Consolidation and change are roiling the healthcare marketplace, and the repercussions are being felt throughout the vendor landscape, including the vibrant imaging IT segment that is so fundamental to the practice of 21 st century radiology.
Providers and vendors alike are subject to many of the same pressures, according to Jim Morgan, vice president, medical informatics, FUJIFILM Medical Systems, USA, Stamford, Conn. He provided insight into what to look for from imaging IT vendors in the coming year, where development efforts will be concentrated and a surprising view of government regulation of health IT interoperability.
Q: What are the trends that will shape health IT product development in 2016?
Morgan: There is the overall regulatory environment, the consolidation happening in the industry and provider consolidation: All of those added together create some unique opportunities.
Providers need systems that work well. On one hand, there’s the approach of going with one vendor to provide everything, much as with the EMR wave, and on the other hand, customers still want the best-of-breed approach so that they can pick and choose systems as they see fit.
What we see is the convergence of the VNA at the center of the imaging IT space. Customers are trying to figure out how to optimize all of the other systems around it, whether that’s information systems or communications systems—then you throw in emerging systems such as clinical decision support.
I don’t think there are radically new items for the coming year, but there is a new maturity to these systems as the market consolidates.
Q: What technological advances were seen in Fuji’s booth at RSNA?
Morgan: We completed the acquisition of TeraMedica in May of this year, following a two-year partnership. Through that acquisition, we have further aligned the VNA components with enterprise imaging and viewing with the various departments.
Visitors to our booth experienced hands-on, for instance, point-of care-ultrasound integrated into a VNA model, endoscopy integrated and oncology integrated. Integrating nontraditional departments takes VNA to the next level, allowing them to work together within the facility to solve real issues related to image-sharing and IT security.
In the VNA space, there have been various acquisitions: IBM’s acquisition of Merge Healthcare, the more recent announced acquisition by 3D Medical of Mach 7, a pending transaction, and even Lexmark exploring strategic options, including the sale of their company.
All of this says a few things. One, there is certainly a desire for image management within facilities, and there is growth in that market. It also points to changes in the landscape and the market: There is a belief on the part of many companies that they need to be larger in order to compete with the resources required in a complex customer setting and also to meet customer demand throughout the world.
The pressure on providers and all of those associated with delivering care is increasing dramatically, workloads are increasing and reimbursements are decreasing. As a result, the drive for productivity and efficiency is being pushed on providers and IDNs, but also onto healthcare companies like ours.
Q: How is provider consolidation affecting health IT needs and adoption?
Morgan: Whether an academic practice or an IDN, providers are acquiring community hospitals, critical access hospitals and provider groups, and they are pushing their standard of IT across those facilities to achieve efficiency.
The general belief is if you use the same tools across a larger install base, the cost per unit goes down and the overall cost of providing the service goes down. If you are able to keep the same base of patients, then that allows facilities to maintain a positive cash flow.
This [drive for efficiency] is forcing consolidation, and it is key in this marketplace for healthcare vendors to be well positioned to provide IT products into that space. If you are marketing to the critical access or community hospital only, those are being acquired by the larger entities.
Q: There is a lot of frustration with the lack of IT interoperability and even some new legislation (TRUST IT) that would attempt to promote the free exchange of patient data. What’s the upside and what’s the downside for the vendor community?
Morgan: I think the vendor community would welcome having clear standards defining what interoperability is and what connectivity is. As the DICOM