Healthcare News & Insights

Healthcare IT trends to expect in 2013

With changes to compliance rules and federal incentive programs, new mobile developments, and other significant changes, here are three healthcare IT trends for the new year. 

1. Mobile health

People are relying more on smarthphones and tablets — and in healthcare, that includes both doctors and patients. According to one survey taken last year, 72% of doctors are currently using a mobile device for work . And nearly all (91%) say they want access to mobile EHRs.

However, doctors that have used mobile EHRs say that that entering and editing data in an electronic record on a mobile device — even on a tablet — is a challenge. But given the popularity of tablets among clinicians, expect software providers to improve their mobile EHR offerings in 2013.

Patients are also turning to mobile devices to help them manage their health. So far more than half of patients (52%) say they’ve used a smartphone to deal with a medical question or issue, and an increasing number of mobile health apps are becoming available — some useful and some completely bogus. As more developers offer mobile health apps and more patients use them, doctors may want to familiarize themselves with what’s out there so they can offer recommendations to patients.

2. Online access to records, appointment scheduling, etc.

The rise of mobile health apps is indicative of larger trend — patients are trying to take greater charge and get more involved in their care. The next step is for doctors to provide them the tools that can help them to do that.

Patients want access to online self-service tools but aren’t likely to get that from their doctor, according to a Harris Poll conducted last year.

  1. 65% said they want to be able to access their medical records, test results and histories online, compared to 17% that have that access now
  2. 58% want an online calculator to estimate costs for specific services, compared to 6% that currently have access to a tool like that
  3. 57% want electronic reminders about scheduling appointments, compared to 12% who get those reminders currently
  4. 53% would like to be able to email their doctor, compared to 12% who can now
  5. 51% want to schedule appointments online, compared to 11% who have that option, and
  6. 50% want access to online billing and payment systems, compared to 10% who do now.

Access to records especially is likely to become more common in 2013, as that’s becoming a greater priority for the federal EHR incentive program. Starting next year, Meaningful Use objectives requiring doctors to give patients a digital copy of their records will be replaced with requirements to offer self-service access to that data.

3. Bigger IT security threats

As more medical data goes digital, cyber criminals are discovering that unprotected healthcare information can be a goldmine. While cyber attacks are on the rise in many industries, healthcare organizations are at a particularly high risk, according to a recent Washington Post article. A year-long study of cyber security by the newspaper found that health care is one of the industries most at risk of attack.

One problem, according to some observers, is that the push for adoption of EHRs and other health IT systems has outpaced advancements in security controls that will help keep sensitive information safe. Healthcare organizations should make sure they’re protecting that data, particularly as more of it is being carried around on mobile devices.

4. Changes to EHR incentive programs

While the feds have given no indication yet that they’re planning to alter the programs to hand out incentives for meaningful use of EHRs, the programs came under a lot of scrutiny in 2013, and significant changes may at least be considered. For example, several lawmakers sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging the agency to temporarily pause the federal EHR incentive program, claiming that the requirements aren’t doing enough to push providers to use health IT to improve care and cut costs.

In addition, 42% of respondents in a survey conducted by PwC’s Health Research Institute said they think the feds should cut spending on health IT, and a federal report argued that the EHR incentive program lacks scrutiny and makes it too easy for ineligible organizations to receive payments.

5. The continued rise of cloud computing

Cloud computing is being used by most companies in all industries, and health care is no different. Cloud computing services can help health care providers meet the data storage challenges created by all the new digital information they must hold, and cloud-based EHR systems can help smaller practices take advantage of electronic records.

In addition, the cloud can help organizations more easily share information with each other, which will be key for the move to health information exchanges. So in 2013, expect more vendors to offer cloud computing services geared specifically toward health care, as well as a greater emphasis on security standards in the cloud.

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