Forecasting the future of health information technology (HIT) in the coming decade isn’t particularly tricky for IT experts heavily invested in artificial intelligence. Healthcare providers have already made substantial outlays for cloud technologies involved in health information exchange and regulating financial processes. But health information technology experts agree that the best is yet to come for improved patient outcomes through advances in information technology.
Most healthcare executives believe artificial intelligence will be vital to improving outcomes.
A survey of 500 US health care leaders in 2018 revealed that most health care executives believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will be central to improving patient care and financial management outcomes over the next ten years. The survey also found that the average expected organizational expenditure on AI between 2019 and 2023 is $32.4 million.
What do health care providers expect to get for their $30 million?
- Ninety-four percent of respondents believe that AI is the best way to ensure equal access to health care.
- Thirty-six percent of respondents report investments in AI to improve the patient experience.
- Thirty-three percent of respondents are adopting AI programs to reduce the per capita cost of care.
- Thirty-one percent of respondents believe that AI will improve health care outcomes.
Over 20 percent of health care organizations in the US already have AI programs in operation. Over three-quarters of health care organizations in the US have AI programs in at least the planning stage. The fastest returns on investment are expected in employee management and in managing insurance payments. Health care executives say the most desirable outcomes are improved diagnosis and more precisely targeted treatments.
IT experts urge better integration of existing applications within the cloud.
While AI development has understandably received more attention in corporate boardrooms, IT experts urge better cloud integration with existing applications. A survey by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society found that over 90 percent of health care organizations are already using the cloud to host mission-critical applications.
The challenge to IT management is the piecewise fashion in which cloud computing has rolled out. The health care industry uses the cloud for data hosting, and clinical apps, and for data backup, but not in an integrated way. Everybody is digitizing data, but cloud applications have yet to present that data on a single platform. Health information technology experts predict that the refinement of cloud computing will be a significant trend over the next decade.
Infrastructure upgrades will make care more accessible to patients.
The ability to meet with patients needing chronic care via web and mobile portals will become increasingly important in the 2020s.
Geographically, most of the United States is rural. A report commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) described the plight of rural Americans as a double burden. Rural residents have higher rates of chronic disease and lower rates of broadband connectivity. Improving Internet access will enhance electronic health information exchange (HIE) and extend better care to more Americans.
Smartphone apps will become smarter.
Consumers access thousands of healthcare-related apps through their smartphones, smartwatches, and other smart devices. The data collected by these apps helps them make data-driven decisions for their personal wellbeing, but it does not inform medical judgments for better treatment. One expectation of experts is that health apps on smart devices will be increasingly connected to electronic health records and population databases.
Therapies will also become smarter.
Even more relevant data will be collected through enhancements to insulin pens, inhalers, auto-injectors, and smart packaging for pills. Tracking data from drug delivery devices will give providers the ability to observe how patients use chronic therapies in home settings and give healthcare providers greater insights into patient behavior.
By the end of the decade, patient data collection will be powered by artificial intelligence and blockchain and tailored to patient behavior. Smart therapies will help doctors go beyond prescribing a pill and hoping for the best to observing individual challenges to patient compliance.
Health information technology (HIT) will empower a more personalized approach to practicing medicine.
Personalized treatments for chronic conditions encourage adherence to care plans. New technologies will give physicians the ability to combine population-level evidence with personalized choices to give treatment a much better chance of success. The new ability of health information technology to integrate data from a variety of sources will increase the likelihood of prescribing a successful treatment the first time out.