By Rahul Patel, EVP of digital products and services, Persistent Systems.
As we launch into 2018, questions remain about the healthcare policy environment and how it can impact many healthcare initiatives. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s difficult to make predictions – especially about the future.” I feel confident, however, about some fundamental trends in the healthcare landscape. These include a steady shift toward value-based care, an increased focus on data and analytics as a core enabler for digital transformation, and the all-consuming focus on the patient experience.
Here are my four key predictions for the healthcare IT trends that will transform the industry in 2018:
Patient Satisfaction Takes Center Stage
The era of healthcare consumerism is here. Patients are bearing increasing financial responsibility for healthcare costs, and seek improved experiences as a part of the value-for-money equation. In response, providers are taking a 360-degree view of patients, employing better analytics to leverage patient data such as demographic information, lifestyles and individual preferences, to personalize interactions and treatment.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Becomes Entrenched in Clinical Settings
Despite the overuse of the term AI to describe many types of technology-enabled solutions, the adoption of AI has been steadily gaining ground in a wide range of settings. Deep learning algorithms will increasingly be used in clinical settings to support medical diagnosis and treatment decisions, predict the likelihood of patient re-admissions and help providers better leverage the data that has been accumulating in electronic health records. According to the 2017 Internet Trends Report by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, medical knowledge is doubling every three years, and the average hospital is generating more than 40 petabytes of data every year.
While all this accumulated information empowers more informed physicians, the growing range of data and knowledge sources creates a challenge as well, since physicians and clinicians must manage and stay on top of this information on specific conditions, especially in fields such as oncology. AI technologies are enabling time-constrained and overworked physicians to make sense of the vast amounts of data, helping them uncover hidden insights and supporting their medical diagnoses and decisions with timely and relevant input at the point of care.
Open Source Finally Takes Hold
Healthcare organizations have been conservative when it comes to open source technologies, largely due to concerns about data security and privacy. With the growing adoption of cloud-enabled solutions and a gradual shift of enterprise IT workloads to the cloud, they no longer have to worry about risks to the IT environment and can rely on mature cloud service providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure. And, open source architecture can now incorporate robust technology components with rich functionality. Our current collaboration with Partners Healthcare to build a digital platform for clinical care is based on an open source architecture. As the industry shifts rapidly to value-based care, cost pressures will force healthcare enterprises to transform their technology strategies, turning to open source solutions to rapidly build new solutions cost-effectively.
Virtual Medicine Hits its Stride
The U.S healthcare delivery system is the most expensive in the world, and there is scant evidence that higher costs are producing better outcomes. Telemedicine as an alternative healthcare delivery mechanism has seen dramatic growth in the past few years, driven by the need to reduce costs of care, but also to address the shortage of clinically trained resources across the nation. A growing cohort of millennials now expects healthcare to be delivered asynchronously, whenever and wherever they need it.
The emergence of smart devices and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies have enabled robust deployments of remote patient monitoring and virtual consultation capabilities that are enabling clinicians and patients to better manage chronic diseases than the traditional office visit. In 2018, virtual medicine will become standard practice and will offer a new wave of freedom and accessibility not constrained by geographic location. Even patients in remote areas will increasingly receive the highest quality of care, with only an internet connection and smartphone.
There is no question that 2018 will be an interesting year for digital healthcare as providers put into action the innovations that were taking shape last year. A common theme underlying all of them is a focus on improving the patient experience and empowering not only providers but also patients, with the tools, technology, and insights that will enable better outcomes.