IT as a Service to Bring Savings to Health Care IT: Report

IT-as-a-service platforms will help support the expansion of accountable care organizations, a MeriTalk/EMC report found.

IT as a service (ITaaS) will bring cost savings to the health care IT industry, according to a report by MeriTalk, a public/private partnership and an online community for government IT.

ITaaS, a combination of software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure as a service, can save health care organizations $11 billion, or 9 percent, of their costs over the next three years, revealed the June 24 report, "Health Check: Healthcare CIOs Prescribe Change," underwritten by storage and cloud infrastructure provider EMC.

For its survey, MeriTalk interviewed 109 members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) from April to June 2013.

ITaaS provides an opportunity for the health care industry to reduce operational costs and restructure costs from capital to operational, David Dimond, health care solutions chief strategist for EMC, told eWEEK.

In fact, health care IT executives indicated that as much as 47 percent of their current portfolio could be delivered through ITaaS, using private, hybrid and public clouds, the report stated.

"ITaaS results to date show enormous potential," Steve O'Keeffe, founder of MeriTalk, said in a statement. "This is a crucial step if we want to revitalize our U.S. health care system."

The move in health care from a fee-for-service model to doctors being accountable for patient outcomes under the Affordable Care Act is a "business model shift" that provides an opportunity for IT as a service, according to Dimond.

Of the health care executives MeriTalk interviewed, 17 percent reported an affiliation with an accountable care organization (ACO) and 37 percent plan to join one within three years. Because many health care organizations will become affiliated with other providers in ACOs, their IT departments will have a shorter planning horizon and will need to change their IT structure over the next couple of years, he said.

"Health care companies need to start consuming things as a service," Dimond said.

In addition to ITaaS, the MeriTalk survey looked at the views of health care companies on IT innovation. Of the CHIME members interviewed for the survey, 90 percent said health care IT innovation was essential to their organization's success.

Health care executives rated themselves on average a B- on readiness to innovate, Dimond said.

CHIME members' lack of innovation-readiness was due to an inability to get qualified staff, with 52 percent of respondents unable to hire the IT staff they need.

Health care IT suffers from a lack of training on electronic health record (EHR) implementation, a March 5 survey by HIMSS Analytics and TEKsystems found.

"Demand from large projects like EHR, accountable care, unified security and end user BYOD [bring your own device] are requiring IT to be responsive and to be able to innovate," Dimond said.

Although only 22 percent of the health IT executives in the MeriTalk survey said their current IT infrastructure provided the ability for their organizations to innovate, 99 percent of them do plan to upgrade their IT infrastructure. Of the CHIME members surveyed, 87 percent are deploying virtualization platforms, 73 percent are streamlining their IT operations and 48 percent are centralizing their IT management structures.