5 Big Health IT Trends in 2016

Guest post by Mohan Balachandran, co-founder and president, Catalyze.

Mohan Balachandran
Mohan Balachandran

As we look back upon 2015, we can reflect, review and based on that and other factors, make some predictions about what next year will bring us. John Halamka had an interesting post that reflect on the bigger challenges, such as ICD-10, the Accountable Care Act and its implications on data analytics, the HIPAA omnibus rule and its impact on cybersecurity and audits and the emergence of the Cloud as a viable option in healthcare. We can expect to see some of these trends continue and grow in 2016. So based on these key learnings from 2015, here are a few predictions for 2016.

Cybersecurity will become even more important

In 2015, insurers and medical device manufacturers got a serious wake up call about the importance and cost of cybersecurity lapses. Healthcare data will increasingly be looked at as strategic data because we can always get a new credit card but since diagnoses cannot change, the possibilities of misuse are significant. Just as the financial industry has settled on PCI as the standard, expect the healthcare industry to get together to define and promote a standard and an associated certification. HITRUST appears to be the leader and recent announcements are likely to further cement it as the healthcare security standard. Given all that, one can safely expect spending on cybersecurity to increase.

IoT will get a dose of reality

The so-called Internet of Things has been undergoing a boom of late. However, the value from it, especially as applied to quantifiable improvement in patient outcomes or improved care has been lacking. Detractors point out that the quantified-self movement while valuable, self selects the healthiest population and doesn’t do much to address the needs of older populations suffering from multiple chronic diseases. Expect to see more targeted IoT solutions such as that offered by those like Propeller Health that focus on specific conditions, have clear value propositions, savings, and offer more than just a device. Expect some moves from Fitbit and others who have raised lots of recent cash in terms of new product announcements and possible acquisitions.

Interoperability will become a business requirement

No matter the point of view on value or benefits of EHRs, the fact remains that EHRs are here to stay. And because the information is now electronic, the promise of easy data exchange should be a reality. That is, however, not the case. Realizing that EHRs cannot solve all problems, health systems anticipate working with external vendors to fill the “white space” in the EHR solution suites. This implies that integration is now a business requirement. Add to it innovations like outcomes based agreements between pharma companies and health systems, and the evolution of modern approaches such as FHIR, 2016 is likely to be the year of significant progress in interoperability.

Telemedicine will grow rapidly

With a looming shortage of general physicians and the uneven distribution of specialists across the country, telemedicine has a clear value proposition. And its flexibility allows for it to be applied to acute conditions such as stroke, simpler conditions such as flu and strep, specialities such as dermatology, pediatrics and even private conditions such as sexually transmitted infection (STI.) Millennials are comfortable with this approach, so are seniors and others with more severe conditions who don’t want to trek to the nearest hospital for care.

Specialty EHRs will boom

This YouTube video is hilarious and a simultaneously sad, but perception of the impact that EHR implementations have had on care. Physicians and nurses aren’t fans of EHRs despite being the target audience. A one-size-fits all approach to product development and a primary focus on billing rather than patient care is at the root cause of this problem. Innovative companies have taken this fight on but intelligently, have focused their attention on creating EHRs tailor made to specialties such as dermatology, plastic surgery, pain management etc. Since these are significant revenue drivers for health systems and the specialists using it swear by them, we can expect adoption to boom in 2016. This will also lead to increased demand around interoperability and the ability to connect to any EHR via API.

Healthcare is a $2.1 trillion industry so the above should obviously be considered only a small set of possible trends in healthcare IT, but things like interoperability and security have wide ranging implications. Those two in particular will be universally applicable across all of healthcare.

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