It seems everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning when it comes to the year ahead in healthcare. Indeed, it will be interesting to see how these technologies evolve in 2019 and whether healthcare is able to use them to move the needle on patient care and outcomes.
But what else is on the horizon for healthcare? What issues will impact what CIOs and executive leaders need to consider when it comes to implementing technology? Here are 3 predictions for 2019 and how analytics plays a role in them.
Prediction #1: More patients will migrate to virtual care
A shortage of primary care providers and advances in technology means that healthcare consumers are seeking out alternate forms of care. As a result, Forrester Research predicts that virtual care encounters will soon outpace traditional care.
In the report, “Predictions 2019: Healthcare,” published in Nov. 2018, analysts Arielle Trzcinski, Faith Adams, Kjell Carlsson, and Martha Bennett write:
“Virtual care encounter volumes have started to outpace those of outpatient care. More patients seek digital experiences that are far more convenient and personalized than physically going to brick-and-mortar locations. Seventy-four percent of US online adults have either used or are interested in using at least one remote health support service. And this number is expected to grow.
In 2019, many more HCOs will invest in digital experiences that enable virtual care. This will extend from outpatient visits to pharmaceutical companies offering virtual clinical trials. But this additional investment could put a tremendous strain on providers, especially the 670 rural hospitals already at risk of closure. These providers represent up to 11.7 million patients who may no longer have care access. Retail giants like CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart will fill the gap, offering retail clinics and virtual care services direct to consumers.”
How analytics can help: As providers invest in alternate forms of care, analytics can help integrate data from multiple source systems as well as track operational data such as the time patients are waiting for a doctor’s visit and the time between each stage of their visit. As telehealth increases in prominence, analytics can help providers understand peak visit times and enable them to staff in order to match demand.
Prediction #2: Patient engagement will be an area of top focus
According to KLAS Research, patient engagement is becoming more critical to healthcare providers. In its report, “Emerging HCIT Companies 2018: Who’s Getting Traction?”, published in August 2018, authors Ben Brown and Bobby Low report that patient engagement has been the biggest focus of provider interest over the last two years. They write:
“Vendors in this space continue to attract the attention of many decision-makers in healthcare, with more than 20% of study respondents looking to fill patient engagement needs with many different vendors. Many of these providers are looking for vendors to fill needs around patient education, while others are looking to vendors to help with chronic-care management, telehealth services, remote patient monitoring, patient concierge services, intake management, and patient outreach.”
How analytics can help: One use of analytics for patient engagement is with chronic disease management. Analytics can help healthcare providers tailor disease management plans by combining patient data with population data. This can help provide better risk scores for patients that lead to more personalized strategies.
Prediction #3: The rise of centralized logistics command centers
According to the key findings of several Gartner analysts in the report, “Predicts 2019: Healthcare Providers Must Embrace Digital Transformation” published in December 2018:
“The monitoring of healthcare operational efficiencies and patient care vitals will be re-engineered into centralized logistics command centers, resulting in more immediate, accurate responses.”
Gartner further believes that, “By 2023, one-third of HDOs globally will deploy cutting-edge clinical and operational command centers that will yield vital insights for real-time delivery excellence.”
These command centers are an evolution of the traditional operational dashboard that many health systems have already been using. Gartner states, “These clinical command centers have further evolved to include administrative and operational views across the entire healthcare delivery organization, capabilities that are critical for the management of a real-time health system.”
(Note: In July 2018, Gartner included Dimensional Insight as a Real-Time Health System Command Center sample vendor in the “Hype Cycle for Healthcare Providers, 2018,” and the “Hype Cycle for Real Time Health System Technologies, 2018.”)
How analytics can help: Analytics is the underpinning of this prediction. Without real-time actionable information, health systems will not gain true value from the operational command centers. Health systems will require access to trusted and validated data that is consistent across departments, and they will need to be able to immediately and easily synthesize and make decisions off of that data.
You don’t need a prognosticator for the end goal
Of course, it’s important to remember that in healthcare, the ultimate goal is better patient care and improved outcomes. For any prediction to hold weight, it must ultimately enable providers to improve the well-being of the patients they serve. That’s a reality that holds true in 2019 and beyond.
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