Healthcare IT's future: New data, tests, and relationships

Healthcare IT's future: New data, tests, and relationships

Bill Fandrich, CIO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, discusses where healthcare IT is heading

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November 16, 2017

Many emerging technologies, such as IoT and analytics, have the potential to disrupt or reshape healthcare as we know it. But which will have the biggest impact? And what do CIOs need to do now to prepare for healthcare IT’s future?

With more than 20 years’ experience in healthcare and insurance IT, Bill Fandrich, senior vice president and CIO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan, has seen many changes in healthcare technology. In an interview with The Enterprisers Project, he shares his insights on what's coming next, for IT leaders and healthcare consumers.

CIO_Q and A

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): There are many claims about technologies that will disrupt or reshape healthcare as we know it. Which do you think will have the biggest impact?

Fandrich: There are many advances in technology that will dramatically change the healthcare industry, but I anticipate the biggest impact will be made by advances in the care delivery system – where, when, and how patients interact with their care providers. A good example of this is the expansion of access to patient care such as telemedicine which can provide virtual, face-to-face doctor consultations.

[ See our related article, Healthcare CIO’s career advice: Be a student for life. ]

In the foreseeable future, it’s also likely that many of the basic tests used to monitor patient care and diagnose health issues will be available in the retail market. Those tests will come with the capability to send personalized information to an individual’s doctor. This kind of development could pose dramatic changes to the patient-doctor relationship and affect dependence on the traditional doctor appointment.

Another important trend is that new technologies are making it easier for more and more healthcare providers and medical organizations to digitize patient records and house them on the cloud. This will eventually eliminate the need for companies to control and own both their technology assets on site, as well as the physical environments to support them.

TEP: Are there technologies that have been over-hyped and won't be as valuable in health care as predicted?

Fandrich: I believe virtually all technologies are over-hyped, and that’s not a criticism: That is the nature of the industry and also what drives it. The issue is not whether the technology is of value but where is it of value? How do you best apply it and how do you drive value? Often, there is a belief that technology alone will drive the value. In healthcare that is certainly not the case. There are more technology companies that have failed in healthcare than any other industry – not because their technology was not good technology, but because they failed to make it adaptable.

TEP: Are there potentially beneficial technologies in healthcare that organizations are being too slow to adopt?

“Organizations are too slow to figure out how to put the insights they produce back to work for the business”

Fandrich: Across the board, healthcare organizations are investing more and more in analytics and informatics, creating an ever-growing gold mine of data. The problem, from my perspective, is not that such technologies are being adopted too slowly in our industry, but rather that organizations are too slow to figure out how to put the insights they produce back to work for the business.

The biggest mistake I see healthcare CIOs make is that they don’t adequately understand the necessary business changes that must go hand-in-hand with new technology changes. Having a deep understanding of healthcare business is essential to creating the rules, data, and processes that make up our systems. A great deal of healthcare business knowledge goes into making sure our day-to-day operations are efficient and effective. Because of this, it’s virtually impossible to make changes to these systems without first fully understanding how those changes will affect overall operations.

TEP: What should CIOs be doing right now to prepare for the future of healthcare IT?

Fandrich: Most new technologies come via small-company disruptors. Understanding how these technologies fit into the new end-to-end solution set is critical. A CIO’s biggest focus should be on understanding how the core business needs to change and evolve, and how they can leverage technology to enable a changing business model.

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Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for Inc.com. She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington. Find her at www.mindazetlin.com.  

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