5 Underrated Healthcare Trends From A Top CIO

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center CIO Dan Drawbaugh shares his thoughts about what the next health IT opportunities will be.
3. Joint Provider-Vendor Development

Drawbaugh sees more interest than ever among big healthcare providers such as UPMC, Kaiser Permanente and Mayo Clinic to do co-development projects in which a provider brings industry knowledge and works closely with a vendor to push a technology forward. Look at UPMC's analytics work, or Memorial Sloan-Kettering's development partnership with IBM related to Watson. UPMC invested in data-interoperability specialist dbMotion in 2006, implemented and helped refine the product and then saw it sold to Allscripts this month.

One reason for increased interest in joint development is simple: healthcare margins are getting squeezed, while tech vendors are known to enjoy margins of 30% or more, Drawbaugh says. Getting into the tech business is a potential new revenue source for some providers. "There's a lot of opportunity to leverage the knowledge base that's out there" among healthcare providers, he says.

4. Technology Convergence

Drawbaugh is just starting to see what he calls a convergence of certain technology areas. Where images such as CAT scans used to be stored using file formats unique to the device that took them, you're starting to see more vendor-neutral archives (VNA) for such images. That could open new avenues for connectivity and analysis.

Likewise, combining analytics software with better natural language processing, to understand data such as clinician notes, could open new opportunities to inject decision support into caregiving routines.

If this area sounds fuzzier than the rest, it is. Drawbaugh says they're just seeing this convergence begin, so UPMC is looking for the opportunities it might create.

5. Gaming And Consumer Devices

I spoke to Drawbaugh at the HIMSS healthcare IT conference, and observed that I didn't see many consumer-focused devices -- I had expected more tech around home monitoring and other patient-focused gadgets.

Drawbaugh agrees, but predicts that's coming. Three years ago, you didn't see a lot of vendor activity at HIMSS in data interoperability, because CIOs weren't feeling that pain yet. Now they are, and vendors have responded. And the same will happen with patient-centered innovation -- simpler mobile apps for patient monitoring, gaming techniques applied to disease management, and electronic messaging, from social networks to email, that replaces traditional doctor visits. That will drive new technology requirements. "You come [to HIMSS] in another two, three years, and the floor will look very different," Drawbaugh says.

As large healthcare providers test the limits, many smaller groups question the value. Also in the new, all-digital Big Data Analytics issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Ask these six questions about natural language processing before you buy. (Free with registration.)