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What should be on an enlightened healthcare CIO or for that matter, CEOs agenda?


Last week, I got to hear Robert M. Wah—the immediate past chair of the American Medical Association (AMA) Board of Trustees—speak at UC Irvine’s forum, Idea Exchange in Digital Healthcare. Wah elucidated on the technology and business issues for healthcare in his presentation, “The 3rd Wave in Health IT: Big Data Analytics, Cloud and Cybersecurity.” I found it enlightening, as Wah said that healthcare is moving from the digitization of electronic records to even more sophisticated analysis—he called what they want to do “population analysis and decision support.” As leaders, he said, “We need today better information for better decisions—the right information at the right time.”

Technology and business issues in healthcare today center around cloud computing, security, and big data, according to Wah.





Wah explained that the driver for all of this is mobile devices, as they are increasingly becoming windows into the computing environment. The proof point of this change is the UK’s National Health Service. The NHS’s PocketHealth app is the number two app in the European Apple Store. Amazing! It makes medical information portable and enables users to find services and investigate illnesses. Even more amazing is if you think of smart sensors—did you know your iPhone can measure a pulse or even an EKG? I didn’t. Wah says that using mobile devices as smart, possibly continuous sensors will change healthcare forever.


The CIO’s problem: Users want to choose the device they use to interface with healthcare, but healthcare IT organizations need predictability with respect to network access. Wah says security is a critical issue, and that means protecting data, controlling access, and enforcing policies. The thing that makes this difficult is that healthcare is a prime target for thieves and, subsequently, regulators.


“We need to face the fact that we are a huge target of identity thieves,” Wah warns. The impact of stolen healthcare records can be more devastating than having one’s financial information end up in the wrong hands. A privacy breach of one’s health information can last forever—imagine it being announced that you have HIV or cancer. Knowledge of your preexisting conditions will never go away. According to statistics provided by Wah, 71 percent of hospitals had a breach last year, at a collective cost of $4.2 billion to $8.1 billion.


Yet we want our information available to our doctors, so the next challenge for healthcare CEOs and CIOs is big data. “We need to be good data stewards,” Wah says. Healthcare IT needs to put together information and discover the relationships between the data. “We are finding amazing relationships in initial looks at the data already,” Wah says. For example, credits scores relate to whether people will take their medicines, and pain scores relate to patients crashing. In contrast to the past, the data suggests the hypothesis. In other words, going forward there will be less determinism than analysis. And what is driving this, Wah says, is that it simply serves patients better.


Finally, secure cloud computing is seen as a way for healthcare organizations to take real cost out and apply it to their big data problem. At smaller organizations, the cost of maintaining datacenters is huge. Having the ability to mix resources and move to public cloud is seen as saving resources while acquiring the world-class expertise that many healthcare organizations lack.


Solution page: IT Performance Management

Twitter: @MylesSuer

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About the Author


Mr. Suer is a senior manager for IT Performance Management. Prior to this role, Mr. Suer headed IT Performance Management Analytics Product Management including IT Financial Management and Executive Scorecard.

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