Top Trends in Health IT for 2018

Health systems across the United States are investing in virtual care, remote monitoring, and telehealth services as patients increasingly expect to access care outside traditional medical settings. As providers transition to value-based care models, demand increases for more patient data and the ability to deliver care in lower-cost settings.

But while hospital systems are expanding their use of these technologies, they also are concerned that payers typically provide little to no reimbursement for care that’s delivered virtually and remotely, according to the findings of a recent survey. Less than 40 percent of health systems surveyed said they received reimbursement for virtual care and 45 percent for remote monitoring. In some cases, the lack of reimbursement is hindering the pace at which health systems adopt these technologies, survey respondents said.

Those were just some of the findings on digital health trends published by the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM), an executive briefing center jointly operated by UPMC, GE, IBM, Lenovo, and Nokia. The CCM worked with the Health Management Academy, a health care research and education company, to survey executives at more than 20 of the top U.S. health systems about how they’re approaching some of the latest developments in the world of health information technology.

The findings potentially have implications for many of UPMC Enterprises’ digital health portfolio companies, including Vivify Health and Curavi, which provide virtual care platforms.

“We are attacking some of the biggest challenges in health care with solutions that harness the power of digital technology, and a mindset that challenges the status-quo,” said Rasu Shrestha, MD, MBA, chief innovation officer at UPMC and executive vice president at UPMC Enterprises.

Dr. Shrestha, who represents UPMC on the CCM’s steering committee, continued, “We value additional insights into how health systems view key challenges and promising innovations so we are able to collectively lift each other’s boats and push the boundaries of innovation.”

In addition to weighing in on virtual care, remote monitoring, and telehealth, the survey asked health system technology leaders about cybersecurity, consumer-facing technology, artificial intelligence, and predictive analytics. The results of the survey are available in the CCM’s report, “Top of Mind for Top U.S. Health Systems 2018.”

Cybersecurity is a top priority at many hospitals as a growing number of cyberattacks have targeted the trove of health data that is vital to the operation of a modern health system. Highlighting the increased attention on computer security, the Top of Mind 2018 survey found that more than 90 percent of health systems are planning to boost their spending on cybersecurity technology this year, and two-thirds are hiring more frontline cybersecurity workers.

While wearable health trackers, such as Fitbits and Apple Watches, and related mobile apps have grown in popularity with consumers, health systems are not yet sold on the value of the data those devices generate. Less than a quarter of survey respondents believe that wearable devices or mobile apps will provide valuable health data to health systems in the coming year. But, that doesn’t mean they are ignoring the technology. In the survey’s qualitative interview component, health system leaders said they expect user-generated data will eventually become a bigger part of the patient medical record.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is garnering significant attention for its potential to greatly improve patient care and relieve some of the burden on doctors by taking over mundane tasks around data entry. But, AI is still in its early days of development, and health systems are hesitant to make the technology a priority, the survey found. Nearly two-thirds of health system IT leaders said AI was a low or very low priority. In the separate interviews with executives, health system leaders said AI has not proven its value so they’re less likely to make significant investments in the technology.

Despite some reluctance to invest in AI solutions, health system leaders are highly focused on integrating predictive analytics into their operations and clinical workflows. One area where predictive analytics is gaining traction is in genomic testing, where advanced computer systems are essential to sorting through a patient’s complex genetic data. Fifty-seven percent of health systems said they are currently using genomic testing to provide personalized care, or they plan to begin using it this year.

“The future of health care is digital,” Dr. Shrestha said. “It is imperative that we harness the power of data to derive meaningful and actionable insights.”