Health IT policy was one of the biggest topics of discussion at this year’s HIMSS annual conference. We thought the timing couldn’t be better to gain some expert insights into how these policy changes may impact patients and providers from a data management perspective. In doing so, we had a chance to sit down with David LaBrosse, Strategic Partner Manager, Healthcare Data Management Solutions at NetApp for his perspectives on health IT policy and how upcoming changings may impact patients, providers, and even customers.

GovDataDownload (GDD): David, welcome back to GovDataDownload. Today we’re talking about public policy as it relates to health IT. Can you share what some of the big topics of conversation were at HIMSS in regards to health IT policy?

David LaBrosse (DL): The future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its impact to patients, providers, and payers was one of the biggest topics of discussion at HIMSS. Whenever changes in health insurance coverage occur, it can have a huge impact on data and the way it’s stored and managed. In some cases, changes to an insurance plan can cause a patient care gap. For example, a previously scheduled medical procedure or treatment may need to be postponed due to the change in coverage.

At NetApp, we understand that insurance coverage policy changes may sometimes cause issues for both patients and providers. At a minimum, the insurance and billing data will need to be updated in the appropriate systems. So, that is why NetApp offers flexible and agile data management systems like our data fabric which allow patient data to flow seamlessly and securely to wherever the clinicians and patients need it most— whether it’s on-premise or in the cloud.

In addition to the ACA, healthcare data security and privacy were top of mind this year at HIMSS. Given the number of breaches and ransomware attacks that have occurred the past few years, healthcare organizations are realizing the importance of security, and understand that it not just a nice-to-have anymore, but a must-have. Many healthcare organizations are installing basic security tools like security information and even management (SIEM) tools. Others are embracing more advanced security measures including encryption and multi-factor authentication.

NetApp sees healthcare organizations increasing their investments in security this year. And, our management solutions are utilized by leading security tool vendors to accelerate their applications for faster security alerts and responses to cyber-attacks.

GDD: What are some other challenges you see customers facing as it relates to policy changes in health IT?

DL: When I talk with customers, they sometimes comment about the HIPAA security policy changes for safeguarding protected health information (PHI).  They know that it is important to prevent patient data security and privacy breaches. However, some find protecting the larger and larger volumes of healthcare data and medical images is an ongoing struggle. As an example, it is estimated that millions of people signed up for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) just prior to the Presidential election. This increase in insurance coverage may lead to a greater number of patients being added to hospital IT systems. While most healthcare institutions can manage the higher volume of patient data and medical images, some may be surprised by the sudden jump in infrastructure requirements. And, a few CIOs may need to revise their data protection and IT management plans. NetApp often helps healthcare IT leaders with these types of health IT challenges by providing cost effective and scalable data management solutions.

GDD: Interoperability within health IT was another topic of discussion at HIMSS. Can you talk about the trends you’re seeing there?

DL: We are seeing a few trends when it comes to interoperability, and probably the biggest one is the  FHIR or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard.  The FHIR is a standard developed by the healthcare IT standards body known as Health Level Seven International (HL7) – an organization dedicated to providing a comprehensive framework and related standards for the exchange, integration, sharing and retrieval of electronic health information. While the FHIR standard is taking some time with regards to adoption, it’s being embraced by the industry.  And, we think as more customers and vendors recognize its value, just as with other new standards and policies in health IT, we’ll see quicker adoption.

GDD: Population health and precision medicine are other areas of interest within health IT. Can you talk about those?

DL: I think the big focus in population health is around the idea that we need to proactively analyze and act on information and to address health issues faster — before they become major outbreaks in local communities.  It is well known that providers can treat some illnesses and diseases at a lower cost in the community than they can in large, city hospitals.  Simply stated, we do not want the local population to become patients. NetApp partners with healthcare customers and application vendors on efficient and scalable population management solutions.  Our flexible and agile hybrid cloud solutions (which we call data fabric) allow population health tools to run on-premise in a local data center, or off-site in a private cloud. More importantly, NetApp can help customers to avoid cloud provider “lock-in”. We offer options which enable seamless data migration from cloud to cloud.

Regarding the precision medicine initiatives, like the 21st Century Cures Act which President Obama signed in December 2016, we support the idea of being able to tailor medical treatments for each individual patient based upon his or her genetic profile or biomarkers. And, NetApp is proud to provide data management solutions which support the medical research. Our solutions are utilized by data scientists and IT leaders in public and private institutions around the world. We agree that precision medicine is really the wave of the future.

Interested in learning more about how NetApp healthcare solutions are benefitting organizations? Visit our new healthcare resource center here.

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