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Three healthcare IT trends to watch in 2019

By Morris Panner

We’re starting to see significant initiatives in Healthcare IT take shape that are fundamentally changing both the way healthcare consumers interact with providers and how providers administer care across their networks.

Consolidation of regional health systems and major mergers such as the CVS-AETNA deal continue to push forward demands for improved and streamlined Health IT systems supported by modern cloud technology. Just a few years ago, the cloud was still treated with suspicion in healthcare, and it now has moved to be a key way that health systems solve complex workflow challenges and extend medical imaging access. We’re also starting to see the spoils of tech titans such as Google, Amazon, and Apple making further inroads in Health IT, especially in the academic and research fields.
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As our world becomes more global and more millennials become the decision-makers in the workplace, healthcare may be placed with a new set of demands to increase data access, availability, and promise secure recovery. Here are three trends to watch in 2019:

1) Millennials become healthcare decision-makers
Most millennials are no longer fresh-faced college students; the earlier millennials are well into their thirties, acting as the decision-makers in their roles, purchasing homes, having children, and being the advocates in their own healthcare trajectories. Millennials have high expectations in regard to ease of access to healthcare data, user-friendly patient portals, digital contact with physicians, and pricing transparency. Forward-thinking providers should be working to increase their digital presence by bolstering online reviews, enhancing their websites, and creating more comprehensive self-service patient experiences.

Millennials are increasingly focused on managing their own care, which means shopping around for services in some instances, and with that comes the need for price transparency. New legislative requirements at the state level have been established with the goal of providing more pricing transparency to beneficiaries. At the national level, Medicare is working to create a public price transparency website to encourage consumer choice by providing accurate information around out of pocket costs.

2) Enhanced interoperability across healthcare systems
Interoperability within large healthcare systems has slowly and steadily improved over the years. Medical practices and outpatient imaging centers associated with a large hospital system often merge data in a singular patient portal, much to the appreciation of patients. For example, at Johns Hopkins, the IT team has put all the new community hospitals within their network on the same system. Many members of their oncology team travel to different hospitals to see patients, and they now can view imaging that has been done at the main hospital from any site. However, there are few of us that stay within the lines of one healthcare system throughout our lifetimes, especially millennials, who make up over 42% of movers. How will facilities keep track of data across city and state lines and reduce duplicative labs and imaging tests? We've already seen several emerging efforts for enhanced interoperability. This fall, the CommonWell Health Alliance announced the general availability of the CareQuality Connection. The connection will allow CommonWell and Carequality-enabled health care providers, through some of the industry’s largest participating EHR vendors, to connect and bilaterally exchange health data to improve care coordination and delivery.

3) With big tech’s help, academic research centers leverage machine learning for insights
As the amount and type of healthcare data continue to grow, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to manage. That’s where the expertise of the established tech industry comes in. Researchers at leading facilities are seeking new ways to turn data into insights by easily de-identifying patient medical imaging data for use in research studies. These efforts will be bolstered by the tech industry’s expertise in managing data and applying those systems to Healthcare. For example, Google Cloud supports HIPAA compliance and now works with leading academic institutions. Once imaging is freed from silos, its potential for research, AI initiatives, and machine learning expands indefinitely. Leading academic facilities are determining new guidelines, such as adding explicit language to patient forms, keeping data for internal research projects only, and establishing healthcare research clouds for academic research projects and multi-site trials.

About the author: Morris Panner is the CEO of Ambra Health, a medical data and image management cloud software company.

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