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Joy Abraham, Vice president of IT, Life Care Centers of America
Health care has become one of the essential socio-economic issues facing the country, and information technology (IT) is a critical factor in efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of care. The following trends are playing a big part in shaping health care for the future.
Patient engagement in health care
It is widely accepted that involving and engaging patients in their care is more likely to lead to better outcomes.
Most electronic health records (EHRs) these days offer a patient portal where patients can view their medical information and communicate directly with their physician.
At HIMSS 2019, an exhibition and conference of health care IT, Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, could not have been clearer when she stated, “The idea that patient data belongs to providers or vendors is an epic misunderstanding. Patient data belongs to patients.”
Patients are increasingly seeking to gain meaningful information from their data, control it and easily share it. These new requirements will prompt health care IT to offer digital tools to engage and empower patients in their health care. Examples include informational and virtual coaching applications that can let providers reach patients outside of the office to offer further education, thus helping patients keep up with their care plan.
Also, these tools should make it easier for patients to perform standard functions like scheduling appointments, finding a doctor, paying a bill or asking questions regarding their clinical information. A recent survey of patients revealed that 90 per cent do not feel obligated to continue returning to providers that do not provide a satisfactory digital experience.
The focus on delivering care in the most effective and least expensive setting is driving the adoption of care delivery models like telemedicine, care in the home and remote patient monitoring. In 2018, 7 million people used telehealth.
Telemedicine is levelling the playing field geographically by enabling patients to access quality health care anywhere. As the Internet of Things (IoT) world grows explosively, health data is being collected on activity trackers, “smart” scales, mobile phone apps, etc. This is enabling virtual care.
Health care organizations in the coming years will need to adopt sophisticated security solutions to combat threats and adequately protect sensitive patient information
Although some hurdles remain, particularly around reimbursement, regulations and clinical workflow, the benefits of telemedicine and demand from an increasingly tech-savvy and mobile patient population will make it a necessary and viable care delivery model.
Health cares IT, just as other sectors, faces increased pressure from hackers and intruders. In a recent survey, 56 per cent of respondents cited cybersecurity as the most critical issue facing health care organizations. It is estimated that health care organizations face twice as many intrusion attacks as other industries. With more organizations implementing connected medical devices and enabling mobile device usage, there are more possible access points for intruders. Health care data is considered even more valuable to criminals than financial information. Ransomware attacks have the potential to cripple care delivery. Compounding the problem is the fact that health care lags behind other industries in adopting cybersecurity standards.
Health care organizations in the coming years will need to adopt sophisticated security solutions to combat threats and adequately protect sensitive patient information. This will ideally be a mix of secure technology, employee training and comprehensive incident response and disaster recovery planning.
Health care organizations have long been sitting on vast amounts of patient data.
Providers are now seeing the potential of applying AI to this information, for a variety of purposes – internal performance improvement, decision support for clinicians, chronic care management, population health initiatives, financial risk reduction and more. AI can improve predictive analytics by mining patient, claims, genomics and population health data. It can also generate risk scores for chronic diseases and aid in avoiding 30-day readmissions and getting ahead of condition deterioration.
Innovations in robotic process automation (RPA) will help automate and simplify rule-based tasks that are time-consuming when done manually. Examples include appointment scheduling, claims management, remote monitoring and managing workflows like case and utilization management.
Optimization of EHRs and Interoperability
The “Meaningful Use” initiative encouraged and incentivized the adoption of EHRs, and as a result, EHRs are now widely used. However, clinician dissatisfaction with EHRs is widespread. It is essential to optimize EHR to make it more interactive, responsive, smart and simple for end-users. IT needs to look at ways to reduce information overload for clinicians and help automate tedious functions like documentation, billing and repetitive tasks related to clinical care. EHR functions and information should be accessible on mobile devices. Workflows should be configured and streamlined to help users navigate the system more efficiently.
There is broad consensus that seamless, real-time sharing of health care data is needed across systems and platforms. While interoperability has been a focus for the industry for several years, the desired results have not yet been achieved. Using application programming interfaces (APIs) could help in this as well as the continued adoption of HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR). Adopting a “cloud-first” approach and leveraging capabilities like microservices will also help create an environment for interoperability.