We all know people who have never waited in a teller line to cash a check. In the now unlikely event that systems fail, it would be a new experience for many to actually go to a teller to conduct a transaction with a bank.
Patients still get diagnosed and treated with or without electronic health records (EHRs), health information exchanges (HIEs), or any of the panoply of IT-based tools used by clinicians and their organizations. Goose quills wielded by the credentialed are the universal backup plan in healthcare. IT has thus far not been mission-critical the way it is now for other industries. We find this somewhat surprising as healthcare is such a knowledge intensive industry. Logic and reason would argue for wide-spread adoption and use of IT, but such has not been the case, that is until recently.
Inexorably, the healthcare industry is undergoing massive transformation and IT is seen as playing an absolutely pivotal role in the future effective and efficient delivery of healthcare. Among the multitude of IT vendors targeting healthcare, HIE vendors are pushing hard to make IT truly mission-critical.
We saw this trend coming several years ago when we initially launched our unparalleled, in-depth research on the HIE market, which continues with the release of the 2013 HIE Market Trends Report next week. In the last several years, HIE developers’ brainpower, as well as that of their customers, has focused on getting existing installations to function at adequate levels. in the last year or so, vendors have zeroed in on improving deployment timeframes to decrease time to value. While this is a laudable goal, its end result has been an actual decline in innovation in the HIE market – a key finding in our 2013 HIE report. It shows that 2012 was most notable for a pause in innovation, even among the strongest vendors.
Future of HIE Hinges on Reimbursement, Which Remains Uncertain
The healthcare market is shifting faster than HIE vendors, partially because two things are happening at once. Stage 2 meaningful use will go into effect in 2014, causing (healthcare organizations) HCOs to seek interoperability solutions in large numbers. An even more significant driver for interoperability solutions is the ongoing conversion to value-based reimbursement across the healthcare sector. This transformation, with its ever-mutating timetable, radiates uncertainty.
For example, in December, one HIE vendor executive told us he believed the strategic imperative for larger HCOs to connect to their affiliates had been overstated. He and his colleagues saw the shift to value-based care as a process that would unfold over many years and the company planned to help its customers connect to affiliates as fee-for-value slowly became a reality. By late May, the same vendor had executed an about-face and – like every vendor in the report – had gone all-in on supporting new models of care delivery and reimbursement – right now.
Fast forward to two weeks ago and we see data indicating that providers are considering bailing out of the Pioneer ACO program for reasons that are still obscure. Last week UnitedHealth Group predicted its accountable care business will more than double in the next few years from its current $20 billion base. You can’t blame HIE vendors for feeling whipsawed.
Vendors Embrace Care Coordination, Or Exit Stage Left
While the pace of transformation to value-based reimbursement keeps everyone guessing, the momentum is clearly away from fee-for-service. Every vendor interviewed and profiled in the HIE report has plans to provide better support for care coordination so that HCOs and clinicians can band together to maximize payments and care quality while minimizing penalties. Yet, nearly all vendors have a slightly different take on how to enable such capabilities.
Some are focusing on specific clinical processes like referrals or cross-enterprise medications reconciliation. Others are focusing on knitting together HCOs, clinicians, and patients with robust notification services embedded in the diverse EHRs and devices found in connected care communities. But the key word here is “plans.” No HIE vendor is currently able to meet the demands of this transformation in the industry – whatever its eventual pace. We dispute the naysayers who insist you can’t get there from here, and believe the HIE vendors profiled in this report are pushing hard to get in front of this transformation, a transformation in HIE capabilities to a future state we have termed HIE 2.0.
Outlook for HIE 2.0
The main theme of this report is the evolution to what we call HIE 2.0. We introduce a revised maturity model that starts at messaging-based HIE 1.0 and ends at HIE 2.0 where multidisciplinary care teams working across organizations collaborate to care for patients and patient panels using HIE-enabled care planning tools and applications. While some will undoubtedly quibble with the specifics of this maturity model, it sets forth a clear path to an endpoint where HIE technology will begin to assume a more mission-critical role in care delivery.
To support this new maturity model, we have in-turn defined the capabilities that HIE vendors will need to enable in an HIE 2.0 solution suite. THis capabilities are outlined in the table below.
Messaging Rises to the Level of Its Incompetence
While messaging will be an integral part of HIEs until time itself wears out, messaging-based HIEs have gone as far as they will go from a use-case standpoint. There are still a lot of faxes, phones calls, and letters that messaging could replace, but the limitations of messaging as a way to support complex, multi-enterprise clinical workflows are obvious to nearly everyone in the industry. Messaging diehards persist but their numbers continue to dwindle.
In the future, messaging will be supplemented with more robust notification services built into HIE-enabled collaborative care plans that deliver the right information, in the right context, to the right clinicians at the right times, on the devices or in the clinical applications of their choice. Moreover, many of the advanced applications of HIE 2.0 will be built using query-based services that take more fulsome advantage of the longitudinal patient record. A caution here is that Stage 2 meaningful use requires the use of Direct Secure Messaging protocols for certain transactions. This is not only driving strong demand from HCOs but also causing HIE and EHR vendors to include Direct-based services in their product plans. For reasons detailed in the report, this technological detour into messaging is a dead-end.
Lower Rankings Yet Reason for Optimism
For readers familiar with our past HIE Reports, we must mention that all vendor rankings are lower this year. This reflects the need to adjust the ranking criteria to reflect increasing expectations of HCOs and changing market requirements. HCOs need more from their HIEs than ever before – more functionality, more use cases and better reliability, availability and servicability. No vendor is remotely close to being able to assemble an HIE 2.0 solution right now. But many vendors are pushing hard and we expect the best to begin rolling out HIE 2.0 products by the middle of 2014