By Nathan Schnell

4 Healthcare IT Trends to Watch in 2018

4 Healthcare IT Trends to Watch in 2018

As we head full steam into another year sure to be full of change for healthcare, we thought we’d offer a roundup of healthcare IT trends predicted for 2018 by health IT writers, editors and analysts. Ready? Here we go…

Artificial Intelligence

While artificial intelligence (AI) is currently used to automate simple tasks, 2018 is predicted to be the year where it will make its way into clinical support and decision making. Currently many healthcare organizations already use AI for clinical decision support, population health, disease management, readmission and claims processing. But experts believe 2018 will be the year AI will make inroads into cancer diagnostics, pathology and image recognition, according to a recent SearchHealthIT article.

Health Data Management predicts that by 2021, 20 percent of healthcare and 40 percent of life science organizations will have recognized a 15 to 20 percent in productivity gains by adopting AI technology, noting that adoption resides mostly in large academic medical centers at present. Industry analyst Forrester predicts that AI as well as the Internet of Things (IoT) will be part of the disruption of siloed healthcare ecosystems in 2018.

Digital Health

According to seed fund Rock Health, a record-breaking $3.5 billion was invested in 188 digital health companies in the first half of 2017, with the number of wearables is set to hit 34 million by 2022.

Digital health has been gaining momentum for many years with the wearable trend. According to a Forbes article, the most frequent users of wearables are the least likely to be hospitalized.

Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued new guidelines that loosen regulations for some mobile health technologies, recognizing that clinical evidence supports better health outcomes with mobile device usage. This change will likely encourage healthcare organizations to better embrace the integration of consumer digital health device data.

Telehealth and telemedicine are predicted to grow as more states update laws to expand access to these services. With one in five U.S. adults suffering from mental illness, a noteworthy predicted area of expansion is telemental and telebehavioral health services, according an article by SearchHealthIT.

Blockchain

The promise of blockchain, the technology invented to power Bitcoin, has been around since 2008. However, this year may be the year its value starts to be recognized and leveraged within healthcare. HealthDataManagement predicts that by 2020, 20 percent of healthcare organizations will be using blockchain for operations management and patient identity.

However, as noted by SearchHealthIT, blockchain has “yet to prove itself in the demanding crucible of health IT systems and clinical healthcare settings,” but notes that “IBM, Intel, Google, Microsoft  and others have units dedicated to development of blockchain products, including for healthcare.” Federal health IT officials are promoting it heavily as well.

Electronic Health Record Analytics

To be successful, EHRs will need to move into providing analytics that support population health initiatives and value-based healthcare – and many predict 2018 will be the year where headway will be made by EHRs in analytics. The big players like Cerner and Epic already have population health products and other smaller vendors like cloud-based AthenaHealth do as well. More are predicted to join and more healthcare organizations will likely take advantage of these products.

Nathan Schnell is Vice President of Service Delivery at Intellimed.