Will Data Dominate Healthcare Headlines in 2016?

Posted on January 15, 2016 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

The lethargy of the first few days after the holidays are the perfect time for contemplation of the year ahead. 2016, in my opinion, is shaping up to be an inflection point for healthcare:

  • Meaningful Use is entering its final stage (good riddance!)
  • The full impact of ICD-10 will begin to be felt this year
  • High deductible plans will cause strain on everyone’s bottom line
  • The US election promises to bring new political headwinds no matter who wins the White House

However there is one topic that I believe will dominate the headline this year – DATA and here’s why.

Data Breaches
IBM declared 2015 to be “The Year of Healthcare Security Breach”. According to their study, over 100 million healthcare records were compromised last year. Unfortunately with healthcare cybersecurity spending lagging behind other industries, health records will remain a relatively easy target for hackers in 2016. Until we bake data security into the design of our systems and processes, healthcare will continue to suffer from high-profile breaches and we will continue to read about them throughout the year.

Personal Health Data
Fitness trackers are everywhere. Market leader FitBit sold 4.8 million devices in the third quarter of 2015, almost double the number from the year before. At the recent Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas (#CES16) John Lynn reported that there could be as many as 700 health tracking devices currently on the market. The proliferation of these devices means that we are collecting exponentially more personal health data. As yet, this data has not been used by healthcare providers to assist with diagnosis or treatment of patients. In 2016 I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot about this data – who owns it, how secure it is (or isn’t), how it gets used and when it will be standardized.

Data Sharing (aka interoperability)
The key to unlocking the value of health data is allowing everyone within the healthcare ecosystem to share it in a frictionless manner. That means all doctors, nurses, clinics, hospitals, employers, payers, etc. should be able to easily send and receive patient health data. In 2016 we will be hearing about pioneering organizations who are making data interoperability a priority. We will also hear stories about patients and their employers rising up to tear down the walls of healthcare data silos. Finally, I believe that we will be hearing from a number of startups with unique solutions to the interoperability challenge.

Big Data
Collecting and sharing data is one thing. Deriving meaningful value from that data is a whole different challenge. Luckily that’s where #BigData efforts like IBM’s Watson come in. By tapping into the massive health data stores, Watson’s algorithms are assisting in diagnosis and helping physicians make treatment recommendations. It’s capable of making correlations that would be impossible for a person to do. As more data is made available to Watson, it gets “smarter”. In 2016 we will continue to see Watson and other healthcare #BigData efforts capture headlines as they find new connections between symptoms, disease and treatments.

2016 will be a very interesting year in healthcare. I am excited about the next 350 days. What are you excited about this year? What do you think the big headlines of 2016 will be?