Emerging Trends in Healthcare


From science fiction to healthcare reality, future trends in healthcare are upon us – from big data to precision medicine and telehealth. Our panel and the audience explored how convergence is central to the future of medical technology innovation.

On October 15, 2015, I served as moderator for an esteemed panel of experts on Emerging Trends in Healthcare – 21st Century Technology and Innovation at MEDTECH 2015 – “Convergence: Building Momentum for Growth”, the MedTech Association’s Annual Conference. The panel focused on how best to leverage big data and enhance data integration, advance precision medicine, breakdown barrier through telehealth, and how early adoption of trends may ultimately improve patient outcomes. Brian McIlory, Managing director, alliance management for GE Ventures, explained, “Fundamentally, we are trying to make the patient the center of the healthcare system.”

Healthcare providers and payers are increasingly turning to big data and analytics to help them understand their patients and the context of each of their respective illness in more detail. A successful strategy clearly doesn’t live in a silo and everyone throughout any type of healthcare organization has a role to play and/or a stake in its successful execution. Our panel and the audience explored how convergence is central to the future of medical technology innovation. Key insights were gained pertaining to present day landscape and mobility into future possibilities.

Many opportunities exist when leveraging big data in healthcare. “A lot of big data projects fail because of data quality”, said Jay Goodwyn, Executive Director, IBM Buffalo Innovation Center. When analyzing big data it is imperative that one considers the quality of the raw data as well as any manipulated or derived data. Consistent definitions across the organization become critical and therefore many successful health information management efforts include an essential data governance component. It is not just about the data itself and insights, but about the actions and organizational value derived from these insights. As organizations begin to derive more value out of their information, taking it to the next level, by sharing information across silos, will become essential for increasing value of information for healthcare.

Data integration, the process of reconciling information from numerous sources and organization, remains a major challenge in the industry. It is of a heightened complexity in healthcare because of the historic siloed nature of payers, providers, labs, pharmacy, etc., and the inherent complex nature of the data itself. In addition, healthcare data tends to be even more unstructured and large than other industries with more data stored in forms such as text documents and images and real-time scanner data. Using big data techniques such as natural language processing (NLP) and data stream technology for example becomes of paramount importance.

The panel discussed opportunities that exist through personalized medicine, or more appropriately, precision medicine. The panel next recognized the concept of precision medicine, which emerged from a 2010 National Academy of Sciences report that stated “the concept of precision medicine is to “transform medical care worldwide by integrating the wealth of data emerging from both the human genome and research on the molecular basis of disease, with information from patients’ health records and environmental data.”” Dr. Robert Corona, Chairman of Pathology and Laboratory Machine, Upstate Medical University, examined how the future of healthcare may be impacted by precision medicine – by taking into account variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle, treatments can be custom built for each patient. This individualized approach to treating illnesses may improve how we manage diseases overall as well as improve patient outcomes.  

Recent emerging trends are truly about technology connecting humans and assisting them to construct knowledge in new ways. There is a high associated cost benefit with these technologies. Many companies are already leveraging big data and novel research methods to bring the benefits of telehealth to areas within our state, across the country, and around the globe. Once considered a novelty, telehealth or telemedicine, is now standard medical practice in daily use by healthcare practitioners throughout the world. By treating patients remotely, the extra expense of regular office visits can be spared. Telehealth has also been shown to reduce the need for hospital readmissions, which can be detrimental for patients, and are a significant expense to healthcare facilities. The panel offered their thoughts about opportunities existing within telehealth and the role their organizations are playing in advancing telemedicine.

Dr. Corona examined how to break down geographic barriers when treating patients. Telehealth breaks down those barriers to improve care. Via telehealth, physicians can reach a broader patient demographic. For those patients who are not privy to quality healthcare within their region, telemedicine can provide an additional avenue for quality care. Brian McIlory added, “We’re all driven by cost, quality, and access.”

In closing this panel discussion, I took the opportunity to share a quote from W. Edwards Deming, a renowned data scientist, who once said, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.”

Leveraging big data and optimising precision medicine and telehealth are just the beginning of the rapid changes occurring in healthcare.


The author and panelists wish to thank Anthony Melito, Editor and Editorial Operations Manager at AXON Communications (www.axon-com.com) for his editorial support in the preparation of this blog entry. 

Image copyright: kentoh, Thinkstock

Article last time updated on 13.11.2015.

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