As 2017 came to a close, several healthcare trends carried over into 2018. 2017 was a year of tremendous growth within the healthcare industry, but it proved we were only just beginning. Based on select surveys and my own observations, I have summarized the new and continuing healthcare trends we should expect to see through the remainder of 2018.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence was a very hot topic in 2017, and we should expect to hear even more about it as machine learning continues to be explored. AI is an exceptionally broad topic, and many people are still skeptical of its use and application. However, it appears to have some real potential in the healthcare industry. The survey report, “Top of Mind for Top U.S. Health Systems 2018,” shared the most common areas in which health systems have or are planning to implement AI technologies. These areas are:
- Clinical decision support (59 percent)
- Population health (46 percent)
- Disease management (42 percent)
- Readmissions (41 percent)
- Medical costs/health plan (38 percent)
Some of the early adopters of AI technology have seen success in predictive analytics. We expect to see this as a trend in population health management as organizations try to manage their chronically ill populations and work on cost avoidance within their value-based care contracts. Mike Hoxter, Lightbeam’s Chief Technology Officer, recently wrote a blog about AI use cases in population health management.
Patient Generated Data
With meaningful use, (MU) stage 3 we saw the introduction of patient-generated health data (PGHD), which can be a great way to supplement data in an EMR. There are several types of PGHD, such as patient portals, wearables, and home monitoring devices. In 2018, surveys suggest we will see both patient portals and home monitoring devices create valuable patient-generated data. Patient portals specifically can increase patient engagement and make consumers feel like active partners in their own care. This should be no surprise, as we see an increase in value-based care and providers’ desire for patients to be active and accountable in their treatment.
The Continuing Shift to Value from Volume
Reimbursement reform has continued to accelerate the slight hesitation by some providers to take on risk. It appears that even in the face of this hesitation, most providers recognize the potential to contain costs and improve the quality of care over value-based contracts. Furthermore, there is evidence of many successful ACOs and an eBook with six strategies to thriving in value-based care to help organizations realize cost savings and improved quality as well. At the center of these strategies, it appears that data remains the central role in healthcare, and the increasing availability of quality data and smarter integration of disparate systems is paramount to any successful ACO strategy. The use of technology such as HIEs and analytics like population health, specifically the integration of the two seem to be at the center of the successful ACOs who are taking on risk and earning a savings. Notably, with a new government report stating a $3.3 trillion healthcare expenditure this year, value-based care shows promise to help curve this spend.
Importance of Security
It is no surprise that security will continue to be a priority in 2018. As the internet of things (IoT) and overabundance of information storage systems continues to grow and evolve, protecting patient health information (PHI) is more important than ever. During 2017, hospitals and health groups were experiencing cyberattacks left and right, with major breaches of PHI threatening the patient population. Expect to see an increase in spending on technology to boost cybersecurity in 2018, specifically in strengthening data security. Read about the security tasks your SaaS vendor should have, in a past blog post written by our VP of Infrastructure and Security, Jay Orler.
More and more, we have been seeing insurers push the wellness of their patients and encourage prevention. 2017 saw a lot of mergers and 2018 will continue to see the joint effort to make patient care the priority by both the hospitals, healthcare systems, and insurance companies. With the increase of value-based care, finding integrated solutions to support these delivery models will be important. We have even seen some payers merge with pharmacies. This example has critics wondering if the effect will carve out more narrow networks for patients. Whether this trend it is a benefit, or a challenge is yet to be seen in the market.
Big Data and Big Analytics
Big data advancements took over the healthcare industry in 2017. We saw and will continue to see big data being used to make near accurate health predictions when it comes to patient health and the creation of definitive care plans. With analytics and reporting provided by big data, the industry is able to translate large amounts of information about a patient into tangible items that a physician/care team can act on to provide positive results.
We all know healthcare is an ever-changing target, but the patient is always at the center and the bullseye is improving care and quality. This is especially true in 2018 as we continue to move away from fee-for-service, as the trends we are seeing really speak to that. It will be an exciting year with current technologies really taking shape and new emerging technologies coming into light. At the end of the day, we really have only one chance to get it right for the patient, so that needs to remain our focus.
Alex Gorman, Lightbeam’s Assistant Vice President of Business Development