The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 encouraged the development of systems that shared documents such as care records, discharge summaries, and test results. Seven years later, some progress has been made, but there is still room for growth in this sector.
This is where private investment firms like General Atlantic come into the picture. One of the company’s largest focus areas is in the health information technology field.
“All the candidates [in the 2016 election] have focused attention on the fact that we have a significant cost and quality problem in the US healthcare system,” says Bill E. Ford, CEO of General Atlantic. “We’re trying to identify companies that [address the] problem of cost and quality.”
Companies like Alignment Healthcare, a healthcare technology and services business that partners with health plans, hospital systems, and physician groups to improve healthcare delivery and lower costs. Alignment became a General Atlantic portfolio company in 2015.
Healthcare information sharing has been hampered by technology issues, which are being resolved at an ever-quickening pace. By 2014, 75.5 percent of hospitals had adopted at least a basic electronic health records system, up from 58.9 percent just the year before. In 2013, 62 percent of hospitals exchanged data with outside health professionals; the number climbed to 76 percent in 2014.
Given the growth of healthcare technology as a field, there is a lot of room for investment from firms like General Atlantic.
“While the Affordable Care Act is definitely facing a number of challenges today, it has helped to spur significant innovation as healthcare companies try to address the issues of cost and improving quality of care in an efficient manner, especially for high-risk populations,” Ford says. “We believe that there are strong opportunities ahead in both of these areas.”
Here are some other top developments in the healthcare technology field:
Health informatics: According to research from the University of Chicago, 50 percent of healthcare dollars are wasted on inefficient record-keeping processes. Electronic medical records are already saving hospitals millions of dollars. They can also streamline medical care, lower malpractice claims, and increase coordination between providers. The future of informatics—the intersection between healthcare, information technology, and business—involves better provider-to-provider communication software and the ability of doctors to use data analysis in the search for cures for difficult diseases.
Interoperability between health systems: Health information exchanges are becoming a larger part of the healthcare industry, and the ability of all providers to access information across practice, hospital, and even location boundaries will become critical to success. From the emergency room to long-term care facilities, the ability to exchange information efficiently and correctly will improve patient compliance and patient outcomes across the healthcare spectrum.
Remote patient monitoring: If consumers can have access to fitness aids that collect information via a Bluetooth connection with their phone, healthcare systems should have similar technology available to them. Patient monitoring programs collect health data such as vital signs, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and so on and then transmit that data to centers, where they are remotely monitored by health professionals.
These fields are rich with opportunity for investment. “The private equity industry has $500 billion of uninvested capital and [there is] a lot of creativity and skills that will create significant opportunities in the years ahead,” says Ford.