New Class of Professionals Needed for Healthcare IT Transformation

Barry Byrd, for HealthLeaders Media , June 26, 2009

Valuable lessons that could be applied to healthcare transformation can be learned from other industries that have undergone similarly disruptive digital transformations. The advent of the Internet, supported by expanded availability of broadband services, gave fuel to the dot-com revolution of the 1990s. We have every reason to expect the same is possible in healthcare if the roadblocks of funding and common standards can be overcome.

The healthcare industry can gain insights from an examination of the changing IT landscape and its ability to increase efficiency, enhance quality and empower people to take responsibility and make informed decisions for themselves and their families. Why is it that healthcare seems unable to follow new business models based on today's information technology?

For the most part, middleware-based integration methods have proven too complicated and expensive for even the most sophisticated enterprises. Instead, a strategy of integrating disparate touch points at the transaction level, independent of user interfaces and technology preferences, is much more practical.

To achieve anything close to an integrated e-health transaction will require healthcare "transaction integrators," a new class of IT professionals whose skills and domain expertise extend far beyond electronic data interchange, messaging and networking.

Healthcare transaction integrators will possess specialized knowledge of emerging technology, business, healthcare, financial and regulatory standards. The transaction integration model emphasizes automation of virtually every element of the patient encounter life cycle from verification of coverage through real time settlement. The healthcare transaction integrator must understand the context in which these domains can be meshed to facilitate new processes.

Transformation of our healthcare delivery and support systems is an economic and social necessity. Digitization offers wondrous opportunities for greater access to better quality, lower cost care. Delivering on the promises of a 21st century healthcare system will, however, require new thinking, expertise and business models that facilitate collaboration among all participants.

Barry Byrd is president of Secure EDI, a healthcare information technology company. He can be reached at .

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