Six health IT trends and technologies executives should watch in 2017

Cybersecurity and blockchain received a lot of attention in 2016, and both trends are expected to remain on the radars of healthcare executives in 2017.

Health IT executives are expected to engage and experiment with several emerging and disruptive technologies in 2017. The outcome for those who succeed in adapting to new trends in health IT will be better patient care, more efficiencies and better data protection. Here are six health IT trends and technologies healthcare executives should watch in 2017.

Advancements in artificial intelligence

There have been significant advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), such as IBM's Watson assisting with cancer diagnoses and babylon Health using AI to interact with patients and collect data about their symptoms through an app. These developments have led IT executives to consider the possibility of introducing more AI into their hospitals by adopting smarter apps and services. This can be in the form of mobile apps with built-in intelligence that are available to patients, or machine learning that can perform specific advanced analytics and predictive tasks.

Cybersecurity and next generation protection tools

The security threats the healthcare industry experienced in 2016 proved that cyberattacks are getting bolder and more sophisticated. Many of these attacks can go undetected by most antivirus products because they frequently change signatures. Malware, ransomware and data breaches require far more proactive and advanced protection mechanisms. Thus, many hospitals will have more interest in security solutions that can leverage machine learning, behavioral detection, browser protections and URL detonation to better classify and block suspicious activities and content. This can help hospitals mitigate their risks and improve their security and protection.

Bots for healthcare

In 2016 there were several bots being used by businesses such as Taco Bell and Microsoft in an experimental way. Combined with the advancements in AI, bots have shown that they are ready for primetime and can take on a position within healthcare. This means that hospitals are likely to make the move in 2017 to implement more bots in their environments to assist with tasks such as appointment scheduling and patient education, as a hospital directory and even a clinical assistant to capture a patient's basic data and symptoms.

A stronger push for cloud services

Compared to previous iterations, the cloud services available today are more mature, reliable, secure and compliant to different healthcare, life and science regulations. Hospitals are looking to continue their shift toward hybrid environments that enable them to have the best of both worlds by leveraging existing infrastructure investments and moving some workloads to the cloud to reduce maintenance and support costs. Hospital IT executives will also continue to engage their teams in several popular cloud services around collaboration, security and healthcare apps delivered in a SaaS model.

The internet of things

More connected devices and wearables are making their way to patients, and that encourages hospitals that held back from adopting internet of things (IoT) in the past due to security concerns. However, IoT has been shown to add value in many use cases, including the use of medical devices in the home health setting to provide remote patient monitoring and the use of IoT to offer smart beds in hospitals that can adjust automatically and continuously monitor patient's movements. Each hospital may have a different take on which devices they will evaluate first, even though many are already using some sort of connected smart device. IoT brings a lower cost of technology, real-time data capture and patient monitoring capabilities.

Blockchain in healthcare

Blockchain was a hot topic in 2016, even though the technology has been in use since 2009 and is one of the foundational pieces used for trading the digital currency Bitcoin. The technology is receiving a lot of attention in healthcare and support from the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology due to its potential ability to solve several key challenges faced by healthcare. Security, interoperability, universal shared infrastructure and global standards would become available once blockchain technology is used to manage and transport electronic health data. While it is still in its infancy stage in healthcare, blockchain is one of the health IT trends executives will be watching in 2017.

With the ever-changing technology landscape and constant innovation coming into healthcare, IT executives are recognizing that their role is to ensure the right health IT trends and technologies are adopted. However, health IT executives must be careful not to risk being early adopters of immature technology that put a patient's wellbeing at risk. The increasing concerns around security and current uncertainties of the political climate will influence which health IT trends and technologies are adopted first in 2017.

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