Eight Tech Predictions for Medical Practices in 2014

January 3, 2014

Tech-savvy physicians and health information technology experts to tell us what's to come in 2014.

Last year, we predicted the continued growth of mobile tablets for healthcare professionals, an emphasis on technology training, a surge in demand for patient portals, and the growth of physicians participating in health information exchanges (HIEs).

Since all of these predictions panned out, we thought we'd once again turn to our trusty tech-savvy physicians and health information technology experts to tell us what's to come in 2014. So now, brace yourselves for our technology forecast - eight healthcare technology predictions for the New Year. 

1.We'll see a bigger shift to the cloud. Cloud-based EHRs will continue to gain traction over the next 12 months, especially among smaller practices. "The trend will continue away from every practice having to maintain [its] own internal IT infrastructure by utilizing next-generation cloud services," said Marion Jenkins, a health IT consultant and executive vice president of healthcare for 3t Systems."But not all cloud services are equal, and healthcare has its own set of issues that need to be addressed.  New technologies are available that can enable that trend."

2.Patient portal use will grow. Meaningful use requirements (including Stage 2 patient-engagement requirements) will continue to drive adoption of patient portals by medical groups, healthcare IT expert and MGMA consultant Rosemarie Nelson told Physicians Practice. "More groups will realize the operational benefits of the portal," said Nelson. It should be noted that portals have seen steady growth over the last two years: Our 2013 Technology Survey of more than 1,200 physicians revealed nearly half (44 percent) already use a patient portal in their practice.

3.Windows XP will be done. "Microsoft has not updated Windows XP for years, and in April of 2014, Microsoft will no longer be releasing any security patches for XP," said Jenkins. "All the virus writers in the world know this, and Windows XP, the world's most popular operating system ever, will turn into a virus magnet."

4. Doctors will push for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). While some physician practices provide media tablets for doctors, in the coming months, clinicians will make an even greater push for systems that support their personal style for IT computing, said Jenkins. "This creates both challenges and opportunities for IT departments to deliver better services, especially in non-traditional settings, such as outside the office," he said.

5. Regulations will drive IT decisions. Between the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and the passage of more stringent HIPAA guidelines, 2013 proved pretty big for healthcare regulations. And in 2014, these and other regulations will drive IT purchases.. "Practices are going to be overburdened by the transition to ICD-10 and Stage 2 of meaningful use, which are monopolizing resources across the health IT industry," noted Michael Lee, a physician and director of clinical informatics for Atrius Health in Massachusetts.

6. 'Big data' technology will grow. With a continued push on meaningful use and the rise of ACOs, we'll see more emphasis on preventative healthcare for private physicians. "Business intelligence and big data will have a profound impact on preventative care," noted Matt Barron, product manager of business intelligence, reporting, and mobile for ADP AdvancedMD. "Only with technology will doctors immediately be able to identify their at-risk patients, track and manage patients more closely, decipher the spread of diseases and take preventative measures to keep patients from graduating to chronic diseases."

7. Mobile health will thrive. The past 12 month saw huge strides in mobile health in particular, both among doctors using mobile devices to coordinate care or access their EHRs and patients who use it to manage their health. "Mobile health, in particular, has exploded onto the mainstream scene with the adoption of more and more smart devices, medical tracking, and the bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, trend," said Ken Bradley, vice president of strategic planning and regulatory compliance at Navicure. "Patient engagement and mobile health go hand in hand, with physicians increasingly using technology to reach out to patients outside of formal appointments, which results in a stronger physician-patient relationship and better health outcomes."

8. Patients will become more engaged. In addition to relying more on their mobile devices for healthcare purposes, patients are becoming more inclined to access services such as telemedicine, or use the Internet to research their symptoms and diseases. Physicians aren't necessarily discouraging the latter anymore (in fact, they've grown accustomed to it, according to some reports). Also, patient portal adoption is fueling patient engagement, added Thomas Felch, a manager in ECG Management Consultant's healthcare IT practice. "We will see a big push by organizations to encourage patients to participate more proactively in the management of their health, and then patient engagement will become an ongoing concern for healthcare organizations across the country," he said.