Top HIT trends for 2014: Accelerated change is coming

By Karin Ratchinsky
12:36 PM

Healthcare IT News recently published a series of articles looking back at the incredible progress HIT has made over the last decade. The last nine quarters in particular, starting not surprisingly when Meaningful Use checks got posted for EMR implementation, have seen remarkable accelerated change. With this momentum, it is no doubt that the next four quarters will be fraught with further IT transformation.

Implementing, institutionalizing and fully leveraging the EMR is a massive undertaking, and with it comes a host of other implications, five of which will drive the following major trends in 2014.

Security: Customer Data Services and IT Risk and Compliance companies alike predict that 2014 will be a year of headaches when it comes to data breaches for healthcare players. Experian notes that 46% of all breaches their data resolution department serviced in 2013 were healthcare related and that is expected to rise. Coalfire, an IT risk and compliance company, predicted that healthcare IT breaches will be a top 5 security theme worry across all industries. The proliferation of digitized PHI, lack of comprehensive risk mitigation strategies, recent omnibus rulings and increased audits all combine to create a hotbed for breaches in 2014. As a result, focus will not only be on compliance but on IT risk management and process, including auditing and working with vendors to design and outline end to end security standards, expectations and responsibilities.

The Year for Healthcare Cloud Adoption: Healthcare has mismarked cloud as a security threat, when in fact many would argue that storing PHI remotely, perhaps in a private cloud, is far more secure than data locally stored on a laptop or memory key, the latter device being responsible for Kaiser Permanente’s latest breach affecting 49K patients. The HHS.gov site outlines that 69% of all individual cases affected by breaches have been from loss or theft of physical assets, 18% are from hacking or server theft, dispelling the idea that online theft lends itself to amplified breach numbers. Shortly after the September Omnibus rule was passed, Amazon Web Services, the largest CSP announced they would be signing BAAs to satisfy the needs of the healthcare community. More providers in 2014 will turn to the cloud to leverage a scalable, secure way to access and store data and HIT applications.

Telemedicine: Rectifying soaring medical costs is at the heart of nearly every HIT discussion and movement. Telemedicine has been proven as a cost effective, scalable and patient friendly way to connect the patient and care provider. According to the American Telemedicine organization, 19 states have a working telemedicine parity policy and another 9 have a proposed law underway meaning soon more than half of US states will compensate for telemedicine activities. Providers can capitalize on a new type of revenue stream and realize other telehealth benefits. A recent study from the UK’s Department of Health outlines telehealth can bring about: 15% reduction in emergency room visits; 14% reduction in elective admissions; and 14% reductions in bed days (source). I have heard first-hand from CIOs and the numbers tell the same story, investing in telemedicine activities is a key priority.

Integration of Genomics & Predictive Modeling: The integration of genomics and predictive modeling is inevitable, so is the integration, in some fashion, into the EMR. This marriage is both highly exciting and overwhelming. Exciting because the correlations and intelligence that can be garnered from the now billions of digitized healthcare records is an unprecedented gold mine for research scientists and medical professionals alike. This data can be harnessed to make more informed diagnoses and treatment decisions, recognize patterns in the greater population, and ultimately make our healthcare system more effective. This movement is also highly overwhelming because of the amount and sensitive nature of this PHI. Nonetheless healthcare leaders as Mt. Sinai hospital in New York are taking the plunge with their $100 million commitment to integrate data and genomics into every aspect of their organization; the goal being to create more precise, positive patient outcomes. Although Mount Sinai is a true leader in this trend I predict we will see progress in 2014 driven by the proof that this type of intelligence improves care.

Empowering the Increasingly Demanding Patient: The message was clear at last week’s digital health summit: Consumers want control over their health information. Trends are showing that patients are increasingly looking for health information online including detail from patient portals. Frost & Sullivan estimates that patient portals will grow 221% through 2017. Empowering patients and holding them accountable is an essential part of improving care and consumers want access to information and tools that enable them to take such ownership. With health-related VC funding reaching unprecedented levels it is clear that this industry is ripe for innovation and providers need to get on board, harnessing technologies that deliver against patient expectations.

Tools such as telemedicine and predictive modeling coupled with patients’ appetite for more care ownership fuel the future and get us closer to an improved healthcare system.  Although we can’t overlook the incredible HIT progress and change that has taken place over the last few years, we must acknowledge that accelerated change is soon to come in 2014 and beyond.