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What Will Be the Impact of COVID-19 on the Next Wave of Health IT Innovation?




The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of all kinds of healthcare information technology, from telehealth to artificial intelligence. As a result, the opportunities that exist for health IT companies are massive.

Crunchbase estimates that healthcare technology companies have raised a record-breaking $36.6 billion globally from 2020 through October 2021. That sizable mountain of cash offers myriad opportunities for innovation in 2022 and beyond.

To get an idea of what this future may hold, Healthcare IT News interviewed Sebastian Seiguer, CEO of the Johns Hopkins-backed health IT company emocha Health. Sebastian discusses how the pandemic has reinforced the need for AI and machine learning technology to help improve patient and clinical outcomes, how health IT can help address the challenges facing the U.S. healthcare system and help mitigate revenue loss, and the top innovation opportunities that exist for health IT companies.

Q. How has the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the need for artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, moving into 2022, with the goal of improving patient and clinical outcomes?

A. While advanced AI applications hold great promise for healthcare, we currently lack the giant datasets and the granularity of data to go beyond fairly simple algorithms and truly improve outcomes.

At the simplest level, AI refers to training machines to act like humans, automating routine tasks such as coding claims or scheduling appointments. Today, AI in healthcare is most commonly used to automate tasks such as call center routing or appointment scheduling.

AI-powered chatbots are a perfect example – these are glorified decision-tree frameworks in a chat window, in content not much different than the automated computer-voice decision tree we experience when calling into large companies or government agencies.

There are at least two reasons why we lack the needed data sets to fulfill the promise of AI in healthcare. First, much of our healthcare data is siloed between providers’ offices, health insurers, laboratories and other locations. Each locale collects patient data, but the data sets don’t talk to each other.

And second, so much of what influences health takes place outside of healthcare settings, where patients live, work and play. Today there’s a huge push to integrate social determinants of health data into these larger datasets, but we remain in a situation where that data is either not collected or too general to be useful. This is not an adequate basis for meaningful machine learning.

We know, for example, that half of patients don’t take their medications as prescribed. This leads to death and preventable hospitalizations, among other terrible outcomes.

Yet we don’t employ the data systems and technologies to track the exact causes and cadences of medication non-adherence. Until we can pinpoint the reasons behind non-adherence on a dose-by-dose basis, we won’t be able to create predictive algorithms to help us intervene effectively.

The good news, though, is that activity in this area is exploding. COVID-19 pushed us to digitize healthcare interactions and federal rules are requiring that datasets adhere to standards that allow for integration. These trends point to exponential growth in both the size and granularity of our datasets, allowing healthcare data scientists to begin to train the models needed to truly realize the potential for AI to impact clinical outcomes.

Q. There are some predictions that health systems may suffer revenue loss in 2022. How can health IT help mitigate such loss?

A. Health systems are at a crossroads. During the early days of the pandemic, they rapidly adopted virtual care models – telehealth and e-consults – and patients adapted. Now, with increasing vaccination, some patients are coming back to in-person visits, but the volume is far less than pre-pandemic levels – and is likely to remain low through 2022.

The solution is for health systems to adapt to and further extend virtual care models. More types of virtual care are now reimbursable thanks to new rules created by CMS.

For instance, by recently approving a new set of reimbursement codes for remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM), CMS has made it possible for health systems to get paid for a wide range of virtual therapeutic encounters. By embracing a hybrid model of in-person and remote care, health systems with employed providers may be able to make up some of their projected lost revenue.

Q. What are a couple of the top innovation opportunities for health IT in 2022?

A. This is a huge question, as health IT touches all parts of the U.S. healthcare ecosystem: payers, providers, researchers, life sciences, etc.

My company is mainly concerned with one dynamic in particular: how relevant healthcare technologies can be combined with human engagement and scaled so virtual care can also improve clinical care and complete the consumer experience.

The first wave of innovation in that space involved allowing providers to communicate with patients via chat, video, photo-uploads and texting. Those abilities have now become standard fare – patients expect them, and all providers will have to offer them.

The next wave is the dawn of digital-first clinics with a primary care focus, while offering certain specialties – such as physical therapy, cardiology, maternity or behavioral health. These providers are interacting with patients in a mix of bricks-and-mortar and virtual care models.

Another emerging opportunity lies in RTM. Built into the 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, RTM codes encompass a broad set of virtual patient care services, including the digital collection and monitoring of medication adherence and “therapy response” data as well as the delivery of “treatment management services.”

RTM also provides reimbursement mechanisms for digital programs that help patients follow “doctor’s orders” in between appointments – including taking medication properly.

Q. What will the next wave of health IT-fueled consumer innovation look like in 2022 and beyond?

A. COVID-19 showed us that providers and patients alike are capable of embracing new digital modalities. Now these interaction formats are becoming normalized and commoditized. Into 2022 and beyond, the implementation, adoption and integration of digital and virtual care across different populations and use-cases will keep expanding.

As healthcare delivery becomes more location-agnostic, consumers will likely expect their healthcare experiences to look and feel more like other online experiences but with greater privacy, and the opportunity for personal connection.

As healthcare leaders, our challenge will be to assure that we integrate in-person and virtual care without sacrificing healthcare outcomes and while continuing to improve patient engagement.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
Email the writer:
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

What the uptick in interest and usage of digital health will mean for the future of healthcare and what to expect in 2022 for the industry.

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Health Care

PatientBond, Vizient Team up for Digital Behavior Change Tools




Patient engagement SaaS provider PatientBond and healthcare performance improvement and analytics company Vizient are partnering up to provide Vizient member healthcare organizations with digital patient engagement and behavior change programs.

WHY IT MATTERSPatientBond’s digital engagement workflows can be personalized with psychographic insights, with the aim of activating patient behaviors and driving improved patient engagement and outcomes.

Through the partnership, Vizient’s customer base, which includes academic medical centers, pediatric facilities, and community hospitals, will offer programming including care gap closures, condition specific messaging, screenings and appointment reminders and appropriate use communications.

The aim of the programs is to reduce hospital readmissions and improve digital health risk assessments.

Other programs included in the deal will provide psychographically segmented marketing campaigns to advance patient/member activation, as well as patient and physician matching or find a doctor services based on psychographic insights.

The deal will also provide extensive market research insights and dynamic payment reminders for partners.

THE LARGER TRENDPatient-reported outcomes are a critical way to assess the ongoing state of patient health and satisfaction, and a growing number of digital tools are helping them do so.

The financial upside for care providers is also noteworthy: Jackson Hospital significantly improved its finances with digital patient engagement tools, switching from letters and phone calls to automated emails and text messages along with some help from analytics.

At Rush University Medical Center, the hospital has deployed similar digital tools to reduce the strain of avoidable readmissions and ED recidivism when resources already were at capacity.

Last year, Cardinal Health announced the launch of a digital patient engagement platform aimed at addressing medication adherence challenges – a significant issue for the health industry and patients.

In 2019, Vizient collaborated with Civica Rx on provider needs analytics data to reduce Rx costs. By providing insights into purchasing patterns and provider needs through its analytics and data capabilities, Vizient helped Civica Rx anticipate gaps in drug availability and affordability.

ON THE RECORD“PatientBond brings consumer science and dynamic intervention technologies to healthcare with unmatched clinical and business results,” said PatientBond CEO Justin Dearborn in a statement. “Vizient’s member healthcare organizations can benefit from PatientBond’s personalized patient engagement at scale with proven and consistent results.”

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.comTwitter: @dropdeaded209

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Health Care

LifePoint Health Inks Data Deal With Health Catalyst




Brentwood, Tennessee-based LifePoint Health has entered a new collaboration with Health Catalyst and will use its analytics technologies to help bolster care quality, lower costs and improve population health management.

WHY IT MATTERSLifePoint Health will integrate Health Catalyst’s data operating system and analytics tools to gather performance metrics and drive improvements in healthcare quality, reporting and operational and financial decision-making.

By discovering and sharing clinical data, the partnership will help reduce variation in clinical outcomes. Health Catalyst’s tools dovetail with LifePoint’s national quality and facility recognition program goals to measurably improve patient care, safety and satisfaction as well as improve access and lower costs, according to the company.

In addition to the cloud-based data platform, LifePoint will use Health Catalyst’s analyzer, insights, AI, patient safety monitoring and data entry applications. The suite of tools can help increase organizational speed and interoperability, according to Health Catalyst.


While healthcare organizations are just beginning to scratch the surface of using data to drive improvements, according to Health Catalyst President Patrick Nelli, the company’s strategic acquisitions have provided them with the ability to customize software and services around core care systems.

One of them was its purchase earlier this year of KPI Ninja, whose event-driven data processing capabilities complement Health Catalyst’s own platform, enabling customers to build new services and operational tools around their core care systems.

LifePoint, meanwhile, has been making acquisitions of its own, such as its June 2021 addition of specialty hospital company Kindred Healthcare, with an eye toward a delivery network that taps into Kindred’s specialty hospital and rehabilitative expertise and its behavioral health platform.

ON THE RECORD“The Health Catalyst DOS platform, along with our technology product suites and applications, and improvement expertise, will best position LifePoint Health to achieve, sustain and scale the highest standards of care across its network,” said Health Catalyst CEO Dan Burton in a statement this week.

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.Email: afox@himss.orgHealthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.


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Health Care

Fifteen Months for Domestic Worker Who Stole Jewellery




On Thursday, a Palma court sentenced a domestic worker to fifteen months for the theft of jewellery from her employer, a woman in her eighties.

Between 2015 and the end of 2020, the 45-year-old Chilean worked two days a week at the woman’s home in Sa Indioteria, Palma. Over that period, she stole various items of jewellery. The woman only realised this at the end of 2020, which was when she reported the matter to the National Police.

The police established that these items, which included watches, rings and bracelets, were sold in gold-buying establishments in Palma. The woman later verified that these were hers. As well as the jewellery, a hearing aid was stolen.

In January 2021, the domestic worker was arrested. Described as being in an “irregular situation” in Spain, her lawyer obtained agreement for the sentence to be suspended so long as a sum of 10,700 euros is paid over three years, at a rate of 297 euros per month, and she does not commit another crime during this period.


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