Healthcare IT trends 2013: analytics and ACOs continue to stake their claim

By Dodge Communications on January 14th, 2013

The world’s top technology companies famously kicked off the New Year with a dizzying display of electronics at CES in Las Vegas. It’s an opportunity to test the limits of innovation, whether practical or not. Generating buzz this year—for good or bad—were the 27-inch table PC (yes, table, not tablet), curved high-definition TVs, robot massagers and an $100 electronic fork that vibrates when you’re eating too fast.

While practicability is in the eye of the beholder, if healthcare leaders look close enough, they will find consumer-based technologies that have relevance in healthcare. Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdams alluded to this fact in his keynote speech in which he touted his company’s ability to send high-bandwidth MRI and CAT images over its wireless network. McAdams even projected a day not far off when a cloud-based radiology platform hosts 4D images that could provide caregivers with an all-encompassing view of a beating heart.

More applicable in healthcare today are mobile computing platforms, which will continue to gain popularity in 2013 and beyond as devices become more sophisticated and user friendly. Tablets are now leading the charge, with an InformationWeek survey finding that 66 percent of physicians who use a mobile device for medical purposes favor tablets such as the iPad, up from 45 percent just a year earlier. “This love affair continues to develop because tablets give them access to EHR data, drug reference materials, and a host of valuable data that in the past was only available in the office or hospital,” reads an analysis from the magazine’s annual healthcare IT priorities survey.

Other tech solutions are more likely to be found at HIMSS rather than CES, but will nonetheless continue to enjoy a rapid rise in popularity. Among them, analytics software, buoyed by technology’s increasing capacity to manage stores of big data, have ever-greater relevance in healthcare. A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey found that nearly half of provider organizations expect to add technical analysts in the next two years, while 35 percent will hire additional clinical informaticists. Going forward, look for these analytics become a valuable tool during patient and provider interactions. Research firm Gartner emphasized that in 2013 and beyond, analytics will increasingly need to be delivered to users “at the point of action.”

2013 will be the year in which providers more seriously ponder healthcare information exchange (HIE). Meaningful Use Stage 2 is being billed by Dr. Farzad Mostashari, the national coordinator for Health Information Technology, as “a giant leap in data exchange,” requiring significant connectivity between clinicians, ancillary service providers and even patients. Fortunately MU-eligible professionals have the entire year to prepare before they must begin attesting for Stage 2 compliance in 2014.

And while it may be hard to top 2012’s furious accountable care organization activity in which the number of ACOs increased approximately twofold, healthcare consultancy Leavitt Partners projects 2013 to enjoy the same vitality, particularly in large population centers where hospitals and physician groups are mostly likely to form or join an ACO for competitive reasons. The federal government also plans a new round of funding for organizations that participate in CMS’ Pioneer or Shared Savings ACOs models, which should further promote activity.
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Healthcare reform, Meaningful Use and a host of other initiatives have elevated the stakes for healthcare IT. Providers and payers aren’t simply asking for enabling technology, they’re now demanding it. Under these conditions, it’s an exciting time to be in healthcare, observing how technology will continue to impact quality patient outcomes in 2013 and beyond.