Guest post by Torben Nielsen, senior vice president of product at HealthSparq.
Significant policy changes are inevitably on the horizon for health care in 2017. Though the question marks about what is next for our industry seem endless, Americans are wondering how health care costs will change, and if their insurance carrier will continue to provide them with the coverage they need. One thing we know for certain is that health care industry disruptors will continue to innovate in a way that we can’t ignore. That’s why it’s important for health plans and hospitals alike to embrace the technology that could simplify the way people interact with the health care industry.
To that, here are my five predictions for the industry in 2017:
Artificial intelligence innovations will help people navigate the healthcare system.
From robots and chat bots, to increasing telehealth options, we’re expecting significant innovations in 2017 for both doctors and patients. On the hospital side, chat bots have the potential to streamline the processes that people often get caught up in when visiting their practitioner, or when dealing with insurance protocol. The chat bots of the future will be able to have meaningful conversation that will help people navigate the system, instead of confusing them. A member could say to their health plan, “I’m looking for a cheaper MRI,” and artificial intelligence can help with a more guided search.
Virtual reality will continue moving into the hospital side of healthcare.
With technology like Oculus Rift and HTC Vibe on the market, people around the world are getting used to the idea of virtual reality in health care, too, and we don’t expect that interest to die down anytime soon. Surgeons are already utilizing virtual reality to practice upcoming surgeries, and patients are beginning to see the benefits of this technology, too. For example, at the University of Southern California combat veterans experiencing PTSD are being treated using virtual reality gaming as a healing mechanism to help process trauma. As these tools continue to get smarter, both hospitals and patients will continue to see virtual reality extend into their care practices more regularly in the coming year.
Personalization of healthcare technology will help data transfers happen easier.
Block chain technology has potential to help secure EHR data and health plan member information in a way that streamlines the health care journey for both the patient and the provider. Healthcare processes and experiences can feel very stifled and complicated to all parties in the system (that’s why HealthSparq created #WhatTheHealthCare!) because hospitals and health systems are sitting on so much data that is not connected or easily shared. Data fluidity is a goal for the industry, and with new applications of block chain technology, the health care ecosystem may now see data transfers and fluidity happen much more simply, giving everyone a more holistic view of health care status, options and improvement opportunities.
Lee Horner serves as Stratus Video’s president of telemedicine, bringing more than 25 years of experience in enterprise software and healthcare IT industry. Most recently, Horner served as the president of CareCloud, a health care technology company specializing in practice management and EHR software. During that time, his core focus was setting the direction and strategy of the company while managing the top- and bottom-line revenues. He also drove both technology excellence and platform growth to meet CareCloud’s clients’ goals. Prior to CareCloud, Lee also held executive roles at Vitera Healthcare (formerly Sage Healthcare, where I worked with him; now Greenway Health) and Eliza Corporation.
You recently joined Stratus as president of telehealth – what motivated your decision and why is this such an important field nowadays?
In today’s mobile and fast-paced world, telehealth is a necessity. Telehealth is healthcare 2.0 – it can cut wait times, costs for both the provider and the patient, inefficiencies. At the same time it can elevate the kind of expertise and quality of the care patients receive, as well as give new opportunities to connect doctors to the patients who need them most. Telehealth is the future of health. It’s not only preserving that face-to-face connection between patients and providers – which is essential to great healthcare – it’s making that connection available to so many more people in so many different contexts. By enabling these essential connections, telehealth expands the probability of people getting the care they need, and is inevitably helping to save lives.
What is your background in health IT?
I have been involved in healthcare IT for the past 10 years. I have experience operating businesses in the payer, ambulatory and health system markets. It is a great field to be in. It’s very progressive and always changing.
Why is health IT where it’s at today? What do you feel has made this industry successful?
This market is expanding rapidly and technological advancement is at the forefront of that expansion. Smart people with extreme passion for improving patient quality care are really what is making this industry successful.
What are some of the things that most inspire you about the space and it’s work?
I am inspired every time I see the changes we are making improve a patient’s quality of care. It is incredible to see our work start to make a difference.
What are the most important areas in telehealth nowadays?
One important area is how telehealth is opening opportunities for more health industry professionals – and this is in turn, leading to a more robust patient experience. Predictable disruption is a huge theme in telehealth. You saw unpredictable disruption with industries like car ride service – when Uber and other apps came out, people who weren’t taxi drivers were suddenly entering that industry. In healthcare, it’s different – apps are creating opportunities for people already within the industry, allowing more providers to help the patients who need them most and more patients to connect with the providers best suited to their needs.
A couple of other important areas are readmissions and urgent care:
The Affordable Care Act penalizes hospital readmissions, because it’s important to incentivize successful treatment. Unfortunately, the nature of healthcare and the nature of life is that you sometimes need to go back in for continued treatment or to inquire about something. But maybe you moved or you’re too sick to keep going back to your treating physician. Discharge solutions are allowing people to reconnect and get the follow-up care they need without the hassle.
Urgent and emergency care solutions are also becoming really important. Imagine a burn victim walks into an ER at 4 a.m. and needs to see a specialist – but the staff is all tied up or there isn’t a specialist working in that particular facility. Without an urgent care app, the patient would be waiting and suffering, while the provider would be struggling to give them the care they need. With an app, they’d be able to pull up a tablet and connect that patient face-to-face with the doctor they need almost immediately.
In the age of the digital hospital and the connected patient, security will likely improve the less it depends on providers.
Everything from HIPAA to patient engagement treats physicians as the white hot sun of the healthcare universe, holding everything together and keeping it all in stable orbit. They are accountable for health outcomes, for patient satisfaction, for guiding patients to online portals, and for coordinating with care teams to keep data secure — even as mobility and EHR dominance complicates every node in the connectivity chain. All this digital chaos brings more diminished security.
Only as Strong as the Weakest Link
Every business out there has learned — usually the hard way, or by watching someone else learn the hard way — that whatever the security infrastructure, users are the weakest link. More devices means more users, and more connectivity and data-sharing means more weak spots all along the chain. By design, the EHR system adds vulnerability to healthcare data security through a long chain of users.
Patients don’t have a systemic, accountable role in all of this. Our whole approach fosters passivity on the part of the patient and paternalistic assumptions on the parts of caregivers and policymakers. We give tacit acknowledgement of this imbalance whenever malpractice law or tort reform is mentioned — and promptly left behind in the face of other, patient-exculpatory programs and initiatives.
Patients are a part of this. Clearly they are invested in their own security — the costs of health data breaches contribute to the rising costs of care, besides exposing personal financial and medical information that can carry its own universe of costs.
Patients are implicated, but they must also be accountable for security in the new high tech healthcare system.
An Old Problem with New Importance
Getting patients included in the evolution and delivery of healthcare requires engagement. The same goes for digital security. The ethical and financial dilemmas of the security situation is an expensive distraction for administrators and caregivers, but it is a learning opportunity that could empower patients. A new emphasis on digital security and privacy could be the start of a cascade of engagement with further questions of use and responsibility for outcomes.
Already, patients are key players in making telemedicine effective. Access is on the shoulders of the patients, and utilization depends on their technical literacy. The incentives–time and money savings, improved access to care–are powerful, but come with the obligation to learn the platform through which remote care is delivered. Utilizing any telehealth solutions requires patients to think about what information they want to share, whether they trust the new platform, communicating effectively with their provider, and gaining confidence for the new medium.
This same model can be applied more broadly to EHRs, and the patient role in the digital healthcare system.
There are exciting developments with telehealth reimbursement thanks to the progress in moving towards Patient Centered Care, and a focus on Prevention and Wellness. Early in 2016 we saw the introduction of Senate bill 2484 and with it a proposed path to remove many of the obstacles to providing access to patient centered care and telehealth. Now we are seeing the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus model take shape that further supports telehealth adoption and reimbursements. Imagine a connected care team, in collaboration with patient and family members, the relevant data is available as needed, and an empowered healthcare provider who is able to ‘do the right thing’ with respect to each patient.
Wouldn’t it be great if care was accessible independent of the patient’s or doctor’s location, whether they are rural or urban, whether they are in their home or in a clinic? Well, Senate bill 2484 may do just that. It is looking at removing obstacles to delivering telehealth services and opening the door to the delivery of care where and when it is needed.
Additionally, wouldn’t it be great if the primary care practitioner were free to utilize the right delivery of care at the right time?
To date it has been difficult to find a model that empowers the primary care provider and provides the freedom to do what they know is best for their patients including telehealth as appropriate. This year, a change is kicking off that may go a long way toward enabling the primary care practitioner. It comes in the form of the recent announcement from CMS in an interview with Joyce Freidon from Medpage Today published in article on 4-11-16: “The 5-year initiative, known as the Comprehensive Primary Care Plus model, will give doctors the freedom and flexibility to practice medicine the best way they know how, to return to what matters most to doctors and their patients,” said Patrick Conway, MD, CMS chief medical officer, on a phone call with reporters.
And Dr. Conway states “If telehealth makes sense, they can do that.” As the program kicks off this summer and goes into action January 2017, look for more details to unfold.
The article further quotes Dr. Patrick Conway: “Doctors will be given more freedom to design the type and amount of care that best meets the needs of their patients,” said Conway. “If telehealth makes sense, they can do that … This initiative will also make it easier for doctors to communicate with each other and have all the information they need … to get better support from nurses, specialists, and others on the patient’s care team.”
Guest post by Michael Leonard, director of product management, healthcare, Commvault.
Once a year, the healthcare community gathers to discuss the hottest healthcare trends. This year, the event took place in Sin City, and the turnout was staggering. Topics of choice at the show ranged from EHR best practices to the rising need for telehealth services.
Now that I’ve had a chance to step back and digest, there are a few key moments that jumped out from the event. Here are my top two:
The HIMSS survey showed healthcare organizations are ready for telehealth.
During the show, HIMSS released a survey that had some exciting results around connected technology in the healthcare field. The results showed that 52 percent of hospitals are currently using three or more connected health technologies. Technologies being used by that group that stood out to me include mobile optimized patient portals (58 percent), remote patient monitoring (37 percent) and patient generated health data (32 percent). It’s fascinating to see these results, and important for healthcare and health IT professionals to know that the telehealth wave is here to stay.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) made a key interoperability announcement.
At the show, the HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell made a major announcement around interoperability that was backed by the majority of the top electronic health record (EHR) vendors and is supported by many of the leading providers. This news will enhance healthcare services and allow doctors and patients to make better informed decisions. It certainly has the potential to catapult the industry forward, allowing healthcare partners to increase accessibility by improving their clinical data management solutions.
As always, the conversation at HIMSS was engaging and educational and I left with some great takeaways and predictions for the future of health IT including:
Guest post by Charlotte Hovet, MD, MMM, and Joseph Kim, MD, MPH.
Remember a few years ago, when online shopping was first getting started, and everyone used words like “e-tailer” to refer to companies that sold stuff on line? When was the last time you heard that used? It has become an anachronism, because almost every company is now an e-tailer. And “online shopping” has become merely shopping, because no one thinks twice about buying via the Internet.
The phrase mobile health will soon be headed for extinction in the same way as “e-tailer” because it is becoming a routine way to consult your medical practitioner. Over the next couple of years, it will become a major force in healthcare, and in five years no one will think twice about using remote communications to get medical help. We predict there will soon come a time when young people will wrinkle their noses and ask “Really? You had to drive to the doctor’s office, and sit in a waiting room and infect a bunch of other people just to get some Tamiflu? That’s insane!”
Both public and private health plans are rapidly adding coverage for e-visits. Not only are they cheaper, they are also more effective for some types of care and consumers greatly appreciate this trend. While the baby boom generation may still have some holdouts who don’t like mobile communications, the majority of people across all age groups have not only adopted mobile technology, they’ve melded with it.
So the question for physicians and hospitals is not whether to adopt e-visits and mobile technology, but how to use them most effectively.
We co-hosted a webinar on the topic recently, in which we looked at mobile technology from the perspective of patients and caregivers. Both sets of stakeholders have a shared need: simplicity and ease of use. Merely making an application or function mobile isn’t enough. How mobility is integrated and used makes a big difference in the value derived.
During the webinar, we polled attendees on which mobility trends will have the biggest impact in the coming year:
47 percent think a greater use of digital communication between patients and healthcare providers will have the biggest impact.
5 percent voted for Telehealth replacing more in-person visits with healthcare providers
While 14.7 percent see increased use of medical-grade disease management mobile apps and growing adoption of health/fitness wearable devices and apps by consumers.
We will never return to the days of house calls and family doctors who knew you from birth. However, thanks to advances in mobile and digital technology we are well on our way to a new golden age in medicine, one that will offer near instant access to electronically delivered healthcare from humans, anywhere, any time. The groundwork has already been set – there have been more than one billion tablets produced by the tech industry (one for every seven humans), so we certainly have enough screens to get a caregiver’s face in front of every patient.
So, what’s the next step? An understanding and commitment to using this technology to give everyone access to care, whether they are an aging boomer, someone living in a rural area without enough specialists, or a very sick kid who can’t travel because of their treatment regime.
This isn’t science fiction – robotic technology and tablets are already being combined in schools, in homes and in hospitals to better patient experiences. For example, a public elementary school in Round Rock, Texas recently accommodated a student receiving chemo in Philadelphia by using a telepresence robot to put her back “in” the classroom. The technology allowed her to look around the room, interact with fellow students and ask questions as if she were there in person – all for under $1,000.
The ROI of this type of set-up for schools is impossible to calculate nationwide, but the benefits are massive. Not only does the child benefit, so do their classmates who learn about inclusion, the school which evolves its technology, and the community because it gains one more educated human being. More than 40,000 children undergo treatment for cancer each year in the US – imagine giving each of them this opportunity.
Guest post by Torben Nielsen, senior vice president product and strategy, HealthSparq.
The past few years have seen record investments in digital health. More than $12 billion have been poured into digital health companies in 2014 and 2015 alone, according to Rock Health, and there’s no indication of any slowing in 2016. Here are my predictions for what’s in store for health care in the New Year:
#1: Fragmented and disparate data sets turning into relevant and comprehensive information sets
Healthcare data sources have been siloed and fragmented for years. Data in electronic health records (EHRs) have worked within the hospital setting (to some degree), but not across systems, or for the consumer. Patient portals have attempted to bring data together, but with limited adoption due to sporadic data, old interfaces and no clear use model. With new data standards, APIs, and open source developments, data will become more fluid and accessible. We will finally start to see data portability and data integration in ways not witnessed before. This will be to the benefit of the consumer, who will be able to share and embed data from different sources into their preferred view. This will ultimately create a more relevant and engaged experience for the healthcare consumer.
#2 Continuous and team-based care on the rise
Along with a deeper and more portable experience of one’s own healthcare information (both from the healthcare system and via patient-driven data) comes a more continuous and streamlined patient-doctor experience. Interaction between the patient and the system will happen via Wi-Fi enabled technology and smart devices allowing for a continuous stream of data and information. This will benefit the doctor, who will be able to interact and react much faster. It will also do away with the “information black-outs” that often occurs between the time a patient visits their physician, all the way until their next scheduled visit. The patient will also be able to better track their condition. Furthermore, much of this information can be shared with the patient’s broader care team such as significant others, children, specialists, etc. This will ultimately benefit the care provider, the patient and the overall system.
#3 Millennials will be the catalysts for the healthcare consumer revolution
One of the most over-used buzzwords in the healthcare industry today is “consumer/patient engagement.” Everyone seems to have a solution for driving up engagement for the masses. However, it’s a fallacy to believe that anyone or everyone will engage in a particular system, process or technology. As is the case with most products, an early-adopter segment needs to be identified to successfully scale and ramp up sales. For healthcare, millennials will be a great catalyst for change and the movement towards consumerism. This generation has grown up with Uber, Amazon, Instagram and Facetime. They will demand a much more efficient and technology driven healthcare experience. They will push for a seamless and personalized experience, and their voice will become stronger and stronger over the years as they start consuming healthcare to a greater extent.
Guest post by Anand Natampalli, MBA, vice president, global business development, HGS, and Daniel A. Schulte, MBA, CHFP, senior vice president, provider healthcare, for HGS.
If there is one constant in healthcare and health IT it’s change. Technological advances, growing workforce needs, regulatory reforms, and the continued shift to value-based care will all continue to have a profound impact on the industry in the coming year. Here is what we think will be the major changes affecting payers and providers:
Data Grows More Critical in a Value-Based World
Payers used to leverage analytics to look for ways to reduce operational costs. In 2016 and beyond, the focus will be on creating highly targeted products, channels and service offerings that keep patients healthier. For example, payers will use highly personalized behavioral data to make wellness recommendations for members. This targeted approach of wellness is possible with analytics resulting in higher adoption rates compared to a traditional outreach.
Greater Focus on the Customer Experience
Members purchasing health insurance on the exchanges will be faced with a choice each year, and those choices will be right in front of them for them to compare. A poor customer experience this year will increase the likelihood of finding a new payer next year. Based on 2014-2015 data, 38 percent of members changed their health plans in state exchanges with in one year. With price points remaining comparable customers will continue to look to service and experience as key differentiators when choosing a health plan.
Engagement and Activation
Technologies that enhance and improve patient engagement and activation will be critical to healthcare moving forward. Through population health management we are learning more about how to create wellness strategies and to stratify patient populations based on their conditions and adjust for nuances in age, race, diagnostic groups, and the like.
This article is part of the “Think Further” series sponsored by Fred Alger Management. For more “Think Further” content, please visit www.thinkfurtheralger.com.
There is almost nothing I’m certain of except that life is an uncertain thing and that it seems to change a lot. Even in the most predictable of settings, even the minutest changes in detail can have a lasting and overwhelming effect on nearly everything in its atmosphere. In healthcare, a space seemingly immune to the status quo, things seem to get a whole lot more complicated. The same can be said of life and death, health and well-being. On their own, they are not so difficult to understand and often, in most cases, predictable and redundant; until the final days, of course, then things begin to get a little more complicated. When we’re fine, we’re fine. Life is good and most of our concerns seem trivial.
Then health gets involved and the minutest change in detail can send our lives in a spiral so much so that we barely recognize our place in it let alone who we are and where we belong. When such an occurrence arises, we begin to rely on beeps and buttons, software and technology in ways never before imagined for the intersection of our lives.
Clearly, the health IT landscape will be completely different five years from now. From where we stand today to where we’re headed, we’ll likely look back on this moment and wonder how we survived such archaic times. Just a couple years removed from the age of the electronic health records, technology that already seems dated and antiquated, is no longer monolithic and domineering to the space as it likely seemed in 2010.
Our future selves might stand on the threshold of 2020 and say that we were being single minded. The technology — EHRs were supposed to save healthcare and are now nothing but foundational. The technology was supposed to simply aggregate information collection, provide for the ability to quickly share information system wide and around the world; and give us the capability accessing all of a patient’s information at the tips of the proverbial finger.
When the promise of those solutions faded (yes, their stars have faded) and as our attention forced us into new technologies (primarily because of consumers’ desire) we are now seeing developments in technology creating touch points that impact patients “where they live” and has become the new force behind healthcare technology.
Consumers will drive healthcare’s future. Probably not a secret at this point, but a point that is hard for the old guard. They’ve had enough of being left out of the ownership process regarding their own health. They’re tired of being locked out of their own records, and kept access to their own information. Such data would not exist without those helping produce it. New consumer technologies have and will further level the field. Consumer tech will continue to spur innovation, at light speeds. Data will flow between healthcare parties and its consumers; HIPAA protections will be waived and open access for the social good will become the norm. Standard and traditional approaches when dealing with patients, in a generation or so, will be completely different and far less segmented, as they are now.