Word of HIT's Demise is Greatly Exaggerated

Health information technology is dead. Okay, not really. But that’s what I keep hearing.

As I survey the healthcare landscape, it’s true that traditional HIT is knocking on death’s door. But it's demise has been greatly exaggerated as innovation takes hold and drives new platforms, business models and treatment options.

The investor market is paying attention too. Last year, $7.9 billion was invested in 585 digital health startups in 2016 alone. These investments supported growing areas like patient experience, self-care and hybrid companies that provide a combination of life sciences and technology-driven solutions. This funding is the engine that drives innovation for emerging solutions and there is an explosion of revolutionary, leading edge tech coming with some already entering the commercialization phase.

It’s anticipated that in 2017, there will be 4 million downloads every day of some type of health app...

Just looking at the healthcare app market is overwhelming. By some estimates, there are over 165,000 health apps available to the population that helps people better manage their own care. It’s anticipated that in 2017, there will be 4 million downloads everyday of some type of health app – from health and wellness to chronic disease management to exercise trackers. Wearables were one of the first to enter the self-care arena with technology like FitBit. That technology is centered on monitoring and reporting of physical activity. The next stage of that is pushing that information into the data fold where healthcare consumers can realize the benefit of what their data really means by making lifestyle choices and better managing chronic conditions like diabetes and aligning with their physicians.

Data, while talked about for many years, is really starting to come into its own in healthcare. Data volumes are exploding. It’s expected that by 2020, about 1.7 million megabytes of data will be created every second for every human being on the planet. Much of that is health data. Think about it. Based on patient data, researchers can apply real-time analytics for life-changing research with diseases like cancer simply based on genetic makeup and family history. Creating revolutionary models of care that are patient-focused; understanding how our genomic makeup predisposes people to certain conditions and then treating them before symptoms ever occur could revolutionize care. That's happening now.

Data volumes are exploding. By 2020, about 1.7 million megabytes of data will be created every second for every human being on the planet.

It’s also not the traditional modes of data and genetic data that can be utilized to save lives, but new modes of data that really dig into why a patient is sick in the first place. Data collected by analyzing socio economic factors through new data sets -- called Social Determinants of Health -- can be used. This really gets into lifestyle and what environmental or social factors are causing patients to be sick in the first place. While common sense, not much socio-economic information is traditionally collected, aggregated and analyzed in the treatment of patients. Now it’s being pushed to forefront, challenging a provider’s traditional method of collecting a patient's history and being proactive in treating chronic and acute conditions.

For EHRs, Blockchain can be a game changer in solving interoperability barriers and helping clinicians and health systems better – and more securely -- access a patient’s entire health history. 

Blockchain is another emerging, ground-breaking health tech. Blockchain is the distributed accounting platform that fueled new currencies like bitcoin. In its basic form, Blockchain is really a generic tool to keep secure data in a distributed, encrypted ledger. For EHRs, Blockchain can be a game changer in solving interoperability barriers and helping clinicians and health systems better – and more securely -- access a patient’s entire health history. Essentially, it would bring the entire story of a patient – labs, prescriptions, diagnostic images – across at the same time, chronologically painting a complete in one transaction. Diagnostic decisions, care plans and outcomes could be better achieved with a 360 degree view of the patient.

What’s clear is that we as look to the future, it’s here. Health tech isn’t just being developed for hospitals and physicians anymore. It’s being developed for each and every one us that buy – or consume healthcare – and there are practical applications to help us better manage our care directly or help our healthcare providers better manage our care proactively. The large volumes of data being collected are being applied in ways we never imagined before.

As areas like blockchain further advances and data use is maximized, the quality of care should only get better with more insights into our personal health, our genetic makeup and better long-term treatment options.

There’s so much more out there and coming like 3D printing and A.I. that will truly redefine what we think of as health IT. The health industry will only be seen as leading the way with innovation and not be seen as a dinosaur. There’s a way to go. We are advancing. Our health depends on it.

Tom Mitchell

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