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4/9/2014
09:35 AM
Richard Roth
Richard Roth
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Healthcare In 2014: Innovate Or Be Left Behind

Alongside serious disruption to healthcare business models in 2014, four significant trends will emerge for healthcare leaders.

Healthcare has a new face. Between the sweeping policy reforms, the influx of technology, and the care model innovations, healthcare doesn't resemble the industry it was even five years ago. Patients are different, too. Better informed by nearly instant access to health information and resources, the tech-savvy healthcare consumers of today expect their care to be just as convenient, and just as wired.

In 2013 alone, physician and hospital use of health IT more than doubled. A recent study by Intel revealed that patients overwhelmingly are ready to see technology play a greater role in their care. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed report that they'd consider using technologies like ingestible monitors that collect valuable health data. Meanwhile, providers are eagerly embracing mobile devices and telemedicine tools to better care for their patients and to increase operational and administrative efficiencies. Health systems are delving into big data to improve and better manage population health.

As these forces continue to reshape the possibilities of both medicine and healthcare delivery, 2014 will see exponential innovation. It is a prime environment for health systems, care providers, and entrepreneurs to either embrace and promote change together or be left behind.

Innovation as a core business competency
The passage of the Affordable Care Act has been a significant catalyst in the recent and dramatic evolution of the industry. Cuts to reimbursements have pressured health systems to find ways to cut costs while both broadening access to and improving the quality of care. At the same time, a strengthened emphasis on patient experience has encouraged providers to develop and refine ways to better serve patients.

Adapting to these new parameters requires creative and thoughtful change. It is crucial for healthcare systems and providers to shift from a paradigm that fights to hold on to the status quo to one that understands both the benefits and necessities of innovation. Embracing innovative approaches and entrepreneurial endeavors that improve care delivery, system infrastructure, and patient engagement in the near-term are now business strategies critical to the long-term success and viability of healthcare organizations. Today's decisions will determine which healthcare companies and systems will thrive tomorrow.

The change is inevitable. Entrepreneurs are weighing equally whether to work with the current healthcare system towards an improved state -- or to disrupt it. At this crucial juncture, healthcare leaders have to decide the role they will play in the evolution.

Healthcare innovation to watch for in 2014
Among the exponential innovation that will surface throughout 2014, four significant trends will emerge.

  • Use of sensor technology will increase: Sensors are a great way to aid evidence-based care decisions. Tools like Propeller Health (formerly Asthmapolis), Sotera Wireless, and Proteus's ingestible sensors will play a greater role in how care teams evaluate treatment plans, patient progress, and what treatments to recommend in the future. By aggregating objective information, these tools help patients, caregivers, and clinicians tailor more personalized treatment plans.
  • We'll all be relying even more on big data: There will be a greater reliance on the use of big data and analytics to improve health. From population health management to point-of-care service, advanced analytic services will dictate how big-data sets are translated into interventions. Even companies that have been primarily focused on technology, like Box and Intel, are moving toward the health sphere. Today, Box has 23 healthcare platform partners, many of which include companies exploring data-focused avenues of improving care delivery.
  • Care delivery will change: Driven by the results of health exchanges and other care delivery trials, novel models of care will multiply. Already, innovation based on Accountable Care Organizations, Patient-Centered Medical Homes, and specialized care groups have yielded a number of novel care organizations. Organizations like Iora Health are prioritizing primary care services, offering care to more patients by eliminating insurance overhead. Gathering primary care physicians and a range of specialists under one roof, companies like ChenMed are delivering care to diverse populations as a concierge service.
  • More transparency: The level of transparency demanded from healthcare systems and providers will increase, yielding growth of innovative tools to help inform both patients and providers to help them make cost-effective decisions. The recent IPO by Castlight highlights a belief that employers are ready to make real changes in benefit design, improve employee health, and identify savings. SharedClarity will offer cost and quality information for evidence-based selection of medical devices. My employer, Dignity Health, is one of the partners backing SharedClarity, along with United Healthcare, Advocate Health Care, Baylor Scott & White Health, and McLaren Health Care.

Health systems should view the quickly growing list of innovators and disruptors as opportunities for partnerships to supplement and advance their own efforts.

Demands on healthcare systems in 2014
To respond to the provisions of reform that require healthcare systems to reduce costs while improving quality of care, more healthcare providers will embrace innovation and technology in 2014. Because innovative tools give patients greater agency over their healthcare management and decisions, providers that offer novel care options will be more attractive to consumers.

The concept and execution of innovation in care will arm healthcare providers with the competitive edge needed to be relevant, successful, and sustainable. Companies that resist or outsource innovation will be disrupted by those willing to invest in and pursue innovation. In sum, the onset of exponential innovation is here. The time to embrace and lead it is now.

Download Healthcare IT in the Obamacare Era, the InformationWeek Healthcare digital issue on the impact of new laws and regulations. Modern technology created the opportunity to restructure the healthcare industry around accountable care organizations, but IT priorities are also being driven by the shift.

Richard Roth leads Dignity Health's innovation efforts, which seek to create and test novel services, programs, partnerships, and technologies – from within and outside of healthcare – that challenge the status quo and have the potential to reduce the cost of ... View Full Bio

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