10 IT initiatives your hospital should undertake in 2012

By Michelle McNickle
10:01 AM

A new year means a fresh start, and as 2012 creeps closer, it's time to think about new IT approaches. Although the reform may mandate certain IT practices be implemented, other non-required initiatives will help to streamline workflows, save money and improve care in the new year.

Fred Pennic, senior advisor with Aspen Advisors and author of the blog Healthcare IT Consultant, suggested 10 initiatives hospitals should undertake in 2012. 

1. Meeting Stages 1 and 2 of meaningful use. According to Pennic, meaningful use compliance should be the top priority in health IT during the years to come. "More providers are currently attesting for Stage 1 meaningful use, although it is still unclear if Stage 2 will be delayed until 2014," he said. According to a study published online by Health Affairs, hospitals should be prepared for a higher standard associated with Stage 2 in order to produce improved patient outcomes; authors of the study believe Stages 2 and 3, which will require providers to use electronic orders for 60 to 80 percent of patients, will have a significant impact on both patient mortality rates and care. 

2. Health information exchange (HIE). Meaningful use and HIE go hand in hand, said Pennic. "Interoperability is key as it relates to meaningful use’s objectives of electronically exchanging clinical information and summaries of care, along with submitting lab results to public health agencies, et cetera," he said. Looking for resources or a way to network and learn what others are doing when it comes to HIE? The HIMSS HIE Toolkit and the HIMSS HIE Wiki offer insights and information regarding HIE, including important national and state level initiatives. 

[See also: Cloud computing myths vs. risks.]

3. Virtualization and cloud computing. “As healthcare organizations deal with competing priorities from HITECH/ARRA, Meaningful Use, HIPAA 5010, ICD-10, and ACA, hospitals are constantly trying to reduce costs while providing accessible health information,” said Pennic. In our round up of the 5 technologies every hospital should be using, Shahid Shah, an enterprise software analyst, agreed that virtualization and cloud computing can streamline workflows, save time, and reduce costs. “As soon as possible, make it so that no applications should be sitting in physical servers," he said. "Start to phase out those apps that cannot be virtualized. When apps are virtualized, they can easily be scaled and recovered." 

4. Disaster recovery/business continuity. Pennic said as healthcare providers begin to adopt and implement EMR systems, it's imperative to have a disaster recovery solution in place to handle potential downtime occurrences. With recent weather events impacting hospitals across the country, developing and uploading a disaster recovery plan to a web-based inventory tool is imperative and a smart way to access your plan offsite.   

5. ICD-10. According to Pennic, since providers must meet CMS regulations for the transition from ICD-9 to ICD-10, they should be performing ICD-10 assessments that provide a readiness assessment, impact assessment and implementation plan to prepare for the deadline. "Specifically, IT should focus on sending vendor surveys to all vendors that are impacted by ICD-10," he said. By doing this, hospitals are able to specifically state what their upgrade efforts are and what they aim to have in place to comply with ICD-10 regulations. “ICD-10 touches everything and impacts every point of delivery in healthcare,” Pennic added.

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6. Mobile applications. With the onslaught of mobile apps made available on the iPad, iPhone and more, Pennic said hospitals will have to support the devices used by physicians, nurses, and other clinicians. “This will present many challenges, as organizations will have to determine which devices and/or platforms are suitable for use and will be fully supported by the organization.” 

7. Business intelligence. “As hospitals deal with the increasing volume of data produced by technology, business intelligence can help increase revenue and reduce costs utilizing dashboards, analytics, et cetera,” said Pennic. Applying a business intelligence platform to a healthcare organization can also have positive impacts on quality and performance, as well as helping providers and payers determine the biggest risk areas and devise the most effective rate structures. 

[See also: ICD-10 and HITECH compliance key issues for medical billers.]

8. SSO (single sign-on). "SSO technology improves physician access times to EMRs, increases time and cost savings for clinicians and increases PHI compliance," said Pennic. In addition, the use of SSO technology can increase security measures since user credentials can't be cached by the service the user is trying to access. SSO limits the possibility of phishing, and it allows IT administrators to save time and resources by utilizing the central Web access management service. 

9. Picture archiving and communication system (PACS)/data storage. Pennic said that increasing amounts of data being stored may present data storage concerns for some hospitals. "They may not be able to handle all the increasing ‘digitization’ of documents, including medical imaging," he said. Data storage has continued to be a concern among providers, with unstructured file data growing as records become paperless. According to the article, providers should be critical of what should be saved, and they should greatly consider cloud computing to increase security by creating private clouds. 

10. Security. "All e-PHI created, received, maintained, or transmitted by an organization is subject to the HIPAA Security Rule," said Pennic. "It is also one of the core meaningful use measures for entities to conduct or review a risk analysis." Conducting an annual risk analysis to identify security risks and vulnerability is not only smart, but can also come into play if a privacy breach occurs within an organization

What initiatives are you considering for 2012? Comment below via Twitter @HITNewsTweet.