In Minneapolis, where managed care started early and continues its explosive growth, William Finney has a tough job ahead providing the volume and complexity of computerization needed to keep up.
As information services officer for Allina Health System, he has the task of creating integrated information systems throughout its regional network, which is faced with coordinating a range of care for enrollees at dozens of locations while keeping overhead down.
Allina's budget for information systems already is sizable-$26 million for 1995-but the capital investment is about to take a quantum leap. The network, a merger of two hospital-based provider networks and an insurance company, plans to invest $75 million to $80 million during the next three years on information systems, Finney said.
The effort includes standardizing hospital systems in 18 inpatient facilities and creating custom-built capability for bedside data that's too critical to delay until comprehensive vendor products are ready.
Sound too big for any information systems staff to handle? Finney is the first to agree. Even though he has a work force of 227, he expects to farm out, or outsource, close to a third of that $80 million in projects to firms with the kind of manpower and state-of-the-art technical skills that are in short supply at Allina.
Companies that provide outsourcing are circling the healthcare industry, ready to pounce on market opportunities that industry sources said exceeded $1 billion in 1994. One forecast has the market more than doubling by 1997 and tripling by 2000 (See chart, p. 66).
Not all the opportunities are in large integrated networks or expansive managed-care operations. At 176-bed Hi-Desert Memorial Hospital District in rural Joshua Tree, Calif., the scope of the operation is far different from Allina's, but the problem is the same.
"Healthcare is changing at a revolutionary pace," said Kim Strange, senior vice president and chief financial officer. "If you blink, you lose ground."
Hi-Desert plans to spend $2.5 million to buy and install a replacement computer system in the next 18 months.
Among the goals are to decentralize the information now stored in a minicomputer, make it more accessible as tailored reports to clinicians and decisionmakers, and add features such as cost accounting and managed-care contract management to effectively compete for contracts with fixed fees.
The existing software system is the same one that was running when Strange came to Hi-Desert in 1986. "We're a little behind in terms of what our software will allow us to do," he said.
Though the hospital has pharmacy and laboratory computerization to go with the basic financial and billing systems, the hardware needs expensive