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Agile Health IT Infrastructure Critical to Healthcare’s Future

Agile health IT infrastructure is essential to enabling healthcare organizations to respond to changes in care access and delivery.

The healthcare industry’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has made clear the need for greater agility, especially in health IT infrastructure.

Healthcare organizations in hotspot and non-hotspot areas have faced the challenge of supporting both a remote workforce and a surge in telehealth. FAIR Health, an independent nonprofit that maintains manages the largest database of privately billed health insurance claims in the US, recently reported an 8,336-percent increase nationally in telehealth claim lines from 0.15 percent in April 2019 to 13% in April 2020. That figure is nearly double the difference between March 2019 and March 2029.

In a recent panel discussion about how COVID-19 has impacted the clinical IT landscape, Pure Storage's Epic Alliance Manager Jon Kimerle emphasized that health IT infrastructure underpins the expansion of remote work and telehealth but raises financial concerns for many organizations.

According to Kimerle, a “strict hold on cash” couple with the need to expand is driving “interest in financial flexibility for infrastructure expansion that maybe historically was more capital expense and moving that more through a cloud-like consumption model.”

A silver lining of the global pandemic remains its positive impact on accelerating digital transformation in an industry that has historically lagged behind others.

“Take the remote worker use case in this pandemic response,” Kimerle observed. “Often, we don't necessarily think of digital transformation as enabling remote workers. It's usually more virtual business and telehealth, but it is very instructive of the organization's agility.”

How healthcare organizations have responded is indicative of their agility at the organization level, Kimerle added. Comparing industry leaders and laggards, agility is evidenced by the speed with which some organizations could transition to the new normal.

“In mid to late March, I was speaking with a senior VP at a Fortune 100 company. His responsibilities were around digital transformation. They were primarily an organization that worked on-premises, and there wasn't very much remote work, so they had a tremendous amount of work taking their main applications and getting them enabled in a virtual desktop environment,” Kimerle explained.

“That was a big challenge,” he continued. “It was one that they could move through, but if you can contrast that with some other organizations that already had their main applications enabled in a virtual desktop environment, they simply just scaled up the number of VDI users. The underlying symptom is agility, and the root cause of the lack of agility are environments where there's excessive complexity, silos, and a lack of automation.”

The pandemic has hit all industries hard, but healthcare is “unique” given that care delivery is at the heart of turning the tide on the novel coronavirus and that much of its existing infrastructure struggled to deliver a digital experience on par with other industries.

“We have the shared experience of going through this pandemic, and often for us, it's a world in which we are leaning much more heavily on digital experiences,” Kimerle maintained. “And during the lockdown, there's definitely more reliance on the digital interactions. From a consumer expectation perspective, healthcare's equilibrium has been punctuated, and there'll be a significantly higher degree of expectation for digital experiences.”

The challenge for healthcare organizations moving forward is balancing the need for greater agility and the scarcity of financial resources. The economic impact of lockdown measures further underscores the importance of financial flexibility to enable these organizations to implement IT infrastructure necessary to deliver impactful digital experiences to patients.

“This year's net income is next year's capital, so my sense is that the next round of investments into the technologies and the capabilities are going to have to be very focused,” Kimerle said. “Out of scarcity and the need to move, there's going to be a focus that maybe wasn't present before. Actual capital availability could be very constrained for a number of years. Along with just technology, there's going to have to be a fundamentally different business model that goes along with the one that has a lot of financial flexibility for the way it's paid for.”

Now more than ever before, healthcare organizations must choose strategic technology partners that can provide state-of-the-art IT infrastructure that makes the most of an organization’s financial resources.

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