The smoke and mirrors of the hyped-up Internet world present healthcare providers with their biggest information technology challenge, according to the Gartner Group's annual top 10 list of trends, which was released at last week's Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society meeting in Dallas.
David Garets, a vice president of the Avon, Conn.-based research and consulting firm, said healthcare organizations are "bombarded by companies with claims that can't be substantiated. Determining what works and makes sense is very difficult."
Nevertheless, the Gartner Group says that providers not participating in e-health are destined to struggle.
"External collaboration and relationships driven and supported by the Internet, rather than internal proprietary capabilities, will define success," the report said.
Among the other observations and predictions:
* Today's healthcare buyer is focusing on information tools that help cut costs and reduce medical errors.
The report said that providers will have a difficult time achieving the 50% reduction in errors the Institute of Medicine has targeted without "aggressively embracing automation."
* Personal health records will not eliminate an organization's need for a computer-based patient record system.
* Administrative simplification mandates of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act are important, but providers should invest money judiciously and deploy the minimal amount of manpower to comply with the regulations. Thorough understanding of the rules will help providers adequately meet the requirements, Garets said.
* Providers should consider alternatives to information systems staffing, including outsourcing and application hosting. To make informed decisions, management teams must have a clear business case, set expectations, and understand the opportunities and drawbacks of outsourcing.