J. Tod Fetherling
CEO / Data Geek
In 2019, our team accurately predicted the flu cycle for 2018 and 2019 looks to be correct. So, when we released this list, we knew we had to be right. In 2019, we predicted the following new technologies would pick up steam and change healthcare:
We absolutely nailed Interoperability, FHIR, Cost of Care (Transparency), Telehealth, Urgent Care, and Onsite Care, Privacy, and Value Based Care/Federal Mandates. We sort of got it right in AI and ML. Deep Learning is still a few years away from realizing these benefits. That leaves us with Care Pathways. Sometimes, things seem so obvious to the ones working in a niche discipline of healthcare and it appears Care Pathways is one of those areas. The good news is that we are working with three health systems on implementing Care Pathways for Lung Cancer, Breast Cancer, and Total Joint Replacements in early 2020.
With the past year as a background, let’s look ahead to the areas where we think there will be significant technology gains in 2020.
While some researchers are proposing statistical models for predicting the reemergence of childhood diseases or are using Artificial Intelligence to track heart rates and respirations for tiny signs of impending diseases, predictions based on current symptoms and diagnoses may prove to be the most accurate. Data analysts and mathematicians at Perception Health have created 31 disease state prediction models that analyze de-identified medical claims to determine if patients are trending towards serious illnesses. By working with the data analysts, or by analyzing their patient records with the modules available on the AWS Data Exchange, hospitals can identify these trending patients and contact them for preventive screenings. Earlier diagnosis will often lead to treatments that produce better outcomes and lower costs.
Once a population has been analyzed and the risk factors for the population correctly predicted, the next logical step is to use the same technology to predict which providers can give the best outcomes at the lowest price to the patient. This is where our care pathway technologies come in. Billions of iterations can be run today on a given community for a given procedure or diagnosis. Earlier this year we determined that two physicians in the same practice in New Orleans do the most surgical procedures for a specific surgery. Combined, they do ten times more than all of the surgeons in Nashville combined for this one procedure. If the industry truly wants the best outcome for the patient, it is time we use this technology and math to determine who provides the best outcomes, access, and price.
Person connected healthcare
Live, user-generated health data has long been recognized as the best data for health assessments. That’s one reason why a nurse checks your blood pressure at every appointment. As more and more “wearables” like Apple watches, Fitbits, and other devices help consumers keep track of their own health, providers will need secure ways to integrate this data with their patients’ genetics and medical records. Companies and organizations like PCHAlliance (Personal Connected Health Alliance) are dedicated to advancing personal connected health, and are “committed to improving health behaviors and chronic disease management via connected health technologies.”
Data security for 2020 and beyond
As more consumers go online to get advice and treatments, more and more data is created that must be protected. The overwhelming need for secure data platforms will be present for many years to come, both in data storage and data verification. Companies that build their platforms with machine learning, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology will be better able to deal with security issues in the future, says one HHS official. They may even be able to go threat hunting: being proactive instead of reactive to data breaches. That is an encouraging thought.
Robots are being tested for sterilization of surgery suites and hospital rooms across the US. In 2020, we expect more robots to move into Revenue Cycle and even the clinical setting. It is possible now for a robot to follow a physician and do all of the documentation of the visit, including emotions, to assist in medical coding and recommend protocols based on AI and ML (see above). Our friends over at Blu Cities have developed some techniques to make buildings healthier. Let’s hope this movement creates a more positive environment for providers and patients.
Blockchain for Healthcare
A lot of foundational work was completed in 2019. Many pilots are beginning in 2020. This is an exciting technology for the consumers who are able to use it. It should help with security and health records. Like many things in technology, the actual software is here. Now it’s about the use cases and adoption.
If one has enough experience, you will remember this cycle of storage and computing on the desktop. We started with a desktop with dedicated storage. This was deemed the best way to have the fastest processing power. Then dumb terminals came along. The screen was the only thing on your desktop. You connected to a server and the server did all of your processing. Finally, the Internet came along and we determined it was best to have a solid state local drive to process local data and then move the big data to the Cloud. Large amounts of data (Big Data) could be manipulated faster for far less costs. Now that the Big Data has grown to a crazy point, look for companies to move back to edge computing.
Edge computing is the premise that what can be processed and utilized locally for the benefit of the customer will be done at the point of the transaction. Think about Amazon’s recommendation running at Walmart while you are shopping. For example, “I noticed you bought marshmallows, do you need chocolate and graham crackers? Go to aisle 3 and get a 5% instant coupon for bundling this purchase today.”
Microsoft + JEDI
Not to be confused with the Jedi in Star Wars, the contract for the Pentagon’s JEDI program (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) generated big news with Microsoft’s winning proposal, which netted the company a whopping $10 billion. While legal wrangling is underway with Amazon’s lawsuit that alleges bias towards its proposal, Microsoft is going forward with the preliminary work needed to provide a unified IT approach to serve both classified and unclassified operations within the Department of Defense.
Not only will Microsoft have to create, among other things, a world-wide, responsive network that monitors bugs and breaches, the company will have to secure the network with robust cyber defenses and encryption protocols. Since Defense programs have historically led to new technology that changes our lives, technology companies will be closely watching the development of this new JEDI.
Combining the concepts of virtual, augmented, and mixed realities, extended reality offers the hope of great advances in healthcare, especially in physician training and patient treatments. The use of virtual reality therapies are supporting conditions from visual impairments to autism. Augmented reality can impact surgeries by illustrating potential concerns. In mixed realities, the virtual and real worlds are combined, providing better avenues for patient teaching and treatment decisions. The extended reality healthcare market should reach $5.1 billion by 2025.
The growth of the above technologies and trends will greatly depend upon a secure, high speed data network that can efficiently transfer data from one source to another. A network based on 5G will fuel that growth. According to Qualcomm, which makes products for this future network, 5G is “a new kind of network: a platform for innovations that will not only enhance today’s mobile broadband services, but will also expand mobile networks to support a vast diversity of devices and services and connect new industries with improved performance, efficiency, and cost.”
While 5G networks in the U.S. have been implemented in some major cities, we are still two to three years away from wide-spread implementation. Still, the growth of 5G networks foretells the speedy adoption of new technologies that will benefit patients and the healthcare industry, especially the Internet of Medical Things.