For decades, healthcare has lagged behind other industries in its adoption and implementation of technology, but that trend is changing with consumerism, value-based care, and other industry-changing forces on the rise. To get a glimpse into the future of healthcare, one look around the exhibit hall at the annual HIMSS conference is all it takes to see innovation on the horizon.
At this year’s conference in Las Vegas, MEDHOST sat down with some of the industry’s brightest healthcare IT minds in our podcast lounge to hear how they are using technology to solve healthcare’s biggest challenges. From advances in data sharing, interoperability, and population health, to new vehicles providing and bridging gaps in care that engage consumers and communities, these are the healthcare IT trends we’re excited to see come to life.
Healthcare providers have made tremendous strides at adopting electronic health records (EHRs), but the technology is still clunky for clinicians to use and interoperability remains a challenge. As a result, innovators are exploring how emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can help not only alleviate tedious EHR data entry, but also detect health patterns and create more proactive treatment plans.
Blending clinical expertise with technologies like AI could accelerate patient care and help clinicians make more informed decisions, “A doctor doesn’t need AI to know how to treat a diabetic patient, but AI can show him that this patient is also seeing someone for hypertension or recently had an episode of COPD,” said Perception Health CEO Tod Fetherling in our podcast interview.
Margins are tight for healthcare providers, and hundreds of hospitals, particularly those in rural areas. In fact, many are on the brink of going out of business. Academic medical centers will continue to attract the highest acuity cases and community hospitals will still offer general surgical and medical care, but micro-hospitals will have to step in to fill the gap left by shuttered hospitals, Fetherling asserted.
These small inpatient facilities with 8–15 beds give patients in rural areas a place close to home to recover after surgery at a larger hospital, or a short-term place to stay before being transferred to a bigger facility. Micro-hospitals also make it easier for smaller communities to offer specialized care. “You might have an orthopedic facility that does 10 joint replacements a day and keeps those patients overnight,” Fetherling said, “It’s a far more cost-efficient place to treat those patients, and you don’t run as much risk around issues like staph infections.”
As data-driven technologies become more prevalent, more hospitals will use point-of-care clinical and claims data to gather insights about their patient population and target outreach. Using data to match people up with the right provider, improve patient retention, or uncover opportunities for new clinical service lines are just a few of the opportunities that exist.
“There are forces going on in communities that just happen naturally, and if you can break those down and figure them out, you might see something special or unique that you would otherwise never notice,” said Fetherling, whose startup provides hospitals with a visual tool for tracking the flow of care in communities and capitalizing on opportunities to build revenue. Industry leaders also discussed how using data-driven technologies could improve provider response in disasters and crisis situations.
In our podcast interview, Florida native Erik Pupo, managing director of Accenture, witnessed this firsthand when his community weathered a hurricane and a mass shooting within a year, “When something sudden like that happens, you need to be able to trust your IT systems to react.”
During Hurricane Ima, he was impressed by how facilities in the Miami area used technologies like the cloud and blockchain to keep operations running despite power outages. Data-driven systems also aided the local hospital response after the school shooting in Parkland, FL, “When you’re dealing with a tragedy of that magnitude with many different injuries, data sharing and getting information quickly becomes very important,” Pupo said.
With the need for technology adoption and innovation growing rapidly in healthcare, many hospitals are opening up to the idea of working with smaller vendors and entrepreneurs to develop the systems they need at a faster pace. Not only are startups more nimble, but they can also work hand in hand with organizations early on to implement specific needs or requirements for products.
Connecting these healthcare ecosystems is part of the mission for Sean Switzer, Vice President of Partner Success at Amplify Labs. Specializing in bringing health systems and startups together to create sustainable change, Switzer told us in a podcast interview. “In healthcare, there may not be just one solution to a problem,” adding, “it may take the collaboration of several teams and organizations to achieve that solution together, and that’s what we like to architect.”
The emphasis on user experience, and intuitive or seamless technologies in the consumer world, is influencing how many innovators are designing new healthcare systems and technologies. Revolutionary technologies like blockchain has garnered plenty of hype but not much practical use in the industry thus far. Pupo, whose organization has been involved in early efforts to advance the distributed ledger technology says, “We’re starting to learn what works and what doesn’t.” Blockchain shows potential for use in cases like patient identity, supply chain management, claims adjudication, data reconciliation, and also “some of the challenging day-to-day work in payer transactions,” he says.
Healthcare leaders we spoke with at HIMSS agreed that no matter how advanced technology becomes, people should be at the center of every healthcare IT solution. For more than 35 years, MEDHOST has followed this principle, delivering integrated clinical and financial solutions that help providers meet the evolving regulatory demands and changing needs of healthcare consumers. We act as a trusted healthcare partner to more than 1,000 facilities. From multi-level systems to community hospitals, we help providers of all sizes enhance patient care and operational excellence and better manage the business of healthcare across the care continuum.