With so much going on in health IT today, it can be difficult to determine which trends will really influence managed care organizations in the near term. To help clear up some of the confusion, and zero in on the biggest trends that matter, Managed Healthcare Executive (MHE) recently spoke with Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association (ATA).
The ATA advocates for the use of advanced remote medical technologies. As the chief staff executive of ATA since its inception in 1993, Mr. Linkous has lectured and written extensively on healthcare modernization, technology issues, emerging applications and market trends in the U.S. and around the world.
MHE: What technology changes are you most excited about in 2017?
Linkous: There are two areas that are moving into the healthcare space that will have a significant impact. The first is actually not new: the growth of outsourced vendors for telemedicine IT.
Historically, programs implementing a telemedicine project hired a technology professional to help select, install, and maintain equipment and broadband telecommunications. Many large health systems are moving away from pilot projects using telemedicine toward a strategic approach integrating telemedicine services throughout the organization’s clinical operations. Thus, telemedicine becomes a catalyst to the transformation of the entire enterprise from, for example, from a bricks and mortar facility to a region-wide health provider.
This is a challenge to the traditional approach to IT. The challenges have caused many organizations to use an outside vendor to provide IT services. As hospitals become one component of a health system the use of an outsourced vendor for all IT services is growing.
The second significant change is the development of sets of home-based, vital sign devices. Consumers have commonly used weight scales and thermometers but new innovations have provided an array of high-quality, low-priced devices with digital outputs allowing consumers to send providers enough data and images to allow diagnoses and treatment of conditions that previously required doctor visits. Telemedicine kits including scopes, various measuring devices, and even minor lab tests are already on the market in limited areas—but may soon become so widespread that the home will become the doctors’ offices of the future.