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Top trends in health information & communications technology for 2017

To achieve high quality, cost-efficient healthcare – think trains

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With all of the new “smart” information and communications technology (ICT) available today, it’s easy to make the wrong strategic decisions. To achieve sustainable, high quality, cost-efficient healthcare, leaders must understand when and where to invest. Here, Dr. Peter Edelstein, Chief Medical Officer for Clinical Solutions at Elsevier, gives his recommendations, followed by the winners and finalists of the 2016 HIMSS-Elsevier Digital Healthcare Awards competition.


Healthcare reform is spreading across the globe. And while “reform” differs depending on the city, country and region, the foundational realities driving reform are similar throughout the world: the spiraling costs of care; our aging and growing populations; and the emergence of worldwide epidemic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.

Wherever in the world I travel, I find a deep belief and intuitive sense that the incorporation into our evolving healthcare models of “smart” information and communications technology (ICT) will support our global drive to achieve consistent, sustainable, high quality, cost-efficient healthcare. However, the initial attempts at healthcare reform in the United States should serve as acautionary tale to health leaders in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and elsewhere; the US-legislated ICT-based reform – guided by visions of rapid advancement to high value care – has violently collided with operational realities. Learning from “what is going right” and “what is going wrong” in the American reform process may allow health leaders around the world to select realistic, impactful ICT investments in 2017 and beyond.

We are already living in the age of big data. The retail, advertising, insurance, legal and travel industries are just a few examples of the dozens of economic sectors that not only collect vast quantities of customer data but utilize data analytics to identify opportunities, trends and challenges. It seems obvious that immediately investing in big data and clinical analytics solutions to identify meaningful, actionable information (regarding both patients and providers) should be a major 2017 ICT trend – that such ICT investments can successfully increase the quality and cost-efficiency of healthcare across the world. Thus it is not surprising that when asked to project 2017 ICT trends, several healthcare leader participants in the 2016 HIMSS-Elsevier Digital Healthcare Awards competition cited “big data” and “analytics.”

However, this may risk the same dangers that resulted from similar beliefs held by many healthcare leaders (and several big data and clinical analytics vendors) in the US soon after the Affordable Care Act, also known as “ObamaCare,” was signed into law. Because focusing on big data and analytics as early ICT investments when initiating healthcare reform is risky, a classic example of “putting the cart before the horse.” For those not familiar with this phrase, a simple analogy will clarify my warning:

Your country is preparing to build a massive, integrated, railway system to serve every city, town and community across the nation. This will take years and require massive amounts of money and human capital to complete. In order to avoid wasting money, time and labor, it is critical that you adopt an intelligent, informed construction strategy. So before you spend money buying a train, you should spend money, time and labor building train stations and laying down train tracks connecting those train stations.

Creating and building a better healthcare system anywhere in the world is a massive undertaking requiring years, enormous amounts of money, and significant human resources to complete (and then maintain). In our railway analogy, big data and clinical analytics are the train. The time will come when investing in these powerful ICT systems and tools will allow for a great leap forward in delivering high value healthcare. But before spending valuable, limited resources on this healthcare ICT train, government and healthcare leaders should first invest in building “health ICT train stations” and connecting these stations by laying down “health ICT train tracks” across their cities, states, territories and nations. It is these “health ICT train stations” and “health ICT train tracks” that must be the major ICT trends beginning in 2017.

  • Trend #1. Electronic health records (EHRs) are the health ICT train stations that must be built in 2017. So major 2017 ICT trend #1 must be investment in EHRs.
  • Trend #2. At the same time as governments and healthcare systems are investing in EHR health train stations, they must invest in ICT allowing those systems to communicate across the networks. ICT hardware, software and transformational care service are the ICT health train tracks connecting the EHR train stations. Thus, the second major 2017 ICT trend must be investing in technology and services that drive broad, deep, rapid integration of the EHRs across cities, states, territories and nations.

Now, another word of warning based on the US healthcare reform experience: buying EHRs from a variety of commercial vendors makes affordable, successful communication across cities, states and countries much less likely, as differing EHRs are often unable to adequately communicate with one another. In our railway example, this is like building train stations that cannot all service the same size trains. Healthcare systems, cities, states and nations that have purchased a variety of EHR systems (as in the US and some other countries) are now spending vast amounts of money either abandoning and replacing their initial EHRs or investing significantly more money, time and personnel buying and implementing inter-ware to enable communication between their differing EHR systems. So as healthcare leaders and governments invest in EHRs and connecting ICT in 2017, they should seriously attempt to purchase their ICT solutions from a single vendor or a limited number of vendors with experience in (or at least an open commitment to) network integration and communication.

The US experience has shown us that it takes years to build our ICT health train stations and ICT health tracks. Investing too early in trains (big data and clinical analytics) is costly and inefficient. Fortunately, there is one significant and favorable difference between healthcare systems and railway systems: simply implementing an EHR in a single hospital can improve the quality, safety and cost-of-care for thousands of patients; next, integrating even a limited number of EHRs can dramatically expand that high-value care. In other words, unlike a railway system, investing in EHRs and integration ICT in 2017 will immediately deliver value to patients, providers and payers. … We don’t have to wait for the trains.


Top trends identified by HIMMS-Elsevier Digital Healthcare Awards participants

Winners and finalists in the 2016 HIMSS-Elsevier Digital Healthcare Awards competition have identified their views on what would be the most impactful health ICT trends for 2017.

“An increase in the adoption of EMR”

Assistant Prof. Korpong Rookkapan, MDOver the last decade, health ICT has undeniably been an important factor in moving the industry forward in Thailand and other ASEAN countries. With Thailand being home to two EMRAM Stage-6 hospitals – Paknampo Hospital being the first to receive this recognition – health ICT is certainly on the upward trend in the country. We anticipate 2017 being the year where there is an increase in the adoption of EMR (electronic medical record), which can improve the quality of care, reduce medical errors and enhance the speed of care delivery. We also expect to see homegrown health ICT solutions, customized to our unique culture as well as the rise of big data and analytics for predictive, precision and personalized medicine.

Assistant Prof. Korpong Rookkapan, MD, Hospital Director, Paknampo Hospital, Thailand
Winner: 2016 Outstanding ICT Achievement Award-Asia Pacific
Watch the interview here.


“Mobility, big data analytics and iOT-based devices that will significantly contribute to delivering health services”

Sangita ReddyThere is a shortage of trained health personnel around the world, leading to the demand for point-of-care information powered by big data analytics. Machine learning (AI) based analytics and intelligence will need to be effectively maximized into every workflow. The inherent need in healthcare to have round-the-clock, omnipresent services at the highest efficiency levels, demands that solutions are available on mobile devices and platforms. The future of healthcare will be driven by mobility, big data analytics and iOT-based devices that will significantly contribute to delivering health services. The need to have continuous patient engagement that is not limited to hospitalization episodes demands the need for iOT-based devices to augment the care process.

Sangita Reddy, Joint Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals, India
Winner: 2016 Outstanding ICT Innovations Award – Asia Pacific
Watch the interview here.


“Robust ICT systems including EMRs”

Nawwaf AwwadAs a few Gulf Cooperation Council states move towards establishing universal integrated electronic health records (EHR) and national health insurance plans, and healthcare providers face more challenges in the form of new competition, regulations and reporting requirements, providers realize that robust ICT systems including EMRs will be essential in overcoming these challenges and turning them into realized opportunities. Over the last few years, the cost and complexity of setting up IT systems have decreased, with the availability of remote support, SaaS and cloud computing. As a result, more EMRs are being implemented across public and private sectors, and we expect the rate to accelerate. This will help providers deliver the highest quality of care at the lowest cost that will benefit both patients and payers.

Nawwaf Awwad, IT Director, SAAD Specialist Hospital, Saudi Arabia
Winner: 2016 Outstanding ICT Achievement Award – Middle East
Watch the interview here.


“Healthcare organisations design … and build their own software for their own purposes”

Mark Harrison, MDReal clinical impact occurs when a software enables clinicians to do the work they are trained for and supports the delivery of care pathways. I see the future as one in which healthcare organisations design, prototype, build and develop their own software for their own purposes. There is an opportunity for vendors to build the software that helps healthcare organisations build their own tools. My own organisation has seen real clinical impact from building an interactive electronic whiteboard that interacts with the clinical record but sits outside of it. There is an increasing thirst for building what we need, making it work in the way we want it to, and learning how to build the future for ourselves.

Mark Harrison, MD, Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist, Devon Partnership NHS Trust, UK
Finalist: 2016 Outstanding ICT Achievement Award
Watch the interview here.


Interoperability for a “360-degreeview of medical data and possibilities of telehealth”

Abdullah Hamood Al-RaqqadiThe healthcare industry is increasingly concerned with escalating costs, staff shortages, tightening of regulatory requirements, increased burden of chronic disease, rising patient expectations and improving efficiency. Health information unification and sharing through eHealth that provides a 360-degreeview of medical data and possibilities of telehealth are crucial in addressing current challenges. This makes interoperability the most impactful healthcare ICT aspect in 2017. Building eHealth involves integrating disparate systems and stakeholders involved in private and public healthcare delivery, and adopting common message formats and standards. Access to patient records can also be extended via a secure internet connection to authorised external parties, including hospitals, primary care providers, social services agencies, insurance providers, pharmacies and independent consultants.

Abdullah Hamood Al-Raqqadi, Director General of Information Technology, Ministry of Health, Sultanate of Oman
Finalist: 2016 Outstanding ICT Achievement Award – Middle East


Taking information and decision support to a new level

Jose Pedro AlmedaIn 2017, from a regional perspective, providing access for patients to transparent and rigorous information about National Healthcare System indicators through web portals will continue to be of importance. Our digitally advanced Hospital Center will invest in creating new uses of clinical data that can help reduce risk for patients, reduce costs, and pursue our strategy in big data and analytics. The development of infection control, antibiotic misuse and clinical deterioration decision support systems will also continue. We will also invest more in natural language processing tools to leverage the amount of knowledge we can extract from unstructured information and create novel digital assistants. Machine Learning will also be one of our top priorities for 2017, developing predictive models that can be more precise and effective than current clinical scores used in medical practice.

Jose Pedro Almeda, Head of Analytics & Data Science, São João Hospital Center, Portugal
Winner: 2016 Outstanding ICT Achievement Award – Europe
Watch the interview here.

Telemedicine – using videoconferencing to provide at-home care for the elderly and mobility challenged

Luis M. Martínez Escotet, MDThe Health Service of the Principality of Asturias has computerized and integrated all its hospitals and primary care centers, with the goal to share information in real time to increase the quality and safety of care. Telemedicine is another step in sharing information and we expect it to be the area of ICT that will have the greatest impact on Asturian healthcare. With the increase in life expectancy, elderly and pluripathological patients with mobility difficulties, who are the largest consumers of health in our region, will be able to receive care in their homes through video-conferencing. Through networked medicine, population screening programs will be implemented thus centralizing clinical decision making in the most experienced professionals.

Luis M. Martínez Escotet, MD, Physician responsible for functional implantation of Information Systems, Hospital Care of the Government of the Principality of Asturias, Spain
Finalist: 2016 Outstanding ICT Achievement Award – Europe

“Artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, automation and robotics”

Mohamed Magoury, RPh, PMP, CPHIMSArtificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), automation and robotics will have the greatest contribution to the healthcare IT in the upcoming years in the region and worldwide. Big data analytics and cloud technology will help in creating a more efficient and safe healthcare systems, with new and innovative means of analyzing unprecedented amount of data from various parts of the world. Technologies such as Innovative Smart Devices (Wearables and mHealth applications) and predictive analytics will have the potential to revolutionize healthcare through remote monitoring, disease management, and early disease detection. A lot of challenges will arise from such advancement in technology, and most are human factors. Patient confidentiality, cyber security, and data governance. Competent workforce is crucial to driving technology through the interpretation and manipulation of data and enable better interoperability between the different platforms.

Mohamed Magoury, RPh, PMP, CPHIMS, Pharmacy Informatics Officer, Al Wakra Hospital - Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar
Finalist: 2016 Outstanding ICT Achievement Award – Middle East

Patient-enabling technology, business intelligence and analytics, and info security, exchange and interoperability

Manish Kohli, MD, MPH, MBAInformation security, information exchange and interoperability, analytics & business intelligence, and patient-enabling technologies including portals and wearables are areas that hold the greatest impact potential in the near future among countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Manish Kohli, MD, MPH, MBA, Chief of Medical Informatics, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD)
Winner: 2016 (and 2015) Outstanding ICT Innovation Award – Middle East
Watch the interview here.

A “SmartHealth” platform to connect and analyze health data and enable collaboration with patients

Lim Soo TongThe effect of our aging population, coupled with the increasing number of citizens with chronic diseases, poses a great challenge for both the wellbeing of the citizens and our public healthcare institutions. One area of health ICT – SmartHealth or sHealth, offers a solution to this challenge. By providing a platform to seamlessly connect, digitize and analyze health data and allow for collaboration between citizens and care providers, we will be able to provide affordable, quality and sustainable healthcare for our citizens. Citizens will also be empowered to take ownership of their health, which is critical to the prevention and delay of the progression of chronic diseases.

Lim Soo Tong, Integrated Health Systems (IHiS) Chief Information Officer, JurongHealth CIO Office
Winner: 2016 Outstanding ICT Achievement Award – Asia Pacific
Watch the interview here.

“Using health IT to augment the capabilities of our patients and healthcare providers”

Adj A/Prof. Gamaliel Tan, MBBSWith an aging population, growing burden of chronic disease and finite healthcare resources, the challenge will be to use health information technology to augment the capabilities of our patients and healthcare providers. This can be in the form of patient portals which empower the patient with information, (and) population health management to monitor the status of certain chronic diseases, so that healthcare resources can be utilized judiciously and data analytics can point our limited resources into high value areas.

Adj A/Prof. Gamaliel Tan, MBBS, Chief Medical Informatics Officer, JurongHealth, Singapore
Winner: 2016 Outstanding ICT Achievement Award – Asia Pacific

The HIMSS-Elsevier Digital Healthcare Awards

The HIMSS-Elsevier Digital Healthcare Awards is a global platform established in 2013 to recognize outstanding thought leadership in the use of health information and technology to advance patient care and safety. Awards are granted in three categories: Outstanding ICT Achievement, Outstanding ICT Innovation, and Outstanding ROI Achievement.

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