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The future of healthcare: Three predictions from AHIMA 2016

Perry Price, President, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Revation Systems

In an industry that is constantly evolving, it’s critical for doctors, nurses and health information technicians to anticipate the issues and trends that are going to have the greatest impact on healthcare in the future.

Significant developments in digital technology over the past decade have turned the healthcare industry upside down, and professionals in health informatics (HI) and health information management (HIM) are preparing for changes that will shape the next 10 years. With the goal of digital transformation in sight, the healthcare industry must make sure that business processes continue to evolve to meet the demands of consumers — especially in this age of hyper-connectivity. 

This is why healthcare leaders across the U.S. gathered in Baltimore for the annual American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Conference in October. After four days of open discussion and collaboration among HIM professionals, three themes emerged as the future of healthcare: security, integration of patient data via electronic health records (EHRs) and virtualization of patient engagement.

Data security will be less of a concern

While the security and privacy of patient data has always been top of mind for healthcare professionals, the recent shift to EHRs has intensified security concerns. However, though recent cyberattacks have raised some apprehension around storing confidential patient data electronically, the future of data security is looking bright.

Why? Mainly because industry professionals, and even tech vendors, are starting to receive more comprehensive training on healthcare-specific regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security rules. Additionally, organizations like AHIMA offer online programs to help professionals prepare for certification exams. For example, the Healthcare Privacy and Security (CHPS) credential ensures competence in designing, implementing and administering privacy and security protection programs in all types of healthcare organizations. As more HIM professionals become certified and expand their knowledge of security and privacy concerns, confidential patient data will be better protected in the next 10 to 15 years. On top of that, much of the latest cloud-based software supporting these information systems has a proven method of security and high-level encryption methods designed to keep data safe, even if a security breach does occur.

The move to EHRs and smoother integration of patient data

As healthcare organizations and hospital systems continue to adopt new technologically advanced systems for storing, organizing and retrieving patient data, the implementation of EHRs is becoming more common. In addition to making patients’ access to personal health information simpler than ever before, EHRs provide HIM professionals with valuable, accurate data that can help improve processes, diagnose diseases, prevent medical errors, increase patient safety and boost the organization’s bottom line. In fact, according to a national survey of doctors, 75 percent of providers using EHRs reported that it allowed them to deliver better patient care. For example, an EHR can alert a physician in the emergency room about a patient’s life-threatening allergy, allowing emergency care staff to adjust care accordingly.

In the future, EHRs will continue to help streamline communication between patients and providers. Beyond that, EHRs will make information sharing between different healthcare providers smoother and more efficient, laying a solid foundation for further digitalization. In the next decade, the healthcare industry is likely to not only see patient data transform into a fully virtualized, streamlined process, but the entire patient experience as well. 

Virtualization of both the provider and patient experience

For many industries, the term “virtualization” generally refers to a technology that offers a more mobile and low maintenance way to virtually access and retrieve data that is protected in a centralized server. But virtualization isn’t just transforming the way patient-related data and information are stored; it’s also being used to improve the provider and patient experience. How?

At the basic level, virtualization and mobile solutions allow for quicker log-ins to systems and applications, which enables doctors to access patient information in a timelier manner and from more areas, so they can deliver high-quality care regardless of their location. Moving forward, virtualization of the patient experience would include digitalization of all elements related to the communications process, for both sides. As healthcare providers establish a more seamless process for sharing information, patient outcomes are also likely to improve as the result of increased engagement and communication between physician and patient. These communication channels will likely lead to more accurate diagnoses and treatment.

In addition, virtualization of the patient experience makes the use of secure web portals possible, allowing patients to access their own important health information, schedule appointments online and communicate with their providers directly.

Following AHIMA, it’s clear that industry professionals continue to remain optimistic as healthcare continues to look toward future opportunities for digitalization. Although it may be difficult to imagine a doctor’s visit without mountains of paperwork, long waiting periods or potential scheduling mishaps, HIM professionals across the U.S. are working hard to make this vision a reality.