What’s in Store for Health Technology in 2018?

Trends and provider priorities in the new year will include continued cyberthreat vigilance and improved patient engagement.

Healthcare, now more than ever, is an industry focused on innovation. Health systems, senior care organizations, payers and others increasingly are looking to new technology to improve safety, satisfaction and workflow, while also lowering costs.

Despite those common themes, it’s important to recognize that not all entities are created equal, and each has separate needs. A high priority for a large, urban hospital, for instance, likely won’t be the same for a mid-sized suburban physician practice or a senior community.

With 2018 fast approaching, let’s take a look at four technology trends worth watching across the healthcare spectrum in the next year.

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Cyberthreats — and Security Strategies — Will Evolve

There’s a saying among cybersecurity professionals that if you haven’t found any vulnerabilities at your organizations, you likely aren’t looking hard enough. That especially rings true in this current climate, where threats — whether phishing, malware or distributed denial of service attacks — seemingly change on a daily basis.

A recent survey published by Mimecast and conducted by HIMSS Analytics finds that among provider organizations, preventing malware and ransomware is a top initiative for building a cyber resilience strategy over the course of the next year. Nearly 80 percent of respondents say they’ve dealt with ransomware, malware or both in the last 12 months.

We are hearing from customers that they are elevating the position of cybersecurity within the overall priorities of their organization to ensure such a strategy is as robust as possible. They are adding several key components to that strategy for staying on top of emerging threats, including:

  • Using a layered approach to close gaps that lead to vulnerabilities

  • Conducting critical assessments of their cyber environment

  • Following industry best practices

  • Making sure they are staying current on vendor updates

  • Sharing best practices among healthcare industry organizations (e.g., National Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center, HIMSS)

  • Looking to industries outside of healthcare (e.g., insurance, banking) to improve their cybersecurity strategies

But as the threat landscape continues to grow, with IoT medical devices becoming the norm in hospitals, and as attacks continue to evolve, a strategy that works today might not be as effective six months from now. And make no mistake, another cyberattack will almost certainly devastate the industry in 2018.

Organizations will continually assess and reassess their needs to adjust their approach to cybersecurity.

Patient Engagement’s Impact on Care Strategies Will Grow

Analyst firm IDC predicts that by the end of 2020, one-fourth of the data used in medical care will be collected and shared by patients themselves. It also anticipates that digital mobile engagement among patients, as well as life science companies and providers, will increase 50 percent by 2019.

Both figures are certainly reachable if responses from CDW’s 2017 patient engagement survey, unveiled last February, are any indication.

The survey, of 200 chronic patients and 200 physicians and physicians assistants, found that 70 percent of patients have become more engaged with their healthcare during the past two years, up from 57 percent in 2016. The top motivating factors in that improved engagement? Greater online access to personal healthcare records and access to patient portals.

What’s more, 83 percent of patient respondents said they are comfortable communicating with providers via mobile apps, and 64 percent said that they would submit personal, real-time healthcare information to their providers to improve their health if they could.

Providers are taking notice, with 71 percent of respondents calling patient engagement a top priority, up from 60 percent in 2016. I foresee this figure growing again as patient demand to leverage technology continues to rise.

Care is shifting to meet patients on their terms.

IT Infrastructure Will Continue to Become More Nimble

Healthcare organizations are leveraging the cloud increasingly for their storage, backup and computing service needs, per a 2017 HIMSS Analytics cloud brief. Additionally, one-fourth of 112 healthcare CIOs surveyed earlier this year said they plan to implement or invest in cloud computing infrastructure.

And why wouldn’t they? If such services can be handled offsite, that saves an organization from having to dedicate more time and resources into efforts like building a physical data center.

Hyperconverged infrastructures also are helping health IT executives cut the use of legacy hardware while improving scalability.

No doubt such efforts will continue into 2018.

Telehealth Will Stay on Its Upward Trend

Although reimbursement remains an obstacle to telehealth, utilization continues to grow nationally. Organizations such as Access Physicians provide help as needed to hospitals and outpatient clinics across 12 states.

Meanwhile, a recent survey conducted by Teladoc finds that of 179 healthcare executives, 76 percent already have or plan to implement consumer health by December 2018.

I anticipate that while reimbursement will continue to remain a thorn in the side of the industry, healthcare organizations will increasingly provide telehealth service to patients.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #WellnessIT hashtag.

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Dec 19 2017