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Trends in health IT for 2017: Ransomware, RPA, blockchain predictions

A health IT expert weighs in on the top trends in health IT for 2017, including predictions about ransomware, RPA and blockchain.

As 2016 comes to a close, everyone is looking ahead to the New Year, and predictions for 2017 trends in health IT are rolling in. If anything, 2017 promises to be an interesting year, what with the rise in ransomware attacks, a new president and various emerging healthcare technologies taking hold.

Dan Housman, CTO of ConvergeHEALTH by Deloitte, weighed in on some of the predictions for trends in health IT floating around on the internet, including an increase of ransomware attacks, blockchain becoming a reality in healthcare in 2017 -- is it? -- and the rise of robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

The rise in ransomware attacks

IDC Health Insights predicted that, by 2018, ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations will double, and Housman agrees that attacks will continue to increase as healthcare organizations work to put in place cybersecurity technologies that work.

Although healthcare organizations are making strong investments in cybersecurity technologies, "it's not a problem that goes away because you made one investment in one year," Housman said.

"There's been a lot of effort already expended, but there's still holes in those strategies that are still being exploited. Getting to something that's more adaptive and more sophisticated, installing different systems that they can use, or even changing socially within the organization, it's not an overnight thing," Housman said.

Dan HousmanDan Housman

Furthermore, cybersecurity technologies today are designed for known vulnerabilities, and it's the currently unknown vulnerabilities that need these protections, he said.

Housman predicts that, in the healthcare space, the laggards will take five to six years to get cybersecurity technologies in place to effectively battle ransomware attacks, while the more progressive healthcare organizations may have already solved this problem. Those that fall more in the middle may take one or two years.

RPA, AI and machine learning                                           

Housman believes that, in healthcare, the adoption of technologies within the realm of AI, including RPA and machine learning, will move very fast and take over in many different ways.

RPA is already being used to automate simple tasks in healthcare, especially administrative tasks where humans are required to copy, paste and file information. This will ultimately help healthcare organizations not only speed up payer claims processes, but also lower administrative costs.

Furthermore, IDC predicts that, by the end of 2018, payers will have saved $1 billion globally due to the implementation and use of RPA.

Blockchain trends in health IT

According to predictions made by cloud-based API vendor, PokitDok, 2017 is the year that blockchain will move from theory to practice, as pilots and production-ready applications become a reality.

Housman, however, believes, in 2017, there will be a lot of people testing out blockchain technologies, and companies will make claims about these technologies, but there won't be many customers.

Housman added that while use cases for blockchain in the financial industry, for example, make a lot of sense, "it's a little less obvious how to adopt some of the blockchain technologies into the healthcare world. It's also proving a little challenging when you think of the obvious [use cases] where people would be excited, how it's going to play with the existing infrastructure."

The possible use cases Housman is referring to include secure encrypted transactions, data sharing, having a permanent record and being able to control access.

Housman predicts that blockchain won't become a reality in healthcare for three to five years.

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