2013: The year healthcare IT will experience these six shifts

1. Increased emphasis on business intelligence. The industry now - finally - has data stored digitally in a structured form in EHRs. Now, we must make sense of it to learn and improve. Companies that specialize in providing the service or offering the tools to empower healthcare facilities to track and visualize, monitor and project activities should experience a boost in demand. 2013 will mark the industry's shift from data collection to data comprehension/utilization.

2. The advent/adoption of Patient Relationship Management (PRM) software. As power shifts towards the consumer, the industry will shift toward emphasizing the healthcare "experience" through customer service, powered by automated and personalized PRM software that uses the data already residing in EHRs. I believe healthcare has been and continues to be one of the most static, transactional industries in existence; this will change - patients expect and demand it because they get it from nearly all businesses in nearly every other industry.

3. The advent of third-party HIPAA/HITECH certification services. HIPAA and HITECH regulations are a moving target. Patients and providers need to know that the software they use is keeping their data safe. Software developers and vendors need to ensure they are following the best practices for securing patient data. Independent companies will step in to audit software providers and certify their compliance with current legislation to allay concerns from all parties involved in digitally storing/updating/manipulating personal health information.

4. Patient portals will shift from being static, one-way sources of info to dynamic, two-way collaboration environments. Right now, patient portals are ghost towns and allow patients to do very little besides see limited medical information and request an appointment. This will and needs to change. Portals should allow for secure, two-way communication between a patient and their provider(s), and allow patients to see much more of their medical information and book appointments on-demand, 24/7.

5. Continued adoption of online visits; but far from going mainstream. There will be more "e-visits" between patients and doctors, as technology improves to more accurately mimic the in-person visit and allow doctors to better observe and diagnose patient problems. But this technology's expense will be cost-prohibitive and most patients won't be sold on this alternative means of working with doctors unless they are located in very rural areas and therefore have few care alternatives. Video meetings between patients and their doctors will probably be adopted later in the game and at a slow, but steady pace - similar to how FaceTime and Google Hangouts for the mobile and social media spaces appeared and have been tapped into.

6. Integration. This has already started to happen, but what has been accomplished thus far is the tip, tip, tip-top of the iceberg. EHRs, PRMs, websites, mobile apps - they all collect different data and reside in different locations, but will work in a synergistic way if synced bi-directionally, in real-time. This will be another moving target - but if it's hit, everyone will reap huge rewards.