2019 Trends to watch

By Blog, Health Tech

It’s that time of year again! As the holidays wind down and we gear up for a new year, many of us, myself included, spend the first few days of January reflecting on the previous 12 months while looking forward to a fresh start. For us at TrekIT, 2018 was a big year – we launched a new company, had some great conversations with customers and prospects, and talked to many clinicians about their views on technology in their healthcare workflow.

While reflecting on all that has happened in 2018 and aggregating knowledge from conversations we have had with colleagues, we have compiled a list of topics and trends that we think will be big for HealthTech in 2019.

If you have any others to add, please reach out! We’d love to hear from you.

HealthIT tools that are user-centered and delight users.

This trend is one that is near and dear to our hearts at TrekIT. We believe that clinical tools should more closely mirror those that we use in our personal lives – built to enhance our day-to-day tasks and improve our efficiency, while at the same delighting its users. Unfortunately, this hasn’t previously been the reality for many tech tools used by front-line clinicians, however we see it as a major trend and culture shift moving forward. Recently, the ONC released a draft open for public comment of their “Strategy on Reducing Regulatory and Administrative Burden Relating to the use of Health IT and EHRs”, signaling a push towards national guidelines on creating more usable tech.

A major function of usability is not only more intuitive interfaces, but also the ability to access data where clinicians need it, when they need, and from their preferred device – more simply put, mobile compatible applications. We’re predicting that in 2019 there will be a stronger push towards better mobile tech for clinicians.

Part of this trend we believe will involve better software design teams with clinical informaticians to bridge the gap between the developers and the users, along with experts in human-computer interaction, social and team science, and usability. This unfortunately has not been the standard  in most healthtech software design and testing. We believe (and hope!) this will change for the better.

Creation of Security Standards

As we strive to improve usability and workflow for clinicians, there is a trend towards more mobile device compatible applications in healthcare. Not just single purpose apps, but programs that actually help improve workflow and integrate into foundation clinical systems, providing improved access to vital point of care data. This push towards mHealth however of course adds a complex level of vulnerability to health tech security.

In any industry, when a new technology is implemented and adopted, new security risks are introduced. The Healthcare technology landscape is no different. EHRs and other health tech platforms house some of the most sensitive data available, which makes the temptation to infiltrate hospital networks high. From data breaches to ransomware, security challenges keep hospital  CIOs up at night and hospital administrators worrying about HIPAA violations and care continuity if a breach were to happen.

Healthcare organizations can’t afford to slow technology innovation down because of the fear of a breach, however they also can’t be lax when it comes to PHI. For that reason, we see 2019 as a year where there will be more national focus and organization around security standards for healthcare to ensure safe data access and usage – especially in the mobile health world.

In anticipation of this trend, Xcertia, a joint mHealth App collaborative effort pioneered by the American Medical Association (AMA), American Heart Association (AHA), DHX Group and Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), released new guidelines for mhealth security.

Interoperability: The Democratization of Healthcare Data

Interoperability isn’t a new concept for 2019, however there is a growing demand for increasing both provider and patient access to their clinical data across healthcare sites. From Apple’s recent Health Records functionality upgrade to ongoing work with Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), we believe we are getting closer and closer to realizing interoperability. Not that this will be an easy task – it will in fact be quite a steep climb – however the demand is there and we believe we finally start to see a push in the right direction in 2019. Instead of focusing on IF HIEs will be integrated into clinical environments we believe the conversation will be more around HOW they can best be leveraged for better care.

The interoperability structure provided by data exchanges couldn’t come at a better time for healthcare. Recently, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) released data that highlighted Healthcare organizations’ reliance on paper based methods, such as fax machines, to share information. Relying on archaic methods for exchanging patient data causes both inefficiencies when it comes to patient care while also increasing the risk for medical errors. It’s clear that we need HIEs to provide a better infrastructure for data sharing.

That’s why we’re predicting that “down with the fax” will become a battle cry for healthcare organizations in 2019, leading to a more interoperable ecosystem. This must be coupled with solutions – as the fax is still alive and healthy due to lack of better options for communicating this vital information at the point of care.

A focus on Artificial Intelligence/Machine learning

Artificial Intelligence used to be a term used mainly in sci-fi movies (my favorite!). It seemed like a far off concept that didn’t have any real world applications. Now, however, AI has been integrated into technology we use every day – from our traffic applications to smart home appliances. As the Healthcare industry pushes to adopt new and innovative technology at the same rate as other industries, AI and Machine Learning will undoubtedly play a big role…the question is HOW to use them effectively.

While some may see AI as a way to de-personalize interactions, we believe it can provide much needed support for clinicians who are overworked and often struggling with information overload. As pointed out by Dr. Shantanu Nundy and Dr. Michael Hodgkins in a recent blog, AI has many applications that will support clinicians and potentially reduce feelings of burnout. Much of the conversation is often around reducing the burden of clinical documentation – which we believe will be a big benefit. However we see some of the exciting opportunities in this area around using AI/ML to integrate clinical decision support tools into workflow to enhance a clinicians’ ability to provide care in a way that isn’t possible without it.  

While the implementation and application of AI in Healthcare might take some time, we are hopeful that 2019 could be a year when some of our favorite futuristic Sci-Fi capabilities become a reality in healthcare as they have in the rest of our lives!

Population Health

One of the many advantages brought by technology to healthcare is the ability to analyze large groups of data in real time in ways that were just not possible on paper. We also have the opportunity, with good design and implementation, to reach large populations of patients and their providers to enact change. From nudges, to real-time performance feedback, we believe that population health will see a big push in the HealthIT arena this year. Some of these will undoubtedly be coupled with several other trends we mention and those we haven’t – population health + AI/ML + usability…imagine the possibilities! We have already seen some great ideas in this area, from EHR nudges to text based initiatives to incent healthy behaviors among patients and more.  This is only the beginning!

While we are sure these will not be the only trends we see in 2019, they’re definitely at the top of our watchlist for the coming months. We are excited to see what challenges, opportunities and innovations 2019 has in store for all of us!

Do you have some additional HealthTech trends that should be on the list? Tweet us @trekithealth with your suggestions.

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