This year, the digital health space will be under the gun to show tangible results to catch up to years of hype, be hit by a wave of consumer demand for personalized care and will integrate social determinants of health into novel methods of care delivery, predicts the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
The report from the 70,000-member nonprofit organization also suggests policy battles over data will heighten industry and regulatory concern over privacy and security.
The group's 2019 forecast is the first iteration of a yearly publication coming a little less than two weeks before the kickoff of HIMSS19, a massive annual health IT conference organized by the society.
The white paper, which includes input from HIMSS, Healthbox, Health 2.0 and PCHAlliance, is organized by the trends of digital health, consumer impact, financial and demographic challenges and data governance and policy.
"2019 will be the year that digital health will need to answer for the way technology will increase access to care and narrow gaps in care and coverage," according to the report, which gave a shout out to the FDA Pre-Cert Pilot Program and CMS Innovation Center as two drivers that should help break down government barriers to industry innovation.
Most health IT and artificial intelligence experts agree that the hype around novel technologies can way overshoot the current state of the tech, noting that the sector needs a strong interoperable foundation before bringing in more shiny new gadgets.
HIMSS predicts AI will be tied to population health and precision medicine efforts, augmented and virtual reality will be leveraged in pain control, and wearables, digital therapeutics, blockchain and voice recognition software will saturate the market this year.
Traditional healthcare companies need to evolve quickly to keep up with disruptors like Amazon and Google that have their finger on the pulse of the American customer.
And health IT is not immune from the shock waves of consumerism, HIMSS notes.
Ripple effects from the increased focus on patient-centered care will include stronger employer cost management, integrated healthcare solutions to foster value-based care, wider adoption of smart supply chains and more, HIMSS predicts — along with hotter M&A activity among specialized and tech-savvy Medicare and Medicaid primary care practices like Oak Street Health.
Those practices will only see higher demand as the population ages more rapidly, too — a factor to put increasing financial pressures on the industry. Telehealth and population and public health analytics will alleviate some pressure, but the slow arc toward value-based care should hasten in 2019 to keep costs low.
"Companies focusing on the social determinants of health and how to integrate mechanisms for providers to play a bigger role in triage, data-driven care, continuity of care and personalized action plans will find a more receptive environment," the report predicts.
Cybersecurity, already an investment focus and industry concern following multiple years characterized by rampant online attacks and hacker scams for lucrative personal health information, will remain a priority.
And, in this era of Big Data, HIMSS thinks consumer privacy will also come to the fore in 2019, as the Trump administration mulls making tweaks to modernize HIPAA and America watches the repercussions of Europe's General Data Protection Regulation.