The healthcare landscape in the United States is experiencing a number of significant changes at the same time. Higher deductible health plans have patients turning into cost-conscious consumers, “retailization” is increasing the number of channels for care delivery, and providers are increasingly being measured by health outcomes vs. the number of encounters or procedures. On top of all of this, new technologies are changing the way that people interact with their healthcare providers and health information. Digital health is not brand new, but it continues to evolve to keep pace with the changing needs of everyone involved. Here are the top trends emerging for 2018.
The Value of Patient Generated Data Increases
Wearable and mobile devices have been generating health-related data about users for years, but it was rarely integrated into patient medical care because of very legitimate concerns about its reliability and difficulties collecting and integrating it into healthcare management systems.
But that’s about to change. Over the last few years, the quality of biometric sensors and related technologies has improved significantly. These days data collection from patient-worn devices can be made accessible and reliable. This type of data is already starting to play a significant role in clinical trials and is used extensively for remote patient monitoring. All signs say that the use of patient-generated data will continue to accelerate.
Telemedicine Becomes the New Normal
Video visits will never replace all patient/provider interactions, but they are quickly becoming a ubiquitous part of the healthcare system. According to research from HIMSS Analytics, provider telemedicine use has risen to an adoption rate of 71 percent. The research pointed to a jump in growth of usage over a three-year period. “Adoption of telemedicine solutions or services has surged since this study was first conducted in 2014 from roughly 54 percent in 2014 to 71 percent in 2017,” said the reports. “After consistently growing 3.5 percent annually, based on study results adoption has increased roughly 9 percent since 2016.”
An IHS technology report predicts that 7 million patients will have a video visit this year. The popularity of telemedicine is not surprising. It is convenient, cost-effective, and proven to produce results on par with in-person care. State legislators and insurers see the value and have implemented laws and policies to ensure that the approach is practical and available. Even Medicare is getting on board with it’s Chronic Care Management program signaling a shift away from the traditional “spoke and hub” model of telemedicine.
Artificial Intelligence Gets Real
People have been talking about the potential benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in healthcare for a long time. This year, expect to see some significant breakthroughs in this area. AI will play a factor in solving some healthcare problems including the shortage of physicians, an increasingly aging population, and the complexities of managing care in an age where so many drugs and treatments are available.
“Each drug can have 10 or 12 different adverse effects in isolation, much less in combination,” Dr. Joseph Smith, CEO of Reflexion Health, told MobiHealthNews. “You know, the average person on a cholesterol-lowering drug is on 11 other drugs. The complexity starts to exceed the bandwidth of human intelligence, and so we’re going to need things like AI to make sure we’re doing the best we can. I think the notion of relying on anything I can store in my brain or my phone isn’t going to be adequate. And so I’m really optimistic about where AI can go.”
One thing that keeps people from adopting all of the digital health technologies available to them is that there are so many and for the most part, they don’t play well with each other. You may have your daily heart rate monitored by your iPhone, but can that information be easily entered into your patient health portal?
“I don’t have 12 apps to manage my money, why would I have 12 apps to manage my health?” Jeff Arnold, CEO of Sharecare, a digital health platform for patients. “If my employer is purchasing a telehealth service or a transparency tool or a diabetes management tool, those all have to work with one health profile, and there has to be a sort of consolidation on behalf of the person of my wellness needs, my illness needs, and my lifestyle.”
This need for integrations tracks with the broader trend of treating people like consumers rather than merely patients. People have lots of choices when it comes to their care. The winners will be companies and practices that make people feel empowered to make smart health choices on their own behalf.
As 2018 gets underway, keep an eye out for these key trends. We’ll revisit this at the end of the year to see how much progress was made in each area.