7 digital health predictions for 2017

digital health predictions

What does 2017 have in store for digital healthcare innovations? Vector connected with clinical, digital health and business experts from the Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator (IDHA) at Boston Children’s Hospital and asked for their predictions.

Overall? “Expect to see a reshaping of the patient journey, more patient-centric care and more clinically impactful technology in 2017,” says John Brownstein, PhD, Chief Innovation Officer at the hospital. “We’re also looking forward to digital health offerings being met by industry-wide adoption as patient-centric care is provided and reimbursed.”

No1Telehealth adoption by payers and employers

digital health predictions telehealthPatients are increasingly accessing healthcare services from home as national health systems and vendors begin to get on board. As one example, Boston Children’s Hospital has provided online second opinions for patients from six continents in partnership with Grand Rounds and is rolling out “virtual visits” to expand access and improve patient experience across the continuum of care.

But scaling these services more broadly will require insurers to reimburse for telehealth visitis. To that end, Blue Cross and Anthem recently started offering telehealth visits to more than 3.5 million of their members. Recent legislation now requires health insurers in more than 25 states to pay for telemedicine services.

Similarly, 90% of large U.S. employers are expected to offer telehealth benefits in 2017, up from 75 percent in 2016 – and 30 percent in 2015. This dramatic increase is an opportunity for many employees to utilize innovative telehealth services for their families.

Bottom line: Payers and employers will increasingly recognize the home as a qualified billable site in 2017. Heather Meyers, MBA, Senior Program Manager, Digital Health, Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator

No2Increased patient engagement in telehealth services

digital health predictions telehealth

Today, most of our patients ask “What is telehealth?” In 2017, more will be asking, “How can I receive my care through telehealth?” Several forces are catalyzing this change.

One vendor suggests that telehealth services will expand ten-fold by early 2018. Telehealth will become a normalized aspect of patients’ lifestyles and daily routines, just as grandparents FaceTime with grandchildren in another state. Increased engagement means more meaningful engagement – and an opportunity to integrate patient feedback into telehealth services.

Bottom line: Instead of asking for a definition of telehealth, patients will ask how to engage in telehealth as these services work towards reaching 7 million patients over the coming year, up from less than 350,000 in 2013— Heather Meyers

No3Innovative visualization devices hit the clinic

digital health predictions virtual realityIn 2017, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices will begin to play a significant role in clinical care. The Hacking Pediatrics team is already hitting the streets of Boston to demonstrate VR’s potential, including a partnership with the Museum of Science at the Boston Geek Street Fair. Kids’ and families’ engagement as they experimented with VR devices are a good sign VR will be embraced when it hits the clinic in 2017.

Enhanced visualization doesn’t end there. As VR and AR become a more standard aspect of the clinic, 3D printing is sure to follow suit. Boston Children’s SIMPeds Rapid 3D Print and Prototyping Service, for example, offers 3D printing for surgical pre-planning, device discovery and research, and some high-profile cases have already benefited. The clinical balance between VR, AR, and 3D printing capabilities will fast-track clinical innovation in virtual reality towards enhanced visualization.

Bottom line: Consumer technologies such as VR, AR and 3-D printing will increasingly make their way into healthcare and have a tremendous impact on education, engagement and ultimately patient care. Michael Docktor, MD, attending gastroenterologist, Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease; Clinical Director of Innovation, Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator; Director of Clinical Mobile Solutions, Information Services Department

No4Innovative software focuses on clinician experience

digital health predictions interoperabilityIn 2017, clinical mobile solutions and new standards in digital health data interoperability will allow clinicians and patients to engage in a more meaningful way. A greater focus on clinician workflow and the design of more consumer-like user experiences will dramatically improve efficiency and satisfaction for providers and patients alike.

digital health predictions Hey Doc
Hey Doc

Boston Children’s is hard at work on innovative software-based technologies, such as HeyDoc, a solution to the hours of work clinicians do outside of face-to-face patient care. Our elegant and efficient platform will provide a secure hub to safely deposit, delegate and prioritize clinical tasks and track their progress and completion.

Industry-wide, FHIR-based interoperability will enable clinicians to leverage a greater breadth and depth of data in the EMR. Further, FHIR will provide an exciting opportunity for startups and established health IT vendors to present their applications within the workflow of the EMR. This will put rapid and exciting new tools and visualizations at our disposal.

Bottom line: Innovations in health IT and the rapidly evolving ecosystem of FHIR-enabled apps will provide clinicians with better data, better user experiences and an opportunity to provide better care. — Michael Docktor

No5Maturation of digital health startups and increasing merger and acquisition activity

digital health predictions mergers & acquisitionsInvestment in digital health startups in 2014 and 2015 has cultivated a diverse ecosystem of innovative companies, providing a taste of the future of healthcare as new ideas, initiatives and offerings gain early traction. However, early-stage innovations must scale up to effect a meaningful impact on patients and clinicians. 2017 will see increased merger and acquisition activity as larger organizations innovate by buying up startups.

Saturation of early-stage deals in many sectors of digital health will also drive investment activity towards scaling innovative, commercially-viable offerings in 2017. Growth and private equity rounds will become increasingly frequent.

Bottom line: Pressure to innovate rapidly will cause larger healthcare organizations to begin acquiring newer digital health startups. Matt Murphy, Innovation Lead, Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator

No6Expanded offerings from insurers and pharma

digital health predictions pharmaCompetition in healthcare will only continue in 2017. This competition will drive the emergence of new offerings, from new insurance products to digital health services.

Insurers and pharma will lead the way as they compete in a more consumer-centeric market. Already, insurers are beginning to expand their offerings beyond traditional insurance products and if new startups like Oscar are any indication, success will mean a refocusing on member-directed services. Similarly, leading pharmaceutical companies are beginning to form and launch new digital and patient engagement groups. We will begin seeing their first high visability pilots begin in 2017.

Bottom line: Competition in an increasingly consumer-centric market will drive insurers and pharmaceutical companies to innovate and capture more value across the patient journey. — Matt Murphy

No7Personalized care through voice-enabled devices

digital health predictions voice activated devicesVoice-enabled services, devices and applications will start to deliver on the promise of connected healthcare in 2017. Consumers and clinical teams alike will use voice-enabled applications to seek timely, contextual healthcare information.

Voice will open up new ways to deliver personalized healthcare, both at the patient’s bedside and in the clinic, where voice-activated Virtual Assistants will support care teams. Clinicians will be able to tap vast medical knowledge in the context of caring for a patient and get specific insights pertinent to that patient via machine learning.

Voice in healthcare doesn’t end in the clinic. The growth of the Internet of Things in healthcare, and specifically voice-enabled consumer services like Amazon Alexa and devices like Google Home, will enable patients to access healthcare services and education – anytime and anywhere through home health hubs.

Bottom line: Voice-based offerings in healthcare will provide clinicians and patients an opportunity for more engaging, patient-centric care and more informed healthcare decisions. Nitin Gujral, Director of Software Development, Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator

Visit the Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator (IDHA) at Boston Children’s.