In 2016, life expectancy in the U.S. dropped for the first time in decades. The data was only from 2016, and could just be a blip on the radar. But it’s one more thing that made 2016 kind of a downer.
Despite all the bad news (and bad hombres), there were plenty of bright spots in 2016, especially in the realm of health technology. On the consumer side, 2016 saw innovations including a Fitbit with smartwatch capabilities and a sleep tracker that doesn’t need to be touching your body to tell you how well your muscles recovered overnight.
A recent MarketsandMarkets report predicts that by 2020 the North American health IT market will reach $104 billion. Where’s that growth coming from? Demand from healthcare providers, actually. Healthcare delivery organizations are looking for and testing technology that can help them meet increasing regulatory requirements, cut costs, and improve outcomes for patients.
Here are three of my predictions for what 2017 has is in store for health tech.
1. Interoperability will increase
I mean, it can’t get much worse, amirite?
Right now, I can use Mint to see all my checking and savings accounts at multiple institutions in one place at a glance (and activity on these accounts). It’s frustrating that this doesn’t exist in healthcare.
Intermountain Healthcare CIO Marc Probst called for federally mandated healthcare interoperability standards at the CHIME16 Fall CIO Forum, pointing out that data silos kill hundreds of thousands of patients and waste billions of dollars each year.
In the meantime, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives is pushing organizations to adopt a national patient identifier, which could help providers pass information about patients between healthcare organizations without interoperable health technology.
Probst also predicts that in 2017, the healthcare world will make progress on deciding what health IT is going to focus on. For example, are we going to focus on consumerizing healthcare, population health, or something else entirely?
2. Data will get bigger
Gartner predicts that by 2019, a quarter of HDOs will have a dedicated chief data officer for strategic information governance and tactical management of data. Between 2014 and 2015, healthcare data volume grew by 50% for many healthcare executives.
More sensors, bioassays, genetic sequencing, home health-monitoring devices, and behavioral data logged in mHealth apps mean more data to sort and store. For example, some physicians are using data from body-worn sensors, as well as lifestyle data logged into mobile health (mHealth) apps, to more accurately track and regulate diabetic patients’ blood sugar levels.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is also increasing healthcare data volumes. Wearables let physicians know whether and to what extent patients are exercising post-surgery. Gartner predicts that by 2019, at least a third of patients who get hip and knee replacements will have their healing monitored by wearables connected to IoT platforms.
While 2016 was still mostly about where to store that data, 2017 will be about how to use that data to improve outcomes and lower costs. There’s gold in them thar hills. But it takes incredibly intelligent algorithms and skilled data manipulators to extract it. According to Gartner analysts, “Healthcare will become an algorithmic business and will rely on precise data to power the equations.”
3. Medicine will get more precise
Speaking of data, doing precision medicine correctly requires an amazing amount of it, and the ability to quickly and cheaply access, sort, and analyze that data.
In September I introduced y’all to precision medicine. Basically it enables HDOs to tailor disease treatment and prevention to each person based on their unique genes, environment, and lifestyle.
The hype around precision medicine was intense in 2016. Last year, Microsoft announced the launch of a program to cure cancer by 2026. But as David Dobbs pointed out for BuzzFeed, precision medicine has been over-hyped for the last 50 years.
Don’t expect genomics to cure cancer, or anything else, in 2017. The vast majority of genes don’t strongly correlate with any disease for most people. This is because, among other things, the ones that have clear links get sorted out pretty quickly through natural selection.
In 2016 the Mayo Clinic revealed that a young boy underwent surgery to receive a heart defibrillator based on faulty genetic information. The clinic’s Promise and Peril of Precision Medicine report tells the story of the family that had genetic testing done after their young son died suddenly. Tests showed that 20 family members had a rare condition. Unfortunately, the results were incorrect. No one in the family had the condition. The surgery was unnecessary.
Despite the hiccups, precision medicine is giving birth to new treatments. Pharmaceutical company Vertex used precision medicine to develop Orkambi, a treatment for cystic fibrosis (CF) in patients age six years old and older who are homozygous for the F508del mutation in the CFTR gene.
Biotech company Biomarin developed Vimizim with the help of genetic sequencing data. It treats rare genetic disorder Morquio A syndrome and is the company’s top-selling drug. And it’s one of four precision-medicine-powered drugs the company has on the market right now.
This year the FDA will decide whether to approve Brineura, which treats CLN2 disease, an extremely rare genetic neurological disorder that occurs in children.
I expect 2017 to be better than 2016 in every way. I believe this mostly because I need to believe it to get out of bed in the morning. But in the realm of health tech, there are lots of good reasons to believe 2017 will be great. The health IT market is still heating up. HDOs are looking to use technology to improve outcomes and lower costs. I only see this continuing for the rest of the year.
What are your health tech predictions in 2017? Let me know in the comments.
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