Healthcare Industry Trends in 2019: What Happened in Information Management?

Megan Williams

I’ve found it’s more valuable to look back at healthcare’s past than into its future — at least when shorter-term awareness is concerned. Of course, past performance isn’t indicative of future results, but healthcare is a slow-moving industry. Heady talk of impending disruption and revolution isn’t usually wrong, but it does tend to focus farther off on the horizon than can be reasonably planned for.

On the topic of healthcare industry trends in information management, now is an ideal time to take a look back at this past year.

Staying the Data Quality Course

Data quality has been the talk of information management thought leaders for years now and 2019 was no different.

Value-based care, increased dependence on analytics and the continued progression of artificial intelligence (AI) have only made high-quality data a more critical goal. But we’re still seeing some speed bumps. Organizations ranging from clinical to the payer side are struggling to consolidate disparate, siloed data from claims, EHRs, telehealth and even social determinants of health.

Looking forward into 2020, we can expect these challenges to persist, but for more attention and resources to be dedicated to them because of increased pressure from other initiatives.

Some Sobriety Around AI

A couple of years ago, AI was positioned as the savior of every corner of healthcare — from population health, to revenue cycle, to clinical applications and back. However, 2019 was the year of tempered expectations.

The hype has cleared to reveal some practical applications of AI across the industry. Revenue cycle has been a standout, with organizations already using various strategic AI applications to tackle claim denials, reduce the cost to collect, improve workflows and clean up coding and clinical documentation. OptumLabs‘ deployment of a deep learning model is a recent example.

In 2020, expect to see stronger and more practical business cases for AI to continue to emerge.

Expanding State Regulations

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) stirred up a lot of whispers last year, but it also set the stage for a year where healthcare information management professionals will need to keep an eye on state regulations.

Following in the spirit of the European regulations, the California Consumer Privacy Act evolved to its final form throughout 2019. Taking effect this year, it established what will likely be the strongest set of consumer privacy act rights in the country. As other states look for solutions to their own consumer privacy challenges — the first half of 2019 saw a record number of healthcare records breached, according to the HIPAA Journal — it’s fair to expect that 2020 will see similar efforts bubbling up across the U.S.

Evolving Metadata Management

Metadata management (the understanding of the who, what, when, where and why of data) showed up on a few 2019 prediction lists, and the year didn’t disappoint. Products from players across the board enabled the creation of knowledge graphs of organizational data assets, empowered organizations to document their technical metadata and how it’s used, and built single-point references for business glossaries and data dictionaries, noted Data Management Solutions Review.

While smaller names are jumping into the fray, in 2020, keep an eye out for product innovation from staples like IBM’s InfoSphere Information Governance Catalog.

Emerging HIPAA Right of Access

2019 was a busy year for HIPAA breach violations, but that was just the start. Last year also marked the launch of the HIPAA Right of Access enforcement initiative, which took on organizations with a history of overcharging patients for copies of medical records, or not supplying copies of records in a timely manner in the format requested.

A report from Citizen Health, a startup dedicated to providing patients with access to easy-to-share digital health records, found that over half of healthcare providers were not fully compliant with this section of HIPAA, according to the HIPAA Journal. With organizations subject to traditional HIPAA penalties, 2019 was the year we got to see just how far the “patient-centered” ball fell behind the industry.

Expect 2020 to be the year consumer access to data and information becomes a hotter topic in information management conversations. Overall, 2020 is shaping up to be a year of practicality, but also one where the promises of information technology begin to bear real fruit.

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