Four Predictions for Healthcare IT in 2018

Guest post by Steve Elder, director of communications, STANLEY Healthcare.

Steven Elder
Steve Elder

The healthcare industry is in a period of great uncertainty, with major questions looming around how regulations, standards and reimbursements – particularly regarding care quality and interoperability – will be changing for hospitals in the coming year. One thing is clear though: In order to provide the efficient and high-quality care needed to meet patient expectations, hospitals need to focus on the intelligent application of new technologies. Here are four trends that will influence healthcare IT in 2018:

The opioid epidemic will trigger growth in investments around patient and staff safety

The growing opioid epidemic now causes nearly 100 deaths each day, and is projected to cause 500,000 deaths over the next decade, primarily due to overdoses. That is not only putting pressure on hospitals to reevaluate how they use opioid medications and monitor patients once back in the community, but it is also forcing them to address the physical safety of staff and patients. This is because the opioid epidemic has led to an increase in violent crimes in healthcare facilities. Emergency departments in particular are under heavy strain, with more patients presenting with addiction symptoms, compounding wait times and leading to more patient disputes. Hospitals will have to invest significantly more in technologies to protect staff and patients, such as patient monitoring solutions and staff duress systems to prevent potentially dangerous patients from harming themselves or others.

 Big data advancements will pave the way for the rise of predictive and prescriptive analytics

Regardless of how the major causes of uncertainty affecting the healthcare industry – such as the future of the Affordable Care Act – resolve themselves, it is certain that there will be no return to the pre-ACA era. As healthcare industry writer and consultant Edgar Wilson has pointed out in the context of primary care, the expansion of insurance coverage did not magically create more capacity. It challenged hospitals to find new ways to serve more patients, more personally, without adding cost. Hospitals will continue to look for practical ways to improve their efficiency by leveraging data to better predict patient care requirements, and demand for medications and equipment needs. The benefits of these predictive analytics capabilities are enormous.

According to a February 2017 report by the Society of Actuaries, 93 percent of healthcare providers said predictive analytics is important to the future of their business, and 57 percent believe predictive analytics will save their organization 15 percent or more over the next five years. In addition to predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics will have a growing impact. Ongoing advancements in the collection, aggregation and analysis of data will provide hospitals with greater operational insights, enabling them to optimize staffing levels and other aspects of operations while enabling staff members to deliver more effective, targeted care.

Staffing shortages combined with rising care expectations will drive adoption of AI and automation

Hospitals are struggling with staffing shortages, and the problem is only intensifying. The American Nursing Association predicts that the U.S. will need 1.1 million new nurses by 2022 to provide adequate healthcare for the aging population. Furthermore, expectations regarding patient care are skyrocketing as patients increasingly approach healthcare as consumers, adding to the challenge. To deliver quality care and achieve a high level of patient satisfaction despite the staffing deficit, hospitals will turn to artificial intelligence and machine learning-based systems to automate back-end processes, patient organization and the coordination of staffing levels. This will leave caregivers more time for contact with patients, which drives higher satisfaction for both patients and staff.

IoT health monitoring technologies will continue to facilitate a shift toward decentralized care

Following years of tentative experimentation with IoT health monitoring devices, healthcare organizations have recognized the potential of these technologies and are increasingly deploying and benefiting from them. Now, 91 percent of healthcare providers are supportive of patient wearables, and the number of remotely monitored patients worldwide is projected to reach 50.2 million patients by 2021. This trend has removed a longstanding barrier to communication between providers and patients, allowing providers to gather data more frequently and in a timelier manner.

The increased use of patient wearable devices has enabled healthcare organizations to better monitor both individual and population health. This trend will continue to accelerate as the industry shifts from a centralized care model to a more decentralized model, in which providers can efficiently monitor patients’ health wherever they are, leveraging the AI technologies discussed above to help them identify a change of status that requires their attention.

There remain many questions surrounding the healthcare industry going into 2018, but with rapidly-evolving technologies and rapidly-growing expectations regarding patient care, healthcare providers can’t afford a cautions wait-and-so attitude. Instead, they should focus on strategies and investments that will position them for success regardless of the outcome of ongoing policy debates.

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