Six Tech Trends Physicians Should Watch in 2015

Here are six of the biggest healthcare technology trends on the horizon, and what they mean for physicians.

As we near the close of 2014, it's time for physicians and their medical practices to look ahead to 2015. Here are six of the biggest technology-related trends on the horizon, and what they mean for physicians.

1. Industry Consolidation. In 2014, it was difficult for many small- to medium-sized EHR vendors to keep up with the pace of change. Other vendors saw this as an opportunity to gain market share. The EHR industry continues to see high levels of consolidation activity in order to support these market dynamics. 
What this means for physicians:
• Those who have not yet purchased EHRs need to make long-time viability of the EHR vendor a top consideration when evaluating options. 
•Those who have already purchased EHRs should review their vendors to make sure that they are established companies with successful business models.

2. Interoperability. The majority of providers and physicians have acknowledged lack of EHR interoperability and exchange infrastructure as major barriers to health information exchange.  They have also identified the cost of creating and maintaining interfaces and exchanges as a major barrier. 
What this means for physicians:
In addition to the usability challenges surrounding the use of EHRs, physicians face a nascent and often uncertain health information exchange environment, including interoperability challenges associated with the ability of different EHR systems to share patient information with one another. Interoperability of EHRs will become more of an issue as physicians attempt to successfully participate in advanced stages of meaningful use. Providers not using interoperable EHR systems should evaluate different systems that offer interoperability by facilitating data exchange with other HIT systems and devices.

3. Meaningful use requirements and beyond. One of the overall objectives of meaningful use is to have common interoperable data, but the vast array of standards to support the various stages of meaningful use is mind-boggling.
What this means for physicians:
Calls for meaningful use extensions from both industry and federal leaders will continue, and may need to be addressed in order for the entire EHR community to be successful.

4. Compliance. Giving roaming clinicians the freedom to use a variety of devices during the course of their day is critical. However, if healthcare IT personnel do not have strict control over the security of patient data, especially on mobile devices, there can be issues with HIPAA and healthcare IT compliance.
What this means for physicians:
Privacy and security issues may prove to be the biggest stumbling block to interoperability, and these issues may ultimately scare off a large percentage of providers from fully embracing information exchange. Still, this remains to be seen.

5. Work flow. In a recent study focusing on challenges associated with implementing EHRs, several hospital executives pointed to work flow issues as the most difficult to overcome. There's a powerful force working against the spread of health IT: Physician resistance, as doctors resist adopting work flows that can feel to them more like manufacturing than traditional treatment. 
What this means for physicians:
While health IT is advancing and enhancing care, challenges related to work flow must be met.

6. Data encryption. Many hospitals and health systems have enacted extensive security and privacy measures to become HIPAA compliant and protect their patients' personal information. However, even with encryption, passwords, and protocols, data breaches are still occurring. 
What this means for physicians:
The use of data encryption with necessary security precautions is the only way to ensure the security of protected health information and avoid having to report a data breach.  Practices will need to invest in these systems and be sure they are implemented correctly to remain in adherence to the strict healthcare regulations.