The game-changers: 10 execs outline the defining tech of the next 10 years

Health IT leaders are forward-looking executives responsible for identifying and implementing technology that will have the greatest effect on clinical care, hospital operations and health system costs.

There are several emerging technologies CIOs and IT leaders see as the way of the future for healthcare organizations, including augmented reality, artificial intelligence-enabled technology, precision medicine and virtual care support.

Here, 10 hospital and health system executives and leaders outline technology that their health systems aren't currently using that they think will be game-changing in the future.

Tom Andriola. Vice chancellor for information, technology and data at UC Irvine (Calif.) and Chief Data Officer at UCI Health: My response would be augmented reality, virtual reality and interactive reality. While there are some applications starting to be used, they are still very specialized and early stage. But I think with the coming of 5G plus pervasive edge computing capabilities, we will see an explosion of possible applications for virtual, augmented and interactive reality to enter our lives. Healthcare will be one area where I think a tremendous amount of the complexity of the human body and medical condition can be brought into more understandable and digestible formats using this family of technology.

Audrius Polikaitis. CIO of UI Hospital & Health Sciences System (Chicago): I expect that remote home monitoring will be this game-changing technology. Monitoring technology will further enable the shift of care for select patients from the hospital setting to the home setting. Enabling effective remote monitoring capabilities will require many technologies – physiologic sensors that can easily be managed at home, fast and reliable wireless connectivity in the home (perhaps 5G), AI and big data solutions to process the great volume of incoming data real-time and raise awareness to human caregivers of any abnormalities, development of rapid response and patient transport protocols should a patient at home unexpectedly decompensate.

Denao Ruttino. Vice president of operations and CIO of Firelands Regional Health System (Sandusky, Ohio): Our recent experience has accelerated an understanding of the benefits and accessibility of local 3D printing, AI and analytics even in small to medium-sized organizations, so I expect those to play a role. Over the next decade, I expect the real game-changers to be a combination of technologies as opposed to any one. The accessibility of artificial intelligence technology combined with augmented reality solutions in the medical imaging space is one example that I believe will impact most of us in a positive way.

Mark Lauteren. CIO of El Centro (Calif.) Medical Center: There are many new technologies that will affect healthcare delivery in the next decade. However, I feel that precision medicine combined with genomics, AI and comprehensive longitudinal patient data sets, will empower healthcare workers to provide better care. Precision medicine will leverage an individual’s variability in genes, environment and lifestyle to guide disease treatment and prevention.

Precision medicine will enable more detailed data analysis to guide treatment. Systems will be able to leverage these technologies to present the providers with probabilities for different diagnoses. The tools will also provide options to providers for diagnostic procedures to perform that will enhance or rule out the likelihood of a specific diagnosis is accurate. This approach will allow providers and researchers to accurately predict which treatment and prevention strategies for a particular disease will work better for a given patient. Systems will use patient specific information and the results of research studies given genomics and social factors similar to the given patient to recommend diagnostic procedures that will allow the provider to refine their treatment plans.

Daniel Durand, MD. Chief innovation officer of LifeBridge Health (Baltimore): I believe that autonomous chatbot technology has the potential to significantly transform access to healthcare within the U.S. Throughout the rest of their non-healthcare lives, consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to 'conversing' by text or voice with machine learning algorithms trained to give specific responses to common customer service scenarios. Over time, these interactions have become so seamless that customers sometimes don't know whether they are getting their answers from a human or a bot.

While this has not been widely implemented with success in healthcare, more health systems and start-ups are working on this every month. I'm hopeful that in the next three to five years we will see widespread improvement and adoption of these strategies, so that patients and consumers can get basic instructions on how to get to the doctor, plan for out of pocket costs, understand insurance coverage, etc., through 'self-service portals' manned by chatbot technology that engages patients and helps "steward" them through the health system.

Hector Joseph. Chief technology officer at Wake Health (Winston-Salem, N.C.): I think some level of autonomous robot caregiver tech is a must because this pandemic has exposed a weakness in our clinical workforce. If a caregiver can be paired with a robot caregiver we could reduce the likelihood of exposure to viruses. In addition, it drastically reduces the need and use of PPE and it could also improve the patient experience in an inpatient setting.

Chad Mills. Senior vice president and CIO of Children's Mercy — Kansas City (Mo.): To me, I think that the continued maturation and application of robotic process automation technologies will become a game-changer in healthcare in many ways. Strategic use of such technology will help us expedite and become more streamlined when it comes to routine administrative and clinical processes which are often burdensome. This will result in improved efficiencies and will assist in faster and more accurate clinical decision making and patient care. With that said, we must be careful on over-reliance on technology, balancing those inputs and not losing sight of the value of human touch and clinical intuition on patient care and safety. Lastly, RPA and related technologies will assist in digital transformation, helping to link the various ecosystems which result in a better patient, family and provider experience.

Terry Wilk. CIO of Effingham Health System (Springfield, Ga.): Over the next two to three years, one new technology that I see the healthcare industry adopting are digital assistants. Used appropriately, DAs will help improve data accuracy, productivity, and patient and provider satisfaction by incorporating AI, advanced voice recognition, natural language processing and machine learning to eliminate tedious manual and repetitive tasks including:

- Obtaining demographic and insurance information using mobile technology prior to a patient registering for an ambulatory visit or procedure

- Capturing and validating clinical and other vital information during the patient intake process

- Automating provider voice instructions including note-taking, orders and electronic prescription processing and automatically recording this information in the correct locations with the EHR

These improvements will save the providers precious time and create opportunities for them to either spend more face time with their patients (higher patient and physician satisfaction) or see more patients, which generates more revenue in a given day, depending on the provider’s and organization’s goals and objectives.

Richard Gannotta. Senior lecturer of health administration at NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service (New York City): Perhaps the best way to predict what the next game changers will be includes looking at what was in early stage development 10 years ago and might be considered 'indispensable' today. The list includes: social media, card readers, wireless earbuds, the ubiquity of ride-sharing apps, and in the healthcare sector the application of AI, robotics, as well as advanced genomic sequencing and CRISPR technologies.

All game changing innovations for their respective sectors. That said, today there are two key data points, both associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, that I believe may influence future 'game changers' in healthcare. First the impact COVID-19 had on care delivery models, specifically the acceleration of telemedicine and telehealth services and the migration of care from the hospital to the home. Next, the relaxation and anticipated updating of the arcane regulations associated with reimbursement for telehealth services and monitoring. Those factors, powered by future, perhaps yet to be applied technologies, will surely create innovative disruptive and paradigm shifting opportunities for healthcare over the next decade and more.

Ryan Madder, MD. Section chief of interventional cardiology at Spectrum Health (Grand Rapids, Mich.): As I frequently find myself racing to the hospital in the middle of the night to treat heart attack patients, I often wonder if I will eventually be able to start the coronary stent procedure using robotic controls on my smartphone while my driverless car transports me to the hospital. Machine learning that enables 'high automation' would propel both the driverless car and the robotic device performing the cardiovascular intervention, creating a standardized level of exceptional care for patients, in a potentially more safe and efficient manner than currently possible, that physicians can administer from anywhere in the world.

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