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9 Digital Health Trends For 2014

Step back, EHRs. These healthcare IT innovations are poised to take center stage in 2014.

5. Speech recognition
Natural language processing is still far from ready for use in EHRs, but progress is being made. For example, Intermountain Healthcare has been testing what it calls the industry's first speech-enabled mobile app for computerized physician order entry. The pilot started with commonly prescribed medications and is expected to progress to lab orders. Meanwhile, a growing number of EHR vendors are incorporating speech recognition into the mobile versions of their applications.

6. IBM Watson
Judging by IBM Watson's activities in healthcare this year, we're likely to see more and more applications and innovations powered by the learning-capable supercomputer. IBM and the Cleveland Clinic have developed big data analytic tools that use Watson. The MD Anderson Cancer Center is using Watson in its Moon Shots program to find cures for eight types of cancer. IBM and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have co-created an oncology adviser that helps physicians select the best treatments for particular patients. WellPoint is using two Watson-based products it developed with IBM to streamline the insurance company's utilization review and prior authorization processes.

7. M-health apps
If the market for mobile health apps is ever going to take off, consumers and providers must have some way of distinguishing among the tens of thousands of apps on the market. The most comprehensive initiative in this area was recently unveiled by IMS Health, a research firm best known for its data on the pharmaceutical industry. IMS is offering ratings on all the 40,000-plus m-health apps in the Apple Store (or at least the 16,000 that are really health-related and consumer-oriented). It is also marketing a system for creating m-health "formularies" and prescribing these apps to patients.

HealthTap and Partners Healthcare's Center for Connected Health have created m-health curation offerings on a smaller scale. Happtique recently withdrew its m-health ratings program but may soon return to the fray. Competition in this area seems likely to heat up in 2014.

8. Cloud-based EHRs
There's nothing new about these products, formerly known as ASP-model EHRs. But a recent Black Book survey indicated that many independent physician practices are migrating to the cloud for integrated EHR/practice management systems. One reason is that these systems require a much smaller initial investment than client/server systems -- a benefit especially important when practices are switching EHRs to meet the Meaningful Use requirements. In addition, some groups use cloud vendors to outsource their revenue cycle management. The exemplar of this approach is Athenahealth, which beat out several bigger EHR vendors in a KLAS survey that ranked the usability of their products.

9. HISPs
Secure clinical messaging using the Direct protocol is expected to spread rapidly in 2014, mainly because of the information sharing requirements of Meaningful Use stage 2. As Direct grows, so will the number of health information service providers (HISPs), which are required to move messages and attachments securely between providers.

One key barrier to the development of this network is the inability of many HISPs to exchange information with one another. This is not a technical issue; it stems from a lack of trust among HISPs. DirectTrust, a nonprofit trade association, is addressing this problem by accrediting HISPs. The next step will be to create a national provider directory that lets providers use one HISP to locate the Direct addresses of providers that use other HISPs.

These five higher education CIOs are driving critical changes in an industry ripe for digital disruption. Also in the Chiefs Of The Year issue of InformationWeek: Stop bragging about your Agile processes and make them better (free registration required).

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User Rank: Author
12/24/2013 | 10:45:40 AM
Re: Wearables: how broad an appeal for health monitoring?
There's at least one kind of very common wearable device for managing a chronic condition: the insulin pump for Type 1 diabetics. It's not collecting and sending data that can then be acted on; it's managing the disease directly. But it's strapped on your belt -- truly wearable in that sense. 
User Rank: Apprentice
12/24/2013 | 10:42:00 AM
10. Standards
Android and iOS have become widely accepted platforms for developing smartphone & tablet add-on products, allowing designers to exploit the work of others and the immense compute power of these mobile devices, support what people already have and use, reduce costs, speed time to market, and expand market reach. Next is to select a networking standard that offers similar benefits and enables interoperability. While there are many options to chose from (including ANT+, Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Z-Wave), and each has a set of advantages, the ones most likely to succeed in medical devices are the ones already included in smartphones: Bluetooth & Wi-Fi. 

See The Role of Standards in Telehealth
Ken Terry
Ken Terry,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/23/2013 | 4:39:05 PM
Re: Wearables: how broad an appeal for health monitoring?
Amen. There's such a thing as too much monitoring. I don't think most Americans would like the nanny state to tell them how to live their lives. But would someone who has a history of heart disease in their family want to be monitored for early signs that they might have sudden cardiac arrest? You bet.
David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
12/23/2013 | 4:35:09 PM
Wearables: how broad an appeal for health monitoring?
I can't help thinking of the astronauts in the film version of Apollo 13 ripping off their monitoring gadgets because they didn't want the flight surgeon keeping tabs on them in the midst of a crisis.

If health monitors get too good, you'll have to rip them off before going to the Christmas party if you don't want a lecture on overindulging in alcohol and dessert at your next doctor's visit.
Ken Terry
Ken Terry,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/23/2013 | 1:55:10 PM
Re: Telehealth's moment
I agree that telehealth can not only generate big savings but also increase access to care--an especailly important benefit at a time when there aren't enough primary care doctors to go around. But the business case works only for payers and for provider organizations that take financial responsibility for care delivery. Until there are more of the latter, telehealth will languish in the private sector.
User Rank: Author
12/23/2013 | 1:01:59 PM
Telehealth's moment
Teleheath is a technology where the time has come from both the tech and the business model standpoint. Big obstacle has been getting doctors paid for virtual visits, and I think we'll see those barriers blown away as the cost savings and convenience just seem too compelling.
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