Before the healthcare industry can ambitiously transform to offer more accurate and personalized patient care, certain stepping stones must be reached. These four trends are inevitable if the healthcare industry is to reach its goals.

Trend #1: Interoperability

The transformation towards value-based healthcare care and a more personalized approach to medicine means that the flexibility with which healthcare services are offered is becoming increasingly important. A pre-requisite for this shift is for technology to stop acting like silos–data exchange must be efficient and laboratory software must be interoperable with external systems in a scalable manner. As the heart of healthcare operations, for the healthcare system to be efficient, a laboratory information system (LIS) must seamlessly integrate with all external systems and devices to maintain an efficient ecosystem. This is just as important for clinical decision-making tools, patient information tools (such as electronic medical records, EMRs), or external test devices (such as point of care, POC devices).

The importance of interoperability for patients was recently recognized in a study by John Hopkins University, which found that 10 percent of all US deaths are due to medical error. Of the eight most common causes of medical errors, the top two were communication problems and inadequate information flow, for example due lack of crucial information when making prescription decisions. An LIS system must be holistic and patient-centered, but also must be able to scale integrations in order to support new technologies so that information flows seamlessly. More laboratories are seeking a holistic LIS product with an open and standard architecture in order to support this shift.

Trend #2: POC Devices

The healthcare industry is slated to become more transparent and precise through technology, predictive medicine, and a more personalized approach to patient care. Steering this move are the patients, who increasingly demand to know more, and to be more involved in their own medical care. With POC devices gaining momentum, especially in the care of chronically ill patients, doctors can make use of POC telehealth—patients can be tested in hospitals, or in the comfort of their own homes. A major challenge with POC devices is collecting and making use of this data to offer fully integrated patient care. Currently, there are some lab systems that are able to integrate this patient data into a patient’s records and disseminate it to doctors looking after that patient. Again, interoperability of devices is a pre-requisite for this, but integrated patient data from multiple sources will become natural over the next few years. It will also encourage more direct and instant communication between patient and doctor using mobile communication. It won’t be long before all devices are connected, so it is important to consider innovative solutions to collect and make use of these large amounts of disparate data.

Trend #3: Customer Experience as a Priority

The healthcare industry is lagging behind other industries when it comes to being customer-centric with huge financial and emotional costs. For example, doctors are spending an unnecessary amount of time on bureaucracy, wasting time on technologies that are not tailored to their or their organization’s needs, and depleting the resources that are available to them—coming at the expense of patient care. In order to change this, technologies particularly EHRs and LIS products, are becoming more flexible: systems must be flexible enough to accommodate the personal configuration needs of each organization. Moreover, systems must be fully customizable: each user will have their own needs and preferences and it is important that software caters to individual differences and remembers user preferences and workflows to accelerate the efficiency of its users. The same is true in relation to certain features: users should be able to dictate exactly how they want reports to look, or spreadsheets to function within their LIS—or administrators run the risk of users going rogue, and wasting time on inefficient analyses. Another factor to consider is software turnaround times. With LIS systems, for example, customers need integrations and updates swiftly. However, they are still somewhat accepting turnaround times of months or even years. As the market becomes more transparent, and the cloud more popular, gone will be the days of long upgrade cycles—updates and integrations should occur in a matter of days or weeks.

Trend #4: Software-as-a-Service

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is another area where healthcare lags behind other industries. Whereas the SaaS model is well adopted across industries for its ease of use and minimal overheads, in healthcare, and specifically for LIS products, adoption of SaaS products is still few and far between. This may be due to security concerns, as patient health data is particularly sensitive, and could cause HIPAA violations. In fact, when customers choose SaaS models, they effectively remove all this responsibility to their host provider, who takes care of everything from hosting to maintenance and upgrades. SaaS models also allow customers to seamlessly scale and add new modules, something that would previously have required massive overheads.

Originally appeared in G2 Intelligence

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