Back From My Hiatus

I’m back, after a nine month absence from publishing my thoughts and opinions through the Parity Research medium. For those of you who continued to follow me throughout my changes in affiliation over the last year, thank you.

Going forward my interests and coverage areas will not change much. I’m still very much interested in how organizations manage their unstructured content and data. So, from a technology solutions perspective, I’ll continue to follow archiving, case management and BPM, content analytics, content and records management, ediscovery, file management and collaboration, information governance, intelligent data capture, search and storage.

As far as trends go, Big Data, cloud and mobile device enablement, use of social media and integration of complex systems certainly are hot and appealing topics. From an industry perspective, I’ve written extensively on banking, healthcare, insurance and legal topics.  The only change here is I’ll likely spend more time focused on the healthcare space as I’ve now come full circle in my thought process vis-à-vis the healthcare industry.

Prior to entering the software solutions space in 1984, I worked as a Psychiatric Technician (psych nurses aide) for several years while I finished up my undergraduate degree and tested the waters in a clinical psych graduate program. Most of my Psych Tech colleagues were pursuing graduate degrees in clinical psych, social work or hospital administration. For various reasons including the fact that clinical psych graduate courses did not hold my interest, I concluded that I needed to move on in my career and out of healthcare.

In the late 80s, I helped a friend market an anatomical pathology solution with mostly mixed results – it ran on a Wang VS – and while I was running vertical market research programs at META Group circa 1995, I assisted in the development of a healthcare research practice. In the intervening years I’ve provided IT research services to healthcare insurance providers and some large hospital groups but have spent more time with other industries including financial services, life insurance and power utilities.

My Healthcare Industry Epiphany

Up until about 18 months ago, I would say healthcare IT was a market I would have no interest in pursuing again. Given only my prior experience, I would also say selling into the healthcare sector is too complicated by government intervention and too crowded and convoluted by vendors.

In addition, most healthcare CIOs and their staff either have little money to spend or no time to focus on new technologies. The sales cycle is very long and charged with all kinds of competing political interests including, doctors, hospital administrators, insurance companies, government agencies (FDA), medical device companies and the pharmaceutical and food industries. However, a lot has changed in a year.

My epiphany came with IBM’s Watson. About a year and a half ago at their analyst events, IBM started touting Watson – or a sub-set of technologies that enable Watson to be Watson – as a solution for improving healthcare outcomes. The solution is called IBM Content and Predictive Analytics for Healthcare (ICPA) which became the subject for a couple of notes I wrote earlier this year while at EMA.

With the decision last month by the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA), healthcare technology solution providers view provisions of the act that affect their market as a potential windfall.  Others parties see additional costs and disrupted workflows to very little purpose.

Suffice it to say the healthcare industry has a Big Data problem in spades. One of the biggest issues is getting content and data in a meaningful form that can be accessed by medical informatics specialists and then gotten into the hands of clinicians and caregivers.

Healthcare data is also a flashpoint for those that seek more patient privacy and those that view data contained in electronic health records (EHRs) as critical to improving patient care and enriching medical research. Meanwhile physicians are concerned about additional workloads that lead them away from practicing medicine.

There is a big market for solutions that can make patient data accessible whether it’s through a cloud solution, outsourced to a BPO vendor, analyzed by a third party such as a data analytics firm or managed in-house by payers and providers – not to mention pharmaceutical firms and Wall Street. I expect the battle over how to use and manage patient data to heat up rather soon.

Analytics, Big Data, Cloud, File Sharing, Mobile, Storage and Virtualization are all high profile topics for healthcare CIOs and vendors. While there are plenty of research platforms that discuss the Affordable Care Act, Analytics, hospital information systems (HIS), Clinical Decision Support, HIPAA and Electronic Health Records (EHRs) solutions there are still holes in their coverage.

One of my former analyst colleagues at META, whose wife is a primary care physician, has been blogging about the need for more efficient healthcare solutions now for a couple years. We disagree about how much impact analytics will have on driving changes in clinical practices. But I think he’s on to something with his focus on efficiency and how the existing crop of EHRs are attempting to turn physicians into data entry clerks.

There are an endless number of healthcare topics to write about and lots of different points of view. However, now that I have actively and passionately returned to the healthcare debate, expect more from me on policies, practices and technologies that support patients and providers focused on improving healthcare outcomes.

About Gary MacFadden

Gary's career in the IT industry spans more than 25 years starting in software sales and marketing for IBM partners DAPREX and Ross Data Systems, then moving to the IT Advisory and Consulting industry with META Group, Giga and IDC. He is a co-founder of The Robert Frances Group where his responsibilities have included business development, sales, marketing, senior management and research roles. For the past several years, Gary has been a passionate advocate for the use of analytics and information governance solutions to transform business and customer outcomes, and regularly consults with both end-user and vendor organizations who serve the banking, healthcare, insurance, high tech and utilities industries. Gary is also a frequent contributor to the Wikibon.org research portal, a sought after speaker for industry events and blogs frequently on Healthcare IT (HIT) topics.
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