I can’t think of a better way to start the new year than to look at health trends and predictions. Our entire Microsoft Health team is focused on driving digital transformation that empowers our customers to provide quality care. We see tremendous potential to deliver better care more securely and at lower cost, so let’s look at what’s ahead

Critical role of the cloud and AI in health

After reading Microsoft President Brad Smith’s top 10 technology policy issues, I was struck by how many intersect with health. Brad states about the 2010s: “Like the invention of the personal computer itself, cloud computing was as important economically as it was technically.” Nowhere is this truer than in health, where we’ve seen countless cloud-powered innovations – and expect more to come. For example:

  • NIC’s comprehensive RxGov platform uses Azure and machine learning to help fight the opioid epidemic by tracking prescriptions for these powerful narcotics.
  • PharmID’s WasteWitness™ system, built on the Azure Active Directory identity platform, is combating prescriptions being diverted for illicit use by providing hard proof of each drug waste transaction.
  • Phulukisa Health Solutions’ cloud-powered e-health solution is bringing advanced medical services to remote South African communities.

Another trend Brad identified: “The AI Era is creating a world full of opportunities.” Artificial intelligence, or AI, already is enabling a myriad of opportunities in health. This year, I believe AI will move beyond operational and clinical analytics to more advanced workloads, like diagnostics, early detection and other advances that help patients. For instance, cancer researchers at The Jackson Laboratory are using Microsoft AI to accelerate development of precision medicine that, in some cases, is more effective than traditional chemotherapy and has fewer side effects.

Patient consumerism accelerates

It’s clear that patients will continue to be better health consumers, requiring interactions on their own terms, including price, convenience, digital health information, virtual care and other innovative offerings. One illustration of this trend: provider organizations are now determining how to accept Venmo mobile payments to fulfill co-pay requirements. Greater patient consumerism also will result in non-traditional health organizations gaining even more prominence in delivering affordable care with predictable outcomes at convenient locations.

As the consumer experience outside of health is digitalized, becomes more innovative and transforms more and more, patients will expect that same level of innovation from their health providers. This digital experience along with advances in the Internet of Medical Things will continue to fuel demands of patients.

Increasing virtual health demand

Patient demand for virtual health services is high and continuing to grow, it’s available and technology enables it, allowing patients to get the care when and where they want. With Americans demanding frequent and easier access to care, we foresee virtual visits will continue to rise throughout 2020. GlobalMed’s telemedicine solutions offer a great example of virtual health delivering quality outcomes. GlobaMed’s Azure-powered telemedicine medical stations provide a hub for secure, integrated health encounters – whether in a medical clinic or hospital, remote site or patient home, workplace, school or correctional environment. A report on the U.S. telehealth market indicates it is expected to reach revenues of over $13 billion by 2023, growing at a compound annual growth rate of around 27 percent between 2017 and 2023.

Criticality of data privacy

Data privacy will continue to be a big focus for health in 2020, particularly understanding where patient data is stored, and secondary uses of this personal and private information. As a result, I firmly believe data privacy will be top of mind for every health provider and consumer. Health is perhaps the most critical industry affected by privacy – and we begin that conversation by determining data ownership and use. Every provider, health plan, pharma company and consumer will need to face and understand how their data is used and what jurisdiction they hold.

CMS news

Announcements from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have an impact on health every year. 2020 will be significant for CMS news, especially given the agency’s responsibility for rules related to the Executive Order on Improving Price and Quality Transparency in American Healthcare. Another federal announcement pertains to the interoperability and information blocking rule by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). That rule is now under review at the Office of Management and Budget, the last step before publication. We also expect CMS to address issues related to data blockage, price transparency and other key health topics. The timing for these announcements may be a moving target, but there is one thing we can count on: when CMS makes news this year, it will drive important discussions across the industry.

Stay up to date with Microsoft Health

Our team is dedicated to enabling better experiences, better insights and better care. We’re also passionate about driving innovation so that health organizations can achieve more for all of us. To stay up to date with our perspectives, please read our health blogs and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @Health_IT.