular are worried about the insider threat posed by employees of downstream vendors.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General has said one of its priorities for 2015 will be ensuring that "downstream service providers" are adequately securing protected health information.

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