Over the last decade, the healthcare IT industry has experienced a digital transformation. From the adoption of electronic health records by physicians still using paper, to state mandates surrounding ePrescribing, these technologies aim to make the collection of patient information, and the insights gained from this information, more actionable.
Technical innovations continue, and many are poised to transform healthcare as we know it. Here are 6 healthcare trends that we predict will grow and shape the industry in 2019:
- Harnessing data. In 2018, Quest Diagnostics commissioned a study by SourceMedia Research/Health Data Management that measured the digital data that healthcare organizations are dealing with and the challenges related to these data. It found that the amount of digital content is growing at an exponential pace, leaving organizations struggling to handle data coming from multiple sources.Look for more health systems implementing an enterprise document management system with enterprise search and advanced data capture tools needed to manage this deluge of information and make it more actionable. On the practice side,clinicians are using their EHRs to measure their patient population data and take action to treat chronic illnesses, or to do quality measure reporting to meet CMS requirements. With so many digital tools available, the healthcare industry is now able to go beyond simply storing the data, to understanding the potential of these data, and how they can be leveraged to help meet organizational goals such as improving care, enhancing patient experiences, and reducing costs.
- SMART on FHIR® technology. SMART (Substitutable Medical Applications, Reusable Technologies) on FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) is a technology platform that aims to improve interoperability by allowing healthcare data to be automatically sent or received, from system to system, in real time. SMART is an open, standards-based technology platform that enables innovators to create apps that seamlessly and securely run across the healthcare system in real time. Libraries of SMART apps are being designed to improve clinical care, research, and public health. With SMART on FHIR, applications can be plugged into an EHR system, portal, Health Information Exchange, and other Health IT system, and feed information directly into the provider workflow, avoiding the pitfalls of document-based exchange, which often requires a provider to access data separately or acquire it in batch format. While SMART on FHIR may not affect clinicians directly, they will notice that the EHRs that have SMART on FHIR will facilitate easy sharing of data with physicians and patients, and will improve the efficiency of the provider through real-time support. Look for more healthcare organizations demanding and using this technology in their EHR systems in 2019.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is the development of computer systems ability to perform or automate routine tasks that normally require human intelligence. Data are the lifeblood of AI,and that is why healthcare companies, which have a plethora of data to work with, are currently developing ways to use machine learning, the vehicle which drives AI development forward, to improve healthcare. AI has the potential to help solve some of healthcare’s toughest challenges, including care quality, managing populations,and lowering costs. In fact, a study from Tata Consulting Company says that between now and 2020 the healthcare industry will increase investment in AI by 44%. IBM and its Watson Health division are already partnering with many healthcare stakeholders in AI, and that includes Memorial Sloan Kettering, the Mayo Clinic, Teva Pharmaceuticals, the Cleveland Clinic, Epic Systems, and Quest Diagnostics. Quest aims to make strides in precision medicine by integrating cognitive computing and genomic tumor sequencing, among other things.
- Blockchain. Ideal for ensuring data integrity, blockchain technology helps loosely coupled organizations confidently share and audit information while automating mutually beneficial processes. Many managed care organizations, health systems, physicians, diagnostic information service providers, and other health care stakeholders typically maintain separate copies of healthcare provider data. This can result in time-intensive and expensive reconciliation processes when differences arise. In 2018, Quest Diagnostics,Humana, MultiPlan, United Health Group’s Optum, United Healthcare, Aetna, and Ascension launched a pilot program to apply blockchain technology to improve data quality and reduce administrative costs associated with changes to healthcare provider demographic data, a critical, complex, and difficult issue facing organizations across the healthcare system. The pilot program aims to examine how sharing data across healthcare organizations using blockchain can improve data accuracy, streamline administration, and improve access to care. Look for more healthcare companies testing smaller use cases of Blockchain in the year ahead.
- Continuation of value-based care. Value-based care aims to improve quality and outcomes while lowering costs. 2019 begins Program Year 3 of the Quality Payment Program, also known as MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act), a law designed to improve Medicare by helping clinicians focus on care quality in order to make patients healthier. MACRA provides a trajectory for clinicians moving to performance-based payment system reporting. It’s safe to say that physicians and healthcare organizations are continuing to apply value-based care to their everyday encounters with patients, and are moving toward quality outcomes for their patients—especially with penalties becoming bigger for those eligible clinicians not participating in MACRA. Look for more uncertainty from physicians in 2019 about which quality measures they choose to report on as they continue to adjust to the requirements of the program.
- Providers encouraging patients to take control of their health. From self-check-in kiosks at a provider’s office to leveraging social media to improve the patient experience, healthcare providers are trying to provide more personalized care. And patients are embracing new conveniences to take control of their health. With more secure technology available to facilitate it, telemedicine is one of the fastest growing areas of healthcare.In fact, in 2019 Medicare will pay providers for new communication technology-based services, such as brief check-ins between patients and practitioners, and pay separately for evaluation of remote pre-recorded images and/or video. CMS is also expanding the list of Medicare-covered telehealth services. This will give seniors more choice and improved access to care. Also included in this category is patients being able to order and schedule their own laboratory testing. Look for more healthcare organizations and providers extending their focus beyond the office in 2019.
Quest Diagnostics can help your organization prepare for these trends with our Quanum technology, which includes Quanum Practice Solutions (EHR/PM/RCM) and Quanum Enterprise Content Solutions. To learn more, call us at 1.888.491.7900, or visit Quanum.com.