Unease over cybersecurity, optimism for the future of telehealth, and worries about the entry of big tech companies (like Apple, Amazon and Google) are the top three concerns for 2019 according to a recent survey of healthcare leaders released by the Center for Connected Medicine.
The Center for Connected Medicine (CCM), which is jointly operated by GE Healthcare, Nokia and UPMC, partnered with The Health Management Academy for the Top of Mind 2019 survey. Conducted in three parts, the research started with a survey of health system information officers in May 2018 to determine the top areas of health IT for 2019.
According to the CCM, key findings include:
- Hackers and other cyber-criminals are stepping up their attacks on the health care industry, leading 87 percent of respondents to say they expect to increase spending on cybersecurity in 2019; no health system was expecting to decrease spending.
- Health information technology (IT) leaders overwhelmingly expect government and commercial reimbursement to provide the majority of funding for telehealth services by 2022; internal funding and patient payments are expected to provide the majority of funding for telehealth in 2019.
- 70 percent of responding executives said they were “somewhat concerned” about big tech companies, such as Apple, Amazon and Google, disrupting the health care market; 10 percent were “very concerned.”
Cybersecurity was the top concern from the 2018 survey so it is not surprising to see it on top of the list for 2019 – especially as the number of cyberattacks continues to increase each year. What is surprising is the level of confidence that executives have in their ability to recover from an attack.
According to the report:
- Only 20% of respondents reported being “very confident” in their organization’s IT recovery and business continuity plans
- 70% of respondents said they were “somewhat confident” in those plans
I’m not sure I would want to be at a healthcare organization that was only “somewhat confident” it could recover from a cyber attack.
For me, the survey highlights how much work we still have to do around cybersecurity in healthcare. It’s not just a matter of hardening HealthIT systems, that is only part of the solution. Healthcare organizations also need to implement robust security processes and ensure staff are properly educated. The latter is particularly important as Phishing and spear-phishing were cited by 80% of Top-of-Mind survey respondents as the most common types of cyberattacks.
My colleague John Lynn recently wrote an article that dives deeper into cybersecurity.
One of the most interesting findings in the survey was the optimism healthcare executives have for telehealth.
“Telehealth represents a low percentage of total care delivery at all responding health systems, yet executives unanimously anticipate growth in the next three years as reimbursement increases and consumer demand picks up. All responding health systems report 10% or less of their organization’s total care delivery is currently provided through telehealth. However, all health systems expect an increase over the next three years, with 45% expecting a significant increase of 10% or more.”
According to the survey the biggest barrier to telehealth adoption is not the technology, but rather the lack of reimbursement.
Part of the optimism executives feel toward telehealth may have to do with the final 2019 Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program issued early in November 2019 by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). As of 1 January 2010, CMS will reimburse a number of telehealth and communication-technology based services:
- Brief communication technology-based service, e.g. using phone or other telecommunications device to decide whether an office visit is needed
- Remote evaluation of recorded video and/or images submitted by an established patient
- Remote patient monitoring (CPT codes 99453, 99454, 99457)
- Interprofessional Internet consultations (CPT codes 99451, 99452, 99446, 99447, 99448, 99449)
It is widely expected that CMS will continue to expand the reimbursement for communication technology enabled services in future years.
Entry of Big Tech Companies
Companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft have each made significant healthcare-related announcements this past year and continue to push into the healthcare space. Their entry has executives concerned, according to the Top-of-Mind survey results.
“The biggest threat is if these companies get between us and the end consumer,” said one CEO in a written survey comment. “If there is a platform regulated and controlled by someone other than us – that makes us nervous. There are many places where some of these new platforms and conveniences can and will likely succeed – we haven’t been good in this space.”
What this CEO is referring to is the consumer-focus that these Big Tech companies have and how relentless they are at providing superior consumer experiences based on data as well as deep analytics. That is something traditional healthcare organizations have only just woken up to realize – that patients want the consumer-friendly conveniences they have become accustomed to from other industries like retail and banking.
In a few weeks CCM will be hosting healthcare leaders from around the country at their annual Top-of-Mind conference. I’m really excited to attend the event and learn first-hand how leaders plan to address their concerns in 2019. Stay tuned.