IT can help academic hospitals counter financial losses under reform

Healthcare reform could reduce the traditional revenue of academic medical centers (AMCs) by up to 10 percent, according to a recently published PwC report. But there are several ways in which health IT could counter that trend, the report says, many of which also are outlined in a Health Data Management slide deck.

The first thing that AMCs must recognize, according to the report, is that "the new payment models will be based on meeting quality metrics and controlling costs across the continuum of care." What that means is that academic institutions must leverage their technology to reduce costs.

Some AMCs, for example, are providing tele-ICU services to community hospitals, using their specialists to monitor the other facilities' ICUs remotely. In Worcester, Mass., the authors note, ICU monitoring at University of Massachusetts Memorial Healthcare allowed neighboring hospitals to care for 50 percent more patients in the ICU. It also reduced UMass' cost of caring for its own ICU patients by $2,600 per case because the telemonitoring was spread across additional patients. At the same time, ICU mortality dropped by 20 percent.

"Virtual home visits" via telemonitoring offer another way to control costs by helping patients manage their conditions at home. For instance, PwC says, "Wyandotte County, Kans., home to the University of Kansas Medical Center (KU), is working with Google to expand fiber optical cable network capabilities to the entire community. This new partnership will enable KU to expand the services it already provides through its Center for Telemedicine and Telehealth."

Through AMC's "touch points" with many parts of the healthcare industry, the report says, academic facilities can bring unique insights to bear on electronic health record data "to develop evidence-based practices and provide predictive analytics that bring lower costs and improved care. EHRs are just the starting point to this process--how AMCs link them and what they link them to is critical."

The report also argues that while most AMCs are investing in EHRs, many are focusing too much on using them for automation of care processes, rather than for decision support and analytics. AMCs that focus on the latter aspects of health IT will achieve superior returns in the long run, the authors maintain.

AMCs also can profit by commercializing the new technologies they develop, the report says. PwC cites Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which has made more than $20 million from an order entry system that is sold through McKesson.

To learn more:
- read the PwC report
- see the Health Data Management slide deck

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