There is a floating myth out there that healthcare providers are unwilling to adopt new technology. It's just not true. In the last few months, I have spoken to dozens of healthcare leaders at hospitals small and large, and I am amazed at their willingness to understand and adopt technology.
Pretty much every hospital CEO, COO, CMIO or CIO I talk to believes two things:
They have to do more with less. With growing demand, rising costs and constrained supply, healthcare is facing a looming crisis unless providers figure out how to "do more with less."
Technology is a key enabler. The technology is out there to help save more lives, deliver better care, reduce costs and achieve a healthier America. If a technology solution solves a real problem and has a clearly articulated ROI, healthcare isn't that different from any other industry and is willing to adopt it.
Given my conversations, here are the five biggest IT trends I see in healthcare going forward:
1. Consumerization of the EHR. Love it or hate it, the EHR sits at the center of innovation. Since the passage of the HITECH Act in 2009 – a $30 billion effort to transform healthcare delivery through the widespread use of EHRs – the "next generation" EHR is becoming a reality driven by three factors:
- Providers feeling the pressure to find innovative ways to cut costs and bring more efficiency to healthcare delivery
- The explosion of "machine generated" healthcare data from mobile apps, wearables and sensors
- The "operating terminal" shifting from a desktop to a smartphone/tablet, forcing providers to reimagine how patient care data is produced and consumed
The "next generation" EHR will be built around physician workflows and will make it easy for them to produce and consume data. It will, of course, need to have proper controls in place to make sure data can only be accessed by the right people to ensure privacy and safety. I expect more organizations will adopt the "app store" model that Kaiser pioneered so developers can innovate on their open platform.
2. Interoperability. Lack of system interoperability has made it very hard for providers to adopt new technologies such as data mining, machine learning, image recognition, Internet of Things and mobile. This is changing fast:
- HHS's mandate for interoperability in all EHRs by 2024, so patient data can be shared across systems to enable better care at lower cost.
- HITECH incentives and the mandate to move 50 percent of Medicare payments from fee-for-service to value-based alternatives by 2018 imply care coordination, and therefore, interoperability will become imperative.
- Project Argonaut, an industry-wide effort to create a modern API and data/services sharing between the EHR and other systems using HL7 FHIR, has already made impressive progress.
- More than 60 percent of the proposed Stage 3 meaningful use rules require interoperability, up from 33 percent in Stage 2.
3. Mobile. With more than 50 percent of patients using their smartphone to monitor health and more than 50 percent of physicians using or wanting to use their smartphone to monitor patient health – and seamless data sharing on its way –the way care is delivered will truly change.
Telemedicine is showing significant gains in delivering primary care. We will continue to see more adoption of mobile-enabled services for ambulatory and specialty care in 2016 and beyond for three reasons:
- Mobile provides "situational awareness" to all stakeholders so they know what's going on with a patient in an instant and can move the right resources fast with the push of a button.
- It radically reduces communication overhead, especially when you're dealing with multiple situations at the same time with urgency, and communication is key.
- It can significantly improve the patient experience and reduce operating costs. Studies have shown that remote monitoring and mobile post-discharge care can reduce readmissions and unnecessary admissions significantly.
The key hurdle here is regulatory compliance. For example, auto-dialing 9-1-1 if a phone detects a heart attack can be dangerous if not done right. As with the EHR, mobile services have to be designed around physician workflows and pass regulatory compliance.
4. Big data. Healthcare has been slower than verticals like retail to adopt big data technologies mainly because the ROI has not been very clear to date. With more wins on both the clinical and operational sides, that's clearly changing. Of all the technology capabilities, big data can have the greatest near-term impact on the clinical side and operational side for providers and will be one of the biggest trends for 2016 and beyond. Successful companies providing big data solutions will do three things right:
- Cleanup data as needed: There's lots of data, but it's not easy to access it and not quite primed "or clean" for analysis. There's only so much you can see, and you spend a lot of time cleansing before you do any meaningful analysis.
- Meaningful results: It's not always hard to build predictive analytic models, but they have to translate to results that enable evidence-based decision-making.
- Deliver ROI: There are a lot of products out there that produce 1-2 percent gains; that doesn't necessarily justify the investment.
5. Internet of things. While hospitals have been a bit slow in adopting IoT, three key trends will shape faster adoption:
- Innovation in hardware components (smaller, faster CPUs at lower cost) that create cheaper, more advanced medical devices, such as a WiFi-enabled blood pressure monitor connected to the EHR or RTLS for smoother patient care coordination.
- General purpose sensors are maturing and becoming more reliable for enterprise use.
- Devices are becoming smart, but making them all work together is painful. It's good to have bed sensors that talk to the nursing station, and they will become part of a top level "platform" within the hospital. More sensors also means more data, and providers will create a "backend platform" to collect, process and route it to the right place at the right time and create "holistic" value propositions.
With increased regulatory and financial support, we're on our way to making healthcare what it should be – smarter, cheaper and more effective. Providers want to do whatever it takes to cut costs and improve patient access and experience, so there are no real barriers. Innovate and prosper!