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Anthony Harris

Customer Care

Lean Medical Innovation

Accelerate continuous clinical practice improvement with SaaS solutions

Published: Monday, October 3, 2016 - 14:59

The proliferation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACO), spurred by the healthcare industry’s shift from fee-for-service to pay-for-performance, has focused healthcare executives’ attention on clinical outcome metrics. Yet the greatest barriers—individual clinician practices—remain difficult to manage within the population-health clinical-delivery value chain. The solution: leveraging software as a service (SaaS) solutions to drive greater measurement and adherence to evidence-based practice plans.

Moving beyond outcome metrics

This article is intended to help you do several things: 1) learn about the adoption of SaaS solutions in the U.S. healthcare market; 2) become knowledgeable about how SaaS solutions can help address key barriers to innovation in current clinical practice; and 3) explore how to leverage SaaS offerings to identify leading indicators for clinical performance (LICP) and better manage clinical oversight of multiple providers. The objective is to enable and accelerate a scalable implementation of continuous clinical practice improvement (CCPI).

Adoption of SaaS in healthcare

Healthcare organizations have been undergoing significant consolidation both longitudinally and vertically along the entire healthcare-delivery value chain. Many organizations are attempting to leverage size and breadth in order to weather the shift toward a pay-for-performance infrastructure. Organizations are also widely turning to SaaS solutions to help manage their data analysis needs and enhance their change management capabilities.

SaaS healthcare growing market size

According to published data by MarketsandMarkets, the global market for Healthcare Cloud Computing was estimated at $3.73 Billion in 2015. This market, which is broken down into software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) offerings, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20.5 percent to reach $9.48 billion by 2020. This estimated market size includes both provider and payer end-users.

Top five reasons to choose SaaS

Historically, the healthcare industry limited its use of SaaS and outsourced services to clinical data entry and medical transcription, but no longer. Healthcare information management systems, clinical research, big data, medical billing, and IT needs around patient data security are only a few areas where SaaS use has expanded. The following are the top five reasons healthcare organizations choose SaaS solutions:
1. Avoid critical mistakes
2. Reduce training costs
3. Access expert and trained professionals
4. Make time to focus on giving quality patient care
5. Save costs without compromising quality

Characteristics of U.S. healthcare use of SaaS by organizations

In a 2014 survey of healthcare provider organizations, 83 percent of 150 healthcare IT executive respondents reported using cloud services, with 66.9 percent among them using SaaS. Some 15.9 percent of executives reported running an IaaS platform, and 2.4 percent reported using platform as a service (PaaS) applications. The top three most common uses for cloud applications include:
1. Hosting clinical applications and data (43.6%)
2. Health information exchange (38.7%)
3. Backups and disaster recovery (35.1%)

Near the bottom of the list is Accountable Care Organizations (6.0%).

Shifting toward SaaS for clinical management

Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) participation has helped U.S. healthcare organizations broaden their adoption of SaaS for data analytics into managed care. Beyond this, the holy grail of healthcare data analysis is predictive analytics, which enable clinical managers to observe care delivery trends that impact patient outcomes. Leading indicators for clinical performance (LICP) are metrics derived from evidence-based practice that measure an individual clinician’s approach for diagnosis and treatment. These metrics include details about each aspect of the clinical encounter (e.g., history of present illness, physical exam, diagnostics, and treatment plan), and include, for example, presence or absence of a specific disease history or physical finding. LICP metrics can be aggregated and analyzed using common data analysis tools like SQL-based relational databases, such as Microsoft Access and other Visual Basic for Application (VBA) language tools.

A significant challenge in the past has been extracting clinical data entered by clinicians and clinical staff at the point-of-care from legacy electronic medical records (EMR) systems. SaaS solutions such as IMAT Solutions and IBM Phytel offer extraction of clinical data from EMR systems into their proprietary analytics platforms. These new tools offer clinical managers the opportunity to better measure clinical delivery quality, and observe patterns for population health management.

Next steps toward faster clinical practice innovation

We’ve covered our initial learning objectives: 1) Review SaaS healthcare market offerings; 2) how and why SaaS adoption occurs among U.S. healthcare organizations; and 3) introducing SaaS use case to improve clinical management. If we are to arrive at feasible, scalable solution to accelerate CCPI, our next step must be to better understand the barriers that currently limit this idealistic goal within the U.S. healthcare industry.

First published at UL's Knowledge at Work blog.

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About The Author

Anthony Harris’s picture

Anthony Harris

Anthony Harris, is the medical director of Community Occupational Medicine LLC and a member of the UL EHS Sustainability Medical Advisory Board. Harris is board-certified in occupational and environmental medicine and has worked as an independent healthcare consultant with focus upon performing market research, product design, and business modeling strategy.