This year's Center for Connected Health Symposium, presented by the Boston-based Partners HealthCare system, aimed to place today's healthcare challenges in the context of the innovations that will drive change. Here are four trends that will shape future advances in healthcare — and what will catalyze these and other advances in years to come.
1. Data Analytics: Improved Population Health Management
Analytics, to no one's surprise, ranks highly among healthcare innovations with the most untapped potential. Big data use cases for healthcare continue to emerge, but many organizations remained mired in more traditional analytics practices. In these instances, it can take months to conduct an analysis, says Michael Greeley, founder and general partner with Flybridge Capital Partners; by then, the "window to intervene" has long since shut.
2 . Telestroke: Improving Stroke Diagnosis, Treatment and Recovery
Like analytics, telestroke seems poised to move from pilot phase to sustainability.
A need certainly exists. More than 40 percent of the nation's hospitals have fewer than 100 beds, says Dr. David Hess, chairman of the Georgia Regents University Department of Neurology, and therefore have little choice but to transfer stroke patients to facilities with more comprehensive stroke centers. But most of those small hospitals are in remote areas, and moving a patient is literally a life-or-death decision.
3. Healthcare at Home: The Patient-Centered Medical Home
While the so-called patient-centered medical home is largely absent from the Affordable Care Act, the principles of healthcare reform and the accountable care model nonetheless present an opportunity to demonstrate the value of telemedicine and mobile health. The key task is reducing hospital readmissions — which is part of healthcare reform, so much so that hospitals with "excess" readmissions within 30 days face reduced reimbursements.
4. Emotional Sensing: Understanding How Patients Feel
Skydiving brings similar physiological effects to all comers, says Meghan Searl, a research psychologist with the Center for Connected Health — an increased heart rate, a shortness of breath and, well, the feeling that one's dropping from the sky. Some find it exhilarating; others, downright frightening.
What Will Drive Future Healthcare IT Innovation?
So what will drive emotional sensing, analytics, home healthcare, telestroke technology and otherhealthcare IT innovations? Connected Health Symposium speakers offered these prognostications.
Sensors. Saxon has used sensors to help athletes pinpoint cardiovascular tendencies and military personnel identify who experiences the least stress. She also says she sees potential in automobile sensors, which are already plentiful and could be augmented to, say, monitor a driver's blood pressure using sensors in the steering wheel. External sensors, in particular, are prime for growth, Firlik adds: "As soon as we don't invade the body, we have a lower regulatory barrier."
Social media. YouTube is the most popular "TV network" among 18-34 year olds, Saxon points out, and works well as an educational platform for, say, sharing recipes and diet tips for young diabetes patients. Meanwhile, Saxon's everyheartbeat.org encourages people to post a photo of their heart rate to Instagram, simultaneously offering "another window of experience" for the photo-sharing site and providing an easy-to-access data set.
Scale. True solutions will need to span hospital departments and lines of business, says Dr. Scott Howell, senior vice president of clinical affairs for Cardinal Health Specialty Solutions. They'll also need to be integrated, which will mean cooperating with pharmacies, acute care facilities, nursing homes and other affiliates and business partners.
Startups. Large tech firms such as Google are hiring chief innovation officers. To Greeley, this signals two things: That they recognize that data drives healthcare and that they represent potential co-investors for early-stage investment.