27 hot health techs to watch in 2017
Seven years since the HITECH Act's meaningful use incentives turbocharged hospitals' information technology purchasing plans, providers are still investing big money in their IT infrastructure. Having moved well beyond basic electronic health record systems, they're now looking for efficiencies in communication, data storage and security, analytics, asset tracking, bed management and more.
We consulted with HIMSS Analytics to spotlight technologies that have the greatest predicted buying activity for U.S. hospitals in the coming year.
"These are the technologies that are showing the most potential for growth for 2017," said Matt Schuchardt, director of market intelligence solutions sales at HIMSS Analytics.
While the market has cooled off a bit since earlier in the decade, and "there are going to be fewer buyers than there were around HITECH, 300 or so hospitals is still more than 5 percent of the market, and represents a significant number of buyers in the space for a single year."
Here, then, are the technologies most on the radar for 5,461 hospitals across the U.S. in 2017. (Number of predicted installs in parentheses.)
Transfusion Management System (375) and Specimen Collection Management System (398)
"These are really for advanced laboratory systems – managing how things are transfused, whether blood or even breast milk, and then labeling these things from a specimen management perspective: Making sure that thing are being barcoded when the phlebotomist takes it, and those barcodes are being tracked throughout the hospital, making sure you're testing the right specimens and running the right tests," said Schuchardt.
While other innovations such as laboratory outreach services – making sure people are actually getting their lab tests – and genomics are also seeing growth (more below), "overall adoption of that is significantly lower than things that make your regular lab system more efficient, like managing transfusions and managing specimen collection better," he said.
Infection Surveillance System (405)
"This is about what it sounds," said Schuchardt. "Working on reducing hospital-acquired infections, managing and monitoring that better. It's part of the CMS (quality) scores and they're doing a better job monitoring that, making sure the taxpayers aren't paying for HAIs. Monitoring that will continue to be important on an ongoing basis, as there are more and more people hired for that role."
Anesthesia Information Management System (237)
"If you think about where risk is, hospitals really focus around surgery," said Schuchardt. "Making sure they're monitoring anesthesia is really important: It's the most dangerous part of any hospital stay, other than staph infections. Hospitals are looking at that, and you can see the current adoption rate is under 2,000, but we expect that to grow pretty substantially."
Medical Necessity Checking Content (424)
"We think there's still a lot of growth there. It's really about making sure the hospital is going to get paid for the procedure prior to doing it. I expect growth there to continue. It still surprises me that a lot of hospitals do these procedures with the hope of getting paid as a strategy."
Laboratory - Outreach Services (298)
"This is making sure people are getting the tests that they need," said Schuchardt. "You see the see the TV ads for biologics all the time that may cause liver damage: Are these people coming back in and having their levels checked on their liver while they're taking them? This technology manages the process – making sure people are being notified of the results, notified for follow-up work, and things like that."
Laboratory - Molecular Diagnostics (113)
This is HIMSS Analytics' term for precision medicine. "We see some growth there," said Schuchardt. Specifically, he sees more health systems moving to a "hub-and-spoke model" for genomics capabilities, with larger medical centers with the technology and the personnel serving smaller hospitals. "There are large health systems that are adopting precision medicine, and there are specific ones, like oncology, where almost every cancer hospital has it in place," he said. "But I suspect we will see precision medicine installed at hub hospitals, so the actual blood work and tests may be done at the academic medical center that's the center of the healthcare system you go to – but probably never will be done at your local hospital."
Radiology 3D Image/Display (348)
"As imaging capabilities increase, being able to see those images gets more and more complicated," said Schuchardt. These days, after all, a three-dimensional mammogram is can be as large as a terabyte or more. "As these images get more discrete, the volume and size of those images grows pretty rapidly," he said. "Being able to manipulate a giant 3D model like that requires special monitors, special software to make sense of it."
Cardiology 3D Image/Display (178)
Similar to the radiology display but focused on cardiology, this are "will have less adoption, always, than radiology, as there are a number of hospitals that just don't offer cardiology services," he said. "But there's a similar growth curve with a cap on it, in that not everyone is going to be offering cardiology."
Nurse Communication System (420)
"Nurses are, for most hospitals, the majority of employees," said Schuchardt. Making sure they're in the right places and doing the right things and taking care of patients at the right moment is going to continue to be important as nurses will continue to be the primary caregivers in the hospital."
Physician Assessment Software Tool (140)
"This one is really interesting," said Schuchardt. "It's about monitoring the effectiveness of your docs. One of the things they track now is hospital-acquired infections, suture-site infections, bloodline infections and things like that. Monitoring whether particular doctors have higher instances of that or not, making sure you're watching those sorts of things, leads to some better outcomes. I know there's probably some resistance from physicians in terms of being watched, but what gets measured gets done, and measuring the outcomes for individual physicians, preliminary analysis shows, has a very positive effect on reducing hospital-acquires infections. There are still fewer than 2,000 hospitals using this kind of technology."
Asset Tracking/Management (342)
"This is really an IT function: Tracking the certificates on your Windows machines, is everything up-to-date, are all your updates in place, are you tracking the depreciation of your servers and things like that? Certainly, as you get more tablets and things like that, tracking where they are and that they're secure is going to be important."
Bed Management (296)
Business intelligence toosl focused on bed usage are increasingly important, said Schuchardt. "The value of beds, the types of patients who are in those beds, are you getting the most of them, what's your census rate like, what's your average number of patients to a bed. We suspect that, like all other BI and analytics tools, we'll continue to see growth."
VOIP (227), Telemedicine (234)
"Voice over Internet, telemedicine, nurse communication – all of these sort of connect together," said Schuchardt. "If you think about organizations sharing data among themselves, you need to then think about how do they share data even internally? How is the nurse getting the right order, how are patients being routed? Those things will be more important in the post-EMR world as organizations look to better understand patient throughput and outcomes, and communicating what's going on internally and externally."
Data Warehousing/Mining (287)
A lot of hospitals have data warehousing capabilities, but they're often "some sort of cobbled-together, self-developed system," said Schuchardt. "We expect there to be growth there. More and more organizations are looking to turn their data into an asset. Having the data is one thing, using it effectively is an entirely different animal. And I think organizations are beginning to grapple with those concerns."
Health Information Exchange (496)
"This is one is one where there's a bunch of new purpose-built vendors in the space," said Schuchardt. "The majority of installs are in EMR or legacy systems, but we're seeing some movement toward some specific systems – even in places where people are focused around an HIE that does more than connect them just within their vendor but connects them to other organizations as they look to control their catchment area, maintain where patients are going and exchange the right data while maintaining the security necessary to protect PHI. About half of hospitals have some sort of system in place but we expect some sort of movement around whether you're using a specific vendor or not."
Encryption (439), Firewall (404), Spam/Spyware Filter (399)
"These three make sense if you think about all the security scares in the news," he said. "It's still shocking to me that lots of hospitals don't have those technologies installed. I suspect that we'll continue to see adoption of those. But they're by no means silver bullets." Schuchardt notes that HIMSS Analytics is also tracking emerging tools such as security event information management. "We're adding some more detailed security technologies as well, as hospitals evolve to handle the continuous and multi-pronged threat from cyber criminals.
Storage: Vendor Neutral Archive (179)
Here's one where hospitals should do due diligence. "There's a lot of vendors in this space who have re-branded their archive as vendor-neutral because it's a hot-button topic," said Schuchardt. "But is that actually vendor-neutral? That's a question hospitals should be asking their vendors before they buy. Is it going to let me exchange data between Philips and GE? Or is it just your old product with a new name? It's making the data move from your PACS system into your EMR – if you go to the ER when you break your arm, and then you go to the ortho for follow-up care, can she see the original image very easily, even if she's not on the hospital EMR, or hospital PACS? It's the ability to store images from one vendor and then reproduce them in places agnostic to the vendor where they're being reproduced."
Real-Time Location System (149)
"This is taking RFID and moving to the next level," said Schuchardt. That said, RFID is still very lightly adopted. We see some activity there, hospitals that use RFID are going to continue to do that, but I don't know if that becomes ubiquitous or stays department-specific. Some of the most effective use cases I've found for RFID are in specific departments: Your pharmacy trays have an RFID in them to make sure all the meds are right, for instance. But RTLS could conceivably tell you where every wheelchair is in your hospital."
Business Intelligence - Clinical (141)
HIMSS Analytics looks at purchasing plans for both clinical and financial BI tools. The clinical side, specifically, is poised for growth as health systems look to do more with their data. "There are different vendors in these buckets," said Schuchardt. "The analytics vendors that have been around for a while across those verticals, in that finance space, but then there are those that are around helping you build protocols and monitoring compliance to those protocols, making sure your treatment plans are effective as possible. And then there are a bunch of reporting plans that sit on top of that as well. So, you're going to get the most out of bed management if you're reporting on not just is your bed full or not, but what are the outcomes for those beds, what floors have the most profit. We'll see the back-end tech for analytic really grow, but the reporting, making sense of that, is going to grow as well."
Cost Accounting (101)
"This continues to be important," said Schuchardt. "You can't enter into risk-based contracts if you don't know what your costs are to particular procedures. If you don't know what it costs you to treat diabetes, you can't enter into a risk contract around diabetic care in your catchment area. Understanding it takes X amount to do this, what are my personnel costs for a particular treatment, is important as hospitals enter into alternative payment models. So we expect some growth there."
Storage: Cloud-based (21)
"We're beginning to see a move to the cloud," said Schuchardt. "For a number of years, hospitals have been using hosting services from their primary EMR vendor. But the move to more of a cloud-based storage, because of the security concerns, has been much slower in healthcare than in other verticals. But we will see that move. Most people are hosting something offsite, and moving to not storing that locally is going to continue to happen. We expect to see growth there.
"Here we expect minimum growth," said Schuchardt. "I think we're looking at a couple hundred hospitals using it. But we see movement there."
Population Health Management (307)
"About 1,200 hospitals currently have a population health management system in place," said Schuchardt. "We expect that to grow. If you look at the top 10 vendors for population health right now, two of them are EMR vendors, but they've got about 40 percent of the installs. The majority of vendors that hospitals have engaged with are slide plays into population health – I think only about 20 percent of the market right now are purpose built population health vendors."
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