It's been a challenging year for the healthcare industry - new payment models and regulatory changes combined with big data and tech innovations have forced healthcare providers to rapidly adapt their practices at all levels of healthcare management and delivery. With big changes on the horizon and uncertainty everywhere, one thing providers can count on is that technology will continue to play a bigger and bigger role in healthcare services and delivery in the coming year.
In a shaky regulatory environment, the healthcare providers that survive and thrive will be the ones that quickly adapt to the needs of the patient by adopting the latest innovations. With healthcare premiums set to rise across the country and growing transparency regarding service costs, patients will be raising their expectations for quality of care in 2018, giving the upper hand to facilities that invest in infrastructure that meets patient engagement requirements and improves business processes.
In this article, we've highlighted our picks for the top 5 healthcare technology trends of the year. In our view, these should be major areas of concern for healthcare IT departments. How will your healthcare facility address these trends over the next 12 months?
Telemedicine an Expanding Service Area for Healthcare Providers
Telemedicine will play a bigger role in our healthcare systems than ever before. With increasing life expectancy, treatment for the elderly and those who may face issues with mobility or feasibility of transportation is heavily supported by telemedicine solutions that allow physicians and specialists to interact with their patients remotely, using video conferencing technology.
Although telemedicine saw significant adoption throughout 2017, growth drivers for the future include a rise in leaner and more expensive healthcare plans and the growing prevalence of value-based compensation for healthcare providers. Telemedicine helps to minimize external and incidental costs associated with obtaining healthcare, enhancing patient engagement at a time where growing premiums for healthcare insurance are threatening access to healthcare services for at-risk groups.
Cloud Computing Grows in Importance for Healthcare Facilities
A study conducted by Black Book, a leading research firm in healthcare information technology, found that 55% of hospital Corporate Information Officers (CIOs) expressed confidence in their cloud application strategies, but that many had not yet invested in cloud storage for disaster recovery.
Other studies have estimated that 65% of interactions between patients and healthcare facilities will take place via mobile devices in 2018. 80% of doctors are already using smartphones and medical applications, while 72% use smartphones to access drug data on a regular basis.
It's clear that mobile data and communications will play a big role in the modern hospital, and those who invest in cloud infrastructure that adequately supports the volume of interactions that take place in a healthcare setting will benefit from improved performance and patient satisfaction.
Big Data Solutions for Population Health Management
New technology continues to unveil new possibilities in the world of medicine, and healthcare facilities are starting to understand how a robust cloud infrastructure and real-time EHR tracking can be used to facilitate population health management. Nearly all hospitals with 200 beds or fewer say they're not adequately capturing all the information needed for actionable population health analytics, according to Black Book.
How will hospitals solve this problem? Electronic data warehouses that capture data from thousands of EHR updates per day and use risk modeling to assess population health are the way of the future, and it's likely that they will be adopted on a large scale by the largest hospitals. Still, those with large-scale data monitoring solutions still face difficulties in effectively storing and managing EHR data along with financials, labor, and supply chain information.
Improvements Coming for EHR and Interoperability
The EHR mandate has seen widespread adoption throughout our healthcare system, especially in hospitals and larger healthcare facilities, but it's crucial that EHR vendors continue to adapt to new requirements.
For example, the new Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act 2015 (MACRA) may not be supported by all EHR vendors, and many EHRs do not support the level of record keeping that would be required for meaningful application of pay-for-performance reimbursement structures. These structures require features that most EHRs just don't have today, like the ability to track contractual payment agreements or assess contribution to care.
Facing pressure from many sides, interoperability is becoming a concern for facilities that want to upgrade their infrastructure and data analytics, but require support from EHR vendors and other service providers, and regulatory relief while making the required upgrades. The successful healthcare facility of the future will effectively integrate EHR records, big data analytics, population health management, and a robust cloud infrastructure that supports it all, and this will require extensive cooperation and collaboration between healthcare providers, EHR vendors, insurance firms, and other stakeholders.
The Internet of Things (IoT) Could Change Everything
Are big innovations in the Internet of Things on the horizon for healthcare facilities? We definitely think so, and it's the facilities that upgrade their computing capabilities that will be set to take advantage as medical device companies roll out an increasing number of products that can plug into the hospital's internal networks for tracking and operation.
Wearable devices that allow physicians to receive real-time emergency updates on patient welfare and respond accordingly will impact patient expectations for standards of care in the coming years, and hospitals with monitoring systems that leverage the IoT will find business systems improvements at every turn.
Patients could be empowered to test their own vitals, using wearable devices to measure their heart rate and pulse, or even to conduct an ECG whose results can be transmitted automatically to healthcare providers through the hospital's cloud storage system. This could improve healthcare outcomes and positively impact labor costs, but only for those who invest in the infrastructure and interoperability measures to support it.
Healthcare is undergoing a period of significant change in many ways. While it's unclear how healthcare insurance and accessibility will look in the coming years, pressures like increasing cost transparency and pay-for-performance will force hospitals to continue finding cost-savings and efficiency through adopting the latest technologies and working with vendors to continue meeting the needs of an aging, and increasingly more demanding, patient population.