February 24, 2011

HIMSS 2011 A Journey To The ACO Cloud? by Jim Bloedau of Information Advantage Group

EMC Booth
Judging by the signage and conversations on the exhibit floor with healthcare strategists, vendors and business leaders at the 2011 HIMSS conference this week, it’s clear that providers are responding strongly and at various stages of success in securing reform and meaningful use stimulus incentives from their EMR, CPOE and HIE efforts.

On the systems side:  What was also clear was that these new challenges were
driving major enterprise IT vendor’s and consulting group’s responses.  HP’s Digital Health, Oracle’s awesome  HIE offering, Dell’s strong Healthcare program and even SAP showing a remote monitoring collaborative eCare product shows that the market continues to heat up under reform.

On the services side: New challenges for providers to plan for enhancement of their technology capabilities has refueled the management and business consulting services market benefiting majors like Ernst & Young, CSC, Delotte and PWC.  Much of this attention can be attributed to hospital and physician groups consolidating to offer a “point of buying concentration” that has enough girth to attract the large IT vendors.

The more interesting booth chatter was forward thinking and centered on post meaningful use and growing reform efforts around accountable care (ACO) and medical home models. A key tenet of the rapidly heating ACO model is that the patient, family caregivers, home health and non-professional companion/domestic services participate more in the care model. Correspondingly, emerging value-based physician reimbursement models will cause them to become more patient-facing for lifetime care rather than hospital-facing for episodic care. Despite lots of talk, there were few viable applications that were ACO and medical home focused that would offer branded private clouds to them with integration possibilities to licensed and non-licensed caregiver entities.  What was also missing was some kind of ground swell for mobile healthcare that supports all the hype about it for the last couple of years.

The major problem is chronic for healthcare - there’s no money in reform legislation for the development of ACO infrastructure.  If an ACO has enough financial girth, like a large hospital/physician group with rudimentary infrastructure in place already and the right zip code, then they will fair better than a smaller semi-rural ACO that has little money for development.

A harbinger of how this problem will be solved was the high interest shown to “the cloud as a service” - mantras that were popular for storage systems (EMC) on the exhibit floor.  We’re seeing many new cloud entrants every day outside of healthcare…we can only imagine how many cloud start ups are in stealth for healthcare.

Although Meaningful Use reigns king with buyers, reimbursement models promise that we can expect to see many marriages between ACO, medical home and mobile tech being administered by the cloud next year in Las Vegas as the ACO2C market begins to coalesce needed utilities and heats up.

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