My Top 5 Healthcare Innovation Targets for 2020

Now that I’ve shaken off the holiday malaise and gotten back to business, I’ve begun to wonder which areas of healthcare will become the new hotness for the coming year. After tossing off a short LinkedIn post on this subject, I decided to dig in further and share my conclusions with you.

By the way, in picking areas I believe healthcare leaders should target for 2020 innovation efforts, I’m quite consciously drawing on both my personal and professional experiences.  As both a chronically ill patient and a professional HIT observer, I’m coming at these spaces with both myself and the industry in mind.

Anyway, with no further ado, my top picks for healthcare innovation targets in 2020 include the following five niches, in no particular order:

Imaging AI

We’re already seeing signs, both clinical and administrative, that these technologies can streamline care processes and improve clinical results. Now, let’s see some real breakthroughs. At the moment, I’m seeing more innovation like the AI-driven tool from vendor IDx which can independently detect diabetic retinopathy, but there are many, many more which have the potential to trigger exponential changes in imaging this coming year. For example, I’d like to see a really smart mashup of connected devices, imaging results and telemedicine. Any takers?

Smart hospital rooms/physician exam rooms

As some readers may know, I recently offered a rather snarky take on the future of so-called ‘smart hospitals,’ but I’m actually pretty optimistic about their future. (It’s probably a stretch to suggest that they’ll evolve much in 2020 alone, but consider that to be creative license.) Regardless, if inventors focus on smart exam rooms specifically, things start to get real. The potential for both streamlining health data workflow and reducing physician work hours using these approaches is immense. As things stand they’re more vision than reality, but that could change quickly.

SDOH-friendly clinical case management 

Efforts to tighten the link between medical case management and socially-supportive services are already underway and seem to be improving patients’ well-being. Not only that, the technical infrastructure and ICD-10 codes needed to make this marriage work are developing quickly. Also, a survey from last year found that 80% of healthcare respondents said that they were tracking and using SDOH data into their population health management programs. Now, it’s time to take the next big leap and really make these efforts count.

Patient-facing voice assistant applications/programs

Given how comfortable most people are with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, there’s tons of opportunity for building engagement using voice assistants in providing patient care. As I noted in March of last year, voice assistants have begun to show up in healthcare environments, such as at Cedars-Sinai, where they’re piloting the use of an Alexa-powered platform allowing patients to interact hands-free with nurses and manage entertainment options. It may be that it will take another few years for these efforts to take root, but I could still see some exciting things happening in this space in 2020. For example, can anyone make Alexa or Google Assistant capable of talking to my pharmacy for me? Or even create a virtual voice-driven pharmacist? I’d pay for that service.

Next-gen healthcare transportation options

We’re already seeing a lot of progress here, with technology/transport players like Lyft jumping in with both feet. Now, it’s time for much-deeper integration between these services and providers, especially on the ambulatory side. (By the way, I wanted to share some of my previous coverage of this topic, but I’m surprised to say I couldn’t find any. I’ll remedy that this year!) The nitty-gritty of getting patients to their care may not be a sexy topic, but my own experience suggests that it can make the difference between attending or canceling much-needed care appointments. That’s a very big thing.

So, if you’ve stayed with me this far, now it’s your turn. What do you see as the ripest targets for healthcare innovation in 2020? Feel free to ping me at if you’d like to have a one-to-one conversation,

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

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