Nils Bohr, the Nobel laureate in physics, was famously quoted as saying, "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." Indeed, figuring out the rate at which new technologies will impact the healthcare sector is a tricky business. Yet every year at this time IDC Health Insights releases its IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Health Industry 2019 Top 10 Predictions, several of which touch on the U.S. healthcare provider experience and are quite thought-provoking.
I had a chance last week to interview Mutaz Shegewi, research director for healthcare provider IT transformation strategies at IDC Health Insights. I mentioned to him that some CIOs and CMIOs may be resource-constrained and focused more on the next year rather than five years out. He stressed that the predictions encompass both longer term trends as well as short-term, low-hanging fruit that are low-cost or low-complexity to address. One example he started with was improving the digital patient experience. The FutureScape prediction is that “driven by rising consumer expectations, 60% of healthcare providers will make optimizing the digital patient experience a top 3 strategic imperative by 2020.”
I asked Shegewi if we had surveyed health system executives about this a few years ago, what that number might have been. “For the most part, the digital patient experience wasn’t even acknowledged two or three years ago,” he said. “The conversation was around patient engagement.” The shift to the experiential conversation is being shaped by market forces involving the rise of consumerism and the promise of personalization, he explained. “In the new era of healthcare, health IT and digital transformation of organizations, the thought processes around working with patients and consumers is shifting very quickly.
I wondered whether this shift in focus meant changing responsibilities for health IT leadership or in the types of people they hire. Shegewi said this recognition about patient experience is happening across the board within health systems. “Previously there was a siloing of roles with the implementation of EHRs and the technology that got us to this point,” he explained. There was siloing between nonclinical IT leadership such as CIOs and clinical IT such as CMIOs and CNIOs. There were further silos between IT and line of business personas — CFOs and chief medical officers. But for organizations that acknowledge the gist of their responsibilities around health IT, patient experience crosses all those roles. It is not the responsibility of any one group.
Another FutureScape prediction is that personal data stewardship practices in healthcare will triple globally by 2023 due to digitally engaged patients bringing their own data and industry- and government-led data guardian initiatives.
In an example of just such an industry-led initiative, last week the CARIN Alliance, a group of more than 60 healthcare stakeholders, released the first draft of a voluntary code of conduct that entities not covered by HIPAA can self-attest to in order to access health data on behalf of consumers.
The paradigm around patient-generated data is still evolving, Shegewi said. “We have seen some of it come into play with trackers and wearables. We are seeing EHR systems incorporate that data to close the loop of care, but also some skepticism about the accuracy and validity of data. The prediction centers around the increasing role that the individual will play around stewardship of their data. This will be driven by industry- and government-led initiatives. It is something that is emerging as the bargaining power of the patient becomes more pronounced in the relationship with other stakeholders. For the most part in the past that relationship was paternalistic.”
While noting that artificial intelligence has been overhyped sometimes in the past, IDC Health Insights predicts that the steady progress in AI adoption will directly impact 25% of business processes by 2020.
It is still too early to say where it will have the biggest impact, but there are areas where we are seeing AI increasingly introduced and showing promise,” Shegewi said. One of those areas is radiology, where computers are able to perform certain tasks that complement the efforts of a radiologist and facilitate capabilities for a radiologist to draw upon. “Another very promising area is in the clinical documentation and work flow itself. We have seen vendors introducing algorithms for population health analytics or as a virtual assistant within the EHR. They are increasing the ability to do more voice-driven and personalized approaches to the data capture of data and work flows.”
Cybersecurity is another area being affected by AI. In fact, another FutureScape prediction is that by 2022, 40% of healthcare providers will leverage machine learning and AI- algorithm advances to improve their cybersecurity capabilities with automated threat detection to thwart ransomware. “Over the last three years the healthcare sector has come to acknowledge it has a digital trust crisis,” Shegewi said. “With the ransomware attacks came a sudden acknowledgement that we need approaches that are preventative in nature and actively monitoring as opposed to reactive. AI has a huge role to play there.”
Another prediction touches on the frustration clinicians have with EHRs – that they get in the way of clinical care and patient engagement: “By 2022, 50% of clinical apps will include ambient interfaces — speech recognition, sensors, and/or gesture — as their primary data capture model, supported by AI, enabling a 40% rise in data quality.”
“The drive toward ambient interfaces is being driven by the acknowledgment that technology has a role to play, but that it is in the way,” Shegewi explained. “Vendors are starting to slowly acknowledge that they need to find ways to have the technology sit in the background. That is where ambient comes in — speech recognition, gesture and sensors.”
Finally, IDC Health Insights predicts that blockchain use will increase eightfold across healthcare and life science ecosystems by 2022. Blockchain has received a lot of market buzz, Shegewi said. “In healthcare there is more realism being expressed. We may not know yet where the highest impact will be but there are a lot of use cases being explored and piloted. One good example is for supply chain operations and inventory management; another is for provider credentialing. “Blockchain has value as an immutable ledger, so it would make sense to use it as a record locator, giving individuals their own unique blockchain identifiers.”
Let's check back in a few years and see how many of these rang true!