Technology is driving huge change within the healthcare industry at every stage – from electronic health records (EHR) to computerized provider order entry systems (CPOE) and electronic prescribing systems (EP), lab information systems and beyond. This expansion is set to continue, shown by the massive growth predicted by healthcare IT trends; in 2013, the global healthcare IT market was valued at $41.2 billion, by 2020 that figure is set to more than double to reach $104.5 billion.
With the many benefits these technological changes bring – more accurate data-keeping, lowering operational costs, better rural access to medical care – come significant challenges. As with the IT industry in general, cyber-security is a major concern for healthcare IT companies. According to research conducted earlier this year by KPMG, 80% of 223 healthcare IT leaders questioned said their systems had been compromised by cyber-attacks in the last two years, due in no small part, it is suggested, to a shortage of talent in healthcare IT.
Yet it’s not just cyber-security that needs to move up the agenda of healthcare IT leaders. As the healthcare industry becomes increasingly dependent on the internet, it’s crucial that it is supported by enough bandwidth to function properly. We’ve all experienced the frustration of slow downloads and error messages when watching entertainment online, but with the vital data that healthcare deals with, the stakes are significantly raised. According to a report from Health Facilities Management’s website, a key step to solving this issue is to begin with a thorough assessment of data needs so that a hierarchy for bandwidth allocation can be established. The report also notes that it’s important to make sure bandwidth is scalable – both now and as healthcare’s reliance on the internet grows.
Inevitably, the potential for disruption in the healthcare and healthcare IT industry has attracted non-traditional competitors. Just as Google / Alphabet’s newly created life sciences arm is a new competitive threat to established health industry giants, so Google Fiber (to name but one company) has the potential to shake things up in the telecommunications industry. Google Fiber provides an internet connection speed of one gigabyte per second, which is roughly 100 times faster than the average internet access speed of most Americans. In Kansas City, as reported in The Tennessean, Google Fiber is having a remarkable impact: genetic databases that may take up to 20 hours to download on a normal network instead take less than an hour with Google Fiber, providing the opportunity for much faster diagnosis.
What is clear is that just as healthcare companies need the best brains in medicine and business to succeed, there will be increasing need for investment in the top talent in engineering and IT personnel to support the changing infrastructure and navigate the new realities of the healthcare IT industry.