ECM for Healthcare Advances to HCM (Healthcare Content Management)
by Amie Teske
Industry analysts project healthy market growth for enterprise content management (ECM) solutions across all industry sectors. Gartner’s 2016 Hype Cycle for Real-Time Health System Technologies places ECM squarely along the “plateau of productivity” at the far, right-hand side of the hype cycle curve. This essentially means that ECM software has succeeded the breakthrough in the market and is being actively adopted by healthcare providers.
This is good news for ECM users and technology suppliers, but what’s next for ECM in healthcare? To remain competitive and leading edge, ECM solutions at the plateau must evolve for the sake of customers and the marketplace in order to maintain business success. There is more good news here in that ECM solutions are evolving to keep pace with healthcare changes and demands.
Up to 70 percent of the data needed for effective and comprehensive patient care management and decision-making exists in an unstructured format. This implies the existence of a large chasm between resources and effort expended by healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) on EHR technology to manage discrete data and the work yet to be done to effectively automate and provide access to the remaining content. ECM solutions are evolving in a new direction that offers HDOs an opportunity to strategically build a bridge to this outstanding content.
Healthcare content management (HCM) is a new term that represents the evolution of ECM for healthcare providers. It is the modern, intelligent approach to managing all unstructured document and image content. The biggest obstacle we must overcome in this journey is the tendency to fall back on traditional thinking, which drives health IT purchases toward siloed, non-integrated systems. Traditional methods for managing patient content have a diminishing role in the future of healthcare. It’s time to set a new course.
An HCM Primer
- HCM = documents + medical images (photos and video. too).
- The 70 percent of patient content outside the EHR is primarily unstructured in nature, existing as objects that include not only DICOM (CT, MRI) but also tiff, pdf, mpg, etc.
- ECM has proven effective for managing tiff, pdf and a variety of other file formats. It is not, however, a technology built to handle DICOM images, which represent the largest and most numerous of the disconnected patient objects in question.
- Enterprise imaging (EI) technologies have traditionally been responsible for DICOM-based content. These include vendor neutral archives (VNA), enterprise/universal viewers, and worklist and connectivity solutions that are unique to medical image and video capture.
- Leveraging a single architecture to intentionally integrate ECM and EI technologies — enabling HDOs to effectively capture, manage, access and share all of this content within a common ecosystem — is referred to as healthcare content management or HCM.
Although the market is ready for HCM and many HDOs are already moving in this direction, it is important to know what to look for.
Critical Elements of HCM
Although it is the logical first step, HCM encompasses much more than simply unifying ECM and EI technologies together into a single architecture to enable shared storage and a single viewing experience for all unstructured content, DICOM and non-DICOM. Just as important is workflow and how all document and image content is orchestrated and handled prior to storage and access. This is essentially the secret sauce and the most difficult aspect of an HCM initiative.
ECM for healthcare workflow is geared to handle back office and clinical workflows associated with health information management, patient finance, accounts payable, and human resources, for example. The intricacies of these workflows must continue to cater to specific regulations around PHI, release of information, etc. All this to say that the workflow component of ECM is critical and must remain intact when converging ECM with EI technologies.
The same goes for workflows for enterprise imaging. EI workflow is optimized to handle image orchestration from many modalities to the core VNA or various PACS systems, medical image tag mapping/morphing to ensure image neutrality and downtime situations, for example.
These workflow features should not be taken lightly as health systems endeavor to establish a true HCM strategy. Do not overlook the need for these capabilities to ease the complexities inherently involved and to fully capitalize on any investment made.
Guidance for HCM Planning
Consider the following recommendations as you plan an HCM approach and evaluate prospective vendors:
- Be wary of an archive-only strategy. A clinical content management (CCM) approach is primarily an archive and access strategy. The critical element of workflow is fully or partly missing. A word of caution to diligent buyers to ask the right questions about workflow and governance of unstructured document and image content before, during, and after storage and access.
- Always require neutrality. Changing standards is a given in the healthcare industry. HCM should be in alignment with the new standards to ensure all document and image content can be captured, managed, accessed, shared, and migrated without additional cost due to proprietary antics by your vendor. An HCM framework must have a commitment to true neutrality and interoperability.
- Think strategically. A deliberate HCM framework offered by any healthcare IT vendor should be modular in nature but also able to be executed incrementally and with the end in mind. Beginning with the end in mind is slightly more difficult. The modularity of your HCM approach should allow you to attack your biggest pain points first, solving niche challenges while preserving your budget and showing incremental success in your journey toward the end state.
- Consider total cost of ownership (TCO). If a common architecture and its associated cost efficiencies are important in wrangling your outstanding 70 percent of disconnected patient content, you cannot afford to take a niche approach. It may seem easier and cheaper to select a group of products from multiple niche vendors to try and solve your most pervasive siloed document and image management problems. Take a careful look at the TCO over the life of these solutions. It is likely the TCO will be higher due to factors which include the number of unique skillsets and FTEs required for a niche strategy.
- Demand solution flexibility and options. Your HCM approach should provide extensive flexibility and a range of options and alternatives that are adaptable to your unique needs. Software functionality is important, but not the only criterion.
Your HCM approach for strategically managing all unstructured patient content should allow you to:
- Start small or go big, solving one challenge or many.
- Establish a common architecture with a unified content platform and viewing strategy for all document and imaging content.
- Enable unique ECM and EI workflows, not simply storage and access.
- Hold one technology partner responsible – “one throat to choke” – for easier overall performance management and administration.
Providers of all shapes and sizes must take a thoughtful and deliberate approach when evaluating document and image management solutions. There is much more involved than simply capture and access. Because this category of technology can enable up to 70 percent of your disconnected patient and business information, you cannot afford to make a decision without carefully considering the impact of HCM on your healthcare enterprise, immediately and over time.
Amie Teske is director of global healthcare industry and product marketing for Lexmark Healthcare.