2018 has been an eventful year for the healthcare industry, especially in terms of healthcare technology. Consolidation, consumerism and value-based care continue to greatly influence daily operational as well as strategic decisions being made by health plans, hospitals, life sciences organizations and pharmacies.
In turn, the decisions these stakeholders make impact how supporting data, analytics and technology companies plan for the future. They keep our eyes on meaningful innovation and contribution to the industry.
With 2019 just weeks away, I want to share a few themes I believe will continue to drive industry change.
Blockchain technology will be tested across the healthcare industry
Blockchain technology, best known for its connection to cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin, made a name for itself in healthcare over the last year. The promise to connect multiple data sources, track any and all transactions across the chain, and then publish the resulting information to stakeholders is appealing. To many, this translates to having the ability to connect, manage, audit and update a myriad of data types across disparate systems and stakeholders quickly.
The story is still being written on what blockchain can deliver to our industry. But one thing is for certain: a healthcare technology that enables data sharing will require high-level data governance and validation. And this is where we can provide critical value.
Artificial intelligence will begin to influence care planning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will impact the delivery of healthcare in the United States. We need to provide care in a more precise, less costly manner than we are doing today. Advanced analytics and machine learning provide the foundation for AI. So, I see an even more broad application to how care is delivered and then managed.
AI and its deep learning can find those hidden or unique patterns. This is becoming increasingly useful to diagnose disease and develop care plans. It goes beyond algorithms used today in clinical analytics. It will teach systems how to “think” and provide deeper insights to health plans and providers who must then use those insights to develop precise care plans and wellness programming.
This also creates great opportunities for companies with large data assets to drive higher precision data analytics and insights. While some may fear computers will eventually take over human decision making, I think the concept can be turned into a message of bringing precision medicine to our healthcare system through deeper, more thorough analysis.
The Internet of Things will become a reality in healthcare technology
The Internet of Things (IoT) concept is not a new one to the healthcare industry. For years, healthcare has used internet-connected devices for processes like remote monitoring of patients, glucose monitoring for diabetics, and medication dispensary in hospitals.
IoT could take all of those processes a step further to help inform and coordinate care for patients. What if an activity tracking device was connected to an insulin monitor or insulin pump? What if during an annual physical, a healthcare provider could see six months’ or a year’s worth of heart rate information on a patient overlaid with clinical data from other providers? The ways to leverage IoT in healthcare are endless when you think about it!
I think the biggest impact for IoT will be on preventive care. If we can connect all aspects of people’s lives that impact their health, we may be able to stem the tide of skyrocketing healthcare costs. We may be able to help those with chronic disease who need to have a healthcare provider virtually present. If this can be accomplished, we will create a healthier society.
Cybersecurity will become more than a buzzword
It seems that every few weeks I read a headline about a healthcare organization falling victim to a breach or possible intrusion. The digitization of healthcare has made cybersecurity a topic we should all care about.
Securing access points to sensitive patient information is no longer a luxury but a necessity. We must ensure the right people have access to the right systems and information. The proliferation of IoT devices in the healthcare industry will continue to force companies to address all levels of security. We must use healthcare technology to stop breaches and inappropriate access to information.
The challenge is establishing security perimeters without creating patient friction. Giving patients access to their information is an important part of improving patient engagement and outcomes. There is a delicate balance between access and security that will drive authentication and device security platforms in the next year.
Data governance will become a “must” for organizations
Data governance is something we all care about and touches all of the points I’ve already mentioned. How do you establish policies, procedures and processes that oversee data aggregation, creation, exchange, maintenance, and access that everyone in and across an organization will subscribe to?
The task is easier said than done. Earlier this year, I participated in a Data Governance Advisory Council. Everyone agreed that with the emergence of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), HIEs, Continuity of Care Documents (CCDs), and the use of Social Determinants of Health, health organizations have no lack of information from which to gather insights. Through comprehensive and proven data management practices, data governance ensures usable and reliable information. It also protects data integrity – and both things are crucial for patient safety and care quality.
We will see it discussed as an absolute need closer to the beginning of initiatives instead of at the end. It will no longer be a nice-to-have and will become a necessity when implementing new healthcare technology.
I look forward seeing how all of these trending topics impact our industry in the New Year!