2019 Top Technology Trends in Healthcare
As we head into 2019, National Physician Services (NPS) is looking ahead to identify how existing and emerging trends in healthcare technology will play out in the next 12 months. Our healthcare information experts are continuously evaluating the industry and technological developments in healthcare. We hope that the following information will help provide insight into the HIT landscape over the next year as you plan your IT strategies.
In 2018, there were so many data breaches in health systems worldwide that all healthcare organizations should have this as a top of mind concern in 2019. Every day there are new and emerging security threats that are increasingly sophisticated and dangerous.
Ransomware, malware that essentially holds your data hostage in exchange for payment, is one of the biggest threats to healthcare organizations. According to a 2018 Ponemon report, hospitals paid on average $408 per compromised record and breaches winded up costing healthcare organizations around $4 million. In 2016, the estimated annual cost of healthcare data breaches was $6.2 billion. However, ransomware isn’t the only security threat to practices. Phishing scams and employee error can result in Patient Health Information being exposed to the general public.
These threats are expensive and disruptive to the patient-provider relationship. Your organization can be held liable for violating HIPAA rules if sensitive data is accidentally exposed. Luckily, all of these security threats can be prevented by using effective technology with built-in security protections.
Are you at Risk? Talk to us to find out.
2. The Hype and Reality of AI & Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a perfect example of an emerging technology that promises enormous benefit but at the same time generates speculative hype around exciting new applications for healthcare. As with all new technologies, AI and machine learning will most likely first appear by adding efficiency, new capabilities, and managing repetitive tasks. A Sci-Fi scenario of machines taking over critical human activities is clearly unlikely in the foreseeable future. So what is the reality of AI and machine learning for healthcare? Here a few applications that you may see in 2019 and beyond.
AI will improve operational efficiency in health organizations. These changes will be subtle, yet persistent. AI is going to get smarter and better at answering questions, performing administrative tasks, and analyzing data. The patient experience is going to change alongside the adaptation of AI, especially in areas such as telehealth. The good news for practices is that with this improved efficiency, they can reduce their overhead expenses and see overall costs go down. This is already being seen in health systems that have adapted machine-learning technology to improve efficiency.
Not every practice will adopt AI and machine-learning into their systems and that’s okay. AI is still very much in its infancy. However, you can still leverage the benefits of professional expertise and AI to optimize your processes and IT architecture. When optimizing your systems be sure to measure current performance in your hardware and application layers to improve the design and architecture. Once optimized, you should also have ongoing monitoring for continuous performance improvement.
Are you ready to leverage the power of smart technology, combined with best-in-class IT expertise in 2019? Contact NPS to begin.
3. Outsourcing Healthcare IT Operations
Today’s healthcare environment demands a lot from practices; from maintaining complex infrastructure and providing high quality IT services to complying with a myriad of IT-related regulations. The rapid development and evolution of technology demand a lot of in-house resources to develop, implement, and maintain these systems. Because of this IT outsourcing will continue to be a top priority for many healthcare organizations in 2019.
Providers are becoming more comfortable handing over critical IT functions to trusted HIT partners such as Application Support, Revenue Cycle Management, Cloud Hosting, Disaster Recovery, or perhaps even a comprehensive Managed IT service program. Outsourcing these functions reduces overhead and maintenance costs, increases staff efficiency, and lowers your staffing requirements. A HIT partner will be able to dedicate all of their attention and expertise to your IT, reducing the risk of errors, miscommunication, and violating HIPAA requirements.
It is best to choose a single partner to work with who understands the challenges that your practice faces and will collaborate and plan for future requirements. Your vendor should be one that offers coordinated, integrated services so that you only have a single point of contact to address your IT needs. Finally, choose a vendor who has the potential to grow with you because, just like you, they are always trying to innovate and utilize the most current technology and benchmarks for service.
Are you considering healthcare IT outsourcing? Talk to NPS and see our full range of healthcare IT outsourcing solutions.
2019 got off to a good start when Health Level Seven released the fourth iteration of their Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) data standard. Other projects, including SMART on FHIR, will make more progress in aligning patient records, applications, and programs. FHIR is going to make exchanging data between disparate systems more effective and efficient. This will benefit organizations internally, as they will see improved communication between their own systems. It will also help different providers and practices exchange patient data, making diagnosis and medical services more efficient.
Both providers and vendors are starting to develop their own application programming interfaces that will improve data sharing between different medical organizations. This year will continue that trend, possibly to the point where it has a positive, meaningful impact on care delivery at the personal level. Eventually, providers will consistently have access to a complete patient profile that includes environmental, social, and financial data. It’s unlikely that such a radical change to healthcare will come full circle this year, but it will certainly make some progress.
At NPS, interoperability is at the center of everything we do. Contact us to find out more.
5. Cloud-based Care
Nearly two-thirds of all healthcare organizations use some level of cloud-computing technologies today. That number will continue to grow in 2019 as more practices include cloud-computing as part of their technology strategy. If healthcare providers are serious about personalizing healthcare for their patients, they will adopt cloud technology. The cloud enables organizations to seamlessly share interoperable data while using open and secure platforms.
Cloud-computing makes the logistics and technical requirements of data storage better. Private cloud systems are used to store sensitive information including patient records, medical bills, pharmacy orders, and physician notes. Some organizations are reluctant to fully adopt cloud-based systems because of HIPAA regulations on ePHI, but these concerns are quickly becoming a thing of the past. While there have been challenges with structuring data that is collected via secure messaging, video, audio, and email in a secure manner, the rapid advancement of technology and data exchange standards will eliminate these concerns in the near future.
Why use Cloud technology? There are many reasons including increased efficiency, flexibility and incorporating new applications. However, there are other benefits including eliminating the need for maintaining complicated hardware and servers, reducing data storage expenses, maximizing your computing power based on your needs, and enabling your IT team to focus limited resources on high-value initiatives. You can even help the environment by reducing your energy cost and carbon footprint, two challenges that are on everyone’s mind, especially in 2019.
If you are considering cloud-based technology, work with a HIT partner who offers expertise in cloud hosting and is able to provide healthcare application hosting, HIPAA compliance, round the clock monitoring and support, disaster recovery, automated backup, and scalable storage & computing power.
Is cloud-based care something your practice is considering? Call NPS to discuss the healthcare cloud.
Telehealth has a great potential to radically transform the patient-provider relationship while improving operational efficiency in your organization. In 2019, we will see more providers considering and testing mobile applications for healthcare delivery. The rise of the FHIR data exchange standard, paired with portable mobile devices, is opening up a whole new frontier in telehealth. This year, many physicians will begin to consult with patients via secure messaging or video to provide consultations and diagnosis. Additionally, innovative devices, such as the Apple Watch, will encourage patients to take greater responsibility for managing their health through greater access and autonomy over their health information.
Telehealth is exciting and new, but needs to be considered carefully. There are still a lot of questions regarding patient privacy and protecting sensitive data such as physician notes, medical bills, and pharmacy orders. HIPAA has strict regulations dictating how practices manage, store, and secure their ePHI. Telehealth hasn’t caught up with the flurry of recent regulations stemming from healthcare reforms, but it is only a matter of time before telehealth is common in the modern practice.
That’s why if your healthcare organization is planning on utilizing new telehealth-based services, you should consult and work with an outside expert in regulatory compliance. Choose a vendor who has extensive knowledge and experience with HIPAA, HITECH, and MACRA.
7. Managed IT
HIT is now a critical function of every medical practice and IT departments are challenged to keep up with supporting the technology needs of the practice. Reports indicate that more practices are going to increase their outsourcing of IT support, system monitoring, and helpdesk applications in 2019.
In the modern healthcare digital ecosystem, you need round the clock support and monitoring for many practice components including network security, telephone, wireless networks, desktop, and mobile devices. A systemic failure or lapse in technology functionality will quickly grind your practice to a halt, causing expensive and frustrating delays in services and unhappy patients. It is becoming increasingly difficult to support and maintain these complex systems in-house. Luckily, there are a growing number of health IT partners out there who devote themselves to monitoring your systems remotely.
Practices recognize the advantages of remote monitoring and help desk support, especially services that include live operators and a support portal. Not only can 24/7 remote monitoring help you avoid catastrophes, it can also assist your staff in troubleshooting problems with your IT.
Are you considering managed IT? Call NPS and learn about our managed IT services.
8. Disaster Recovery
With a multitude of existing and emerging IT threats, practices must be always prepared for a potential disaster. While prevention and well-defined workflow processes are key to avoiding a disaster, sometimes the unexpected can happen. As healthcare organizations become more mindful of these threats, disaster recovery and business continuity will be a top priority this year.
Business continuity ensures that practices can continue to deliver mission-critical services during and after a disaster, with a strong focus on prevention, planning, risk-management, and continued uptime. Often, it focuses on the organization as a whole and includes plenty of testing and training.
When disaster strikes, practices must be prepared to react, mitigate damage, and be back on-line as soon as possible. Disaster Recovery is an important component of emergency preparedness. A well-defined disaster recovery process, that includes backing up data via cloud computing and coordinating a consistent procedure across all IT systems, will keep your health organization afloat during an emergency.
Now that value-based care is the preeminent model for healthcare services in the U.S., it is more important than ever to ensure that no emergency or disaster compromises your ability to operate, access your patient data, or maintain your current provider-patient relationships.
Are you prepared? Talk to NPS about disaster recovery and be ready for anything.
9. Blockchain: Myths and Reality
There is a lot of speculation around blockchain being the next great tech innovation in healthcare. Blockchain, like any emerging technology, has transformative potential. However, blockchain is in its infancy and its application in 2019 is likely going to be less exciting than some have anticipated.
Tech enthusiasts claim that blockchain has the potential to link patient records, verify medications, and give patients more control over their health records. In addition, the use of cryptocurrency can transform how patients converge their healthcare, fitness, and finances. For example, Sweatcoin is a mobile app that tracks outdoor steps by using their phone’s GPS tracker and its accelerometer. Each step translates into a cryptocurrency which users can spend on goods and services offered through the app. Blockchain and cryptocurrency have the most potential to offer incentives and modify people’s behavior in order to improve their health. Does this mean that in 6 months everyone is going to be earning cryptocurrency using a blockchain-based program? Probably not.
Instead, many health IT experts believe blockchain will be most disruptive in performing administrative tasks. Since blockchain acts as a permanent data record, it can be used to guarantee data integrity and protect ePHI from other threats. It’s more likely that blockchain will be applied in compliance or regulated activities where constructing an expansive report or responding to a large audit can be a challenge without access to a permanent record of data. 2019 won’t be the year that blockchain starts to sync data and automate workflow, but progress will be made applying this technology to data administration.
10. Practice Analytics
It’s all about healthcare data in 2019. Practice analytics have been around for decades now, but their importance is at an all-time high and technology is making analytics easier to access and evaluate. Successfully achieving value-based care objectives continues to be a top priority for healthcare organizations, and this year practice analytics will be front and center in driving the agenda in practices across the country.
In 2019 more practices across the country will look to adopt advanced analytics programs to gain better insight into their practice. Providers need detailed reports on a variety of practice areas including financial performance, identifying and resolving gaps in care, and compliance with ePHI regulations. Applications that source and aggregate data should have two primary goals in a healthcare organization. The first is providing meaningful, actionable insights so providers can deliver better, more relevant medical services to their patients. The second goal is leveraging those insights to streamline and optimize the organization-wide decision-making process in order to serve patients efficiently and effectively.
Are you ready to enhance your practice analytics in the new year? Learn more about the insights NPS has to offer.