5 healthcare trends to watch in 2016

2016 02 01 15 01 44 880 Top 5 200

In 2015, we heard time and time again that the healthcare landscape was changing rapidly as we moved from a fee-for-service world to a risk-based/value-based world. But what does that mean? Essentially, providers used to get paid for doing procedures, but under new healthcare regulations, they are incentivized to avoid unnecessary procedures.

The implications are that providers and healthcare networks must move from old siloed systems to interoperable and collaborative frameworks. In 2016, we'll see a continued move in this direction across healthcare and particularly medical imaging, as new innovations make interoperability a reality.

Here are the top 5 healthcare trends to watch in 2016.

1. Patients seek access to care from anywhere at anytime

Patient adoption of health-related apps nearly doubled over the past two years. About 32% of consumers had at least one health app on their phones in 2015, up from only 16% in 2013, according to a PwC report. Many are also calling 2016 the year of telemedicine. The global telemedicine market in 2016 is predicted to be $27 billion, with virtual health services making up $16 billion of that amount.

Morris Panner, CEO of DICOM Grid.Morris Panner, CEO of DICOM Grid.

As the tech-savvy millennial generation moves into the medical field, we may see an increase in physicians who both accept and encourage the use of mobile apps to monitor patient health. More than 90% of physicians said that digital health devices will become an important part of their practice, and over half shared a willingness to prescribe medications based off a vital-signs biosensor tool.

2. The cloud will become a core method of enhancing interoperability

The cloud has already gained widespread acceptance by healthcare executives, with more than 83% using the cloud today. As our healthcare system moves in a direction of interoperability, rapid image sharing and storage become a priority. Redundant imaging exams due to lost or missing data pose a risk to the health of patients and result in high costs to facilities.

It has also been found that emergency departments using image-enabled health information exchanges (HIEs) were 8.7% less likely to repeat CT scans, 9% less likely to repeat ultrasounds, and 13% less likely to repeat chest x-rays. These decreases alone are enough to save $19 million annually across the U.S.

In addition, with the rise of telemedicine, individuals in rural areas or even those across the globe may seek a second opinion and need a secure method of quickly sharing images. The cloud can deliver powerful scale and value in these situations. For example, users of a commercially available cloud-based imaging-sharing application have realized 75% efficiency improvement in the sharing and retrieving of images. Facilities have also seen 26% growth in referrals for providers.

3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates PACS compliance requirements

The ability to reliably retrieve a backup copy of imaging data that might otherwise be lost due to hardware/software or network failures is no longer just good practice, but a federally mandated requirement. Don't take the risk! The FDA has warned healthcare facilities that in 2016 it may take compliance actions if their PACS fails and all images are lost due to a lack of secure business continuity and/or disaster recovery plans. A recent AuntMinnie.com article cited several compliance issues at mammography facilities over the past few months. One site permanently lost more than 20% of its mammograms, while another is attempting the expensive retrieval of more than 6,000 lost mammograms.

The FDA said that proper investment in PACS infrastructure including cloud-based archiving solutions could prevent the catastrophic loss of images. A cloud PACS solution uses a vendor offsite to digitally store images that are automatically streamed into the cloud. The vendor takes ownership of managing the security settings through an encryption technology and provides an automated storage and disaster recovery program.

4. The baby-boom generation will have a continued impact on healthcare

By 2030, more than 75 million Americans will be older than age 65. Due to health advancements, this generation is living longer than its predecessors and with more chronic disease. This group is also highly subject to falls and various orthopedic injuries. Investments in technology can help with patient flow in hospitals and allow for greater flexibility among patients and doctors alike. Hospitals are even citing an interest among boomers in mobile healthcare, and patient portals have been one such advancement that enhances the workflow between doctors and patients. (Tip: Check out our e-book on patient portals.)

If doctors and hospitals can provide individuals with health technology, education, and resources, they can become more capable of self-diagnosing, avoiding unnecessary emergency room and doctor visits, and seeking medical care and/or alerting their physicians when critical.

5. Security remains a key concern

Cybersecurity will remain a key concern for both patients and providers in 2016. According to PwC, nearly 40% of customers said they would abandon or reconsider using a health organization if it were hacked.

When researching cloud-based solutions, it's important to thoroughly examine the security features offered by your vendor. You may want to ask the following questions: Are you HIPAA-compliant? Are there role-based permissions for users? Are there detailed audits and activity logs? How, exactly, is protected health information (PHI) kept secure?

For example, DICOM Grid uses a patented split-merge technology that anonymizes image studies by removing PHI from imaging data. The PHI is separately encrypted and stored, producing an Internet-safe study.

Morris Panner is CEO of DICOM Grid, a cloud-based image management software developer.

The comments and observations expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AuntMinnie.com.

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