When you bring together more than 40,000 professionals, clinicians, executives and vendors from around the world, a massive amount of information gets shared. Too much to digest all at once. So in the three months since HIMSS18, I’ve taken time to really think about what I saw and heard. What were the hottest topics? What came up over and over again? What were people most excited—or most concerned—about? As you might expect, Cybersecurity/Analytics, AI and Machine Learning dominated the show, but they were far from the only topics on people’s minds. So here’s my curated summary of the biggest issues in healthcare IT today, seen through the lens of HIMSS18.
The Cloud. Though healthcare has been one of the more resistant verticals, the cloud is now the destination for seemingly every provider, for everything. The healthcare market is ready to make some significant investments to reduce the footprint of on-premises data centers. For many, the move is primarily about cutting costs. But as you might expect, security is a major motivator. Cyber threats aren’t going away any time soon. So there was quite a bit of discussion about our next topic.
Security. Everybody was talking about cybersecurity. Ransomware breaches in healthcare jumped more than 80% last year. Medical devices are becoming a target for cyberattacks, and the more devices are added, the more difficult it becomes to manage and secure them. The good news is that hospitals are realizing that security is everyone’s problem. With more and more records getting digitized and hackers getting more sophisticated, every department—not just IT—has to be involved in managing risk. There’s also a growing, and welcome, recognition that compliance does not necessarily equal security. But even though security is getting all this attention, 84% of hospitals still do not have a security leader. That clearly has to change.
On the patient side, identity authentication is really capturing CIOs’ attention. With more and more patient information—and even patient care—online, verifying patients’ identity is becoming even more crucial. Someone said, “Balancing strong authentication with easy access poses new hurdles.” That sums it up pretty well, and brings us to:
Telemedicine/Telehealth. Telehealth is now mainstream. Every health system is on the deployment continuum, some farther along than others. One of the most promising solutions is what some people call the “Chat With a Doctor” Program. Used mainly to deal with straightforward issues, or to decide if in-person evaluation is necessary, the Chat With a Doctor Program (which also allows for photo uploading) has enabled some hospitals to resolve two-thirds of patient issues remotely. That’s what you call a win-win.
Putting data into action. It’s not enough to have the data. You have to be able to read it, understand it and act on it. Interoperability is a daily challenge in our quest to share data with every stakeholder. Accurate patient record linking is also high on the healthcare IT to-do list. But ultimately, doctors and researchers need to be able to use this volume of data to make more accurate diagnoses and design more individually targeted treatment regimens (Precision Medicine)—the expectation being that new and emerging technologies will help get us there, specifically:
Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning. AI has huge potential to transform care, but for machine learning to reach its full potential, it needs access to as much data as it can get. We’re getting there. AI is already being used to mine medical records, design treatment plans, and deliver online consultations, and we’re really just getting started. Machine Learning is capable of predicting care outcomes. And with the ever-growing volume of data now associated with EMR (Electronic Medical Records), we’re beginning to realize the potential to leverage this data to enhance patient care, drive operational efficiencies and value.
The Patient Experience. Of course, so much of the value of technology in healthcare centers on the patient experience. Hospitals need to improve patient engagement and improve outcomes while providing a more personalized experience for each patient. Some are looking at hiring Chief Experience Officers. And there’s a great deal of research into whether giving patients consumer-friendly digital tools (like iPads and touch-enabled laptops) will improve patient experience—while lowering readmissions.
And the rest. People were also talking about the potential advantages that Blockchain could deliver. Like real-time tracking of claims submissions and remittance. Blockchain can help lower costs, improve quality and make healthcare more patient-centric. Virtual Reality is becoming more mainstream, and could benefit patients and staff in areas such as explorations and training. VR is already finding practical use cases for everything from clinical training to patient rehabilitation. And we can’t forget Healthcare Marketing. The “traditional vs. digital” debate rages on, but hospitals are seeing the benefits of digital advertising, including the ability to target campaigns and track ad responses from click to appointment.
So much to consider. So much to digest. But that’s why it’s such an exciting time to be involved in healthcare IT. Healthcare providers are actually getting practical about using technology to really make a difference in how they deliver care. And IT providers are ready to help.