As payment models shift from fee-for-service to value-based care, hospitals are having to adopt new technologies and tweak existing ones. The thing is, it takes a mighty team of IT pros to make all this happen. In some cases, a provider has enough resources to handle this kind of big transition, but most need some help, especially when they’re handling major infrastructure improvements or even switching out technologies.
This seems to be at least part of what’s driving a dramatic increase in spending on health IT consulting, according to a new study from Black Book Research. The study drew on input from 1,586 professionals with knowledge of the US health IT industry.
Black Book concluded that health IT management consulting spending has grown from $20 billion in 2016 to $45 billion last year. Not only that, the firm expects to see this number climb to nearly $53 billion for 2018. That’s a massive increase, particularly given that providers were already spending heavily on consultants as they beat their enterprise EHRs into shape.
According to the analyst firm, 64% of last year’s spending paid for implementation of software, information systems, systems integration and optimization and support for mergers and acquisitions. This summary covers a lot of ground, but it’s hardly surprising given the drastic changes underway.
Going forward, respondents expect three key forces to drive healthcare consulting spend, including a lack of highly-skilled IT professionals (cited by 81% of respondents), adoption of cloud technology in healthcare (74%) and growing industry digitalization (71%). (I’d also expect to see investment in new organizational infrastructures — for, let’s say, ACOs) — will continue to increase in importance as well.)
Providers responding to the study said that they expect to hire health IT consultants for EHR and RCM system optimization (61%) and to offer expertise in software training and implementation (46%) next year. Other areas providers hope to address include value-based care (39%), cloud infrastructure (36%), compliance issues (33%) and a grab bag of big data, decision support and analytics projects (31%).
The vast majority of respondents (84%) said they expect to enter into a wide range of consulting agreements to include work with single-shop consultants, single freelancers, group purchasing organizations, HIT vendors, networks of freelancers, boutique advisory firms and traditional major consultancies, Black Book reported. In other words, it’s all hands on deck!