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Transforming Healthcare with Creative IT Solutions

Healthcare is constantly in the spotlight as aging populations, technological advances and high-costs threaten the very fabric of the current system. Healthcare providers and insurers are under constant social, political and shareholder pressure to both improve quality of delivery and lower operational costs.

To proactively evolve, forward-looking insurers and providers need to focus on:
  • Access -- ensuring that patients are properly insured and the facilities are available to treat them;
  • Affordability -- driving down costs across all parts of the system;
  • Quality -- ensuring quality and successful treatment outcome;
  • Sustainability -- focus on managing labor force resources and green issues.
New Approaches to Technology Driven Transformation
Despite being an industry heavily dependant on the use of the latest in medical technologies, healthcare has traditionally been slow to use information technology and services to improve their business processes. Healthcare has some of the most stringent concerns about privacy and security, and regulatory constraints. It is a highly fragmented industry, with over 70% of healthcare typically dispensed by autonomous professionals.

This unique industry structure has resulted in both a lower uptake of technology and the desire for high-cost in-house IT development and operation. Research by Cisco IBSG (the company's strategic consulting arm) reveals that this is beginning to change.

To-date most of the focus has been on using information technology to address the eHealth, or patient records issue, with mixed results. In contrast, Cisco IBSG believes that implementing next generation managed services, outside of the clinical area, can have a significant transformational impact.

Creative Solutions for Challenging Times
We are now seeing both healthcare providers and insurers exploring the potential benefits of managed services to streamline their operations and to improve the overall customer experience. Insurers are eager to encourage competition amongst providers, to drive down costs.

IBSG research indicates insurers are experimenting with using healthcare-specific telepresence solutions to remotely deliver healthcare, reducing costs and improving the overall customer experience.

For example, United Healthcare recently installed a HealthPresence managed service at Cisco's main San Jose, California campus. This allows employees to conveniently access medical support at their place of work, and enables United Healthcare to deliver it using less expensive medical resources in a more streamline process.

Healthcare providers are using managed services to address the cost and quality impacting issues. A hospital wide wireless RFID solution allows caregivers to quickly locate wheelchairs, trolleys and critical equipment, saving not just time and money, but often someone's life. Similar examples exist with locating doctors, identifying their availability, and across other parts of the medical supply chain.

Healthcare providers need to compete on service quality and loyalty. Providers are turning to next generation managed services as a means to enhance their offerings. For example, hospitals are using telepresence kiosks to create in-house concierge services to aid both patients and visitors to improve their overall hospital experience.

Transforming healthcare is going to require radical change. Managed services outside of the traditional clinical area have great potential. However, service providers must work with both insurers and healthcare organizations -- across all aspects of their business -- to develop unique IT solutions that help them to deliver lasting business advantage, and reduce operational costs.

About the author: Stuart Taylor is a Director in Cisco IBSG. Stuart leads thought leadership and engagements with key Service Providers in managed services. He has over 15 years of experience focused on strategy, corporate development, business unit strategy, M&A and operational improvement with large mobile and wireline operators and high technology clients.