While no one knows for sure what the future will bring, it is possible to make some educated guesses to proactively prepare for the future. When it comes to healthcare information technology, my money is on the following trends that will increase in importance and become a main focus of healthcare over the next five years.
- Population Health Management
Although this term is often used broadly, the heart of the effort surrounding population health management involves employing technology to identify and close gaps in care across a population to improve the health of a group—chronic disease patients, for example. As technology evolves, accurately and reliably identifying people at risk and recommending appropriate, long-term care strategies, as well as addressing those who need care today will become easier. Being proactive about population health will be essential in order to realize organizational goals around value-based reimbursement because a primary way to impact quality scores and drive payment will be to elevate the health of a population.
- Data analytics
A sister to population health management is data analytics, where healthcare organizations leverage technology to interpret data in order to improve performance. Just like the “dot com” era, there is a flood of vendors entering the data analytics and population health management markets. Providers need to be careful when selecting a vendor, making sure they fully understand what the technology does and whether it can support organization goals.
- Patient engagement
For years now, the patient has played a greater role in healthcare, and this will only continue to increase in healthcare’s future. The industry is seeing a lot of investment in technology that facilitates better patient engagement, including mobile technologies and home monitoring equipment. Moving forward, these different technologies will have to seamlessly connect so patients can more easily maintain their health and wellness. For example, patients will start asking why they should wear a separate heart monitor when they already have an activity tracker that watches their steps, heart rate, sleep patterns and so on. Emerging technology will be able to connect disparate systems to share health information with less impact. The key for vendors will be to create rules based systems that don’t flood providers with volumes of data, but rather alert them to specific events that require an immediate intervention and route the message to the proper care team member.
- Increased transparency
Organizations also need to better engage patients financially, especially with the rise of high deductible health plans and increased patient payment responsibility. As technology advances, it will support greater transparency with patients about the cost of their care, helping providers increase revenue, as well as foster patient satisfaction and long-term loyalty.
In some ways, healthcare is coming to the end of its first technology revolution, and it may be tempting to take a breather. However, I would caution against this approach. Providers should continue to evaluate new technology, ask questions and determine if there is value. The more you can do your homework now, the more you can understand these systems and prepare for the future. That doesn’t necessarily mean rush to implement a new technology right away. Innovations will only continue to grow, and organizations that aim to weather the change need to first appreciate what is coming.
What are some of the trends you envision will shape the healthcare industry in the next year? Five years? Ten years?