A brief glimpse into the future: 2020 healthcare trends

by Michael Dahlweid, M.D., Ph.D.

In an industry that’s above all about improving health and well-being, the future of how we innovate, work and implement breakthrough technologies inevitably starts and finishes with a human-centric approach. Before I delve into what this means from a healthcare perspective, first let’s consider the broader trends that DXC Technology outlined in the recent article, DXC’s 2020 technology trends and the future of work. The predictions for the year ahead are that organizations will continue to benefit from technology innovations, such as artificial intelligence (AI), to advance business growth.

In the 2020 trends article we outlined five overarching themes that will dominate in the year ahead. These are:

  1. AI and its role in redefining professional services
  2. The shift in design thinking from IT services for people to IT services for machines
  3. The increasing value of data in healthcare ecosystems
  4. The growing importance of high-performing teams, rather than superstars
  5. A new wave of business leaders accelerating business — and healthcare — transformation

Each industry will experience these trends in different ways. From DXC’s healthcare industry perspective, these trends are also relevant; however, it’s important to keep the perspective of patients and their healthcare needs top of mind.

AI and professional services

Discussion about AI has become ubiquitous, but while the promise has been great, adoption in healthcare has been slow. One of the first specialties to adopt AI is radiology, with hundreds of companies developing solutions aimed at improving diagnoses.

The good news is that AI has the potential to address multiple shortcomings in healthcare:  misdiagnosis, treatment errors, wasted resources, process inefficiencies and time pressures facing physicians.

There are three main areas in which AI technologies are being applied in healthcare and which will come to the forefront in 2020. The first is knowledge processing and structuring, where cognitive computing — AI-based computer systems processing vast amounts of data — combined with natural language processing supports context-specific clinical decision making and structures data in a way that creates logic and meaning. The second application is to support accurate diagnosis, for example, of rare diseases or diseases with atypical findings. The third, automation, begins with the basics — optimizing workflow — and ultimately extends to supporting diagnosis.

A shift in design thinking

Design thinking is typically applied poorly in healthcare, hospitals and delivery systems. For example, patients with serious health issues may well struggle to attend medical appointments because of the logistical challenges they confront — traveling to the doctor, navigating entrances, getting the requisite assistance. But the emergence of machine-related technologies combined with internet services has the potential to effectively address these issues.

In 2020, I predict we’ll see greater use of queuing network models to assist with the transition of patients between emergency departments, intensive care units and general wards within a hospital. The use of bottleneck analysis to assist healthcare professionals involved in each state of a patient’s journey will also grow in relevance. And the use of better appointment rules can improve scheduling and access while reducing waiting times. All these capabilities will make it easier for patients to navigate the healthcare system.

The increasing value of data

It has been said that data is the new currency. In healthcare, data is crucial to real-world evidence, developing new ways to create clinical trials, enabling patient-reported outcomes and advancing data science. The big questions for the industry are how to discern the meaningfulness of data, its interpretability, interoperability and validated support when it comes to delivering healthcare benefits.

Many of these questions will be answered as the industry begins to apply real-world data from multiple sources — including environmental data, social determinants and other data important for understanding health. The adoption of healthcare data standards — Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM) and Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) — will assist with interpretation. However, other questions will persist, such as how to protect patient privacy on connected medical equipment, whether collected data is properly validated for its intended uses, and how patients can be protected from potential discrimination or data misuse.

Teams as the high performers

The performance of doctors as individuals has long been the focus. But medical help requires collaboration among a multidisciplinary group of clinicians, administrative staff, patients and their loved ones. The coordination and delivery of safe, high-quality care demands reliable teamwork and collaboration within, as well as across, organizational, disciplinary, technical and cultural boundaries.

Collaboration in healthcare is now well-understood. In 2020, the focus will shift to addressing practical questions to make healthcare teams even more efficient. The challenge going forward will be to navigate coordination, address the issue of often-conflicting information, deal with complex payment systems, and bridge boundaries among different clinicians. Advances in telemedicine promise more access, but also make the sharing of information more complex. The ability to coordinate healthcare teams across cohorts will gain greater attention in the year ahead.

A new wave of business leaders

Transformational leaders, in traditional enterprise organizations, are expected to inspire confidence, staff respect and loyalty through a shared vision, resulting in increased productivity, better staff morale and job satisfaction. In healthcare, the priority for leaders is improved patient outcomes. While there is much evidence that strong leadership can improve the safety environment and levels of care, one study found no association between leadership style and patient satisfaction, and found no evidence for the superiority of a transformational leadership style related to patient outcomes.

Perhaps the question is less about leadership style and more about the type of leader starting to emerge in healthcare. Today, many healthcare leaders are not physicians. However, there is evidence that hospitals led by physicians have higher quality ratings.

I predict that in 2020 we’ll see an even greater number of physicians taking leadership positions in healthcare organizations. This new wave of business leaders will be able to use their skills and management approaches to positively affect hospital quality and the value of care delivered to patients.

A changing future

In the coming year and beyond, these changes will start to have an impact on how healthcare is delivered and address some of the challenges the industry has long faced. Much still remains to be done, but if these trends make real progress in 2020, patients and the industry at large will start to see genuine advances in outcomes for treatment, delivery and quality of care.


Dr. Michael Dahlweid is DXC’s Global Chief Medical Officer, and leads DXC’s solutions portfolio for healthcare and life sciences. He has more than 20 years of C-level medical leadership experience, including global CTO for the largest Swiss healthcare organization, and global Chief Medical Officer for GE Healthcare and AGFA. Michael is board certified in trauma care and he still sees patients in emergency settings and teaches and works academically in clinical information management, AI in healthcare, and healthcare design thinking.

Comments

  1. Dr Muhammad Faheem Anwar says:

    A very informative and knowledgable article highlighting the real requirements.It also a guide for developing countries like us to define way forward for quality and safe care for our patients within limited resources.Technology and colloborative high performing teams can bridge the gaps created by lack of resources.

  2. Hi, Dr. Anwar,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feedback, very appreciated. You are spot on when it comes to the question of scarcity as well as ubiquitous accessibility. Lets keep in touch.

    cheers
    Michael

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