Highmark health leveraged its existing technologies and policies in its zero-trust security approach, says Soo Yi, the organization's Director of Platform Security.

Jan 03 2023

3 Health Tech Trends to Watch in 2023

Healthcare IT leaders are trending toward improvements around security, data analytics and workflow automation in the new year.
Tech Trends 2023

Healthcare providers are entering a new year facing rising costs from inflation, a worsening labor outlook, a challenging cybersecurity landscape and stresses from a global pandemic.

What technology-enabled solutions do healthcare IT leaders have on their radar to help them face new or ongoing trials for 2023? Here are three tech trends for the next 12 months, according to experts and IT staff:

  1. Moving toward stronger zero-trust security adoption: In early 2022, when the White House ordered federal agencies to adopt zero-trust security by 2024, it not only signaled greater zero-trust adoption in government, but also set an example for other industries to follow. The increase in remote work and use of mobile and cloud computing requires healthcare organizations to go beyond perimeter-based security and embrace a zero-trust approach.
  2. Acting on social determinants of health data: Data analytics enable providers to gain insight into their business and clinical operations to improve population health efforts and reduce costs. Patients increasingly expect providers to collect data on social determinants of health (SDOH), analyze how factors such as housing, food instability and income affect people’s health, and provide information or services to assist people who face those issues.
  3. Prioritizing clinician wellness with automation: Clinicians are burned out, and health systems are facing staffing shortages across departments. The Quadruple Aim calls for the improvement of staff well-being, and in response, health systems are embracing automation to lessen clinicians’ administrative burdens.

HealthTech spoke with leaders from three healthcare organizations about how they’ve effectively adopted and benefited from these areas of focus.  

Tech Trends TOC


1. Healthcare Organizations Are Moving Toward Zero-Trust Adoption

Adopting a zero-trust approach may sound daunting, but healthcare organizations can leverage many existing technologies and policies to implement the security architecture, says Soo Yi, Highmark Health’s director of platform security.

The Pittsburgh-based integrated health delivery system has been on a zero-trust implementation journey by focusing on two fundamental cybersecurity concepts: the principles of “minimum necessary” (which limits users to only the information they need to do their jobs) and “least privilege access” (which grants users, applications and other systems only the data access or permissions necessary to complete their tasks). 

“Don’t worry about the term zero trust,” Yi adds. “Think about minimum necessary and least privilege because that’s really what this boils down to.”

Highmark Health has adopted a defense-in-depth approach by using a suite of security tools that allows the organization to deploy key pillars of zero trust, including identity management; network access control; and device, application and data security, Yi says.

For example, the enterprise risk department has implemented multifactor authentication, VPN software for remote access and anti-virus software on desktop and laptop computers, she says. The organization also encrypts all data and has deployed data loss prevention software, which prevents users from accidentally exposing sensitive information online and on cloud resources, Yi says. The security staff also protects Internet of Medical Things devices by using an IoT network security technology at each hospital site.

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Highmark Health also uses network access control technology to ensure computers are registered and allowed to join the network. The NAC technology also checks the device’s security posture, and if needed, it automatically pushes software patches and anti-virus updates to the device before allowing it on the network, Yi says.

The organization has also deployed microsegmentation tool, which enables granular access control by building micro-perimeters throughout the network to help protect applications and sensitive data, and to ensure apps only connect to resources that they are authorized to access, Yi says.  

When Yi and her team implements microsegmentation for an app, the technology analyzes the app for 30 days to see what resources it needs to connect to so it can operate properly. The security team collaborates with the application team to vet and authorize those connections and blocks everything else out, she says.

EXPLORE: Palo Alto security expert Paul Kaspian explains why healthcare needs zero trust.

In the event of a ransomware attack, for example, those apps have a higher level of assurance that they will be protected from unauthorized access that impacts the confidentiality, availability and integrity of the system and the data. Highmark Health has prioritized microsegmentation to protect critical applications and infrastructure and is now working on expanding their deployment to the next level of critical apps, Yi adds.

“We’re making sure the critical apps are essentially inoculated. It’s like applying a vaccine to protect them,” Yi says.

2. The Growing Importance of Social Determinants of Health Data

NYU Langone Health in New York City launched its data analytics effort in 2009. Today, the IT department has built an enterprise portal that offers more than 60 dashboards to thousands of users, including senior leadership and department analysts, says Jeff Shein, NYU Langone’s senior director of data and analytics.

Everyone from the finance and marketing departments to clinicians use Tableau’s visualization and reporting software, which integrates enterprise data and performs real-time analytics, so the organization can identify trends and draw conclusions. This in turn allows them to make better decisions and improve healthcare, Shein says.

The IT team manages data in three locations: its electronic health record database; an enterprise data warehouse made up of smaller, mission-specific data marts that house information for dashboards in different departments; and a data lake, which features a large amount of raw data used by operations and researchers.

“What’s great about Tableau is you can build useful, interactive dashboards quickly,” Shein says.

In 2013, for example, the IT team built a dashboard using Epic EHR data that provides a real-time view of NYU Langone’s emergency departments and reduces wait times. Then, in November 2022, the IT staff built a bot to automate the process to eliminate constant monitoring of the dashboard. The bot alerts clinicians if patients wait too long to be seen by doctors or wait too long to be admitted and moved to a hospital room, he says.  

Antoinette Schoenthaler
If we want to move the needle in terms of health and well-being of the population, and address chronic diseases and sickness, we also need to address patients’ social determinants of health. Data analytics is a real pathway to understanding that.”

Antoinette Schoenthaler Associate Director of Research, NYU Langone Health's Institute for Excellence in Health Equity

In recent years, the IT staff has decentralized the analytics effort and has allowed individual departments to curate and analyze data. For example, in 2020, NYU Langone established the Institute for Excellence in Health Equity, which takes a systemwide approach to collecting and analyzing patients’ SDOH data. The initiative examines how nonmedical factors such as education and housing instability affect health. 

In the past, NYU Langone’s social workers and family health centers asked patients about SDOH in silos, but now the organization wants to analyze that data systemwide using the power of NYU Langone’s integrated enterprise digital systems. “The goal is to ensure that every patient is screened for social needs so the organization can intervene and provide them with the services they need,” says Antoinette Schoenthaler, the institute’s associate director of research.

To assist patients, NYU Langone can invest in initiatives that help address patents’ health literacy needs, give patients subway cards so they can travel to a medical appointment or partner with community organizations to provide food, Schoenthaler adds. 

“If we want to move the needle in terms of health and well-being of the population, and address chronic diseases and sickness, we also need to address patients’ social determinants of health. Data analytics is a real pathway to understanding that,” she says.

DISCOVER: How healthcare organizations can move the needle on SDOH data.

3. Centering Nurse and Doctor Wellness With Clinical Automation

With mounting labor concerns and consistent employee burnout, healthcare organizations are investing in automation to improve workflows and better support their staff, says Lynne Dunbrack, IDC’s group vice president of public sector.

“We see investments in automation as essential, so they can make their labor force that much more productive and efficient, and so they can continue to see more patients, but do so safely,” Dunbrack says. 

Leon Medical Centers, which operates eight facilities in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, takes advantage of automation to improve patient care and boost the speed and efficiency of clinical workflows.

LMC’s physicians use Nuance Communications’ Dragon Medical One speech recognition software to dictate their patients’ notes. It improves productivity because doctors can verbally file their notes during a patient visit or immediately afterward, says LMC CIO Marcus Gomez, whose organization provides primary care and specialty services to a patient population that is predominantly covered under Medicare. 

“We think of our patients as our parents and our grandparents. We want to take good care of them. And to do that, we want to document really well what’s happening with them, so we are going to use the tools that contribute to that,” Gomez says.

LMC first used Nuance’s voice recognition software in 2015 to allow radiologists to dictate the results of X-rays and other diagnostic images. Then, in 2019, the IT team made the artificial intelligence–powered software available to its physicians and other specialists.

Source: Optum, “Still on the rise: How AI in healthcare continues to grow,” December 2021

Physicians can also create customized texts to fill out their notes automatically based on the diagnosis. “Instead of taking a few minutes to type something up, they can auto-populate big chunks of texts,” Gomez says.

The software is accurate, easy to use and fully integrated with LMC’s electronic medical record. Through a Nuance PowerMic — a USB microphone attached to a desktop or laptop — clinicians can use voice commands to navigate a patient’s chart and start dictation, he says.

The result is more thorough documentation, and that translates to increased physician satisfaction, Gomez says. “In the past, they may have been writing shorter notes or not including all of the information they wanted. Now they are able to expand their notes in the same amount of time or less,” he adds.

Previously, some doctors waited until the end of the day to complete their patient notes. Now, they can actually finish their notes right after an appointment.

“At the end of the day, they go home. They’re not staying after hours or going home to finish up their notes, and there’s satisfaction that comes with that,” Gomez says.

UP NEXT: What is Patient Room ‘Next’ and how can healthcare organizations achieve it?

Photography by Rob Larson

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