The healthcare technology space is constantly impacted by regulatory change (e.g., Meaningful Use, HIE, ACO, HIPAA and P4P requirements), evolving healthcare standards (e.g., HL7, ICD-10, XDS/XDSi), and innovations in technology (e.g. HTML5, MVC 4.0, healthcare mobile app development, cloud computing, etc). Healthcare organizations are under constant pressure to improve quality of care while also reducing costs.Given the complex IT systems in hospitals and other provider settings, this is easier said than done.The healthcare IT ecosystem often involves hundreds of speciality areas, thousands of disparate systems, and varying types of healthcare data structures and formats.New application vendors need to invest significant effort and cost in integrating their applications with other applications in a hospital -healthcare application development (EMR, PHR, lab, point-of-care systems), medical imaging (RIS, PACS), financial (RCM, claims, collections, denials) and other departmental applications. They need to worry about how they can connect and share information with HIEs, ACOs and other healthcare organizations, (including clinicians, primary care physicians, labs, acute care facilities, physician practices, hospitals, PCMHs). This means creating multiple standards based connections with a large variety of external systems, such as EHRs, lab systems, PHR systems, drug data, RIS/PACS, RCM, HIE platforms. They would then need to support this entire complex set of applications and connections effectively across thousands of such installations across the healthcare ecosystem.The key to addressing this level of complexity often lies in getting the right technology partner on board! While most technology solution providers claim to have some capabilities in healthcare applications, companies should be careful in their choice of partner. Some key questions that need to be asked are:
What is the technology partner's knowledge of healthcare workflows - does the solution provider have extensive exposure to real deployments and use cases around emerging trends like healthcare mobile app development, cloud computing and big data analytics?
Does the partner have strong healthcare application development expertise across a wide range of clinical, imaging, financial and operational applications, since most solutions would involve dealing with multiple types of applications?
With interoperability and integration (both internal and external) being a critical component, does the partner have a deep understanding of healthcare interoperability standards (HL7, DICOM, XDS, SNOMED, and LOINC)? Also, does the partner have real experience with integration technologies and platforms (e.g., Cloverleaf, Ensemble, Rhapsody, etc.)?
Considering the strong data privacy needs with respect to healthcare information, mandatedby HIPAA, does the partner really understand what it takes to ensure data security and privacy, including protection of Personal Health Information (PHI) across distributed networks?
A key success factor in successful healthcare application development is the creation of long-term partnerships that allow technology partners to invest significant time and effort in understanding the underlying applications, their end users and the unique challenges that any organization faces. Given the complexity, healthcare application development cannot be a short term engagement, and requires strong commitment and a long-term view from all stakeholders involved.