There is so much happening in terms of health care innovation that it’s hard to keep up and know what to pay attention to and what to wait to focus on at a later date. This month, the largest consumer technology conference, CES, launched with an entire track dedicated to healthcare technology including wearables, diagnostic solutions, and healthcare delivery. Additionally HIMSS is set to kick-off in February showcasing the latest and greatest in health information management systems and technologies. These two conferences and all of the exhibitors will likely fall into one of six strong categories. As a healthcare industry watcher, it’s up to you to decide what matters most to your organization. Below, find your instant cheat sheet for the coming year.
1) Big data, analytics, and artificial intelligence. NewVantage Partners in December released its Big Data and AI Executive Survey. More than 90 percent of respondents say they are “increasing their pace of investment in big data and AI,” and 62 percent reported measurable results from their investments in 2018. While many of the respondents were from the financial services and insurance industries, 16.6 percent were from the healthcare and life sciences industry.
Like those respondents, there’s a good chance you’ll be talking about big data, analytics, and AI within your organization as vendors and providers move to make all of the above accessible to our industry.
2) Telehealth. Increasingly, insurance companies are expanding coverage for telehealth and telecare programs, and CMS recently announced its limited support of telemedicine. This is good news for home healthcare and hospice providers since they can help virtually connect patients with doctors and show them – literally – any patient changes or issues.
Telehealth has the potential to transform home healthcare and hospice agencies, improving patient care and streamlining a care-provider’s day. Donna Deblois, the president and CEO of MaineHealth Care at Home reports telehealth and kiosks is already helping reduce costs for her agency’s patient population. The technology can also lead to better communication internally and externally as well as fewer silos within an organization.
3) Integration and interoperability. This doesn’t seem like it would be a big barrier since traditional businesses are already tapping into the benefits of interoperability, but we’ve only seen the beginning of what integration and interoperability can do here in the healthcare vertical. For instance, when disparate hardware and software works together, users can share patient data between what were once silos, pulling insights and innovation seemingly out of thin air.
Here in the healthcare world, we’re all working towards the day where we have full interoperability and integration between home health and hospice organizations, physicians, EHRs, and other supporting technology vendors. CMS’s Promoting Interoperability is taking things to the next level and companies including Forcura have released APIs and other technologies that make interoperability easier. This year should be when we start seeing real implementation and collaboration to the benefit of patients, doctors, and agencies.
4) IoT devices and wearables. We’ve been watching the growth of the device and wearable market, but this year looks to be the one that propels this category -- which was squarely focused on consumer-facing devices -- into the mainstream. Expect wearables and IoT to get more support from the medical community, improving patient care. Just look at what Apple did with its Health App and iOS 11.3 operating system. The company now makes it possible for patients to have access to their EHR right on their iPhone. More recently, hospitals and providers started making it happen, with hundreds of organizations such as John Hopkins, Rush University Medical Center, and Cedars-Sinai turning on the option.
CES had a whole panel dedicated to the way critical patient assessments are being made using these devices and another panel dedicated to textile computing -- clothing that can sense a patient’s blood pressure, ECG, infection, respiration, temperature, and swelling. Will this be the year your agency takes advantage of this market?
5) Communication tools and mobile devices. Another big change for 2019 is expected to be the push for more collaborative medicine, which is enabled by next-gen communication tools and devices, says Karen Vahlberg, CEO of LifeSpring Healthcare. It’s a welcome development.
“We used to receive a patient on service five, ten years ago and the hospital had kind of ticked them off their list. Now the hospitals want to know, ‘How is it going, how are we keeping them out [of the hospital], how are we preparing them for this next setting of care?’ Everything related to the shared medical record, and our ability to make our medical records more efficient.”
Your caregivers and back office workers may already be using tablets, mobile devices, and teleconferencing to connect with each other, outside caregivers, and patients. If you’re not, make 2019 the year to look into mobile.
6) Blockchain. Seven of the biggest names in healthcare including Aetna, Ascension, Humana, and United Healthcare in April 2018 announced an alliance to explore blockchain technology to improve data quality within the industry. Dubbed the Synaptic Health Alliance, the alliance’s first pilot program is focused on improving the quality of information available in provider directories maintained by health insurance providers. Going forward, experts say blockchain can be used to improve patient data security, speed payments, and provide more access to patient data. While this may not make it into your agency today, expect to hear more about it as the year progresses so you can be ready to implement it when it emerges.
So how do you figure out what to pursue today versus what to sit back and watch? Jerry Lepore with Fulcrum Associates recommends thinking in 3s.
From a strategy perspective it’s important to understand:
- Where you are today
- Where you need to be
- What your ability is to invest in technology.
Lepore suggests examining each technology you have under consideration using three filters. Ask yourself if the technology will assist in providing quality care, improve communication and integration and increase your cost effectiveness. If you can answer yes to all three of these questions, a technology should go on your to-do list and you should do everything in your power to make the implementation happen.
Annie Erstling leads strategy and marketing for Forcura. She has experience launching new brands, products and companies in the healthcare, technology, hospitality and consumer products industries on both the corporate and agency side of marketing. Connect with Annie on LinkedIn.