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IoT, Cloud Migration Among Top 2016 Health IT Trends

As 2016 comes to a close, HITInfrastructure.com takes a look at the top health IT trends of year and how they will progress in 2017.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Health IT infrastructure technology underwent an evolution in 2016 as organizations moved toward digital environments and more is expected in the year to come.

2016 health IT trends

Value-based care had a significant impact on IT decision-makers over the past year as they examined how infrastructure technology can cut costs while improving patient care and sought out hardware and software once considered unfit for healthcare.

Healthcare organizations are looking for the most innovative and cost effective solutions for IT infrastructure and 2016 delivered with a significant move from clinging to legacy solutions toward embracing newer technologies as IT infrastructure standards. From artificial intelligence and SDx technology to connected medical devices and cloud migration, healthcare organizations focused on bringing smarter technology to their infrastructure.

HITInfrastructure.com takes a look back at the top health IT trends in 2016 and a look forward at what to expect in 2017.

Cloud migration

READ MORE: Virtustream Announces HIPAA Compliant Healthcare Cloud Service

The healthcare industry saw a mass cloud migration in 2016 as several industry studies found that healthcare organizations could no longer survive without implementing cloud services at some capacity.

While cloud adoption in healthcare is not new, Gartner’s Market Guide for Cloud Service Providers to Healthcare Delivery Organizations found that healthcare organizations are generally putting aside the cloud security and compliance concerns that have stalled mass cloud migration in the past and are generally favoring cloud services for most new IT infrastructure initiatives.

The study indicated that cloud computing has reached the point of standard adoption in 2016 and will be the basis for evolving healthcare technology for years to come.

“The general hype surrounding the cloud has begun to wane, with an ever increasing number of real-world experiences demonstrating the pros and cons of cloud computing,” Gartner analysts explained. “This is on par with adoption life cycles of other major technologies that move the healthcare industry forward. It creates an environment for continuous improvement of perceptions and helps the technology evolve to better serve healthcare.”

The HIMSS Analytics 2016 Cloud Survey came to a similar conclusion, citing that healthcare cloud usage has tripled since 2014 due to the different ways organizations are able to leverage the technology. Survey analysts indicated that cloud services have become the preferred choice for back-office applications, backup and disaster recovery, revenue cycle management and patient engagement.

READ MORE: New HIT Open Source AI Platform Available on Azure HDInsight

Cloud computing has become increasingly relevant to healthcare organizations in 2016 for optimizing efficiency, supporting critical tools such as EHRs, and saving organizations money on cumbersome on-premise deployments.

Understanding HIPAA-Compliant Cloud Options for Health IT

Connected medical devices

Healthcare organizations took to the Internet of Things as the industry saw a rise in connected medical devices and the adoption of wearable devices among medical professionals and patients.

Connected medical devices are deployed to assist organizations in collecting valuable data by constantly communicating with the network. Connected medical devices can include biopsy equipment, ventilators, activity trackers, and CT scanners.

READ MORE: Edge Computing Uses IoT Devices for Fast Health IT Analytics

Patients using personal fitness tracks were also utilized more in 2016 for patient engagement. Wearable devices allowed patients to actively participate in their care by creating a direct connection between patients and healthcare providers.

The IoT goes hand-in-hand with big data and analytics incentives because of the volume of data connected devices are able to gather. The data collected by patient wearables will give the healthcare industry as a whole clearer insight into diagnosing and treating medical conditions.

Is Health IT Infrastructure Ready for the Internet of Things?

Artificial Intelligence

Intelligent enterprise was named the top IT trend by several industry experts as health IT professionals invested interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

"Change is happening at a rapid pace,” said Tim Kottak, CTO of GE Healthcare. “Today's hospitals are up against changes in regulation, cost pressures, competition and higher standards for patient safety. Because of this, GE has used data and machine learning to become a partner that provides not only medical equipment, but also solutions that improve outcomes. We believe IoT holds endless opportunities in healthcare, from predictive patient care to the way pharmaceuticals are made – and we've only just begun."

GE Healthcare is one of many vendors developing advanced AI solutions for healthcare. While most healthcare AI efforts were focused on analytic incentives, deploying AI within network security solutions is being developed as well.

The more data IoT devices produce, the more significant AI becomes to healthcare analytics. Sorting through and connecting the vast volume of data cannot be done without machine learning and AI.

Healthcare Analytics Growth to Challenge IT Infrastructure

Software-defined everything

Software-defined everything (SDx) technology addresses the challenge of allowing organizations better and more efficient access to data while cutting costs through virtualization.

SDx solutions include software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined data centers (SDDC), and software-defined storage (SDS). SDx technology is programmed and used to automate solutions within an IT infrastructure by virtualizing certain solution functions using abstraction and cloud services.

In 2016, healthcare organizations expressed interest in SDx technology but many were still hesitant to adopt and deploy the solutions. SDx deployments in healthcare environments were mostly due to the same general change of attitude toward new technology seen with cloud migration. Organizations are moving away from maintaining their legacy solutions that were viewed as safer options, and moving toward cloud-based virtualization technology.

SDN Supports Digital Health IT Network Infrastructure Growth

The general change of health IT infrastructure from legacy solutions to cloud-based solutions for storage, app development, analytics, and other IT initiatives calls for changes in infrastructure architecture for more dynamic solutions that can scale to meet current and future technology needs and value-based care incentives.

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