We launch into a new year surrounded by an ocean of unknowns. There is great fear and concern about the direction of our country, and there is an obvious trickle effect to what the impact will be on healthcare and the IT segment of that industry.
I will eventually circle back to the broader theme of unknowns for our country, but I’ve given some thought to what we can know, for reasonably certain, about the healthcare landscape for the next several years—in the midst of changes in approaches, what can healthcare organizations bank on, and create vision and strategy upon?
Here are five of those trends.
Reimbursement approaches will change. The shift to paying for value makes too much sense and at least has a chance of being economically sustainable, which is not the case with fee-for-service. Pay for value at least has a chance of gaining clinician support and improving patient care. Granted, the movement is early in development, and it takes a mighty rudder to turn a ship as big as healthcare. But there’s general understanding that reimbursement strategy must change before healthcare becomes economically unaffordable. That will require a whole new set of IT tools that can take the information within electronic health records, organize it and present it to clinicians to improve health and wellness, health management of groups of people and healthcare.
Consumers must become involved in their health and care. This has been a difficult sell, and providers have not done a good job with this. Engagement has been identified as a key driver for care improvement, and yet it’s been vexing to providers to achieve it—for example, patient engagement provisions of the Meaningful Use objectives were among the most difficult to achieve. This is another big ship to turn—for decades, we’ve acculturated patients to not worry about medical bills, trust their doctors and not think about wellness, and we’re surprised when they don’t want to engage. As provider organizations grow in size and scope, they will need to draw on information technology and other methodologies to get people to truly become vested in maintaining and preserving their health.
Patient information must flow freely. The pressure to cease information blocking rose significantly in 2016, and that trend will continue in the New Year. There’s legislative backbone now behind efforts to stop practices that block information exchange, and doubtlessly federal agencies will increase their vigilance. And the move to new reimbursement approaches will increase the stakes for interoperability. Providers should be doing their part to jump on the bandwagon.
Data security will be increasingly challenged. More than 300 breaches involving the records of more than 500 individuals were reported by healthcare organizations in 2016, and hackers no doubt will step up attacks in 2017. The battle is not only technical, but requires more awareness of the threat by everyday system users, who are too likely to surrender network credentials to spurious emails. Even as healthcare data must be shared more widely, the industry must find a set of approaches that increases network security exponentially.
Personalization of medicine will grow. The potential to improve care is there, and some large-scale initiatives will be either start or begin to grow. The use of genomics and other advanced treatment approaches offers hope for a new age of improving treatment and care for individuals. The technology to support retention of this information in patient records, exchange of massive datasets and research will require healthcare organizations to revamp their IT approaches.
Many other cross currents will come into play within healthcare in 2017, but you get the picture. IT executives have needed flexibility and open minds in approaching their organizations’ information needs for the past 10 years or more, and the use of IT approaches need to evolve over time as healthcare undergoes massive transformation in the years ahead.
As a country, new administrations often mean a change of approach, and the Trump administration offers plenty of that. Fear can paralyze, but I sense that we’ve all learned the importance of being personally involved in voicing what we believe should be the direction of our country and, just as importantly, listening to and respecting viewpoints that are different than our own.
My hope, my prayer, is that we move beyond the radical political polarization that has immobilized America. The resolute stubbornness in sticking to ideological positions have paralyzed efforts to advance on major problems facing the country, whether it be healthcare reform, immigration, education, national defense, and more. Many years ago, I heard someone describe politics as the art of compromise, and for the good of all, willingness to compromise and find middle ground is crucial. That’s not just a message for politicians—let’s all model grace and servanthood in this New Year.
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