Throughout the pandemic, hospitals, health systems, and patients increasingly depended on digital health technology for care delivery, laying the way for continuous development and innovation in 2021.
Becker’s Health IT team has created a list of the top ten health IT topics for next year, ranging from telemedicine to cybersecurity and big data.
Here are 10 Trends reshaping the Healthcare Informatics Industry;
1. The development of the CIO and IT staff.
Throughout the pandemic, Healthcare Informatics Industry systems depended on technology to quickly transition to virtual care, distant work, and better-coordinated communication and data management. When ransomware attackers targeted hospitals and health institutions, cybersecurity became a new focus. As a consequence, the CIO’s knowledge was in great demand in 2020, and it is expected that this trend will continue in the next year.
“At Providence, we are seeing firsthand the growth of the CIO job and its heightened significance in the health system,” said B.J. Moore, executive vice president, and CIO of Providence, situated in Renton, Wash. “I now report to our CEO, Rod Hochman, MD, and my responsibility has grown to cover our real estate and operational functions. This reflects the future of a contemporary digital workforce as well as the transformation of our facilities in the future of modern digitally enabled care delivery.”
Next year, organizations will continue to speed up their digital transformation, and the CIO’s function will resemble that of a COO, supervising the organization’s strategy and risk management. IT teams are also changing to incorporate more clinical specialists, data scientists, and senior security personnel.
2. The dawn of a new era in cybersecurity.
In 2020, hackers increased their attempts to target Healthcare Informatics Industry providers, going beyond phishing attacks and obtaining information to sell on the dark web. Ransomware attacks disrupted IT systems and hampered operations at hospitals and healthcare institutions throughout the United States, particularly in the second half of the year. Even firms that had not had a security problem turned off external communications and enhanced screening of incoming emails in October after hackers infected six hospitals with ransomware in 24 hours.
The assaults highlighted the significance of effective cybersecurity and safe data storage. As more work is done remotely, IT teams will need to properly convey good cyber hygiene to employees in order to avoid attacks and remediate vulnerabilities. It would not be unexpected to see more health institutions prioritize cybersecurity technology and expertise in 2021, as well as prepare for cyberattacks as a “when” rather than “if” situation.
3. The digitalization of the customer experience and the digital front door.
The pandemic ushered in a new age of social distance, requiring Healthcare Informatics Industry institutions to increase their digital presence and skills in order to remain connected to patients. With a health system’s “digital front door” acting as the first impression prospective patients get of them, the online experience has become an important component of their overall reputation.
Cone Health in Greensboro, NC, and SCL Health in Broomfield, CO, are just two examples of hospitals and health systems that are putting money into a digital front door in order to better serve their patients in the future.
4. Advances in clinical information technology.
Inside the hospital’s four walls, augmented reality, wearable technology, and IoT devices are quickly evolving. With COVID-19 banning direct contact, health systems have resorted to robots for activities ranging from allowing video chat conversations for patients to virtual reality headsets that provide a clinician’s first-person point of view from within patient rooms to the rest of the care team remotely.
Healthcare Informatics Industry as a whole, from the spine to cardiology to cancer, is projected to benefit from further advances in robotic surgery. In October, a surgical team at St. Elizabeth Edgewood (Ky.) The hospital became the first in the United States to implant a Bluetooth-connected cardiac defibrillator, which can remotely sync with a smartphone app for patients to operate. The worldwide medical robotics market is anticipated to reach $12.7 billion by 2025, up from about $5.9 billion in 2020.
5. The rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning in healthcare.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is not a new concept in Healthcare Informatics Industry. For years, organizations have embraced artificial intelligence and machine learning in hospital administration and operations, particularly in the revenue cycle process. Prior to the epidemic, researchers started trying AI models to understand medical photos, with inconsistent results that left some questioning if AI and machine learning would live up to the promise.
But, in recent years, AI has been critical in generating prediction models for COVID-19 instances that are expanding throughout the nation. Academic institutions and health systems such as Mount Sinai in New York City, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and the University of California-Irvine developed predictive tools and models to track the virus and estimate the risk of COVID-19 patients developing severe symptoms. In the future years, the sector will develop and become increasingly integrated with clinical treatment.
Eric Yablanka, chief information officer and assistant dean of technology and digital solutions at Stanford Health Care and School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California, told Becker’s in September that wearables and other biomedical equipment, paired with machine learning and artificial intelligence, would continue to revolutionize clinical research, treatment procedures, and expand the virtual care skills of health practitioners. “This will test conventional healthcare institutions to compete with rising retail and virtual providers in ways we have not witnessed before. It will also allow Healthcare Informatics Industry delivery science and put data scientists to the forefront of enhancing patient care outcomes.”
6. Large data management becomes necessary.
The digital transition of health systems was already underway when 2020 started, and the pandemic highlighted the need for centralized and efficient data administration. Data-gathering and reporting activities increased significantly during the epidemic, and even small firms are investigating cloud technologies to securely store and organize data. Microsoft, Amazon, and Google all offer healthcare-specific clouds.
The risks are greater for academic medical institutes as security research becomes a bigger concern.
“I really think investing in our cloud-based research platforms around high-performance computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning toolkits, and integrating them back into our EHR is really key,” said Michael Pfeffer, MD, assistant vice chancellor and CIO of UCLA Health, during an interview on the Becker’s Healthcare Informatics Industry Podcast. “We are continuing to spend extensively on it, from a cost and resource basis. We are combining genomics data with our EHR data, along with other types of data including real-time wait sheets and x-ray pictures.
“All of these things are so crucial to our research mission and enhancing patient care — that translational part of taking research-derived algorithms or other types of technology and incorporating them into the operations and patient care-delivery portions of what we do — that is a big area of investment for 2021.”
7. Predictive analytics gains prominence.
Because of the increased digital transformation in 2020, more health systems now have the technological capacity to perform precision medicine and get closer to predictive analytics. Mount Sinai Health System in New York City developed machine learning-powered algorithms to detect high risk and probability of death among COVID-19 patients for more efficient patient treatment.
UPMC, situated in Pittsburgh, has been at the forefront of using data analytics with its clinical data warehouse, which delivers insights to physicians and patients. By adding new tools to its arsenal, including AI and ML, the Healthcare Informatics Industry system is inching closer to the realm of predictive analytics.
“The application of analytical insights in the healthcare business is highly reactive,” said Ed McCallister, senior vice president and CIO of UPMC, in an interview with Becker’s. “In the future, we expect that the analytic insights will develop to be employed at the bedside during the point of care. We also anticipate that analytics will help us to proactively manage treatment and our patient population in order to keep them out of the hospital and healthy. We are currently implementing this in several areas of UPMC and plan to extend it to other clinical departments and service lines.”
8. EHR advancements: interoperability, standardization, and the cloud.
This year paved the stage for breakthroughs in EHR interoperability and standardization, from HHS’ finalization of its interoperability regulations to innovations prompted by the necessity for record sharing during the pandemic. Interoperability between providers, payers, and health tech developers is projected to rise as a result of the federal government’s new laws, which seek to let people gain greater control of their health data through smartphone applications.
In November, Google launched its new healthcare interoperability readiness program to assist Healthcare Informatics Industry organizations in navigating and preparing for the new changes, and Epic reported a significant increase in the number of patient records transferred between providers using its Care Everywhere interoperability platform; more than 221 million patient records were shared in November, a 40% increase year over year. Many hospitals and health systems are also moving to cloud platforms and working with huge tech companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google to host their EHRs and information systems in order to provide real-time data insights and additional storage alternatives.
9. Expansion of telehealth and remote care.
Although CMS and major payers reduced telehealth restrictions to allow clinicians to continue providing treatment safely during the pandemic, hospitals and Healthcare Informatics Industry systems will continue to consider how to include virtual care into their long-term care plan when the public health emergency passes.
The pandemic also has driven improvements in remotely managed care both for patients with chronic diseases as well as those who have COVID-19 but don’t need to be hospitalized. These advancements have foreshadowed a move to a hybrid care paradigm, which will replace most in-person visits with a mix of telehealth and in-person visits for services ranging from follow-ups to urgent care.
10. EHRs are gaining new functionalities.
Since digital voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home have established themselves in customers’ living rooms, hospitals, and health systems are bringing comparable technology into patient rooms. Last year, Epic and Cerner signed partnerships to incorporate Nuance’s virtual assistant into their software, and Epic is working on its own ambient speech tech dubbed Hello Epic!
Saykara, an AI firm, released a new voice assistant this year that can listen to and grasp the context of a patient-physician dialogue without being prompted by speech instructions. Swedish Medical Group, located in Seattle, is a client and an investor in the firm.