News Feature | June 11, 2014

ACA Requirements Spark Opportunities Around Storage, Collection Of Patient Data

By Megan Williams, contributing writer

Healthcare Data

The Affordable Care Act has changed the healthcare landscape for providers in innumerable ways. An influx of new patients and new regulations around how those patients interact with the system, has made the ability of a provider to estimate cost of care more important than ever. This has opened up myriad possibilities around the storage and collection of patient data, with partnerships with private enterprise making recent news headlines. 

Storage Issues

Hosting the data around the ACA requirements is a business unto itself. According to CNBC, insurance companies are required to share with CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) certain information used to reduce risk associated with insuring people under the ACA. Amazon announced on June 4, that its cloud services have been approved by the federal government for use in storing the required data. Some insurers have expressed dissatisfaction with the decision, since many have already purchased servers and other hardware to tackle the storage issue. In response, CMS has announced that insurers who already have the hardware may use it as edge servers if they wanted to opt-out of the Amazon cloud. If they do decide to host with Amazon, it will cost them $6,000 to $24,000 a year.

The Potential Of Apps

Tackling the issue of patient data has extended beyond the world of healthcare and gotten the attention of industry giant, Apple. The company announced June 4, that they would be partnering with EHR vendor, Epic systems. The partnership aligns with Apple’s launch of their HealthKit platform for health apps and tracking devices. The partnership is not new, though — Epic began its relationship with Apple when, in 2010, it developed an app for doctors (Haiku) which gives them access to patient charts. Since then, Epic has been paying close attention to health apps and patient monitoring systems, recently partnering with Fitbit and Withings to help the growing companies integrate data into EHRs for patients (MyChart).

Other Pressures

The incentive to reduce cost of care doesn’t only come from government bodies. Last month, according to Law360, Aetna, Humana, and United announced their efforts to build an online portal that would allow policyholders with employer and individual plans the ability to shop for lower-cost hospitals and clinics. The insurance companies are the three largest in the U.S. and the move will involve sending charge data to the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) — an organization focused on curtailing healthcare spending. The institute’s executive director, David Newman, says that the Internet database will focus on services where customer choice truly has an impact (i.e. nonemergent surgeries). “I think this is going to put pressure on providers.” Newman says.

As Medicare continues to release data geared around patient behavior, the industry is bound to see more technological input around the areas of patient data collection and cost of care reduction.

To read more about industry shifts in patient data, take a look at our article, Healthcare IT Driven By The Patient.