- Healthcare organizations that want to get ahead in 2019 will need to prioritize the use of artificial intelligence, virtualized care, and technologies that offer intuitive user experiences, according to Forrester’s predictions for the upcoming year.
The ability to aggregate, analyze, and utilize big data to identify business opportunities and engage users will become even more valuable as traditional healthcare entities battle for market supremacy against a new wave of technology powerhouses, the survey-based brief says.
“Major disruptors, like Amazon and Walmart, will make good on their promises, delivering the personalized experiences that customers have been yearning for from healthcare organizations (HCOs),” the report projects, leaving providers and payers with a strong imperative to leverage the data they have to offer similar benefits to users.
“HCOs need to develop raving fans to survive, as all sectors face the entrance of new disruptors looking to own more of the customer journey,” Forrester added. “They must build digital experiences, including virtual care, based on an understanding of the customer’s evolving needs. Great customer experiences will be crucial to drive loyalty and revenue.”
Advanced analytics capabilities, including the use of tools driven by artificial intelligence, will be required to fulfill these expectations.
Healthcare organizations will need to let go of outdated measurement processes and approach the development of user-friendly systems in the same manner as other industries, the report stresses.
Star ratings and CAHPS scores may become less important as providers and health IT developers adopt new measurements for engagement and satisfaction.
“This requires listening to the voice of the customer (VoC) and the employee (VoE),” said the authors. “To drive change, HCOs will move past the delayed feedback and insights of traditional approaches. They will embrace tools to capture real-time VoC and VoE, use other CX metrics (like net promotor score [NPS] and customer effort), and tap into emotion — as other industries have done for years.”
Delighting users by enhancing convenience and quality through virtual care will be an important strategy, Forrester believes.
“It’s the beginning of the end for traditional healthcare delivery,” the report says. “Virtual care encounter volumes have started to outpace those of outpatient care. More patients seek digital experiences that are far more convenient and personalized than physically going to brick-and-mortar locations. Seventy-four percent of US online adults have either used or are interested in using at least one remote health support service. And this number is expected to grow.”
2019 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for healthcare organizations that haven’t yet embraced the ideas of telehealth, secure messaging, and the Internet of Things. Organizations that do not successfully enter the world of virtual care may find themselves being outpaced by new players in the field, such as the combined CVS-Aetna, Walgreens, and Walmart.
These companies have all made convenience and access a priority, both through their retail clinic options and their expanding opportunities for digital engagement.
Consumers who cannot find the assistance they need – at the precise moment they need it – from their primary care providers are likely to turn to these emerging options.
As a result, healthcare organizations will need to do all they can to get ahead of the game. Artificial intelligence is likely to play a major role in enabling predictive analytics and managing patient interactions with providers and payers – even if the customer doesn’t know it.
While some organizations are using AI chatbots and other customer-facing tools, most AI will support back-end functions, such as clinical decision-making, predicting no-shows, or modeling clinical risk.
“In 2019, AI solutions will continue to spread across the healthcare continuum thanks to the promise of improved experiences and outcomes,” Forrester says.
“The key vector will be the growth of commercial AI solutions — from FDA-approved, AI-based diagnostic tools to specialized chatbots for managing patient engagement — that are easy for HCOs to buy, available through enterprise health clouds, and increasingly easy to integrate with existing systems.”
However, organizations may not find it quite as easy to aggregate and normalize the data they will need to train and fuel these tools.
“Data fatigue” may set in for organizations that are struggling to make sense of growing data assets without the right governance, talent, and strategies in place.
The volume of data being exchanged between disparate organizations is growing rapidly, with standards such as FHIR accelerating the ability to move big data across the care continuum.
While interoperability is generally considered a positive development, too much data can be overwhelming – unless organizations figure out how to appropriately sort through it.
“In 2019, HCOs will battle to identify the most relevant data, while customers will work to make sense of what to do with the new data at their fingertips,” Forrester predicts.
“It will be imperative that HCOs and customers are empowered with insights that drive behavior change and enable all stakeholders to derive the greatest value from their data. New entrants such as Apple and Amazon will bring learnings from other industries and vie for customer attention and loyalty.”
Organizations will need to invest in innovative applications and health IT systems that can filter through large volumes of data to present relevant insights in a timely and intuitive manner. Electronic health records that use AI to prioritize data for clinical users will likely be an important component of fighting off burnout.
But one highly-hyped strategy may not be the answer that providers and payers are looking for, the report adds.
Blockchain “will have no material impact” on healthcare in 2019, the report prognosticates. The excitement over distributed ledger technology (DLT) will not translate into gains in efficiency, data integrity, or clinical care, the authors believe.
“DLT is a nascent technology that calls for unprecedented levels of collaboration among competitors,” says the report. “In 2019, pilot projects around provider information and provider credentialing will continue, as will existing initiatives around claims tracking and drug tracking. Industry players are investigating more ambitious use cases, which may move into proofs of concept. Progress around EHR-related use cases will be negligible.”
Instead of pinning their hopes on blockchain, organizations may be better served by focusing on crafting engaging user experiences and fine-tuning their AI skills.
These competencies may become the difference between organizations that succeed in a rapidly changing, consumer-centered environment and those that fail to secure the loyalty of a very choosy audience.
“[Healthcare organizations] must understand what actions truly drive improved outcomes for their customers in order to achieve future financial success and optimize workflow,” the report concludes.
“While… new models and technologies diffuse across the industry with promises of disruption, the successful HCOs will have a maniacal focus on identifying and understanding customer needs (both internal and external), foster a learning culture, and operate organizations built on insight.”