12 Expert Health IT Predictions For 2013

Better care coordination technology, the explosion of mobile health and the downfall of independent physician practices are just a few of the health IT predictions experts are making for 2013.

Michelle McNickle, Associate Editor of InformationWeek Healthcare

December 18, 2012

7 Min Read

10 Medical Robots That Could Change Healthcare

10 Medical Robots That Could Change Healthcare

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What do healthcare IT experts believe is bound to happen in the year to come?

InformationWeek Healthcare recently offered its own take on the subject. Now we've reached out to CIOs, health IT professionals, analysts, bloggers and other HIT heavyweights in a series of email interviews to get their health information technology predictions for 2013. Here's what they predicted.

1. HIEs And Body Sensors Will Drive Growth In Analytics And Data Mining.

As providers prepare to move toward accountable care payment and shift their focus to population health, they will need to make sure that health information can be accessed in the right place, at the right time, and in the right context to address clinical needs across the system of care, according to Henry Soch, VP at consulting firm Sg2. Additionally, he wrote, "the rapid adoption of low-cost sensors will allow individuals to collect a rich data set about multiple conditions and make that data available to healthcare providers as part of a personal health record."

[ What's the latest in Meaningful Use proposals? Read Stage 3 Meaningful Use Proposals: Too Ambitious? ]

With this growth in sensors, he concluded, will come a "hybrid approach" to storing data. "All of [these elements] will drive the growth in analytics and data mining to develop personalized care plans for patients managing multiple conditions. ... Healthcare CIOs will need to be prepared to add these data elements to the existing infrastructure and create the tools that will allow providers to use the data effectively."

2. Predictive Analytics And Gaming Will Experience Exponential Growth.

"In the next five years, every patient will have his or her genetic sequence embedded into an electronic medical record. Digital pathology will also add to the growth of big data sets within healthcare," said UPMC chief information officer Dan Drawbaugh. He added that healthcare will soon catch up to what other industries have already realized: How to turn the massive amount of data they've stored into intelligent and actionable information. "Predictive analytics will drive personalized medicine. Combining a patient's genetic sequence with other data elements will help to paint a picture for the clinician, taking medicine from intuitive to precise." Last, he said, gaming technologies will become increasingly deployed by clinicians, "not only from an interface perspective but also as a way to manage care and prevent diseases."

3. Interoperability Will Give Providers A Competitive Edge.

"As the frenzy to demonstrate Meaningful Use escalates in 2013 .... an organization's level of interoperability will become a new and compelling competitive benchmark," predicted Rasu Shrestha, M.D., VP of medical information technology at UPMC. True interoperability, he said, is not just about tying applications together, but about incorporating a common set of enabling technologies that tie an entire healthcare organization together, "semantically harmonizing the data across disparate information systems and enabling a patient-centric, longitudinal care record that is safer, more accountable and more personalized."

4. User-Friendly Electronic Healthcare Records Are Around The Corner.

Healthcare CIOs have been predicting the implementation of a "comprehensive, fault-tolerant, user-friendly, well-integrated, patient- and family-centered EMR," for more than 25 years, said Stephanie Reel, senior VP and CIO at Johns Hopkins. By the end of 2013, the implementation of such a system will be "only [five] years away from being a reality," she said.

5. Data Analytics And Predictive Modeling Will Take Center Stage.

Mark Hulse, VP of information technology and CIO at Moffit Cancer Center, said this trend will be especially important to manage care across specific patient populations, while reducing variability in care and providing quality and clinical outcomes data. "These new models will also drive the use of technology to better engage patients more actively in their care," he wrote. "Mobile and online applications … particularly those that leverage social media … interface with exercise and other devices, and ' gamification' to help achieve and maintain health goals will also continue to proliferate."

6. EHR Incentive Payments Will Be Scrutinized.

"Expect substantial scrutiny on Meaningful Use payments and adherence through reporting requirements and audit," said Larry Stofko, executive VP of The Innovation Institute at St. Joseph Health System. He added there will also be an increased emphasis on IT systems and infrastructure as a secure, reliable, bulletproof utility "now that many of the EMRs are installed and relied upon for the delivery of patient care. Lastly, from an advancement perspective, expect progress in patient engagement, genetic/genomic integration, and personalized medicine."

7. Patients Will Become More Responsible For Care.

"Mobile access to personal … information will promote the migration to a more patient-centered model, encouraging individual engagement and responsibility in healthcare management," said Joe Walent, analyst at Technology Business Research Inc. In his email response to our informal survey, Walent wrote that telemedicine will become a "vital tool" for typical patient/provider interactions, "as healthcare delivery and remunerations shift to outcome-based measurements from volume-based."

8. Doctors Will Continue To Abandon Independent Practice.

Independent physicians have been "throwing in the towel at a rapid clip over the past few years, giving up their practices in favor of hospital-based employment," said David Williams, co-founder of MedPharma Partners LLC and strategy consultant. Doctors will continue to find it difficult to stay independent, because they lack the tools, technology and sophistication to "go it alone" in the modern era, he wrote. On the other hand, "we will see more independent physician practices adopt technologies that enable them to retain their autonomy, improve their financial performance, and serve patients better," he said. "Staying independent will again feel like a viable option, and we may even see new physicians hanging up their own shingles again."

9. EHR adoption Will Reach Critical Mass, Finally Driving Quality Of Care.

Meaningful Use incentives will fuel this growth, wrote Harry Greenspun, senior advisor at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. "With these foundational applications working, institutions will start to derive more value from their functionality and data generation." Organizations will begin to demonstrate gains in quality and safety," he continued, "and they will be armed with analytics tools to help manage population health in an era of accountable care."

10. Consumers Will Dictate The Path Healthcare Technology Takes. .

The public wants healthcare information anytime, anywhere, and on any device, said Sue Kozik, senior VP and chief information officer at Independence Blue Cross. Kozik maintained that the industry will move not from a B2B to a B2C but to C2B -- consumer to business. In fact, she predicts consumers are going to tell the industry how they want to interact by their buying decisions.

11. Cloud Storage And Mobile Will Explode.

Next year will see an increased adoption of EHRs and health information exchanges, along with health data aggregated at the community level, according to Brian Ahier, health IT evangelist at Mid-Columbia Medical Center. Providers also will use more analytics tools for population health management and quality improvement, he said, which will lay the "technology foundation" to support new payment and care delivery models. "Managing these massive data sets, often termed 'big data,' will be a hot topic of conversation in healthcare," he said.

Cloud services, he continued, will be increasingly deployed in the year ahead, while tablet and smartphone use will continue to grow. "The advent of a slew of Windows 8 mobile offerings will address some of these concerns, with Apple and Android devices providing plenty of options," he wrote.

12. Care Coordination Technologies Will Catch On.

Care coordination will become more prominent, predicted Shahid Shah, software analyst and blogger, "because new business models like ACOs will require them. Such coordination, as opposed to record sharing through EHRs, is really tough because workflows have to be worked out between different legal entities across providers. We have a long way to go to really implement seamless coordination even though we have the basic technologies available to do so now."

Clinical, patient engagement, and consumer apps promise to re-energize healthcare. Also in the new, all-digital Mobile Power issue of InformationWeek Healthcare: Comparative effectiveness research taps the IT toolbox to compare treatments to determine which ones are most effective. (Free registration required.)

About the Author(s)

Michelle McNickle

Associate Editor of InformationWeek Healthcare

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