Guest Column | February 22, 2019

The Healthcare Information Revolution

By Ron Fuschillo and Jeff Jorczak, Renown Health

Healthcare IT News For VARs — January 16, 2015

Healthcare always has been at the forefront of technology adoption, whether that be biological (e.g., antibiotics) or mechanical (e.g., artificial hearts). But other than tracking patient records and schedules, information technology has not played a significant role in affecting the quality of care. That's all about to change.

With new novel applications of information, more advanced processing methods, and the current era of supercomputers in our pockets, the use of technology to effect measurable change in healthcare is upon us. 2018 saw the emergence of real-world applications and things are just getting started. 2019 should present many more solutions making every day impacts, and over the next three years, we should see significant advances and results in the following areas.

First is artificial intelligence or AI. The promises of AI have been made and lost for decades, but we finally see this research paying off in a big way. AI in healthcare is improving quality, predicting outcomes, performing diagnoses, and preventing illness. At Renown Health, we are currently looking at all potential use cases, but already, we are using AI to assist physicians in documenting cases via an intelligence called HealthTensor. On the data science side, we are applying advanced data analysis to preemptively predict community-based diseases in an attempt to prevent them before they happen.

Next is Virtual Assistants or "bots." Another form of AI, these interactive chats can provide services to patients faster than many humans and around the clock. From answering questions about patient health records to booking appointments, virtual assistants are issuing a new era of customer service. Renown Health is currently experimenting with chatbots to perform similar activities for both employees and customers.

What may sound like science fiction to many, but is on the cusp of making an impact, is augmented reality. AR, or wearing advanced glasses to see a virtual world or see information superimposed on the actual world, provides new avenues for patient interaction and services in healthcare. Imagine MRI data being projected as a 3D image onto a patient before surgery, or vitals projected over the patient during a procedure, so the surgeon doesn't need to look up. Or imagine patients with phobias being able to face their fears in the safety of an office chair. These are real emergent applications under review.

Another popular technology that is gaining traction is Blockchain, pioneered as the engine behind Bitcoin. This distributed ledger mechanism with no central managing authority promises to maybe one day solve the need for a unified health record that travels with the patient to any provider. There is much work to do still in this area, but the potential to disrupt the industry is compelling.

Lastly, as margins in healthcare decline, the need to control costs is on all our minds. Everyone throughout the system can make an impact by improving processes and cutting waste. At Renown Health, we have used a crowdsource feedback tool called POPin to solicit and prioritize ideas from everyone on cost savings. The best ideas have directly resulted in actionable items making a difference today.

One such idea is greater automation. Through a concept called Robotic Process Automation, where a virtual worker can perform repetitive tasks as if they were a human sitting at a terminal, the more mundane and mistake-prone activities can be handed off to a computer, allowing the actual people to perform more valuable and rewarding work. The offloading of less-interesting work not only improves quality but also job satisfaction.

Renown Health, located in Reno, Nevada, is proactively looking at and adopting all the previously mentioned technologies to maintain its status as the healthcare's Most Wired institution.