Healthcare Predictions, 2016 Edition

It’s the end of the year and everyone is starting their predictions for the new year.  Here are my top 3 predictions for Healthcare.

1. Telehealth Dominates

Telehealth had a great year in 2015.  From an upstart technology in 2014, 2015 showed real usage and real numbers.  There are lots of pilot projects that have shown that you can receive better and cheaper care, especially in rural settings.

The break out for 2016 will be larger health systems moving from thinking about it to doing something about it.  Current challenges around communication infrastructure will be solved by large players like Verizon, making the reality of full stream video a reality, no matter where you live.

2. Analytics Breaks the Top 3

It’s well known in the software and hardware world that if you’re not in the top 3 problems that the C-Suite is focused on, you’re probably not going to sell much.  I think that 2016 is going to be the year that analytics becomes the #3 priority for Health System CIO’s (behind security and IoT).

Up to this point, there has been a lot of talk about how analytics can solve problems, ranging from Readmissions to Improved Patient Flow, but there haven’t been enough success stories to show a big financial benefit.   This is the year that plucky upstarts in Health IT storm the castle and show Healthcare what the rest of the world has already learned about unlocking big data.

3. Device Hacking Becomes All Too Real

There has been plenty of press over the last couple of years about how insecure biotech devices are.  Whether it’s pacemakers or blood pressure monitors, the hospital setting is ripe for full scale attacks.   Up to this point, most security issues have been proof of concept.  As health care related data becomes more valuable for criminals they will continue to seek attack vectors that are easy to penetrate.  I think that 2016 is the year that we see the first real attack on a health system that stems from insecure, networked devices in the ambulatory environment.

We’ll recap at the end of 2016 and see how close we hit the mark.

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What Keeps Healthcare CIOs up at Night

Yesterday, I attended the December Austin HIMSS meeting featuring a distinguished panel of four area Healthcare CIOs: John Mason of Hill Country Memorial (formerly HCA – St. Davids, Mike Minx from Seton Healthcare (Ascension), Matt Chambers from Baylor, Scott & White and Bill Philips from University Health Systems, San Antonio.

This was a great CIO panel and really highlighted some of the concerns and thoughts of healthcare technology leaders.  I thought it was worth recapping some of the more interesting discussions.

Security, Security, Security

Far and away the most talked about topic at the meeting was security.  Every CIO expressed various levels of concern with regard to hospital and healthcare security in general. Five years ago, HIPAA and data breaches were the number one concern of CIO’s, but today’s challenges are morphing along with technology and a connected world.

I found most interesting a comment by Mike Minx regarding small scale devices.  Mike’s chief concern was how do you secure medical devices, such as pacemakers or insulin pumps. It’s not new that these types of devices have proven to be easily hackable.  In a hospital settings, Mike and other participants wondered how CIOs can manage the security complexity of 1000’s of devices, connected or otherwise, inside the hospital setting.

Hiring

Matt Chambers talked about the difficulty in finding qualified technical personnel.  Healthcare isn’t a “glamorous or sexy industry” and “doesn’t pay as well as technology giants like Google or Apple that we compete with for headcount.”  Matt said that the Dallas IT sector has over 40,000 open IT positions at any given time.

Mike Minx mentioned that Seton has started an apprentice program to hire two year graduates and train them in specific technology disciplines. Bill Philips mentioned that they are partnering with San Antonio to open technology high schools to help with the problem.

If It’s Connected, It’s My Problem

The panel ended with discussion around the changing role of the Healthcare CIO. Each participant talked about how more connected devices, and more devices in general have morphed their role from a straight IT leader, into that of the digital strategist.

 

Overall, a great panel discussion.  CIO’s in healthcare face the same challenges that I have seen in other industries, security always tops the list.  An increasingly connected hospital AND patients is generating new challenges and opportunities for everyone.  I’m excited to see how things change at next years session.