As we head into 2016, changes in health care IT are taking shape on the horizon. Let’s see the new health care trends.

1. Telemedicine gravitating toward industry center

Update: Delivering health-related services and information to patients via telecommunications is becoming only more important across the industry.

Why the fuss? Telemedicine is cost-effective. In addition, the convenience and accessibility it brings makes it easier for patients to access care. Providers who embrace telemedicine are better-equipped to manage the health of their enrolled population.

2. Rules on electronic health records about to change

Update: Stage 3 of the EHR Incentive Program (part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) doesn’t align with new Medicare physician payment program that Congress approved last spring. It will need to be revised.

Why the fuss? Real-time, digital records add remarkable efficiency to healthcare, making patient data instantaneously available to care providers. But the sensitivity of the data demands a great deal of care. To address this, the CMS Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs have developed three stages of meaningful-use rules for electronic health records.

  • Stage 1 sets the basic functionalities of EHRs
  • Stage 2 governs the exchange of patient data between providers and empower patients to access their own information
  • Stage 3 strives ultimately to improve healthcare outcomes

Last October, the US Department of Health and Human Services released two rules adjusting federal regulations on Stage 2 of the EHR Incentive Program, and it’s in the process of finalizing rules for Stage 3. But because Stage 3 doesn’t align well with the new rules under which Medicare will pay for MIPS and MACRA, we can expect a bumpy ride for it this year.

3. Data security beginning to get the focus it deserves

Update: health organizations are devoting board-level scrutiny to their data security policies.

Why the fuss? Every month, data breaches are perpetrated on organizations large and small; still, many businesses struggle to meet even basic infosec requirements. To make things worse, healthcare data is among the hardest to protect.

The risk touches more than an organization’s finances and reputation. With medical devices connected to patient data systems, hackers who infiltrate those systems could exert an impact on clinical care. The fact that the issue is receiving board-level attention is good news indeed.

The changes slated for 2016 appear to be positive overall, converging on the goal of patient empowerment. Telemedicine is making care more accessible. Careful regulation of EHRs aims to ensure that patients can access their personal information, while equipping physicians to provide better care. And as patients and providers become able to manage their health more effectively, we can harbor a realistic hope for patient outcomes to improve.

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