Top 5 health IT trends for 2015: What's top of mind?

These five trends pose opportunities and challenges for providers
By Karin Ratchinsky
10:24 AM
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2014 was another complex year in healthcare. Stories that made the biggest headlines included the Ebola outbreak, HealthCare.gov’s marketplace on which 6.5 million Americans enrolled for health insurance and incessant cyber attacks targeting health organizations. Amidst these happenings, institutions forged ahead on integrating EHRs at the point of care, engaging patients through online tools and juggling dozens, if not hundreds, of other business and IT projects.

What will remain constant in 2015 is change. Healthcare is in the middle of a major evolution toward digital, personalized medicine and the empowered patient. Here are what I believe are the top five trends for 2015 in HIT.

Security: In 2014, 42 percent of all serious data breaches were in healthcare, and the FBI forecasts more troubled times ahead, issuing an industry-wide warning last year. By 2015, half of healthcare organizations will have experienced between one and five cyber attacks in the previous 12 months – with a third of those attacks successful. It’s what you would call an imperfect storm. At a time when health organizations are aggressively digitizing information, system and processes criminals see an easy target to gain access to lucrative confidential data and controlled substances.

HIT and security leaders need to effectively lobby for attention to ensure the right investment is made in auditing, protecting and thwarting attacks as well as identifying and combating them as quickly as possible when they occur. Players need to ensure they have a comprehensive view of their security and risk landscape and pull in the right partners to deploy a holistic solution.

Moving to the Cloud: By 2020, 80 percent of health data will pass through the cloud at some point in its lifetime as providers look to more scalable, cost effective, and in many cases, secure hosted infrastructure. And with other trends like big data, personalized medicine and new business requirements around flexibility, the move to cloud architecture is truly top of the agenda.

To execute an effective cloud strategy, organizations should be strategic. Mobilize non-mission critical workloads to the cloud first and leverage integration, network and cloud infrastructure partners along the way to ensure a smooth, secure transition. And as always, deploy direct connectivity to cloud partners to maintain security, performance and control.

A Focus on the Patient: Healthcare patients are consumers. The industry relies on patients for business, and their satisfaction scores dictate compensation levels. Moreover, they are the single most powerful factor in determining care outcomes. Meaningful use stages require organizations to engage patients online, empower them with personalized information and encourage them to take ownership of their health. 2015 will be a year in which providers need to invest and deliver sophisticated, engaging online and mobile tools that enable and empower the end patient consumer.

Doing More with Less: At an average growth rate of 5.7 percent through 2020, healthcare spending in the U.S. is out of control, and everyone is getting squeezed. Payers, device manufacturers and providers all have business directives to do more with less. IT organizations in turn are looking to technologies like SIP, Cloud, Ethernet, mobile technologies and outsourced managed services to leverage core competencies of partners and, in turn, make dollars stretch.

Data Center Consolidation: As organizations look to centralize and virtualize applications to ensure performance, improve flexibility and exercise control, they are also tasked with the above trend to do more with less. We are seeing a major trend toward data center consolidation, whether in-house, through third parties or with moves to the Cloud. And with the ability to deploy dedicated point-to-point network connectivity from an organization’s core sites to these locations, providers are being more creative with how to extend their network reach and respond to big data, consumerization and application growth trends.

What will remain constant for the next few years is change. Healthcare providers continue to make incredible progress toward more effective, informed and personalized care, and the IT organization has been integral to these successes. The above five trends pose opportunities and challenges for providers, but what’s encouraging is the host of enabling technologies that can make these initiatives a reality. Here’s to a great 2015!