What may happen in healthcare technology in 2019

Ric Thompson, MD Health & Care, at Advanced predicts what will happen in the healthcare technology industry in 2019: 

More of a jog than a sprint to the Cloud in Healthcare – “Cloud will be commonplace for healthcare within the next 3 to 5 years.”

Whilst we have already seen an acceleration in the adoption of cloud solutions by healthcare organisations (for example, over 1,000 GP Practices have taken the Docman 10 cloud offering from Advanced), there is still caution in the air. There is no doubt however that confidence is growing around the benefits and how they outweigh any potential risks. Ironically, cost and ease of access are not the only drivers for healthcare to move to the cloud; the benefits of interoperability, analytics and Artificial Intelligence will increasingly become more compelling. We will continue to see the move to the cloud accelerate over the next two to three years, after which I believe we will reach a tipping point.

Interoperability is starting to gain traction – “Market pressure and national standards will drive greater interoperability and collaboration.”

Healthcare IT is well renowned for its lack of interoperability. This is changing though – driven by both the providers of healthcare and NHS England, interoperability is becoming a fundamental expectation. Cloud based systems that can communicate together, via robust web service based scalable interfaces, is the only long-term sustainable method for achieving a truly connected healthcare economy. If you combine this with the common standards being developed and promoted by NHS England, I predict this will drive increased interoperability between systems from different vendors, delivering great benefits to patients and a reduction in the overall cost of the healthcare system. This acceleration may well prove problematic to the commercial model in place for some vendors, but the reality is that when properly understood and embraced, it can very much present a win-win scenario for all stakeholders and is frankly critical for ensuring the best possible patient care.

Enough data, more information please – “More sophisticated analytics will provide deeper insights into the data held, delivering a step change in patient outcomes.”

There is already a plethora of data within and across the healthcare system, however we are very much in the ‘data rich, information poor’ phase of our evolution. We are seeing an increasing thirst for better analytics to gain deeper insights into the data held and a significant driver of this is Population Health Management (PHM). PHM is an effort to describe a systematic, whole population focus to improving the management of risks in a population. Health risk stratification analytic techniques are used to prioritise where resources will be applied to a population region as a whole. There will be an increase in the sophistication of the tools and methods available to provide the right information to make improved clinical decisions and drive greater efficiency. This in turn will be a driver to move to the cloud, where the true benefits of access to data at scale can be fully realised from an analytical perspective.

AI: the future, not a fad – AI will be the single biggest disrupter ever seen in healthcare.”  

There is no question that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will provide significant benefits to healthcare. Within the next 5 to 10 years these technologies will be the single biggest disrupter ever seen in healthcare. There is already emerging evidence demonstrating how computers can more accurately diagnose conditions from images ahead of people; I predict this is only the start. However, healthcare professionals and patients are still very sceptical about this technology, its effectiveness and safety. For this reason, the evolution of this technology within the healthcare sector will be markedly slower than in other sectors and will require empirical evidence to convince people of its effectiveness and safety before trusting it. Recognising the potential for disruption, there will be a significant increase in investment from the private sector in this type of technology within the healthcare sector. But I predict there will always be a ‘human in the loop’; healthcare practitioners will not hand over complex medical decisions and I do not believe that machines are suited to that. However, there’s no doubt the AI and ML can eradicate low-value administrative tasks and automate many processes, in addition to accelerate the drive to safe self-care.


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