ISV Healthcare Trends: 2017 Recap/2018 Predictions

Three industry experts share the defining trends of this year as well as predictions for the threats and opportunities in the year ahead.

What was 2017 the year of in healthcare?

Bill Lodes, EVP, Business Development and Strategy, First American Payment Systems: “It was the year of rapidly changing technology. The rising need for better data security as well as the rising number of patients needing services has forced healthcare providers to look for more advanced and safer technologies that can allow their practices to operate more efficiently. Healthcare providers are also having to adjust and adapt to the new and ever-changing healthcare regulations being rolled out by the current administration. This means having to embrace new technology while also not knowing what exactly the future of healthcare regulation looks like.”

Robert Cortopassi, President, OpenEdge: “It was also the year of patients becoming consumers. In recent years, we’ve witnessed patients being responsible for a greater portion of their medical bills (e.g., premiums, deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance). This has resulted in a more consumer-oriented mindset. Patients, shouldering the bill themselves, recognize they have a choice in health care providers. As with other services, they will gravitate toward the provider delivering the greatest value, either through better service or lower cost. No longer can hospitals and physicians’ offices unilaterally dictate the relationship with the patient; the desires of the payer now carry more weight.”

Brenda McCurry, vice president of merchandising, ScanSource POS and Barcode: “It was the year of mobility experimentation. Robust mobile apps from leading healthcare software providers along with the demand for more secure communications pushed legacy communication tools such as Wi-Fi phones and pagers to their limits and led to an increase in the adoption of enterprise smartphones and other mobile computers that support communication, clinical apps, and even barcode data capture in various workflows.”

How are these trends changing the healthcare market?

Bill Lodes: “Healthcare providers see a large number of patients daily and they need software that automates processes within their practice, caters to the patient and also keeps all data secure. The use of tablets and other devices, along with cloud-based apps, used when treating patients keeps rising as providers need data and the ability to treat their patients right at their fingertips. Healthcare staff also are looking for ways to streamline and track insurance and payments quickly without spending a lot of time. There have been numerous advancements when it comes to payment acceptance that impacts ISVs’ software. That also puts pressure on ISVs to provide a very sophisticated and safe software solution that meets the need of the practice and the patient.”

Robert Cortopassi: “From the payments perspective, this new consumer-driven paradigm means providers will have to deal with patients in entirely new ways. The demand for convenience in healthcare payments is growing louder, spurred in part by the ease consumers see from other services such as Uber and Amazon. In fact, a recent survey by McKinsey & Company revealed that across four qualities valued by consumers (providing great customer service, delivering on expectations, making life easier and offering great value), the perceived importance for non-healthcare and healthcare companies were practically identical. That means “business as usual” for healthcare is no longer so usual.”

Brenda McCurry: “Mobility projects now almost always have a unified communication suite of apps to include with other required apps, too.”

How do you think this will affect 2018?

Bill Lodes: “The need for healthcare will continue to grow and evolve. Health technology and digital health are two of the most hash-tagged, health-related topics on social media. The lives of patients are getting busier, so the demand for digital health solutions will only continue to grow. There will be no shortage of medical providers and their need for technology to streamline and automate patient care will be the highest priority. Increased security solutions will continue to be a factor next year to ensure patient data is protected.”

Brenda McCurry: “The challenges will land heavily on the IT department.  Integrating apps from ISVs can be difficult, especially when each app may be designed for different versions of iOS or Android. Every app on a nurse’s smartphone, for example, including alarms and nurse call, must be real-time with no possibility of a rogue background app blocking critical information.

The power of smartphones in the hands of all hospital staff will drive more innovation in workflow, too. There’s even a smartphone app that can be used to measure the depth of a wound via the camera and can even track wound recovery over time. Expect to see hospital IT departments hiring more app testers and integrators as this trend matures.

What’s the most significant healthcare technology trend ISVs should be aware of in 2018?

Robert Cortopassi: “Selecting one technology trend in the swiftly changing healthcare space is difficult. Technologies from IoT (Internet of Things) to big data analytics to device interoperability to AI (artificial intelligence) are shuffling the deck in a field already impacted by legislative upheaval. For ISVs, it’s best to focus on technologies that can serve the needs of patients with higher expectations for service — payment solutions that provide flexibility, speed, clarity, and transparency. Text-to-pay, e-Invoicing, IVR (pay by phone) and mobile solutions are all responses to the new consumer-oriented mindset in healthcare and will remain in demand for the foreseeable future. The benefit is twofold, in that payers will have more convenient payment methods while health systems will experience improved cash flow and happier patients.”

Bill Lodes: “ISVs will see a need for healthcare providers to not only streamline and automate processes but also to provide software that works across many different devices in different settings. Many providers are now walking room to room, moving locations completely or even video conferencing with patients using a tablet or mobile device that accesses information from the cloud. Video conferencing services such as TeleDoc and virtual health consulting are part of the digital health solutions trend for patients of all ages. As ISVs develop new features and enhancements, they need to keep in mind the way that healthcare providers today will use that technology. It has to be easy to use, quick and mobile. The addition of services like integrated payments only allows for additional differentiation for the software provider as well as a more efficient way for the provider to accept payments, whether they are one-time or recurring.”

Brenda McCurry: “As IoT adoption picks up, live data will be available from every device that sees data, and ISVs need to help end users make use of the information. Voice-enabled workflow and real-time location systems (RTLS) will likely emerge in 2018.  Not voice dictation, but Siri-like voice interaction with data and processes to help workers do their tasks more efficiently and effectively.”

What are the biggest threats ISVs should prepare for next year?

Robert Cortopassi: “Healthcare payment is a strong market for technology providers. Any threats will likely arise out of the complexity inherent in our medical system. For instance, it’s common knowledge that most consumers really hate their medical bills — 76% say they’re confused by their bills while 47% report they would switch to a provider who could deliver easier, more transparent billing. Also, 91% believe it’s important to understand what’s owed prior to an appointment. These represent opportunities for ISVs to help solve lingering problems. The difficulty lies in coordinating disparate and siloed parts of the organization such as front office, back office, medical coding, multi-party billing, and revenue cycle management.”

Brenda McCurry: “Lack of integration support. There seems to be a shortage of consultants to help hospitals with app integration projects. Also, lack of software interoperability standards. If hospital employees are running 10 different apps, they need to know each one is playing nicely with the others.”

Bill Lodes: “The biggest threat will continue to be data security with hackers now using new and improved tactics to access data. Healthcare providers maintain a lot of personal information that falls under HIPAA and needs to be protected. ISVs will need to continue to enhance and improve their security in order to ensure patient data, as well as payment and cardholder data stored for single payments or recurring payments, is secure.”

What are the biggest opportunities ISVs should focus on in 2018?

Brenda McCurry: “The big ISV winners of 2018 will be those that embrace the multitude of applications that hospitals want to integrate. ISVs that work hard to provide all the applications pre-integrated stand a much better chance of it all working as documented. There also is a growing opportunity for integration services, and who better to know what is really happening than ISVs. Their knowledge and skill will be highly sought after. This seems like a great time for ISVs to jump into the consulting business.”

Bill Lodes: “ISVs should look ahead to 2018 thinking about ways that they can further help the patient in a healthcare setting. Many patients today are looking at healthcare like a consumer and have consumer service needs. Issues like claims adjudication can be confusing and frustrating for patients, and that’s why health technology can not only help healthcare providers diagnose and treat their patients, it can help them offer their patients a less complicated overall experience. Patients expect technology to improve their healthcare experience, enhancing the way they communicate with healthcare providers and pay for services. Technology is now much more than just storing patient records; it’s helping practices deliver a higher level of customized patient care.” 

Datacap Systems