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5 health care trends we're watching in 2020

by John Peterzalek

Published on 2/3/2020

Estimated read time: 7 minutes 

There’s much to come in 2020: the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the U.S. presidential election and a total solar eclipse across Chile and Argentina. The next eleven months will also have much activity in store for health care, as the industry’s sights remain firmly focused on innovation and leveraging data to benefit patient care. Key components of health IT, like interoperability and data analytics, are becoming more critical, while advanced technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, are rapidly growing in their capabilities to improve care quality and provider satisfaction.

On occasion, we share trends we see dominating the conversation in the near future. Here’s where our sights are set for 2020 – with a few you may recognize from years past. 

1. Making health care simpler for patients and providers

In a 2019 Medscape survey, 74% of physicians said they spend 10- to 20-plus hours a week on paperwork and administrative tasks ─ reducing their time to actually connect with patients. To help ease this burden on clinicians and boost patient satisfaction, Cerner is committed to developing a cognitive and more intuitive experience. 

One way to do this is simply through the sound of a clinician’s voice. Documentation during medical visits is easier, faster and hands-free with the use of voice-assisted technology. When providers can focus on connecting with patients, we believe this can bring back the joy of practicing medicine and decrease clinician burnout and the rate of depression among care team members. 

Also, much like we’ve seen in the retail and financial sectors, consumer demand will continue to push health systems to integrate mobile platforms that allow patients to access care quicker, when they need it and where they want it. The increased use of telehealth will allow more frequent touch points between clinicians and patients, boost value and reduce barriers to care, such as lack of transportation or long wait times for appointments.

We’re seeing telehealth accelerate as the American Medical Association updated its 2020 procedural terminology code set to support telehealth services and remote patient monitoring. In addition, the 2020 plan policies from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services expand patients’ access to telehealth services.

2. Health data: Who owns it, who controls it and the drive toward interoperability

Without question, digitization has provided many benefits, allowing the industry to connect disparate systems, aggregate health data and create seamless, longitudinal views of a person’s health journey.

There will continue to be smarter aggregations of data, such as Cerner’s Learning Health Network, to revolutionize research, clinical trials and the effectiveness of therapies that can drive better outcomes for individual patients.

Through interoperability advancements, a person’s health information will be accessible across many disparate sources and be available as they consent to its use. True interoperability has the promise of eliminating the bags of paper records some patients organize and carry from doctor to doctor ─ reducing the complexity of navigating the health system and bringing the overall cost of health care down.

An increase in government oversight – at the federal and state levels – will help address many of the issues preventing the accessibility of health data. The interoperability and information blocking rule from the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT will have a significant impact. Currently under final review, in 2020 the federal rule is poised to provide patients with greater access to their medical records and to require interoperability between health systems, while maintaining security among health IT platforms.

For over 40 years Cerner has worked at the intersection of health care and information technology to connect people and systems around the world. Consistent with that mission, we wholeheartedly support the open and appropriate flow of electronic health information and the proposed regulation from the ONC to transform the interoperable exchange of health data. 

3. Tapping and swiping our way to better patient outcomes

The patient should always be at the center of what we do, and the growing popularity of wearables empowers this approach. The latest forecast from Gartner shows that consumer spending on wearable devices will reach $52 billion in 2020 — an increase of 27% from 2019. More than 80% of consumers say they’re willing to wear fitness technology, according to research from Business Insider Intelligence.  

The functionality of these devices continues to advance beyond the distance you’ve run and your pace. Today’s wearables measure everything from the electrical activity of your heartbeat to sleep cycles and blood pressure. These devices will only get more precise with the increase of biosensors that allow patients to be active while collecting data on their movement, heart respiratory rate and temperature. 

Patients will also rely more on apps to take control of their own health care. Building a broader ecosystem on top of Cerner’s open platform allows third-party developers to create and deploy innovations and bring new features, functions and capabilities to clients faster. With Amazon Web Services (AWS) as our preferred cloud provider, we’re moving our open application programming interface to the AWS gateway in order to provide a highly reliable platform for health.

We’re already seeing the benefits of this shift. In the span of the last three months of 2019, apps connected to Cerner's open platform doubled from 500,000 launches to over 1 million.

4. Capturing new growth with new players

The pressure on revenue and expense will continue for health care providers in 2020. In an effort to preserve and grow margins, leaders are looking for ways to get more out of technology so they can invest in continued transformation, innovative care and increasing the health of their communities.

Additionally, a continued rise in collaborations, between hospitals and traditional as well as new health care players, will let providers expand their offerings and capture new sources of growth. Big tech, such as Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Apple and more, will supplement the industry with fresh perspectives and additional expertise. 

Data processing in the cloud, one of the major benefits of Cerner’s multifaceted relationship with AWS, is expected to help our clients lower their total cost of ownership while delivering better patient care that’s faster, more secure and scalable. 

5. Weighing the health risks of where we work, learn and play

Conditions where we live, learn, work and play are important considerations when managing the health of populations. Social determinants of health aren’t a new concept, but the industry has been slow to put data from outside the four walls of the hospital to work, until now.

Research shows that by the end of 2020, 40% of U.S. health systems and commercial payers will use some type of social determinant data in making risk assessments, business decisions and when reaching out to patientsA study from the Center for Connected Medicine and KLAS Research reveals that health systems are increasing their investments in big data analytics to support gains in population health management.

For example, Cerner is working with Uber Health to embed its ride-sharing service into the EHR so providers can easily schedule non-emergency transportation for patients, caregivers and staff. Nationwide, there’s a rise in social determinant companies, such as Unite Us, Healthify, Now Pow and Aunt Bertha, that offer tech solutions for building networks of health and social service providers. In 2020 and beyond, hospitals will find that addressing social determinants of health can advance their value-based care efforts more than traditional care programs.

Last year, Cerner held its first think tank for the Social Determinants Innovation Collaborative, a group of over 50 health systems such as Atrium Health, Boston Children’s Hospital and Los Angeles County Health Services. We launched this group so leaders could meet regularly to share best practices for addressing these key indicators. They talk about the challenges they’re facing, along with what is and isn’t working. The goal is to make it easier to exchange information, so knowledge is shared – and better outcomes happen – faster.

The months ahead are filled with endless opportunity. With these five trends in mind, let’s all push harder to lead the charge on innovating faster and smarter to make the work that providers do easier.

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