As 2016 kicks off there are no signs of a slowdown in the rapid pace of big disruptions, transformations and innovations in the overall healthcare space. To take a deep dive into key topics across the entire industry would take far more space than this blog provides. Therefore, with HiMSS just around the corner (February 29 – March 4), we’ll turn our attention to some of the key healthcare IT trends we are expecting to be hot and that we’re seeing through our work with clients.
At a macro level, we anticipate the concepts of Data & Analytics, Security, Digital Health and Consumerism to drive much of the conversation at the conference as well as throughout the year against the backdrop of the Presidential Election, the Affordable Care Act (in what is anticipated to be the costliest year for compliance), and uncertainty in the U.S. financial market which only adds to the existing pressure of continually rising healthcare costs and the impact on all constituents involved from consumers to providers to payers.
Healthcare organizations have a ton of data—and the amount is increasing by the second, literally! As the adoption of EHR systems and strategies matures, so will the need to harness data for decision support both at micro and macro levels. The aggregation of patient data across multiple health information technology resources, the analysis of that data into a single, actionable patient record, and the actions through which care providers can improve both clinical and financial outcomes will continue to be one critical area we see develop.
Image from startupstockphotos.com used under CC license.
Safeguarding information security and privacy will become more challenging in an increasingly connected healthcare environment. A recent Accenture report projects that 1 in 13 patients (about 25 million people) will be a victim of medical ID theft due to provider data breaches. There are several areas to keep an eye on as it relates to security: First, mobile health, or mHealth, which has a big play in the shift towards a patient-centered, value-based delivery model and provides the potential to improve workplace efficiencies, increase patient safety, better coordinate care, facilitate payments, and engage patients; second, telemedicine, an area that is expected to grow around 40 percent per year over the next five years to more than $3.5 billion in 2020; and, third, EHRs. All three areas, while adding incremental value to the fight against rising costs and improved patient care, make personal and private data far more accessible and susceptible to potential breaches.
Last year, digital health firms secured $4.5 billion in venture money according to a report by Rock Health with six categories accounting for more than half of all that funding: healthcare consumer engagement, wearables and biosensing, personal health tools and tracking, telemedicine, care coordination and payer administration. The Boston Globe has stated that digital health is an estimated $32 billion market. The space is becoming increasingly crowded and is abound with start-ups, which have raised some eyebrows and cause for concern. However, as we look at things from our perspective, the key will be companies, technologies and services that are addressing larger problems and can integrate with and are interoperable with the consumer and healthcare environment. Just coming up with an app will no longer cut it. Particularly worthy of attention are wearables—specifically medical-grade devices (different than FitBit and Apple Watch, which are great for the casual health enthusiast to keep track of vitals) that are designed to aid in the prevention or treatment of a specific disease / chronic condition. The hype around wearable technologies will likely lessen as the market sees and understands which / how these technologies can be truly impactful to health and, out of that, we’ll start to see the ‘real’ players emerge. That said, a Soreon Research report expects the market for wearables, which is still in its infancy, to reach $41 billion by 2020, driven by growth in those medical grade devices aimed at combating diabetes, sleep disorders, and cardiovascular disease.
The healthcare landscape has changed, as we all know. Consumers are now bearing more and more of the cost burden for care and are forced to shop around and make informed choices about where and how they are going to receive healthcare and from whom. In this brave new world, technology (including data and analytics) will be center-stage in determining the efficacy of patient engagement. Understanding healthcare consumers will require healthcare companies to have access to comprehensive information about their medical and non-medical data, including non-traditional data such as social media and wearables. At the other end of the spectrum, consumers will expect enhanced engagement levels from their healthcare providers. This will require existing healthcare companies to invest in digital technology to reach consumers anytime and anywhere through their device(s) of choice, while enabling caregivers to have real-time access to information on their mobile devices. Keep an eye on those companies that have and will bring to market platforms—or ecosystems— that feature very user-friendly interfaces coupled with the tools and resources needed to educate consumers about, make decisions regarding and select their health and healthcare, benefits/enrollment, HSAs, FSAs, and billing to name a few.
It’s an exciting time to be in healthcare. But it can also be overwhelming. If you’re looking for a partner to help elevate your brand that has done it for more than 20 years for companies at all different growth inflection points, we’d love to talk. And, as HiMSS approaches, be sure to check back here for more posts about not only the conference and related topics but also how to rise above the clutter, reporters’ and executives’ opinions on what to watch for, recaps of Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s and Michael Dell’s general sessions, and much more.