Academic Medical Centers (AMCs) are at the innovative core of the U.S. health system, leading the way in primary patient care, medical research, advanced care, and clinician training. When I am looking for insight into the latest healthcare trends, I turn to David Chou, CIO of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a leading AMC. David has appeared with me on CXOtalk and co-authored two Huffington-Post blogs, The Power of Social Media in Health Care and Driving Transformation and Innovation in Health Care.
I asked David for his views on the ten biggest healthcare IT influences over the last decade - the trends that may fundamentally change the direction of healthcare support. David feels strongly that an important role of the CIO is to showcase technologies that can improve efficiencies; performing tasks quicker and with less manual intervention. To do this, the healthcare CIO must stay ahead of the trends to insure IT is prepared for the future of healthcare.
Here is David's list of the top ten healthcare IT influences over the last decade along with a slideshare about those trends.
The smartphone and apps have been the catalyst for major changes at the point of care; and the smartphone leading the way in healthcare is the iPhone. While not the first mobile device to be brought into the hospital, it was without a doubt the harbinger of small form factor devices being adopted for clinical care. Healthcare uses of smartphones have expanded with application development, leveraging built-in hardware including cameras, accelerometers and Bluetooth communication. There is now demand for the full enterprise environment on this mobile platform.
Smartphones will continue to improve data access for the medical staff, which translates into improved care. We are entering the era of information anywhere anytime, resulting in quicker medical decisions. New medical apps are transforming the smartphone into a medical device with the ability to send relevant patient data to the electronic medical record (EMR).
At many hospitals the wireless LAN (WLAN) now connects more devices than the wired LAN. It started with workstations on wheels (WoWs) and now encompasses medical devices, phones, video units, realtime locating systems (RTLS), and guest Internet access. Wi-Fi availability is the norm as we move towards a digital space with mobile adoption.
3. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)
Smartphones + hospital Wi-Fi = the need for a BYOD policy and mobile device management. BYOD has greatly influenced how technology solutions are evaluated and implemented by hospital IT. The consumer market is now driving corporate adoption. The days of the rigid corporate standard for hardware are gone, due in part to a cloud infrastructure that is capable of supporting a range of devices dictated by the consumer. Thanks to BYOD, the medical staff can choose a device that they are familiar with, reducing costs and training requirements.
4. Government Mandates
Mandates like HITECH, HIPAA, and ICD 10 have forced healthcare institutions to invest heavily in IT infrastructure, talent, and application systems. These regulatory changes are moving us towards transparency and integration. The goal is to drive the widespread adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs) to improve heathcare quality, safety, and efficiency; and reduce health disparities and costs.
5. Voice over IP (VoIP)
The emergence of VOIP has allowed healthcare institutions to leverage a single IT infrastructure backbone for both data and voice traffic. More importantly, it has created a unified communication flexibility that started with mobility and has now evolved into applications. Anyone can be contacted anywhere at any time from any device. This means that the medical staffs are available 24x7. Unified communication is leading to easier access, and translating to better care.
Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, provides a platform that is transforming healthcare. It allows hospitals to reach out to staff, patients, younger audiences, and the general public in new ways. Not only does it improve patient engagement, but it provides a means to manage population health. Social media is rapidly becoming a preferred medium for patient-to-physician, patient-to-patient, and physician-to-physician communication.
Virtualization has transformed the IT industry by giving the technology team new flexibility and agility. It enables the rapid roll out applications, while still maintaining the highest level of patient care. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) are emerging to drive growth in the virtual cloud and virtual storage. Virtualization has made possible the consolidation of services onto dedicated server farms, which provides a higher level of availability and redundancy.
8. IP-Based Medical Devices
Medical devices are evolving at an unprecedented rate, so much so that the 510K device registration process is in dire need of an update to ensure that medical devices can use the latest technological advancements. As these devices become smarter and more integrated into the network, the possibility of human error is reduced, which ultimately decreases re-admission rates. The network infrastructure and backbone must be agile enough to accommodate the growth of network traffic as we move towards an era where every device is on the network.
9. Mobile Health (mHealth)
With the increasing focus on decreasing healthcare costs, mHealth provides a spectrum of ways to leverage mobility to improve clinical work flows and outcomes. These range from video remote interpretation, to telemedicine and remote care use cases. The next step will be adoption of wearable technologies.
We are in a mobile world and with mHealth, medical professionals have the ability to make clinical decisions based on telemedicine technology and wearables. mHealth allows access to medical care from anywhere anytime. Rural areas can be provided with the same quality of care as the metropolitan population. With wearable devices and sensors individuals will be able to monitor their health the same way we monitor our cars, to stay on schedule with regular maintenance. This is a big step that offers individuals the benefits of personal big data.
10. Big Data
Data is everywhere and the challenge is to use that data to make meaningful decisions and provide better care. Imagine using wearables to track fitness, vitals, sleep patterns, etc. The aggregate of this personal big data helps individuals understand their health to make lifestyle improvements and live healthier lives.