Healthcare IT 2.0 – A New Wave of Applications

By Bill Reed, Executive Vice President and Partner, Huntzinger Management Group

For the past several years, healthcare IT has been consumed by an unprecedented rate of change. Initiatives such as transitioning to ICD-10, implementing EHRs and achieving Meaningful Use (MU) have severely stressed healthcare organizations, especially their IT resources. And while the applications and infrastructures associated with such initiatives must be maintained and continually evolved, one wonders what challenges the next wave of healthcare applications will present.

Or stated differently, what challenges will exist in Healthcare IT 2.0?

Healthcare IT 2.0 will consist of numerous new constructs, some of which are yet to be imagined. These constructs will demand new, and more complex applications than have been previously developed. Here are four such constructs to consider: genomics, cognitive computing (CC), the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial organs (AOs). Several of these constructs have been in development for years, but have yet to be commonly applied throughout healthcare.

Since DNA was sequenced at the turn of the century, healthcare has been seeking how best to utilize the wealth of information that may be deduced from analyzing genomics. Certainly, the quantity of genomic data presents substantial storage and processing challenges. However, more pragmatically, the major challenge relates to how to use an individual’s genomic information to predict potential future healthcare issues; and further, when to use such predictive information to define a prophylactic treatment regimen. The applications required to provide such comparative analytics and posit related treatment protocols are in their extreme infancy. They will necessitate a level of knowledge and sophistication that far exceeds those of registering a patient, ordering their related tests and accurately billing for those services.

CC certainly will play a role in assisting with the genomic information challenges, and will provide information capabilities, and application challenges, of its own. As evidenced by IBM Watson’s initial involvement in cancer treatment, CC offers tremendous promise to substantially increase the speed and accuracy of diagnosis and treatement. While we may depend upon the IBMs to create the core CC engines, what challenges will we face in terms of integrating our applications with the CC engines, enabling healthcare organizations to efficiently and effectively capitalize on the information such engines provide?

Not confined to healthcare, we encounter the IoT throughout our daily lives. Whether shopping on the Internet or asking Alexa to remind us of a meeting, the IoT permeates most of what we do. This IoT is rapidly expanding into the healthcare dimension, ranging from wellness Fitbits to real-time glucose monitoring of diabetics. MU Stage 3 began to address the need for healthcare applications to accommodate patients’ desire to store their personally collected health information. As this source of data continues to expand, and is exacerbated by the increased use of telehealth, what additional application demands will evolve?

Finally, an area of relatively new development, AOs, will present significantly new application challenges. Already, 3D printing is having a profound impact on anatomical replacements. Further, the ground-breaking development of organoids, while not yet approaching the issue of serving as organ replacements, may provide invaluable insights into understanding and treating conditions of various organs.

The examples noted are just a glimpse into the potential application impact in Healthcare IT 2.0. And, as noted, healthcare IT staffs will need to address such application challenges while continuing to support their routine EHR and revenue cycle application demands. As these new applications challenges vie for IT resources, we need to evaluate their potential through lenses of clinical relevance, technical feasibility and overall efficacy. Healthcare IT 2.0 will offer an ever-increasing challenge to healthcare IT organizations.

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