Every year, we editors at Healthcare Informatics share with our readers our compendium of the Top Ten Tech Trends—our look at some of the most important trends shaping U.S. healthcare right now.
Of course, it is virtually never the case that a trend important enough for us to consider as one of our “top ten” will have emerged completely out of the blue in the past few months. The healthcare system isn’t that wildly unpredictable. Instead, inevitably, many of the trends we describe this year connect to previous “Top Ten” trends or center around new sets of developments in the same or related areas.
But what is true is that things are accelerating rapidly these days across U.S. healthcare. Certainly, in the several years since the passage of the HITECH (Healthcare Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act in 2009 (as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA) and of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, U.S. healthcare has moved head rapidly with regard to internal health system reform. Value-based purchasing and readmissions reduction, mandated areas of activity under the ACA, as well as the accountable care organization (ACO) and bundled payment contract development provisions of the act, together with the meaningful use program under HITECH, have been pushing the leaders of hospitals, medical groups, and health systems, forward with a sense of urgency. And that urgency has been compounded by the countless initiatives by private health insurers to establish value-based purchasing, ACO, and bundled-payment programs, as well as many others. Meanwhile, the passage by Congress last year of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), a law that repealed the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula for Medicare physician payment, only added to what is becoming a full-out push on the part of the federal government towards compelling providers (in that case, physicians participating in the Medicare program) forward into value-based purchasing.
So along the policy dimension, there is now a level of clarity that didn’t exist seven years ago. And that has made all the difference.
Meanwhile, data security continues to leap ahead as a first-tier concern, with data breaches and ransomware becoming day-to-day realities for patient care organization leaders, while advances in genomic research and in connecting research-based information and insights to clinical care, are moving forward daily. And of course, the core information technologies supporting patient care and care management, as well as hospital, medical group and health system operations, are rapidly becoming more capable and sophisticated.
Naturally also, there continues to be a strong—and complex—interplay between advancing information and other technologies, and progress in crafting new models of care delivery, care management, etc. So, for example, connected health—connecting patients/consumers to caregivers and information, via mobile devices and other technologies—is something that continues to move forward via a consistently iterative pattern of advancement on both the process and technology sides. The same reality of an interplay of phenomena is true with regard to the growing phenomenon of integrated health system leaders choosing to leverage their internal resources, in partnership with commercial vendors, to come together to develop a variety of healthcare IT solutions that can be commercialized and shared with the industry.
Complex dynamics of interplay certainly are at work when it comes to physician documentation reform, which sits at the nexus of a number of diverse phenomena—from the need to get obtain more and more data, and deeper levels, from individual patient records, to support population health, care management, and other initiatives by patient care organizations—to the need to relieve practicing physicians from the effects of note bloat and time-suck.
Thus, the interconnectedness of our Top Ten Tech Trends this year. In no particular order, they are: