Digital Innovation – Freeing More IT Capital

October 11, 2017 By InTouch Health

According to a recent study by the American Hospital Association and Avia, 85% of hospital executives say that digital innovation is key to their organizations’ long-term strategy and success. Yet more than 33% of them report that uncertainty over healthcare reform is preventing them from making new investments in digital innovation. And 70% of them feel that their IT departments don’t have the staffing or resources to deploy new technologies.

One of the main problems these executives are grappling with is the burden of “technical debt” – the high cost of keeping existing systems running that squeezes out investments in areas like telehealth. Technical debt takes many forms: upgrading legacy billing systems, fixing EHR coding that was done quickly to meet federal mandates, and integrating systems following a merger or acquisition. Operational necessity crowds out digital innovation.

In a recent Gartner IT Budget survey, respondents reported that hospitals will allocate 70% of their 2017 IT budgets to “running the business” and only 10% to “transforming the business.” But forward-looking organizations are starting to reverse those numbers.
Some health systems are currently optimizing their digital resources to lower technical debt and free up more money for IT innovation. These organizations are making their EHRs more standardized, with fewer “bolt-on” applications that essentially do the same thing. That helps redirects more capital to telehealth programs and other innovative technologies.

The problem of propping up the status quo at the expense of new ventures has been around for centuries. The Romans were able to fend off invaders, but not the enormous cost of maintaining an empire.

It’s critically important for today’s hospitals to not let operational costs kill innovation. The future belongs to transformative technologies like telehealth and predictive medicine.