For HIT execs, improving value is the bottom line

In interviews this week with members of FierceHealthIT's Editorial Advisory Board--which is comprised of hospital IT executives and other industry leaders--about their goals and subsequent challenges for the coming year, I received an array of feedback.

Some spoke of the need to bolster cybersecurity, both at their individual institutions and throughout the nation. Others talked about fine-tuning the use of business intelligence and analytics tools to ensure the right people are focused on the right issues at the right time. Still others discussed the importance of the Internet of Things to the industry, and how increased patient participation, particularly via new devices, is altering the healthcare landscape.

Amid all of these points, however, one overarching driver was clear: improving value to consumers.

"Personally, I would like to become more connected to, and educated about, the drive to consumerization and understand how technology can enable hospitals to best meet consumer needs and expectations," Indranil Ganguly, vice president and CIO at JFK Health System in Edison, New Jersey, told FierceHealthIT.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, of course, continues to put an increased emphasis on rewarding providers for boosting outcomes; this time last year, the agency announced that it would tie 30 percent of all fee-for-service payments to providers to quality initiatives through alternative payment models--particularly accountable care organizations and bundled payments--by 2016, and that by 2018, that figure would rise to 50 percent.

Appropriate use of technology, in particular electronic health records and telemedicine, will be an integral part of achieving these goals.

But improving value is much more than ensuring reimbursement dollars will continue to flow.

Winning and keeping consumer trust, for instance, must not be overlooked in terms of its value-add to a provider organization (as well as to payers and hardware and software vendors). To that end, the aforementioned need to be proactive when it comes to cybersecurity will be invaluable.

Additionally, the use of personal trackers and apps by provider organizations is hardly a mature and ubiquitous process in the industry. According to a recent Accenture report, healthcare providers with apps are failing to engage consumers through mobile means for two reasons: poor user experience and poor functionality. The report also finds that 7 percent of patients have switched healthcare providers due to poor customer experience, which could translate to a loss of more than $100 million in annual revenue per hospital.

Those figures, however, don't mean that hospitals should cease use of mobile tools; working to improve usability should be a priority, even if the reimbursement picture is currently hazy, as it would show consumers a commitment to trying to meet their evolving demands.

"If activity trackers and smartphone apps can be the 'sticky' point of contact between the healthcare system and the individual, the system needs to learn how to use that point of contact most effectively," David Harlow, a health attorney based in Boston, told FierceHealthIT.

Consumerization of healthcare is a fact of life, as Joseph Kvedar, vice president of connected health at Boston-based Partners HealthCare, told FierceHealthIT. Success, for many institutions, could boil down to who embraces that reality. - Dan (@Dan_Bowman and @FierceHealthIT)