In the Age of Health Reform, Healthcare IT to the Rescue?

Opinion

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manage patients’ care upon discharge, since hospitals will be on the hook for many re-admissions that occur within 30 days of checkout. A 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 20 percent of all hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries make a return trip within 30 days, resulting in between $12 and $17 billion in avoidable costs. Hospital margins are already pretty thin. If they have to eat these costs they are going to need to really stock up on those little purple pills.

A plus: there has been a proliferation of companies willing to brave the newly boiling ocean to sell advanced technology solutions to the health insurance and hospital markets. Companies such as HealthEdge and Click4Care offer the kind of enterprise-wide administrative and clinical management systems that enable both operational efficiency and product innovation based on data analytics. Patient Safe Solutions provides hospitals with an iPod Touch-based system that dramatically reduces common medical errors, such as medication mistakes and the occurence of hospital-acquired infections, patient falls and bedsores. Extend Health, the nation’s largest private health insurance exchange, has proven that consumers can evaluate and select insurance plans that are highly tuned to their individual needs while saving money for both consumer and plan sponsor.

Even better: we private equity and venture capital people who make our living in healthcare information technology have recently taken on a certain cachet, allowing us to emerge from the dark, shady corners of our industry to share the tiniest bit of the limelight with our colleagues in the “real” technology world. Granted, games and social networking are far more sexy than claims processing innovation and clinical analytics. But with more than 20 percent of our economy being spent on healthcare costs, there are not enough Angry Birds in the world to fly us out of the pit of despair we will dwell in if we fail to capitalize on this opportunity to modernize our healthcare system.

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Lisa Suennen is an independent consultant, board member of AngioScore, and a former managing member of the Psilos Group, as well as the co-author of Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare With Technology? and author of the blog Venture Valkyrie. Follow @venturevalkyrie

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