Publisher’s Window: January/February 2014

Current Events ––>

I read recently that the American healthcare IT market will hit $31 billion in 2017, with a compound annual growth rate of 7.4% from 2012 to 2017. That to me is remarkable.

Driving this growth is the demand for clinical IT and the use of IT to reduce the cost of healthcare delivery. It is just a matter of time before paper-based systems disappear entirely and the entire system is digitized.

This sort of change is not limited to healthcare. I also read recently of a start-up company called Aereo that came up with a way to tap into television signals and stream them to subscribers on the Internet. Aereo uses a small antenna to capture the broadcast signals. It is a cloud-based application. This has resulted in a lawsuit by the networks claiming that Aereo is stealing their content — a lawsuit that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Aereo, it could do serious damage to the bottom lines of the networks.

Then there are all the smartphone apps that will connect us to devices in our homes. One app will tell you if you have mail. Another will track the air quality, another will serve as a motion detector, and still another will alert you to excess moisture in the home.

Now the ubiquitous bank ATMs that we all use are in for a change. The vast majority of the computers used in these machines run on Microsoft’s 12-year-old Windows XP, which Microsoft will stop supporting with security patches come April 8. Banks are faced with converting to Windows 7. While Microsoft will sell custom tech support to extend the life of XP, this will be an expensive option. Upgrading the existing ATMs will carry a high price tag, but there will be more up-to-date functionality available to consumers. We should also start seeing a proliferation of credit and debit cards with chips embedded in them to prevent theft of our personal information.

In the past 10 years there certainly have been tremendous advances in how we apply technology. The Internet has played a major role here. Also, costs keep coming down, making it easier to justify new applications. Pharmacy is benefiting from this. At the January conference of the American Society for Automation in Pharmacy, one speaker argued that the use of technology was probably a leading reason why the net profit margin for pharmacies has remained relatively unchanged over the past few years, despite lower reimbursement for the prescriptions dispensed.

The symbiotic relationship that exists between pharmacies and system vendors will be more important than ever as we move forward. CT

Bill Lockwood, chairman/publisher, can be reached at