10 top healthcare information technology trends for 2017

Published
  • December 29 2016, 5:29am EST

New trends accelerate change within healthcare IT

Various experts in healthcare IT see a number of trends increasing in influence for provider organizations during the next 12 months. We queried several key knowledge experts in the field and compiled this list of technologies and trends that are likely to impact provider organizations over the coming years.

Artificial intelligence

The use of artificial learning, machine learning and natural language processing has exploded in 2016, but most of the tangible applications are based on specialized AI, and not general AI, says Vishal Awasthi, chief technology officer of Dolphin Enterprise Solutions. He predicts new use cases of specialized AI across verticals and key business processes. Increased use of these technologies will mean better access to actionable intelligence. “Good data management policies would be key to achieving a scalable and sustainable AI vision.”

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Blockchain

Blockchain was born in the financial industry for cryptocurrency transactions, but health and life insurers are among the many players scrambling to determine how blockchain could be adapted to improve the way we maintain health records, execute transactions and interact with stakeholders. Deloitte, the consulting firm, believes blockchain could facilitate the creation of a more comprehensive, secure and interoperable repository of health information. It believes blockchain could assist the move toward interoperable, comprehensive health records; support smart contracts; help detect fraud; improve provider directory accuracy; simplify the application process; and facilitate a dynamic insurer-client relationship.

The Cloud

Much of the accelerated investment in healthcare IT is expected to involve the cloud in 2017, and more than a third of respondents to a recent survey of healthcare IT executives cite cloud as the technology that will receive the greatest investment in 2017. “It wasn’t too long ago that people were skeptical of the cloud, but today, over 83 percent of healthcare organizations are using cloud technology, according to a HIMSS Analytics Cloud Survey,” says Morris Panner, CEO of Ambra Health. “A new report from MarketsandMarkets also estimates the healthcare cloud computing market will grow to $9.48 billion by 2020. The flexibility of cloud architecture makes it easy to bridge the gaps between the technologies that are already in use at an organization.”

Consumer-facing technology

A recent study by business and technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners found that the expansion of digital communication and available patient data will move the healthcare industry beyond the traditional doctor’s visit. The firm found that 91 percent of healthcare customers take advantage of mobile apps when they’re offered, and 80 percent of this group prefers mobile to a traditional office visit.

Other tech initiatives are working harder to engage patients—for example, roughly 70 percent of healthcare insurers currently offer rewards programs built around data collected from consumers’ health tracking devices and apps, says Will Hinde, a senior director of West Monroe Partners. In addition, data analytics in healthcare will advance to help patients save money, says Dan Henegan, vice president of RxEOB. “It’s important that we continue striving to understand what useful data is that can encourage patient action, versus data that is just noise,” he adds.

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Disease management technology

Healthcare organizations are facing growing pressure to differentiate disease treatments, and speed and agility are essential, says Ramon Chen, healthcare data management expert at Reltio. He predicts that 2017 “will bring more data management technologies, helping them further shorten time to market. Additionally, innovation in mobile, predictive analytics, machine learning, and new data-driven applications will provide easily-accessible complete views of stakeholders, so users can better orchestrate customer engagement to achieve commercial and R&D goals.” The push toward precision medicine will accelerate the trend in 2017, “with modern data management platforms distilling information down to what really matters for each patient.”

EHR improvement

With EHRs widely in place, they are a double-edged sword, says Brent Lang, CEO of Vocera Communications. While they have helped digitize healthcare, they have already increased burdens on clinicians because of frustrations related to the lack of interoperability and documentation burdens. “EHR pain points and fatigue are new dynamics; any healthcare technology that addresses those issues will endure,” he says.

Imaging

The evolution of imaging will continue as it adapts to new reimbursement incentives, says Morris Panner, CEO of Ambra Health. He predicts that enterprise medical imaging will increasingly eliminate the need for duplicative processing; the cloud will help physicians solve image management hurdles; that value-based care will force the elimination of repeat imaging and enable broader interoperability; and that imaging will take on a more important role in helping clinicians make earlier diagnoses.

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Internet of Things

The ability to connect medical devices and other appliances to the Internet will accelerate the move to the Internet of Things, but challenges will need to be addressed in 2017. “The future of IoT will be focused on security,” predicts Werner Hopf, CEO and archiving principal for Dolphin Enterprise Solutions. Recently, the a major distributed denial of service attack was facilitated by the IoT, causing outages at major organizations. “This is going to be a growing issue in the near future, and the concern at the forefront of IoT will be safeguarding networks and connected devices,” he says.

Interoperability

The passage of the 21st Century Cures Act has implications for the electronic health records that are now widely used through the industry. There are provisions in the act seeking to improve interoperability to improve patient care, and Premier, a group purchasing organization with a strong presence in HIT, expects more effort on information exchange initiatives, and the development and use of FHIR, an emerging information exchange standard from HL7.

Telemedicine

Adoption of telemedicine continued its steady rise in 2016, but growth will accelerated in 2017, says Ralph D. Derrickson, CEO of Carena, a virtual care provider. “Factors like the rise in leaner, more expensive health plans, value-based demands placed on providers, the new Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and ‘consumerization’ will all drive more rapid adoption in 2017,” he predicts. Advancing technology and IoT will enable ever-increasing ways for providers to remotely diagnose and treat patients. Using wearable’s, doctors can remotely monitor things like heart rate and blood pressure, then use that data to aid in diagnostics, disease management and facilitate treatment of chronic illnesses.