Health-Care IT Execs Aim to Upgrade Infrastructure

By William Atkinson

To gain more efficiency and to help drive down IT costs, many health-care IT executives are taking steps to transform their IT infrastructure, including deploying virtualization, streamlining their operations and centralizing management, according to a new report by MeriTalk, a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of health and government IT.

The report, “Health Check: Healthcare CIOs Prescribe Change,” is based on a survey of 109 College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) members, and quantifies the potential impact of IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) models when deployed by health-care providers. Respondents estimate that, by adopting ITaaS, they can reduce IT costs by nine percent, which translates into $11 billion in IT savings for U.S. providers over the next three years.

The MeriTalk survey also found that 90 percent of health-care IT executives believe IT innovation is the key to their organization’s success. The respondents estimate that about 47 percent of their current portfolio has the potential to be delivered via ITaaS in the future.

While health IT executives are focused on innovation and efficiency, only 22 percent of them report that their current IT infrastructure significantly provides them with the ability to innovate. To gain more efficiency and to help drive down IT costs, 99 percent of respondents are taking steps to transform their IT infrastructure. To do so, 87 percent are deploying virtualization, 73 percent are streamlining IT operations, and 48 percent are centralizing IT management.

The respondents said that 15 percent of their total IT portfolio is currently delivered via an ITaaS model. In addition, 94 percent report that they have purchased at least part of their IT portfolio “as a service.” Specifically, 87 percent have purchased software as a service, such as virtualization, and 22 percent have purchased platforms or complete environments, which can help increase the use of private and hybrid clouds; and 18 percent have purchased infrastructure-as-a-service.

Why are the second and third options less popular than software as a service? “Health-care organizations are looking to invest in ‘as-a-service’ applications, platforms and infrastructure-as-a-service,” says Roberta Katz, director, health-care solutions, for EMC Corporation, which underwrote the survey and report. “A cloud infrastructure allows for a more agile and efficient response to changing business and clinical demands, whether deploying a new PACS [Picture Archiving Communications System] solution, upgrading an EHR [Electronic Health Record] application, or absorbing financials from a recently acquired hospital.”

The low adoption numbers, according to Katz, are a reflection of the fact that ITaaS is an emerging approach for providers, working in highly complex “always on” environments.

Katz anticipates growth in platforms and complete environments and ITaaS. “There is significant growth and revenue opportunity for health-care provider investment in converging infrastructure platforms, cloud computing environments, infrastructure-as-a-service, and services delivery models,” she says. “Many health-care organizations are just beginning their cloud and ITaaS journeys to stay ahead of changing IT, business, and clinical requirements.”

“As IT departments transform their operations to run IT-as-a-Service, their role will also transform, from exclusive providers of IT services to brokers of IT services,” says David Dimond, health-care solutions chief strategist for EMC Corporation. “This shared services infrastructure offers health-care organizations the opportunity to lower operational costs, restructure costs from capital to operating expenses, improve service levels, and accelerate the deployment of key health-care applications.”

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