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Technology outlook: Three trends shaping health care IT in 2017

Morris Panner

The world of health care IT was turned on its ear when the 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law at the end of 2016. Interoperability and access, two concepts that have eluded old-school health care IT vendors, became enshrined as the cornerstone of the newest and most comprehensive health care innovation legislation to date. Although the act didn’t intend to push health care IT into the cloud age, it may very well have, as the required access and sharing will be exceedingly difficult to accomplish without an agile cloud-based system. Like the financial services industry and others before it, the cloud may become a key driver of how information can be easily shared and consumers can be empowered.

As the industry reacts to continued change surrounding federal government policy on health care into 2017, one thing is certain: value-based care is here to stay, regardless of the current political landscape. Providers, all the way from large health systems to small private practices, are embracing new technologies that empower them to be more efficient and provide better patient care, with fewer resources. These three trends will shape health IT in 2017:

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• Enterprise medical imaging eliminates the need for duplicative processing.
In the world of value-based care, enterprise image management has boiled down to one critical item: we can’t duplicate medical imaging. We must be able to share imaging readily across facilities and access priors from stored archives. Any delay in studies being available when they are needed adds enormous risk to patient care. Although this sounds fairly streamlined, it can become quite complex as hospital mergers and acquisitions are occurring at the highest rate in the U.S. since 1999. The volume of imaging data itself is also exploding as, according to AT&T’s For Health group, U.S. health care providers typically perform up to 600 million imaging procedures a year.

Across health care, information sharing and storage, including medical imaging, is becoming both a regulatory requirement and a practical one for success in the new marketplace. This is forcing us to move from the old world of siloed information systems to an interoperable framework. Many health care organizations are dominated by on-premise solutions and physical hardware that have a way of locking information inside them, like CDs and PACS. On top of that, physicians are starting to ask, “How can I tie imaging into the EHR (electronic health record) or my HIE (health information exchange)?”
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