Five health IT trends to watch in 2018

Rebecca Vesely

About Rebecca Vesely

Rebecca Vesely is AHCJ's topic leader on health information technology and a freelance writer. She has written about health, science and medicine for AFP, the Bay Area News Group, Modern Healthcare, Wired, Scientific American online and many other news outlets.

Photo: miniyo73 via Flickr

As we celebrate the start of a new year, I have been reading some great stories on digital health. Technology is entering every corner of the health sector, and there are countless opportunities for journalists to tell this story.

With that in mind, here’s my pick of the top five digital health trends to watch in 2018, highlighting stories that helped explain the technology behind the trends.

Big tech moves into health care

Natasha Singer at the New York Times explains in this story how Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft are influencing the health sector. In a December 30 interview with CNBC’s Christina Farr, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he was “surprised it took them (big tech) so long to take a concerted interest in” health care. Areas to watch are regional hospitals partnering with big tech companies to test new products, and consumers and physicians integrating personal digital health data into overall health management.

Artificial intelligence advancements in health care

Machine learning and AI could make health care more accessible and efficient – if AI applications gain the trust of providers, payers and patients. Examples include chatbots, virtual assistants, robots to interpret test results and radiology screenings and platforms to improve clinical documentation. Megan Molenti of Wired explains.

Blockchain uptake, especially in hospital finance

Bitcoin mania has grabbed headlines for the cryptocurrency’s astonishing rise in 2017. Behind the scenes, providers and payers are working to incorporate the technology behind cryptocurrencies, known as blockchain, to improve processes in finance, supply chain management and patient identification.  Stat News offers this explainer on the technology.

Medical device vulnerability to hacking

The Internet of Things holds the promise of connecting smart devices in the hospital and at home to improve patient outcomes. However, connected devices also are vulnerable to hacking. An estimated more than 100,000 medical devices are considered unsecured, and that number is growing. Jessica Twentyman at the Financial Times has a good story about the threat.

Continued focus on improving EHRs (or is it CHRs?)

The CEO of the nation’s largest electronic health record (EHR) vendor, Judy Faulkner of EPIC Systems, made headlines last fall when she declared that a “comprehensive health record“ should replace EHR when we talk about systems that gather patient information into one online file. HealthcareITNews said this piece by Bernie Monegain on the reasons behind Faulkner’s decision to advocate for the new terminology was its most read story of 2017.

Beyond what we call EHRs, physicians will continue to air frustrations with EHRs. The question for journalists is how to go beyond this oft-told complaint and tell the EHR story in a fresh way.

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