A new year always brings new trends, and 2017 promises to be no different — especially within the realm of healthcare technology. Not only are we seeing exciting developments in technology itself, but there are a number of additional factors from outside the development laboratories that are bound to have a major influence on what we see in the coming months.
Based on our own experiences in technology development and what we’re hearing from other HIT thought leaders, here are some of the trends that we predict will have the most influence on our space in the coming months.
1. A New Administration and Potential Changes to the Affordable Care Act
One of President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. While the new administration will undoubtedly face some opposition in their quest to bring this promise to fruition, that doesn’t mean that healthcare technology companies won’t be affected.
The ACA in its current form has provided healthcare tech with many opportunities to develop systems and services to meet the needs of the new healthcare landscape, and more than a few companies have based their entire business on being a part of the ACA. With potentially broad-scale changes coming down the pike, those that are working within the current framework of the ACA should begin preparing themselves for major changes, as it’s likely that some of the challenges these companies are working to address today will be moot later this year. An early focus on agility – how best to address HIT’s ever-evolving needs – may be best.
2. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence is taking the world by storm, and healthcare is no exception. Artificial intelligence – or AI – has potential applications within telemedicine, eldercare, health records management, and improving patient access to providers — and that’s only the beginning. By harnessing the power of data and predictive analytics, artificial intelligence is positioned to transform healthcare in ways that we can only imagine.
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Telemedicine has been gaining steam for a few years now, and with continuing advances in technology, the idea of patients seeing their providers without ever leaving home is quickly becoming a reality. A number of bills before Congress in the last year have already increased the availability of telemedicine services for veterans and those receiving home health services in particular. There is also a burgeoning movement to make telehealth an option for all patients.
Telehealth can increase access for those living in remote or rural areas, or for those who are homebound or facing other challenges in accessing healthcare (such as transportation). Telehealth has also been shown to help improve the management of chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes. While video conferencing technology and high-speed internet are making telehealth possible, there remains a great deal of opportunity in this area for technology to make the process more streamlined, secure and accessible to all.
4. A Focus on Consumer Experience
More than ever before, patients want to be involved in their own healthcare. The push for patient engagement that has been the trend for several years now will remain a priority. One major piece of the patient engagement puzzle is the electronic health record (EHR), and the ability for providers to share the information in those records with other providers and the patients themselves.
The ideal situation is one in which access to EHRs is streamlined and the process of sharing information is transparent, but the reality has been far from ideal. Increasing the interoperability of EHR systems is a priority this year, as experts believe that doing so will not only allow more efficient and cost-effective healthcare, but also increase the number of patients who are using their own records to make informed medical decisions.
Currently, only about 20 percent of patients actually access their own records, but with processes and systems that are more intuitive and secure to use, that number could increase significantly, and improve both engagement and the patient experience.
5. Big Data
Big data has been a growing influence on nearly every aspect of our lives for several years now, and that’s not likely to change in 2017. Spending on big data continues to increase; in fact, digital health and data collection and management represent a significant portion of healthcare. Despite the spending, though, and the focus on collecting data, healthcare is still working to find ways to turn all of that data into actionable information.
You should also expect to see some significant developments in the storage and management of big data this year, as well as innovation in how to make meaningful use of data. Algorithms and data analysis are going to become a primary driver of healthcare, from developing population-based health plans to determining staffing within specific hospitals.
2017 is bound to bring a great deal of change in every industry, but perhaps few will be as transformed as the healthcare technology. This is an exciting time, and we are eager to see where the new year takes us.
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