Contractors Play Role in Integrating Healthcare IT as Budget Swells; Susan Penfield Comments

Photo: cahps.ahrq.gov

A recent Wall Street Journal report found that as the healthcare industry evolves amidst new pressures, traditional roles provided by care providers, insurers and other industry participants are beginning to overlap and blur.

Anna Mathews writes that while Americans are demanding better care, the recent economic downturn has accelerated providers’ need to be efficient and cut costs.

And if the Supreme Court deems the Obama administration’s overhaul of federal healthcare to be constitutional, new laws will require many more people to receive health coverage.

Some hospitals have responded by merging to build up doctor work forces. Others are acting more like insurers by pursuing more direct relationships with employers and cutting out the “health-plan middleman.”

The Journal reports there has been a tremendous amount of recent healthcare-related acquisitions and takeovers.

For their part, insurers are purchasing more healthcare providers and trying to share health coverage risks with providers through new cooperative deals and payment agreements.

“We’re seeing a marketplace reacting to an economic imperative,” Michael Leavitt, a former Health and Human Services secretary, told the Journal. “The new delivery models are far more integrated.”

Government contractors are playing an important role in the transformation. Susan Penfield, senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, told ExecutiveBiz that “the next evolution is in analytics and aggregation of data. We need data from all aspects of the patient’s life.”

MicrosoftHarris Corp., subsidiaries of Computer Sciences Corp. and CGI Federal have all recently won contracts to create integrated portals that can aggregate large amounts of health-related data.

Accenture and AT&T recently launched a medical imaging solution for radiologists and healthcare professionals that aims to allow physicians to access medical images anywhere via cloud computing.

Susan Penfield of Booz Allen Hamilton

Booz Allen recently won a contract to improve enterprise system support processes, including for the vaccine supply chain, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Journal says that as providers and government look to lower the cost of providing and purchasing healthcare, there could be a movement toward a preventative focus.

“The budget dollars are there in the way of health reform,” Penfield said. A Deltek research study found that federal spending on health IT will reach $6.5 billion by 2016.

“Agencies are being forced to spend money to save money in the long run by investing in electronic health records systems, IT infrastructure modernization for health-related agencies, payment system transformation and IT to promote advancement in population health,” Deltek’s senior principal analyst Lauren Jones said in a news release.

“This creates a large opportunity for vendors,” she added.

In light of collaboration movements, Penfield says that “collaboration is essential as it creates standards” and that all “want increased information flow.”

In September, General Dynamics paid $960 million cash for electronic health records and data analytics firm Vangent IncLockheed Martin also picked up a health IT firm that month, closing its purchase of QTC Holdings, the largest provider of outsourced medical evaluation services for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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