Jan 12 2024

3 Health Tech Trends to Watch in 2024

Industry leaders look to streamline IT workflows, refine digital health tools and explore the potential of generative artificial intelligence.

Health systems are expected to continue navigating stormy financial waters in 2024, and they will likely look to restructure and streamline teams and processes to deal with resource constraints.

Healthcare organizations are fraught with tight budgets yet have increased expenses and wages compared to pre-pandemic times,” says Shannon Germain Farraher, senior analyst for healthcare at Forrester. “This makes recovery difficult for many hospitals.”

Even with these challenges, providers remain committed to transforming care delivery, supporting their workforces and expanding access for the communities they serve. These are the top three healthcare IT trends for 2024 from industry leaders who are pushing digital transformation forward:

  1. Reimagining healthcare IT operations to find efficiencies and streamline workflows: In the face of budget and staffing concerns, healthcare organizations need a new approach to IT operations. Maintaining increasingly complex ecosystems requires automated support, such as an IT service management platform to improve operations.
  2. Strengthening digital connections to push care delivery toward achieving the Quintuple Aim: Healthcare has evolved from the Triple Aim to the Quadruple Aim and now the Quintuple Aim, which addresses a need for health equity, something magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital health touchpoints are refining their purpose to address gaps in care access and quality.
  3. Supporting clinicians through artificial intelligence-powered tools, especially generative AI: Healthcare organizations will use generative AI to automate clinical notes and summaries to save time for clinicians, according to a KLAS Research report. Testing will continue on generative AI tools that can reduce administrative burden, allowing providers to focus more on patient care.

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Reid Health Finds Efficiencies with IT Service Management

With nurse-to-patient ratios increasing at Richmond, Ind.-based Reid Health, the IT department wants to ease providers’ workflows so they can focus on working at the top of their licenses, says CIO Muhammad Siddiqui.

Nurses need to get medication to patients on time and check vitals regularly, among many other critical activities. Siddiqui hopes that automating some of these tasks can save nurses an hour or two in a typical shift. “If you build a good experience for your caregivers, it will ultimately result in a better experience for your patients,” he says.

Reid Health now provides a one-stop digital experience in the ServiceNow IT service management (ITSM) platform: Caregivers can build service catalogs in a way similar to online shopping. This includes ordering hardware and access to software applications through a self-service portal.

The ServiceNow portal allows employees to raise issues and track their resolution. “That’s going to save time so they can focus on patient care rather than focusing on technology care,” Siddiqui says.

The new tools will hopefully improve the organization’s ROI, Siddiqui adds; it’s aiming to reduce ITSM costs up to 50 percent. “I think if everybody goes that route, it’s a win-win for both for the end users and for the CIOs,” he says.

Platforms that support automation are crucial for health systems to improve efficiency, especially in IT.

Organizations are using ServiceNow as a knowledge base where they can house policies, procedures and job aids,” says Emily Paxman, senior vice president and managing director of consulting at KLAS Research. “That helps automate some workflows and employee transitions.”

Reid Health plans to streamline workflows for its more than 120 applications and scale its IT operations.

“There are way too many applications to manage as a very lean team,” Siddiqui says. “We need to go out and start eliminating unnecessary third-party applications. That’s exactly the goal for 2024.”

EXPLORE: Data governance strategies can help healthcare organizations achieve AI success.

WellSpan Health’s Digital Touchpoints Improve Patient Care for the Quintuple Aim

The Quadruple Aim in healthcare includes enhancing the patient experience, improving the provider experience, reducing care costs and advancing population health. Many in the industry are familiar with this framework along with the shift toward value-based care.

The Quintuple Aim extends this guidance to add a focus on health equity. In order to standardize and improve health equity, healthcare organizations are turning to digital tools such as accessible translation services and online portals to promote patient engagement.

York, Penn.-based WellSpan Health saw recognition for its efforts in 2023 when it became the third health system in the U.S. and the first health system in the state to receive a health equity accreditation from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, an independent organization that analyzes clinical performance and consumer experience.

WellSpan Health has improved breast cancer screening rates for Black and Hispanic women and scaled access to telehealth. The health system has worked closely with communities to address inequities with meaningful action.

64% 

The percentage of healthcare industry leaders who say that improving IT capabilities to boost customer experience is a high priority over the next 12 months

Source: Forrester, “The State Of Future Fit in Healthcare, 2023,” July 2023

Proper coordination between the data analytics and clinical teams is essential to bridge care gaps, says R. Hal Baker, senior vice president and chief digital and information officer at WellSpan Health.

AI-powered solutions are supporting clinicians and augmenting services for patients. Nuance Communications’ DAX Copilot can quickly generate notes using AI to reduce the administrative burden on clinicians. Baker hopes to expand the health system’s language translation services to reach more patients using generative AI capabilities.

“We're hoping that AI will allow us to move faster,” he says.

WellSpan Health has also found that patients are more comfortable answering questions on social determinants of health, such as housing and access to food, through automated questionnaires. The emphasis on addressing care gaps requires a data infrastructure that ensures the health system is operating with “consistency and equity,” Baker says.

“The key to being equitable is asking the questions, being honest with yourself about what the data says and being committed to fixing it if there’s a problem,” he says.

HCA Healthcare Forges a Path Forward with Generative AI

HCA Healthcare, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., launched its Department of Care Transformation and Innovation in 2021 to explore how it could automate caregivers’ workflows to make them more efficient and intelligent and improve critical decision-making, says Dr. Michael Schlosser, senior vice president of the department.

The health system’s digital transformation journey has included numerous tech partnerships. In August 2023, HCA Healthcare announced a collaboration with Google Cloud on its generative AI implementation to improve workflows on time-consuming tasks, including clinical documentation, so that providers can spend more time on patient care.

Patient handoffs were time-consuming, so nurses wanted to smooth the process in a pilot program. Google Cloud’s large language models (LLMs) allowed nurses to automate handoff report generation to save time. Clinicians had oversight over the AI tool.

Converting manual legacy processes into experimental work with AI has been slow but steady, and generative AI is not a panacea that can be added on top of a current system for dramatic results, Schlosser adds. “We have to do serious redesign and transformation work around how care is delivered for it to be receptive to transformational technology such as generative AI,” he says.

58%

The percentage of healthcare executives who expect their organizations to implement or purchase generative AI applications within the next year

Source: KLAS Research, “Generative AI 2023: What Are Organizations’ Current Adoption and Future Plans?,” December 2023

HCA Healthcare’s two Innovation Hub hospitals will allow caregivers, bedside nurses, physicians and technicians to experiment with generative AI to develop products that can address the health system’s biggest pain points in care delivery, Schlosser says.

Using generative AI as a scribe to enter data into an electronic health record system directly is a “step forward” for HCA Healthcare, he says. The benefit is to have LLMs integrated into Google Cloud rather than standing alone. “I think that generative AI is going to become part of the way we interact with our EHR,” he says.

Schlosser says that he wants to move ahead with generative AI documentation over the use of chatbots, in which doctors and patients ask questions directly to an LLM.

“That is a space where there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” he says. “Hallucinations are a real thing.”

Going forward, HCA Healthcare plans to experiment with Google’s Med-PaLM 2 LLM to tailor medical questions for relevant use cases.

A key best practice for health systems when implementing generative AI will be to keep a human in the loop to review output, Schlosser adds. “Let’s rely on our trusted clinicians, who are capable and licensed, to be those ultimate decision-makers,” he says.

UP NEXT: How can healthcare balance the reward and risk of AI?

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