On The Issues

February 16th, 2015

5 Significant Healthcare and Health IT Trends for 2015

Strategies and Innovations that will Shape our Year

While I know meaningful use (stages 2 and 3), electronic health record (EHR) interoperability, ICD-10 readiness, patient safety and mobile health will all continue to trend upwards with great importance. The five areas that I strategically see growing rapidly in 2015 are focused on the consumerism of healthcare, personalization of medicine, consumer-facing mobile strategies, advancements in health information interoperability including consumer-directed data exchange and finally, innovation focused on tele-health and virtual care. 

1.    Treating the patient truly as a consumer - This is due to numerous factors but a significant driver is the shift in various CMS regulations and incentives that have care providers and healthcare organizations focused on increased patient engagement as well as patient empowerment to improve communication, care coordination, patient satisfaction and even discharge management with hospitals. As a result of an increased focus on improving the patient/consumer experience, 65% of consumer transactions with healthcare organizations will be mobile by 2018, thus requiring healthcare organizations to develop omni-channel strategies to provide a consistent experience across the web, mobile and telephonic channels. I have already begun to see this in hundreds of area hospitals and practices in Georgia and know it is occurring across the country. 

2.    Personalized medicine – While this concept is not new, the actual care plan implementation as well as technology and services innovations supporting this implementation is being driven quickly by the increased pressure for all care providers to improve quality and manage costs. You will see this increase dramatically once Congress passes SGR Reform that received bipartisan and bicameral support last Congressional Session and Congressional leaders are poised to take up this legislation again in the next month. The latest stats show that 15% of hospitals will create a comprehensive patient profile by 2016 that will allow them to deliver personalized treatment plans. 

3.    Consumer-facing mobile strategies - To control spiraling healthcare costs related to managing patients with chronic conditions as well as to navigate new policy regulations, 70% of healthcare organizations worldwide will invest in consumer-facing mobile applications, wearables, remote health monitoring and virtual care by 2018, which will create more demand for big data and analytics capability to support population health management initiatives. And to further my earlier points, the personalization of medicine relies on additional quality and population health management initiatives so these innovations and trends will fuel each other at faster rates as they become more integrated and mature. 

4.    Consumer-directed interoperability - Along with the evolution of the consumerism of healthcare, you will see the convergence of health information exchange with consumer-directed data exchange. While this has been on the proverbial roadmap for many years, consumers are getting savvier as they engage their healthcare and look to manage their increasing healthcare costs better along with their families’ costs. Meaningful use regulations for stage 3 will drive this strategy this year but also just the shear demand by consumers will be a force as well. I am personally seeing a lot of exciting innovation in this area today.  

5.    Virtual care - Last but certainly not least, tele-health, tele-medicine and virtual care. The progression of tele-health in recent years is perhaps best demonstrated by a recent report finding that the number of patients worldwide using tele-health services is expected to grow from 350,000 patients in 2013 to approximately 7 million by 2018. Moreover, three-fourths of the 100 million electronic visits expected to occur in 2014 will occur in North America. We are seeing progress not only on the innovation and provider adoption side but slowly public policy is starting to evolve. While yes the policy evolution should have occurred much sooner, last Congressional session we saw 57 bills introduced and as of June 2013, 40 out of 50 states have introduced legislation addressing tele-health policy. I see in every corner of this country that care providers want to use this type of technology and innovation to improve care coordination, increase access and efficiency, increase quality and decrease costs and you know what, so do the patients. Let’s keep pushing policy and regulation to catch up with reality. 

While all of these trends can be independent of each other and will respectively grow separately, I see the fastest growth occurring where they are combined or integrated because they improve each other. Kind of like a great marriage where the spouses make each other better and usually more successful because of their unity. I see the same occurring here and why I am so bullish on these integrated opportunities and innovations.

While the headlines this year will be dominated by meaningful use (good and bad stories), ICD-10, interoperability (or data-blocking) and other sensational as well as eye-catching topics, I am extremely encouraged by the innovations emerging across this great country and also how we are starting to bend the cost curve by implementing advanced payment and care delivery models. While change and evolution is never easy, I am thankfully surrounded by clinicians, patients, consumers, administrators, innovators and even legislators & regulators that are all thinking and acting in similar directions with respects to healthcare so that is fueling these changes “on the ground” in all of our communities. 2015 will be as tough as ever in the industry but also, a great opportunity to be a part of history!