Google, HCA strike multiyear cloud partnership

Pam Arlotto is quoted in a May 26th article, by Jessica Kim Cohen, in Modern Healthcare.

 

HCA Healthcare has entered into a multiyear partnership with Google’s cloud arm, the for-profit hospital chain said Wednesday.

As part of the partnership, Google Cloud will build a data analytics platform for HCA designed to help the Nashville-based health system create tools that improve workflow and clinical care.

HCA declined to share financial details of the agreement.

HCA will work with Google Cloud’s office of the chief technology officer and professional services team to develop artificial intelligence and data analytics tools, such as alerts that could be sent to clinicians’ mobile devices so that they can respond to changes in a patient’s condition more quickly, as well as improvements in non-clinical areas like supply chain and human resources.

HCA will use Google Cloud tools including the company’s healthcare API, or application programming interface, and BigQuery, a cloud data warehouse.

“The cloud can be an accelerant for innovation in health,” said Thomas Kurian, Google Cloud’s CEO, in a statement.

The U.S. healthcare cloud computing market was valued at more than $29 billion in 2020, according to a report from market research firm Global Market Insights, and is expected to reach $79.3 billion by 2027, driven by growing adoption of digital tools and interest in data management tools that incorporate advanced analytics and store data securely.

HCA’s contract is just the latest example of a health system partnering with a technology company for cloud services. A growing number of organizations in recent years have moved applications and data to the cloud—to servers managed by other companies off-site—to help save costs and develop innovative technologies.

Mayo Clinic in 2019 struck a 10-year contract with Google Cloud that involves data storage and innovation projects, leading the tech giant to open an office in Rochester, Minn., earlier this year to strengthen its relationship with the health system. Johns Hopkins Medicine last year struck a five-year agreement with Microsoft Corp.’s cloud arm to support the Baltimore-based healthcare organization’s precision medicine program.

One of the most high-profile cloud deals in healthcare in recent years involved a partnership between St. Louis-based Ascension and Google. The agreement, which included a contract to move Ascension’s patient data to Google Cloud, drew public concern in 2019 over patient privacy. Ascension has since expanded a pilot of an electronic health record tool from Google that it tested as part of the partnership.

Healthcare’s shift to the cloud has encompassed two broad functions: migrating applications to the cloud, where they’re hosted on off-premise servers, or storing data in the cloud so that it can be analyzed more easily and used as part of analytics tools.

“There are two phenomena going on,” said Cynthia Burghard, a research director in value-based IT transformation strategies at IDC Health Insights, a division of market research firm International Data Corp.

While providers and payers were initially hesitant to move to the cloud in years past, citing concerns like privacy, security and reliability, over the past two years it’s become more common for organizations to move applications such as EHR systems to the cloud, Burghard said. Deals that involve data, such as HCA’s partnership with Google Cloud, have gained steam more recently.

Such partnerships have become more common over the past 12 to 18 months, according to Burghard.

Healthcare and life sciences companies had moved roughly 44% of business functions and 42% of IT systems to the cloud in 2020, up from 36% of business functions and 33% of IT systems to the cloud in 2018, according to a report from consulting and IT services firm Infosys, driven in part by the need to add more virtual care and remote work capabilities amid COVID-19.

Healthcare will likely continue to shift towards new cloud tools and deployments over the next two years, according to Jeff Kavanaugh, global head of Infosys’ research and thought leadership arm.

In the wake of public pushback to Ascension’s work with Google in 2019, healthcare experts suggested the controversy reflected a lack of trust the public had of Big Tech, which could pose challenges as tech companies moved into healthcare.

But Google and other tech giants have continued to make inroads in the industry.

“We’ll have to work through a lot of these issues, concerns (and) opportunities” that Big Tech companies bring, said Pam Arlotto, CEO of healthcare consultancy Maestro Strategies. She noted recent announcements involving tech companies have emphasized privacy and security. HCA’s news release reads, in part, “privacy and security will be guiding principles throughout this partnership.”

As hospitals and health systems continue to enter into such partnerships, “it’s really important that each organization that strikes these type of deals has very clear-cut goals (and) very distinct agreements with their partners about what you can and cannot do with your data,” Arlotto said.

 

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The Story of Data

Pam Arlotto was consulted by Healthcare Innovation on the scenario commonly referred to as “one foot in the boat, one on the shore” in the face of COVID-19.

Article by Mark Hagland on May 28th.

Pam Arlotto, CEO of the Atlanta-based Maestro Strategies consulting firm, notes that, “In our new book, Orchestrating Value: Population Health in the Digital Age, we suggest that part of the ‘two feet’ challenge is that value-based care and population health have been tacked onto the existing bricks and mortar delivery system. Our silo-based culture, hierarchical organization structures and conflicting incentives have created roadblocks and barriers to the transition.”

In that regard, Arlotto says, “Interestingly, times of crisis and chaos, force innovation and creativity. Rather than going back to business as usual, the healthcare industry has an opportunity to think differently as we go forward. COVID19 and its challenges drive collaboration across government, community, economic, care delivery and social sectors – ultimately, the very definition of population health. Arlotto notes that, “A recent survey by the National Association of ACOs (NAACOS) indicates that 94 percent of Medicare ACOs are “very or somewhat concerned” with COVID19’s impact on organizational performance. Many at-risk ACOS are weighing whether to quit the MSSP or Next Generation models. This could portend a very different business or operating model for the future.”

Indeed, Arlotto says, “Telehealth and digital health, for example, have already driven dramatic change in the ‘flatten the curve’ stage of the COVID19 crisis. As we move to the next stage, health systems will have to intentionally design hybrid (digital-plus-onsite) care delivery models in concert with regional plans that integrate public health, economic and social strategies to mitigate, manage and support patients and the broader population.”

Asked how she sees the issue playing out among hospital-based integrated systems in the next few years, Arlotto says, “We are working with a number of health systems to use advanced analytics strategies to inform their next stage hybrid strategies. Data provides insights on emerging patterns which can drive design of services, patient experiences and revenue implications. For most of our clients, this means combining traditional score cards with real time analytics and eventually moving into the predictive and prescriptive space – ultimately creating a new data ecosystem and platform.”

The Pivot: From Compliance to Strategy

HIMSS16 – billed as the largest and most important healthcare IT conference in the United States occurred last week in Las Vegas.  The message was loud and clear – something is different; the government mandate is over.  Strategy is the new, new.

For years the HIT world has encouraged alignment of enterprise strategy and the IT plan.  Alignment suggests two distinctly different things creating a linkage or connection.  Healthcare enterprise strategy decisions such as which markets do we enter, who do we acquire, which service lines do we emphasize, and what capital investments do we make are explored at executive and board levels.  Operations and financial decisions to support our hospitals and physician practices are made within organizational silos.  Sometimes IT is at the table, but more often than not information systems professionals are called in after the fact to “implement” selected systems and tools.  Sophisticated IT organizations have created IT Strategic Plans, IT Governance structures, IT Road Maps, and IT Champions/Customer Relationship Managers.  Our challenge – separate, sometimes aligned but rarely one.

Uncertainty is the new normal.  Strategies that take years to implement, vendor partners who are all vying for the same space and the challenges of mergers and acquisitions are driving us from 1.0 healthcare – where business as usual no longer is sustainable.  We are at a cross roads.  Those of us in transition must “pivot” our viewpoint from 1.0 volume based thinking to 2.0 and beyond.

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We need fresh, new perspectives regarding the relationship between enterprise direction and the digital strategies required for the future.  New harmonized strategies will:

  • Vary by geographic market and depend on community progress toward clinical integration
  • Necessitate partnerships, alliances and consolidations – no one can fund the investment alone and no one vendor will have all the solutions
  • Require governance models that address horizontal, vertical and virtual decisions making and integrate change across multiple systems of care
  • Move from an applications focus which emphasizes feature, functionality to a platform focus, producing highly configurable systems which will drive standardization and enable business strategies simultaneously
  • Redesign our organization structures, leadership competencies and operating models in IT, Informatics, Analytics and Quality
  • Acknowledge our work to create systems of documentation was foundational but not the end goal; systems of insight and behavioral change are the next stages in the evolution
  • Result in convergence of people, process, information, change and technology to rationalize costs, manage risks, realize value and activate patients to become involved in their care

 

White Paper — From the Playing Field to the Pressbox: The Strategic Role of the Chief Health Information Officer

Based on dozens of interviews with health systems across the US and additional research, this report looks at where CHIOs and their teams are headed amid tumultuous change in healthcare. Originally seen as the stewards of CPOE and Meaningful Use — and known as the Chief Medical Informatics Officer — the Chief Health Information Officer is now tasked with ambitious information technology initiatives spanning the health continuum, retail health and consumer engagement, and population health management. Historically, limited in its authority and with few resources for support, this emerging role is a key player who must collaborate with Chief Innovation Officers, Chief Transformation Officers, and CIOs to drive clinical integration, care coordination and value realization.

To download your copy of the white paper, click here:  From the Playing Field to the Press Box.