Make the Most of Information Technology During an Era of Change

Fast forward to 2020 and the healthcare world is likely to be radically different than it is today, as technology transforms the current reality.

“We've seen how IT consumerization and integration have transformed other industries, and it is exciting to see how recent momentum in healthcare will translate to accelerated advancements for patients and medicine in the next few years,” says Karin Ratchinsky, director of Healthcare Enterprise Segment Strategy at Level 3 Communications, Broomfield, Colo.

To start, as the industry moves toward reaching goals set forth in the Affordable Care Act, organizational leaders will need to find a secure, highly scalable way to mobilize personal health information to patients. In turn, patients will have new access to data and tools that will help enable them to take more Fast responsibility for their care and outcomes.

“Patients will need to take more ownership of their own healthcare. Just as we routinely manage our finances and our banking through online tools, we will start to take care of our health through personalized information and tools online as well. Responsibility will be put on patients to take control of their own health and do the right thing when it comes to wellness and rehabilitation,” Ratchinsky says.

Access to information will also be extremely important for the growing number of healthcare stakeholder organizations, including providers, payers, pharmaceutical companies, HIEs, research organizations and government entities. In addition, members of each of these constituents will not want to access information sitting down – but instead on the go, in different formats for different capacities. As such, access to information will have to be made available via mobile devices, through secure portals and synthesized to distill new intelligence.

Capturing and sharing information is just the tip of the iceberg of change. Healthcare organizations also are moving toward leveraging all this data to track key clinical conditions; communicating information for care coordination processes; and reporting clinical information to support quality initiatives.

As a result, the next stage of IT development will bring more rigorous health information exchange; increased requirements for e-prescribing; the incorporation of lab results into the electronic record; more patient-controlled data; and electronic transmission of patient care summaries across multiple settings. And, finally, information technology will evolve to the point where it will be used to improve quality, safety and efficiency, leading to improved health outcomes; enabling decision support for national high-priority conditions; providing patient access to self-management tools; delivering access to comprehensive patient data through patient-centered HIE; and improving population health.

All of this reliance on advanced information technology will drive previously unseen traffic patterns in wide area extranets, remote data centers/cloud providers and Internet portals/applications.

The big question: What will support all this change?  To start, healthcare organizations will need to invest in agile, scalable network strategies to ensure access, performance, security and control. Indeed, organizations will need to ensure that they can tap into:

  • Diverse fiber-based services with highly reliable and scalable demand capabilities ready for future requirements
  • Application-aware networks offering superior performance characteristics for care critical applications and decision support tools
  • Increasing levels of security to protect an increasing number of attacks and security threats
  • Better control and visibility into the network
  • Private, dedicated connections to partners that enable healthcare organizations to thrive

Level 3 Communications will provide an in-depth look at how organizations can make the changes required to support the increased technology needs of the new ecosystem in its upcoming webinar, A Network Blueprint for the Future of Healthcare, April 1, 2 p.m. EST. To register for the webinar, go to