7 Key 2016 Health IT Takeaways and 2017 forecasts

Brendan FitzGerald

HIMSS Analytics has released its most recent Essentials Brief, the 2016 Year in Review and 2017 through 2018 HIT Demand Forecasts, which provides a high level review of 2016 Essential Brief findings and our analytical outlook on the adoption for 81 healthcare applications for 2017 and 2018.  While Essential Briefs are typically market research studies focused on identifying salient topics in the healthcare IT space, this latest Brief is focused on what has transpired across technology areas such as telemedicine, precision medicine and population health, and looks forward to what the U.S. hospital market expects to adopt in the next 12 to 24 months.

This study highlights the predictive demand outlook for 81 different healthcare IT applications, individually and grouped together in 14 specific indexes, from December 2016 to November 2018.  Predicted adoption and forecasted demand data was looked at for the last three years, analyzed and projected over the next 24 months for individual applications and over the next year at the index level.  There is an 80 percent prediction interval for each of the demand forecasts on month to month and quarter to quarter basis for possible outcomes. These projections will help indicate to vendors what technologies are in demand and to healthcare organizations where additional technology is needed.

Here are some key takeaways from the 2016 studies and some insight into what lies ahead in 2017.

1. Precision Medicine Study

Roughly 29 percent of study respondents indicated they conduct precision medicine within their organizations.  The limited adoption of precision medicine programs across the U.S. hospital market is understandable as very few organizations have the funds, technology or expertise to conduct precision medicine on site. 

Importance to the Market:

Despite the barriers, this developing area will continue to be a primary topic of interest across the industry in 2017 as organizations look to incorporate genomics at the point of care.

2. Telemedicine Study

Adoption of telemedicine applications increased roughly 3.5 percent in 2016 from the previous year.  Telemedicine is beginning to evolve beyond providing care to those who need it most.  While telemedicine technologies can be part of broader patient engagement initiatives (i.e.: Population Health, ACOs) organizational reasons are still primarily focused on providing widespread care.  Additionally, organizations are beginning to create specialized virtual care facilities with a focus on using telemedicine technologies for patient care.

Importance to the Market:

These technologies could spell increased access to care at a lower cost for patients and healthcare organizations.

3. Security – Biometrics Study

Biometric solutions used for security purposes are slowly gaining momentum across the healthcare space.  Primarily used for medication dispensing and employee identification, there are additional technologies that can be leveraged to better secure access to patient records and data sources.

Importance to the Market:

Data and patient security has become issue number one for many healthcare organizations, but there is no single silver bullet.  The market should leverage every solution possible to collectively protect their data and patients.

4. Outpatient PM & EHR Study

While the outpatient market has reached near universal adoption (hospital owned: 92 percent; free standing: 78 percent), activity in this market has not slowed.  Outpatient organizations are being purchased by hospitals at increasing rates.  The number of physician practices owned by health systems has tripled in the last decade, bringing an average of 1,140 physicians into health systems each month for 10 years. The outpatient market is also dealing with additional regulations.  Improving clinical practice or care delivery is an essential component of MACRA and is meant to improve outcomes through a number of different categories.

Importance to the Market:

Improved use of these essential tools in accordance with regulations to better outcomes will be top of mind for outpatient organizations in 2017 and beyond.

5. RCM – Denial Management Study

Fewer than half of study respondents, roughly 44 percent, indicated their organization utilizes a vendor provided denial management solution.  Billing, collections and EDI have been in use at 90% of hospitals for a decade while a third of hospitals have adopted additional financial technologies in the last five years.

Importance to the Market:

Significant green space exists for advanced financial technologies, including denial management. Lengthening care to payment ratio across the healthcare market indicates a need for additional technologies or processes.

6. Population Health Study

Organizations that have employed population health initiatives or programs has grown year over year from roughly 67 percent in 2015 to 76 percent in 2016.  While the level of programs seems to be moving in the right direction as value-based care becomes more prominent across the healthcare industry, there is still work to be done in sustaining these programs and improving population outcomes on a broader scale.

Importance to the Market:

It will be important to track how the industry moves forward as these types of programs mature so approaches can be replicated.

7. Clinical & Business Intelligence Study

Fewer than half of study respondents, roughly 41 percent, indicated their organization utilizes a clinical and business intelligence (C&BI) solution for their analytical needs, while the HIMSS Analytics LOGIC Database indicates roughly 43 percent.

Importance to the Market:

Given the amount of “big data” being collected across the healthcare continuum to support HIEs, population health, precision medicine and value-based care models, the need for analytical tools will continue to grow.