The 3 Biggest Challenges in Healthcare IT - Cover

The 3 Biggest Challenges in Healthcare IT

I was recently given the opportunity to sit in at some of the breakout sessions of KLAS’ Digital Health Investment Symposium. The group was brought together to, among other things, discuss the biggest challenges that healthcare IT (HIT) faces and how best to solve those problems.

Our table, which was packed with leaders from the vendor, investor, and provider communities, came to the agreement that HIT has big issues to be solved in three areas:

  • Interoperability and Data Acquisition
  • Provider Engagement and Burnout
  • Financial Pressures and Cost of Care

Thankfully, we were also able to suggest effective solutions to these problems:

  1. When working on interoperability, we should focus on getting only the necessary data for specific use cases first and get that right. Too often, we look at the end goal and get lost trying to solve big problems all at once. As someone at our table put it, “Don’t try to boil the ocean.” Additionally, there is an opportunity to acquire big data from the consumer side. Right now, providers may not know what to do with consumer data or how it fits into the continuum of care. But we can start incorporating things such as patients’ pain scores and other consumer-focused insights. Getting providers to engage in consumer-data acquisition helps solve much of the value-based care conundrum.

  2. It’s no surprise that the rushed, industry-wide implementation of EMRs to qualify for meaningful use led to IT that isn’t optimized for clinicians or focused on facility-specific needs. To date, the industry hasn’t proven the value of EMRs across the board; there are still lots of kinks to be worked out. We should address physician burnout before trying to improve the patient experience (and not just because solving burnout will undoubtedly help the patient experience). Reducing physician burnout will help curb costs, turnover and internal friction between IT and clinicians.   This means solving the current regulatory overload, matching care models with technology, and fixing the usability concerns that have driven many providers to choose scribes over digital assistance.

  3. As the costs of healthcare continue to rise, the increased financial pressures make price transparency for consumers paramount. The people at our table felt that payers are currently driving this move to increased cost comparison. Unfortunately, due to the complexities of healthcare billing, it takes far too long for consumers to figure out the costs of the care they are seeking. Several participants of the Symposium wished we could “start over” and develop more clear methods of billing. Right now, it’s nearly impossible to know which doctors charge $100 and which charge $300 for the same service. Providers will need to adopt increasingly transparent pricing models in response to “doctor-shopping” consumers.


After the Symposium’s breakout discussions, we were lucky enough to listen to several Intermountain Healthcare executives speak about innovation. I was excited to hear of the advances they’re making and became hopeful that great changes are on the horizon for healthcare.

Some of the discussion highlights (for me) included:

  1. AI has exciting potential for the future, but it doesn’t work without algorithms, and we need talented people to build those algorithms. AI will be able to change care-process models, pathways of care, and ultimately outcomes, but it is still in its infancy. The hope is that AI will eventually save a lot time, but right now, there is a huge amount of manual effort going into building AI algorithms.

  2. In trying to tackle interoperability problems, Intermountain has learned that people need the right types of data and that data needs ownership and engagement at the department or clinic level to make it meaningful. If an organization wants a department or clinic to implement changes, the organization must consider the perspective of that department or clinic while designing those changes. For Intermountain, just getting all the data doesn’t work, it’s about getting the right data.

  3. As Intermountain moves (along with the industry) from volume models to value models, physicians are going through massive changes in how they are being paid. Intermountain hopes that these changes will encourage physicians to be consumer facing. Intermountain feels that they must drive payment changes in tandem with care changes. Intermountain warned if payers and providers cannot master payment models and cost of care, the industry will never succeed with population health.


I was glad to have participated in the Digital Health Investment Symposium. Sometimes when I look at the challenges facing healthcare, it can feel overwhelming. It was comforting to see that there are intelligent and driven people out there discussing these problems and creating solutions.

It was an opportunity to meet up with old colleagues in the industry and, through my input during the breakout discussions, help provide KLAS' insights for those looking to invest in innovative, problem-solving companies.