Looking back at the predictions for healthcare IT in 2015, there were a number of accurate predictions, such as the retail chains (Wal-Mart, CVS, Walgreens) playing more of an active role in providing healthcare services. That trend will continue as consumers increasingly value the convenience factor. Another prediction for 2015 was the upswing in cyber security attacks. We have seen many large corporation in the news related to security breaches. As we usher in 2016, here are three main focus areas that IT leaders must be prepared.
Mega-mergers/affiliations are going to continue across the nation. Healthcare institutions realize that it pays to be big, and it will be important to have the organizational size in order to be a player in the market. Almost every type of conceivable partnership will be formed this year. We have seen partnerships between competitors (Kaiser and Dignity Health) that were unthinkable a few years ago. These types of creative partnership and affiliations will enable healthcare providers to regain the advantage against insurers when negotiating reimbursements, and exchange best practices from each other to improve quality of care.
We will also continue to see community hospitals collaborate with top tier healthcare systems and academic medical centers to generate more patients. To control costs, tertiary hospitals are rapidly moving care with lower acuity levels to the community hospitals.
We have already seen 3 major mergers/affiliation in the first week of 2016: Tenet and Baylor Scott & White’s joint venture, Baycare finalizing their acquisition of CHS in Florida, and Duke Lifepoint’s acquisition of Tenet facilities in North Carolina. And I am sure there are more in the pipeline.
Emerging technologies such as smartphones and patient tracking devices will become the standard in healthcare. In addition to telling patients about wait times in the emergency rooms, these devices are now also being used for telemedicine to make home visits and perform diagnosis of non-emergent medical disorders. Consumers are now storing their health information, medication lists, and even the costs of treatment on their smartphones. With smartphones, consumers will soon be able to access their health records anywhere, anytime. It will also allow the patients the ability to speak with a doctor, or receive care remotely from the patient’s home or the doctor’s office.
Surveys indicate that the use of mobile devices for maintenance of medical health has doubled in just two years, and that many consumers will prefer using the smart phones to connect to their healthcare provider in the coming year. The biggest question is how patients and hospitals will manage security on these devices.
Data security and patient privacy issues are always a concern. Because of the threat from hackers, almost every major medical device will need to have security features to prevent breaches that could cripple the industry. Consumers have already started to become weary of buying new medical devices and are becoming increasingly hesitant to use what is available in hospitals because of recent hacking reports. Physician’s offices and hospitals will have to step up and ensure there are no breeches in security, otherwise the penalties will be severe. More important, it can ruin the reputation of a hospital and lead to a decline in patients.
What are your top 3 focuses in 2016?
[David Chou is a Global Digital Healthcare Advisor who served as CIO at University of Mississippi Medical Center and AHMC Healthcare, and senior director of IT Operations at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Click here to follow him on Twitter.]