12 trends that will dominate healthcare IT in 2019

Growing maturity in the use of information technology will push providers to deliver concrete results and force changes in IT strategy.

12 trends that will dominate healthcare IT in 2019

The push to digitize healthcare has been going on for at least 10 years—that’s when the push began for hospitals and physicians to implement electronic health records. Now, providers are looking for ways to achieve measureable results with the systems they have in place. Health Data Management has compiled a variety of predictions from sources, and here are the 12 trends that we expect to dominate healthcare IT in the New Year.

Using IT to help achieve patient engagement and experience

There’s a greater understanding of the patient role in the success of their own healthcare, and consumerization in healthcare appears to be reaching a tipping point. Patient experience management encompasses the range of interactions that patients have with the healthcare system, including their care from health plans, and from doctors, nurses and staff in hospitals, physician practices and other healthcare facilities. Healthcare organizations will invest in care delivery models to meet patients where they are—say through portals, medical apps and remote patient monitoring. And patients want to exert control over their data and will insist on the ability to easily share it.

Rising efforts to achieve digital health

Digitalization of an industry means the application of various forms of technologies to upend traditional business models. Healthcare is no different: New uses for existing and emerging technologies will give consumers and providers more options for delivering care. Digital technology will be packaged with an ROI—savvy healthcare organizations are moving beyond the hype of digital technologies and focusing on measurable outcomes. Continued downward pressure on budgets and margins will mean strong investment in packaged solutions that embed technology to achieve rapid benefits in terms of clinical or financial outcomes. And big technology companies—Apple, Google, Amazon and others—will aim to have a voice in applying technology to reinvent healthcare.

Accelerating the use of AI and data visualization

Providers increasingly see the potential to apply artificial intelligence to the patient information that’s been collected through various electronic records systems. The long-term goal is to assist clinicians with decision support, reduce financial risk, establish population health initiatives for chronic disease management, and more. While some experts predict it to be the IT area gaining the most investment, there’s still a long way to go to achieve this vision, and some small steps are anticipated for 2019—it will usher in a variety of advanced analytics demonstrations. The most substantial real-world AI applications will be in image processing through early stage machine learning for areas like radiology and dermatological lesions.

Rising importance of population health management

Providers are doubling down on long-standing efforts to optimize treatment outcomes and costs through segmentation of patient communities. A variety of information technologies will be used to segment populations and treat their specific illnesses. Data will transform how providers make decisions—the growing implementation of technology developed for healthcare is creating the opportunity to use clinical data in more sophisticated ways, enabling clinicians to make better decisions and deliver better care. Private partnerships with healthcare providers will increase—the shift to value-based care coupled with a willingness of companies across industries to integrate technologies into each others’ platforms is creating new and interesting collaborations. Through predictive analytics, hospitals will be able to identify the highest-risk patients and refer them to appropriate resources.

Growing efforts by payers to provide total care management

Information technology will undergird payer efforts to migrate from pure claims administration and payment to burgeoning initiatives that help insurers offer care management and health optimization for those who they cover. Payers will embrace technology innovation more than ever before—companies like Bright Health, Devoted, Oscar and Clover are continuing to attract a lot of investment from the venture and private equity world because they’re seeking to offer a better user experience, and collect and utilize data in ways that will drive better outcomes—at lower costs.

Pressing on toward interoperability

Pressure is rising on providers to increase the efficacy with which digital patient information is shared across critical systems and the functional teams that use them, enabling increased efficiency in care and improved clinical decision support. Increased interoperability will propel value-based care—patient demand for data sharing and improved interoperability will have the added side-effect of propelling industry-wide momentum toward value-based care in 2019. The lack of interoperability has historically stifled its growth.

Pushing to achieve EHR optimization

With records systems now widely implemented, providers are striving to enable the technology to be more interactive and responsive to clinicians’ needs, which is expected to have a huge impact on how care is delivered. New platforms and infrastructure innovations will be made to allow hospitals to finally get a handle on messy, unstructured data in order to take advantage of new AI advances. This will help automate more clerical busy work for doctors, including documentation and repetitive tasks related to clinical care and billing. And the role that EHRs play in physician burnout will renew the push to improve the user interface with records systems.

Protecting health information and data security

As providers face increased pressure from hackers and intrusion techniques grow more varied and complex, they are ramping up security efforts and spending, especially on technologies such as encryption, deception detection and related consulting services. The Internet of Things will grow as a vector for hackers— Gitanjali, a cybersecurity vendor, predicts that the number of IoT attacks to increase to 300,000 in 2019, and to account for more than 30 percent of all cyberattacks. By contrast, the firm estimates there were 50,000 such attacks in 2017. “With more unprotected IoT devices connecting to IT networks, we will potentially see more pronounced and larger scale cyberattacks driven by IoT botnets,” the firm predicts.

The rising tide for value-based care

Providers face new challenges with this reimbursement approach, and are using new tools and technologies, such as applications that enable providers to better manage the health needs of patients under their care, with the intent of minimizing needless spending for acute and emergency care by providing services helping those with chronic conditions to better manage their diseases. Increased interoperability will propel value-based care. With access to complete patient information a truly value-based care system will finally realize its potential.

Growing the role for virtual care

As part of the effort to deliver care in the least expensive, most effective setting, providers will continue to push care to a virtual environment—via telemedicine or in the home, through the use of remote patient monitoring devices. Reimbursement initiatives underway in both arenas are likely to increase the use of the technologies. And more savvy patients will want the same utility for healthcare that they experience everywhere else in life—getting what they want and need, when they want it. Telehealth, mobility and millennials will upend the who and where of care delivery—from urgent care to “Dr. Google,” the state of care delivery is swiftly being disrupted. Connected devices, on-demand care, retail and urgent care clinics, will become increasingly more mainstream.

The increasing influence of the cloud

Healthcare organizations will increasingly see the logic of moving to the cloud to answer a variety of IT needs. For example, in response to a difficult IT hiring environment, more hospitals will move their IT infrastructure to the cloud. As healthcare costs continue to rise, hospitals will struggle to hire and maintain IT personnel to manage their on-premise systems. Smaller community and rural hospitals in particular will look for cost savings by moving their IT infrastructure to the cloud, which will also have the advantage of being more reliable, secure, and accessible. That’s likely to increase cloud data security spending, however. From the patient perspective, consumers will take control of and store their personal health and clinical data in applications of their choice in the cloud.

Making wider use of clinical decision support and real-world evidence

The use of Ai, growing sophistication in analytics and growing mounds of patient care data will increase the prospects for the use of clinical decision support, based on real-world evidence. There will be a shift in emphasis on “big data” to “small data” analytics, as healthcare systems focus to leverage existing data to improve clinical and operational processes. Through data liquidity and third-party app integration with EHRs, there will be a refinement of clinical evidence based on clinical data captured through care delivery. Data will transform how providers make decisions—the growing implementation of technology developed for healthcare is creating the opportunity to use clinical data in more sophisticated ways, enabling clinicians to make better decisions and deliver better care.

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