Ben DeCoudres                                  

       Ben DeCoudres                                  

On a daily basis, healthcare professionals are inundated with headlines, tweets, and alerts about the latest gadgets and changes to the health IT industry.   The work we do at HITLAB gives us the unique opportunity to observe cutting-edge healthcare technologies around the world. The rate and diversity of health information technology development is growing quickly. From our vantage point we have noticed five major trends:

1)    The Quantification of Health

The quantification of health is the generation, organization, and analysis of personal and population health data.  It is related to the quantified-self movement, but specifically refers to the development and use of devices generating health data that can be easily shared with healthcare providers and/or insurance companies. The growth of quantification of health is best illustrated by the increase in the development of personal health quantification and diagnostic devices. These devices come in all shapes and sizes such as activity/sleep monitor bracelets (Jawbone UpFitbit Force), personal health diagnostics (Scanadu) and medication adherence devices (AdhereTech smart pill bottle).  But what if you don’t want to wear a bracelet, clip, or chest strap, but still want to receive health data? Not to worry. Within the next 18 months, companies like OM Signal and Textronix will be turning everyday garments into biometric activity monitors.

Now that all this personal health data is being generated, where do you securely store it and keep it organized? This brings us to our second trend, the growth in the development of cross-platform data aggregation and integration.


2)    Cross-Platform Data Aggregation and Integration

The second trend we’ve observed is the growth in the development of cross-platform data aggregation and integration. Device manufacturers are equipping every-day-products with wireless capabilities that send data to multiple platforms (for example, the Withings body analyzer, a scale that measures weight, body fat percentage, heart rate, air quality, and temperature, then sends all information to an online account via WI-FI). Amidst the proliferation of cloud computing platforms we’re starting to see some that are specifically dedicated to secure health data storage platforms such as Microsoft Health Vault and WebMD phr.  Additionally, EHR companies are working with third-party device and software developers to offer cross-platform integration services that enable access to multiple data streams from a central portal (see Epic’s Open.Epic intiativeAllScripts Patient PortalEmmiSolutions and Athenahealth Patient Portal).


3)    Algorithm-Based Decision Making

A third trend observed is the increase of algorithm-based decision-making platforms used in clinical and non-clinical settings to support clinical decision-making, disease management, and health promotion. Existing companies are adopting--and new companies are being created around--proprietary algorithms that leverage large health data sets and machine learning to analyse users' symptoms, give them a ranked list of likely medical conditions, and suggest care regimens based on evidence-based research and national guidelines (for example, Symcat, and iTriage). These algorithms are being combined into activity monitors that transform passive data collection (miles run, hours slept) into a dynamic experience reminding the wearer when it is time for physical activity or time to rest (note JaybirdReign). This is only the beginning of the dynamic use of health data through predictive algorithms. As the meaningful use stage 2 deadline nears, we are bound to see significant growth in this area.


4)    Expansion of the Care Continuum

The fourth trend we’ve observed is the expansion of the care continuum through communication technology and telemedicine. As communication technology continues to advance and video calls, video conferences, and video communication in general becomes widely utilized, we are seeing this trend increasingly adopted in the medical field through telemedicine. Companies are developing platforms that allow users to quickly connect with a live doctor for a consult without the hassle of leaving the house (Teladoc and HealthTap are two examples). Convenience to the consumer and potential cost-effectiveness--especially amidst a climate of acute health-cost consciousness—provide this trend with a lot of room to grow.


5)    Demonstration of Clinical Value

Finally, the fifth trend we’ve observed is the least established but should see significant growth in the coming years. It is the creation and demonstration of clinical value. As focus intensifies on meeting the stage 2 meaningful use demands for patient engagement, interoperability and information exchange, developers and users of health data will need to demonstrate the value of the health data they’re collecting/using. Some companies are already working on ways to create useful tools and applications that leverage all of this data (for example, WellDoc BlueStar provides remote patient monitoring and diabetes management) and do it in a way that is clinically proven to reduce AIC levels. Since this area is just emerging, there is ample opportunity for development and a market that is rapidly growing.

So what does this mean for healthcare professionals and organizations? Engagement is key. Engaging professionals and consumers to use these tools is the driving force in this ever changing industry.    

Tell us what you think are the upcoming trends. Post your comments below or tweet them to us @HITLABnyc.

Ben DeCoudres is a senior associate at HITLAB. Ben works mainly on innovation strategy projects, and is passionate about the intersection of innovation, healthcare, and technology.