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Digital Health Innovators Need to Deliver Results This Year

Digital health innovators will need to start delivering tangible results, not just hype, for consumers this year, judged the HIMSS 2019 Healthcare Trends Report.

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Source: Getty Images

By Fred Donovan

- Digital health innovators will need to start delivering tangible results, not just hype, for consumers this year, judged the HIMSS 2019 Healthcare Trends Report.

The report predicted that digital health innovations that will start having more real-world applications include artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, virtual reality/augmented reality, wearables and implantable devices, digital therapeutics, and voice recognition/digital assistants.

In terms of AI and machine learning, HIMSS expects to see broader adoption in population health to improve identification of individuals at risk and to deliver precision medicine.

Virtual reality and augmented reality will soon become a routine treatment for pain control after surgery and for chronic pain control, the report judged.

Wearables and implantable devices will enable doctors to more easily detect chronic conditions and monitor treatment effectiveness.

HIMSS predicts increasing use of digital therapeutics as an adjunct and alternative to traditional treatments, for example, prevention and treatment of chronic conditions.

There will be broader use of voice recognition and digital assistance in healthcare to reduce clinician burden, the report opined.

Also this year the healthcare industry will get a better idea of how blockchain can help organizations with interoperability.

“Blockchain/distributed ledger technology (DLT) is going to be leveraged as a part of the broader interoperability ‘toolbox’ to remove the redundancy and friction points that currently exist within the system (i.e. claims adjudication, benefit fulfillment, provider credentialing, etc.),” the report predicted.

HIMSS also forecasted that market disruptors like Amazon, Google, and Walmart will continue to apply pressure on established organizations.  

“Though these companies have a sophisticated understanding of buyers’ needs and expectations, they come lacking a real understanding of the depth and complexity of healthcare delivery. At the same time, consumers will increasingly demand greater access to personalized and patient-centered care, as they shift their attention to those offering convenience, choice and, most importantly, cost transparency,” the report observed.

In addition, HMSS is predicting that financial and demographic demands will lead to new ways to deliver care.

“To meet these demands, health systems, payers and providers will be forced to advance value-based healthcare delivery in ways that keeps costs low both for the industry and the consumer. We’ll see an effort to achieve this, in part, via a greater push into value-based arrangements through growth in Managed Medicaid and Medicare Advantage,” the report noted.

The association also expects regulatory changes regarding patient privacy and data security.

“Cybersecurity will be a priority for healthcare policymakers as bad actors continue identifying healthcare as a target-rich environment to create uncertainty and/or make money,” the report noted.

“In 2019, policymakers will look to the private sector and their policy counterparts in other countries to figure out what policy changes need to be put into place to protect information sharing,” it added.

HIMSS noted that the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe last year has raised awareness about data privacy on this side of the Atlantic. Pressure is likely to build from US consumers for similar types of data privacy protections.

“We believe digital and connected health technologies will continue their march toward widespread use in 2019, displacing traditional care models. Early challenges have taught digital developers that health happens at the intersection of the healthcare system, the workflow of the provider and the life circumstances of the patient,” HIMSS observed.

Digital health developers are integrating contextual factors into the way they design tools and services for health data exchange, integration into EHRs, better user interfaces, and flexible behavioral response, the report said.

“Healthcare providers are seeking ways to best integrate emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and digital therapeutics, as a way to extend quality care to their patients where they are, when they need it. And, consumers are placing higher demands on their providers to deliver always-on access to care. We implore all stakeholders throughout the healthcare ecosystem to take this holistic approach to development in 2019,” the report concluded.

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