Health Tech Trends for 2024: Key Takeaways from My Conversation with Healthcare IT News’ Mike Miliard

I recently had the pleasure of hosting Mike Miliard, Executive Editor at Healthcare IT News, on the inaugural live video session of the Health Tech Marketing Show podcast. We covered a lot of ground discussing the major healthcare IT trends shaping up for 2024. 

As Mike oversees Healthcare IT News and sister brands Healthcare Finance News and MobiHealthNews, he has an invaluable birds-eye perspective on the critical technologies and challenges facing healthcare organizations today. I wanted to recap some of the key insights from our wide-ranging conversation.

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The Continued Rise of AI in Healthcare

In 2010, Healthcare IT News was already covering artificial intelligence and its potential in healthcare. Yet, in 2024, AI remains one of the most important and transformative technologies. As Mike put it, AI is “evolving by the minute” with “huge promise” to help clinicians with tasks and engage patients in beneficial ways.  

Key use cases show the scope of impact, from supposedly “little AI” – natural language processing to automate clinical documentation – to more advanced efforts to model risks like sepsis during hospital stays. While barriers around trust and transparency exist, cautious and deliberate deployments of AI at leading hospitals aim to prove its immense capability. We can expect more guardrails, too, as entities like the White House, FDA, and ONC crystallize regulations in areas like safety and ethics.

Ransomware and Cyber Threats: “Getting Worse” 

If AI represents a promise, the current reality of cybersecurity threats represents “huge challenges” for healthcare organizations, according to Mike. The onslaught of attacks shows no signs of abating in 2024, as Mike bluntly assessed the situation is “definitely seems to be getting worse.”

Hospitals have had to divert ambulances when IT systems get taken hostage. Patient lives have been lost, as tragically occurred with a ransomware attack on a German hospital. Healthcare IT News’ own stats paint a grim picture, with large data breaches reported to HHS’ Office for Civil Rights up 93% in the last four years. 

While healthcare providers must continue security investments and vigilance, pressure mounts for policymakers to do more as well, we should see more “requirements” spelled out by HHS around basic security preparations needed to receive federal healthcare funds.

Interoperability: Progress Made but Resistance Remains

It’s been ten years since the Office of the National Coordinator unveiled a 10-year vision for healthcare interoperability. While we’ve come a long way with EHR adoption and data exchange milestones like TEFCA, legacy obstacles persist, according to Mike. Issues like ingrained resistance to change, lack of standardization, strict privacy rules, and stretched resources of small hospitals conspire to prevent seamless interoperability from being realized.

As new technologies like FHIR APIs and recent policy levers like information blocking rules aim to promote open data access and sharing, there is positive momentum. But we still have a ways to go before the dream of a “learning health system” with a frictionless flow of health data emerges. Changing the culture and mindsets embedded in healthcare bureaucracy remains an uphill climb.  

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Pandemic-Driven Telehealth Still Booming

Telehealth represented an underappreciated channel before COVID-19 necessitated its overnight adoption. Now, the pandemic has lifted telehealth permanently into the mainstream. As Mike discussed, telehealth has notched “hugely wider acceptance” since 2020, making it a priority area with its dedicated HITN newsletter. 

Providers aim to invest in long-term telehealth ecosystem development, including hospital-at-home programs and remote patient monitoring for chronic disease management. With patient comfort levels and technology advancements letting telehealth spread to more use cases, virtual access seems certain to keep increasing healthcare convenience and access well beyond the pandemic years.

Health Equity Initiatives Trying to Spread Care More Equitably

Health equity has become a big focus for health systems pursuing better community health outcomes. But as we discussed, “health equity” remains vague and can be an empty buzzword if not backed by concrete actions. 

Per the CDC’s definition Mike cited, health equity means “fair and just” opportunities allowing everyone to attain their best health. We agreed that turning this aspiration into reality requires operational commitment and investments towards addressing social determinants of health in underserved areas. 

Leading health systems understand that moving the needle on health equity requires community partnerships spanning transportation, nutrition, housing, and other factors shaping health beyond the doctor’s office. Despite the challenges, technology and data analytics innovations may increasingly boost population-wide efforts to distribute care more beneficially.

Innovative Technologies Bringing Care Delivery Upgrades

While rural hospitals struggle with sustainability, flagship institutions forge ahead with cutting-edge tools. Augmented reality, virtual reality, robotics, and quantum computing represent just some of the advanced technologies starting to elevate healthcare. However, Mike astutely cautioned about the “skewed perception” that can arise from solely tracking healthcare innovations debuting at prestigious hospitals blessed with ample budgets.

Still, the rapid evolution is accelerating meaningfully thanks to heightened cloud acceptance. Like Cleveland Clinic’s new platform, quantum computing holds tremendous potential to completely “change the game” around what tasks healthcare IT systems can achieve. Even if adoption moves slowly outside elite institutions, these emerging devices and methods seem poised to filter through more of the healthcare ecosystem gradually. 

Optimizing EHR Use By Building in Critical New Data

Electronic health records (EHRs) started mainly as billing tools, but now healthcare IT leaders recognize the imperative to transform EHRs into more helpful clinical assets. Social determinants of health and genomic patient data exemplify high-value data domains that forward-looking health systems actively work to integrate into EHRs. 

More robust patient records support cutting-edge priorities around precision medicine and patient engagement. They allow care teams to factor in socioeconomic barriers and baseline genetic profiles. While change does not come easy, enterprise health platforms absolutely must evolve to encompass more expansive views of the patient biography.

Rural Healthcare Access: Can It Survive?

While the news often spotlights flashy innovations at prestigious hospitals, we touched on major worries around rural healthcare access and community hospital survival. Rural hospitals were closing their doors even before COVID-19 heightened financial duress across the healthcare business. 

As Mike noted, mergers and acquisitions continue consolidating the market, often leaving vulnerable rural providers without a chair when the music stops. While technologies like telehealth may fill certain gaps, political intervention feels necessary, too, before rural healthcare infrastructure unravels further. The brain drain and loss of community health access stemming from permanent hospital closures present public health issues that cannot be ignored.

Mike’s 2024 Predictions: AI Deployments Expand, Cyber Threats Advance, Regulation Increases

I closed our discussion by asking Mike to offer predictions for the year ahead. He foresees continued expansion in AI adoption, anticipating responsible deployment that increasingly aids clinicians with mundane tasks and powers more patient personalization. 

He expects both rising cyber threats – with AI-powered hacking intensifying – and more regulatory moves attempting to harden healthcare data defenses. Consolidation marches on the vendor side as Epic continues gaining market share. 

Whatever else happens in 2024, we are sure to see no slowdown in the pace of technology change and turbulence across healthcare. Follow Healthcare IT News annually to stay on top of everything important in our dynamic industry!

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Adam Turinas

Hi, I am Adam Turinas, Healthlaunchpad's founder. I am passionate about helping healthtech firms succeed through better sales and marketing. I have hard-earned experience in healthcare technolgy as I started two healthcare businesses in the US, the first with zero healthcare experience. We sold the second business to a strategic buyer seven years later. Over 9 years building a healhtech businesses, I have learned how to sell and market effectively to healthcare organizations. Prior to this, I spent two decades in digital marketing across healthcare and other consumer industries where I sold over $100 million in products and services to corporations and healthcare orgs. I would love to talk with you. You can book a call with me on the right hand side. Best Adam (This is page 0 of many)

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