Most promising healthcare tech in 2021: 13 execs from UPMC, Mount Sinai, Kaiser Permanente & more 

Technology took on an elevated role over the past year as health systems rapidly expanded telehealth, data analytics, artificial intelligence and remote monitoring capabilities to provide care during the COVID-19 pandemic.   

Here, 13 healthcare executives reveal the most promising technology for 2021. 

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Shaun Miller, MD. Chief Medical Information Officer at Cedars-Sinai (Los Angeles). Patient-generated data continues to be a major focus in healthcare delivery. Ideally, this type of data — including remote monitoring, wearable device information, health diaries and the patient's medical history — is seamlessly available to clinicians in a digital format, if the patient so desires. One specific tool that likely will see rapid growth and maturity in 2021, given the need to efficiently capture and synthesize such data, is the expanded use of previsit digital patient questionnaires. These allow clinicians to collect more data in the EHR up front, so the visit, either in person or virtual, is streamlined, including the associated required documentation. Ideally, these questionnaires will facilitate more face-to-face time with patients and improve the ability to focus on key issues that need to be addressed during each visit.

Michelle Stansbury. Vice President of IT Innovation at Houston Methodist. This year is the year of "self" — self-scheduling, self-wayfinding, self-checking in and rooming, etc. Social distancing has required individuals to focus on helping themselves more, and healthcare organizations should be focused on enabling that ability. Consumers are very comfortable with using this type of technology and the conveniences it provides.

Voice is another promising technology. The use of voice in homes and automotives has gained strong adoption. Consumers are comfortable and expecting voice controls of TV remotes, playing music and changing environmental controls. Healthcare is changing quickly to adapt — from interacting with smart home pods to listening to healthcare information, to requesting nurse assistance while an inpatient, to creating efficiencies with voice for clinicians in the clinic and surgeons within operating rooms.

Automation is another emerging technology helping with reducing costs, improving responsiveness and timing and creating more productivity. Healthcare is awakening to what banking, media and retail have been adopting for years. Healthcare is primed to expand automation with digital workers to gain these types of efficiencies.

Diane Comer. Executive Vice President and Chief Information and Technology Officer at Kaiser Permanente (Oakland, Calif.). I believe machine learning is a very promising technology in the healthcare delivery space this year. Kaiser Permanente is using this technology to improve the health outcomes of our members and patients while also reducing the workload for our clinicians. An example of where we have used machine learning to streamline our clinician workflows is with our antimicrobial stewardship program. The California Department of Public Health requires antimicrobial stewardship any time hospitals administer antibiotics, which requires many hours of combined physician and pharmacist time to review patients' charts. We have begun to use machine learning to support clinicians and pharmacists to complete these tasks in around 10 minutes per patient, per day, for what used to take up to eight hours. This type of technology holds the promise to help transform care while also lowering the rising costs of healthcare.

David Peng, MD. President of USC Care Medical Group at Keck Medicine of USC, and Smitha Ravipudi, CEO of USC Care and Ambulatory Care Services at Keck Medicine of USC (Los Angeles). At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Keck Medicine of USC quickly converted to telehealth appointments, training physicians and staff, and creating a flexible video consultation platform. Our telemedicine visits have increased roughly from 10 per day pre-COVID-19 to approximately 800 a day, for a total of some 120,000 telehealth visits across the health system as of March 2021 and with patient satisfaction ranking in the 99th percentile in terms of quality of service. We saw increased accessibility and convenience in psychiatry, neurology, medicine and primary care. Clinical and consumer adoption cannot be ignored, so as telehealth secures its positioning in rendering outpatient services, the future will undoubtedly need to leverage this transaction and enhance the service offerings to go beyond the visit itself. This will include monitoring and diagnostics alongside enhanced evidence-based care protocols.

Kristin Myers. Executive Vice President and CIO and Dean for Information Technology at Mount Sinai Health System (New York City). As a data-driven academic medical center, we continue to see promise and invest in machine learning to provide better patient care and drive our innovative research capabilities. The ability to process large datasets to generate clinical insights that support our clinicians has led to improved patient outcomes and lower costs of care. 

Nader Mherabi. Executive Vice President and Vice Dean and Chief Digital and Information Officer at NYU Langone Health (New York City). Two-way digital communication with patients is a promising technology that allows patients and their families to have even greater participation in their own care. Following the rapid adoption of telemedicine in 2020, two-way digital communication enables us to get direct feedback and securely engage with patients throughout their care journeys. This technology plays a crucial role in the patient experience at our organization and will remain an important tool as digital patient and consumer adoption continues post-COVID.

Aaron Martin. Chief Digital & Innovation Officer at Providence (Renton, Wash.). The most promising technology is AI combined with what we call "digital endpoints" for each service we provide. Digital endpoints are technologies like online scheduling, asynchronous, video visits, voice and application programming interfaces. The combination of AI and these endpoints mean that we can enable more sophisticated navigation, new business models, reduce friction and improve care delivery.

BJ Moore. Executive Vice President and CIO at Providence (Renton, Wash.). AI is emerging as the most promising technology for healthcare delivery in 2021. There are several examples, including ambient AI, which helps our caregivers focus their time and attention on patients vs. typing into their EHR. Another example is how predictive modeling helps identify, weeks in advance, surges in diseases like COVID-19, allowing our clinicians and hospitals to better manage precious resources like PPE, beds and ventilators.

Johnese Spisso, RN. President and CEO at UCLA Health (Los Angeles). Telehealth has allowed our physicians and nurses to reach more than half a million patients in the past year during the pandemic. We look forward to continuing to implement advances in telemedicine offerings at UCLA Health.

Ralph Gonzales, MD. Chief Innovation Officer at UCSF Health (San Francisco). The technology that we direly need in 2021 to improve healthcare delivery broadly is EHR data integration so that health records are seamlessly connected across providers and health systems. 

The technology that looks most promising in 2021 to improve health care delivery is CRISPR technology. It's been around a few years, but it's poised to begin making larger impacts on larger numbers of diseases and patients. I'm especially excited about prospects with sickle cell anemia.

Ed McCallister. Senior Vice President and CIO at UPMC (Pittsburgh). At UPMC, the most promising technology for healthcare delivery is our continued investment in our enterprise analytics program. This has enabled us to pair the technology with the data to truly redefine how our clinicians are delivering care to our patients. We have achieved great benefit from this investment during the pandemic with how we are leveraging the data to safely manage the treatment of COVID-19 patients and the delivery of vaccinations. We envision that the use cases will continue to expand and make an extraordinary impact on patient care. 

Lisa Stump. Senior Vice President and CIO at Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health. Remote patient monitoring and the Internet of Medical Things are some of the most promising technologies in healthcare in 2021. These tools create the opportunity to reenvision and redesign care in a way that meets people where they are, engages them in their care, empowers their health decision-making and promotes their health in a more personal, convenient and cost-effective way. In addition, the data generated through RPM and IoMT opens the door for discovery and further innovations in healthcare.


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