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As a chief data officer, healthcare CEO, or other executive in the industry, you know how vital data governance is across all departments and within your organization’s supply chains. The well-being of your patients and company depend on it. By adhering to comprehensive yet practicable data governance policies, your organization can reduce risks associated with inappropriate handling and use of critical information while simultaneously optimizing operational performance. Grounding strategies for implementing effective data governance in the healthcare sector is critical.

What is data governance and why it matters

Data governance is a process for managing data assets in an organization, with the primary goal of ensuring data interoperability and data quality. Healthcare data governance is especially essential as it allows organizations to ensure that data is secure and also accessible in communities where data sharing and data privacy are of major importance. Health Level 7 (HL7) and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) are two standards used within data governance strategies to enable better data management, and consequently, a better patient experience. With the help of data governance, disparities can be addressed in healthcare organizations, allowing for greater equity when it comes to patient care in healthcare delivery settings. Therefore, data governance should be seen as an important feature of any successful organization that strives to leverage technology to provide comprehensive healthcare experiences.

As per MIT’ s survey, Chief Data Officers priorities were as follows:

  • Establishing clear and effective data governance (51%)
  • Improving data quality (48%)
  • Building and maintaining advanced analytics capabilities (42%)
  • Building and maintaining business intelligence capabilities (36%)
  • Data monetization capabilities (21%)
  • Data, analytics, and AI ethics (21%)

Data governance also ranked highest when chief data officers were asked to rank their top three priorities, with 45% citing clear and effective data governance as a top concern.

Key challenges in the healthcare industry when implementing data governance

The healthcare industry is complex, and implementing data governance can present certain challenges when it comes to collaboration between various stakeholders. Data silos, legacy systems , and data inconsistencies can all present obstacles to effective data governance. Additionally, the implementation of new technologies must be accompanied by policies to ensure their compliance with regulatory requirements. Finally, data privacy and  security are also major concerns in the healthcare industry and must be addressed when implementing data governance strategies.


A solid data governance program is essential to ensure the proper management of valuable healthcare data and the associated risks, such as data privacy, quality control and security. Implementing effective data governance requires a comprehensive plan that involves various strategies throughout the entire value chain. Some strategies include conducting internal policy reviews, forming governing bodies responsible for developing and implementing standards, policies and procedures that apply to teams across organizations, leveraging technology to provide insights into usage trends, developing communication plans with stakeholders regarding policies and processes, ensuring transparency in leadership roles related to this governance program, monitoring compliance activities and encouraging user feedback through surveys and focus group interviews. These steps are necessary for successful implementation of a data governance program in the healthcare sector.

How to ensure proper data governance

Proper data governance is essential to ensure the efficient and accurate operation of an organization. It involves creating static rules, dynamic management processes and a comprehensive set of business objectives which must be met to protect the integrity of data within the system. Best practices can include investing in high-quality security tools, educating personnel about applicable regulations and legal requirements related to data management and setting up internal procedures for compliance monitoring. Additionally, incorporating artificial intelligence into existing data platforms could help with predictive analytics that can create even more secure solutions moving forward. Taking these steps can help organizations set up a robust process for data governance which will allow them to remain compliant while maximizing their operational efficiency.


To summarize, data governance is an essential tool for healthcare organizations to ensure trust, transparency and compliance within their data systems. There are several key challenges that organizations face when trying to implement proper guidelines including the need for effective communication and change management strategies. Artificial Intelligence can enable healthcare organizations to make better use of their data and optimize the process of data governance.

Ultimately, a successful adoption of data governance in healthcare requires both good planning and execution as well as robust monitoring mechanisms. With the promised benefits of improved patient outcomes, reduced costs, better personnel organization and more efficient operations, now is the time for healthcare systems everywhere to embrace the practice of implementing an effective data governance program.

Photo: Galeanu Mihai, Getty Images

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These are challenging times for health care, and particularly for women in health care. Consider that nearly 78% of the health care workforce is represented by women.

When I look at the pressing challenges affecting health care today from inflation, shrinking margins, staffing shortages, turnover, and supply chain disruptions, I think about how these issues may be disproportionately affecting women. It can happen in a trickle-down effect and spur a vicious cycle where understaffing may lead to poor patient experiences, discouraging future visits and further suppressing health system revenue. This scenario can fuel overwork and burnout for women whose hands touch all aspects of care delivery. This cycle – often exacerbated by the challenges of our times – can take a toll on our female workforce and their own health and well-being.

Inflation adds to the burden in an insidious way as well. Rising costs can mean that more patients may put off screenings, prevention, and early treatment. Thus, they may show up to emergency rooms and doctor’s offices sicker, possibly with more advanced stage diseases.  This situation can be more costly for the patient’s health and wallet but can also be costly to our female workforce resulting in fewer hands to care for more acute patients.

Not surprisingly, stressed, short-staffed environments can jeopardize patient outcomes.

We need to invest

These circumstances explain why a vast majority (85%) of health system leaders recently said in a Deloitte survey that staffing challenges would have a “major impact” on their 2023 strategies. More than nine in 10 surveyed said investing in their workforce was “important or “very important.”

Although these intentions are encouraging, well-meaning executives will likely be forced to balance workforce investment with the need to maintain profitability. This month, as we recognize International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, let’s commit that every dollar that’s invested in the strained, largely female health care workforce pays off.

Can we do it? 

I believe we can, and there’s no better time than now. The right approach can improve workforce performance and satisfaction for women throughout an organization. I recommend new initiatives from the top that show support for women, starting with an all-important listening initiative to help ensure that women (and others) feel heard and that eventual solutions are on target with their needs.

Here’s how

Specifically, I recommend the 3Rs: retain, reengage, and reimagine. One main principle of the 3Rs is to carefully blend quick wins with longer-term transformation.

  • Retain – Focus on improving working conditions right out of the gate. This could start with identifying problems that are high on priority lists, relatively easy to solve, and address them right away. Brush up on effective leadership behaviors and communicate transparently. Examples of quick wins could be new support for childcare, flexible scheduling, job sharing, mentorship arrangements, and remote work options. Also look for ways to show appreciation through nonmonetary rewards like gratitude days, celebrations, and wellness resources. Other quick retention measures could be more direct, such as retention bonuses or launching a new mental health service to help provide additional support during difficult times. Small wins can help build momentum and demonstrate your commitment to women in your organization.
  • Reengage – Strive to help women feel empowered. Encouraging women to identify root causes of stress and dissatisfaction, and to propose ideas for a better workplace experience is important. Here is where you can clarify and formalize efforts to reflect their specific needs from career paths to professional development to growth opportunities. Another reengagement measure could be reassessing your total rewards program and adjusting the mix of benefits, pay, and other rewards. This can also be where you can transform the culture by fostering greater inclusion, addressing safety (psychological and physical), and encouraging courageous decision-making. Effective reengagement can give women a true sense of ownership in the organization. They should believe their workplace can be a satisfying and rewarding one in which to advance their career and wellbeing.
  • Reimagine – Think big! (And big doesn’t have to mean expensive.) Examine from a 30,000-foot level what work is done, how it’s done, where it’s done, and who does it. Identify the key operations that need re-engineering to help optimize the human experience and transform care delivery.

Examples of reimagination could be events or initiatives that support women to share their stories or foster mentoring.  Reimagination also could be offloading, outsourcing, or automating administrative tasks so that more time can be dedicated to delivering work that is most meaningful and impactful. Or go further and restructure roles – for example, creating interdisciplinary care teams that help everybody operate at the top of their license. Other moves could include intelligent new-hire onboarding, optimization of permanent and travel RNs, intelligent patient placement, and automated discharge planning.

Admittedly, the biggest, most “reimagined” ideas may have to be rolled out in phases as health care seeks to balance financial realities with workforce improvements.

This year, let’s take action to reimagine the health care workforce for women. With so much of health care resting on women’s shoulders, it’s time we retain, reengage and reimagine health care with women leading the change. Our future workforce and our health depends on it.

Photo: FotografiaBasica, Getty Images

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interoperability, rope, braid

Health data interoperability recently took a major step forward when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the first six organizations as Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs) under the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA).

Many predicted the coming “data tsunami” once the floodgates opened and information was shared more widely, and discussed how increased interoperability would create both opportunities and challenges. When the QHIN approvals were announced, Micky Tripathi, National Coordinator for Health IT, mentioned “operational friction in interoperability” and the challenges of moving information between enterprises — which is a primary issue that QHINs seek to address.

The challenge of finding diagnostically relevant data

As more information flows freely between systems, it will create an even bigger challenge for clinicians: finding diagnostically relevant information amidst the flood of incoming data. Healthcare information is currently organized using different terminologies and coding systems to support classification of information into separate domains such as diagnoses, labs, medications, orders, procedures, etc., primarily to support billing transactions and internal system workflows. The terminologies and codes are not organized to enable a clinician to quickly see how well a condition is being managed for a specific patient.

Clinicians are already frustrated with their EHRs, in part because of difficulties finding the information they need to determine how well a condition is being managed or if a patient is responding to treatment. Under value-based care, it is more critical than ever for clinical users to see longitudinal views of diagnostically relevant information for each of a patient’s conditions so they can take appropriate action and document accordingly.

This means clinicians need systems that do more than just support the coding of diagnoses and transactions; they also need their systems to diagnostically filter information at the point of care and present them with actionable views. In other words, clinicians require a new form of clinical decision support that presents the specific information needed to make decisions – regardless of the source. That new capability might be called “diagnostic interoperability.”

Time for new tools

The 21st Century Cures Act, TEFCA, and the imminent establishment of QHINs will, for the first time, make the long-awaited advent of interoperability a reality. Systems will be sending SNOMED, ICD-10, CPT, RxNorm, LOINC, HCPCS, and a host of other codes and narrative notes back-and-forth as part of the data tsunami, leaving it to the receiving systems to make sense of it for clinicians. The timing is perfect for the adoption of a new set of tools that make diagnostically relevant information discoverable and actionable by clinicians at the point of care.

A core requirement for these new tools is to enable a clinician to select any diagnosis, problem, or clinical issue for a patient and quickly view the hallmark indicators for that problem.

TEFCA, QHINs, FHIR and terminology standards will facilitate the transmission and receiving of information, but the critical task for clinicians will be finding the information needed to assess, evaluate, manage and treat a specific problem. Clinical users need to quickly view the symptoms, history, physical exam findings, test orders and results, therapies, comorbidities, sequalae and other data points related to any specific condition.

In the new world of interoperability, incoming information will be in a variety of terminologies and formats: ICD10-CM and SNOMED for problems and diagnoses, LOINC and CPT for lab orders and results, CPT, HCPCS, and ICD10-PCS for procedures and therapies, RxNorm and NDC for drugs, and a number of other specialized code sets. While these code sets and terminologies are useful for classifying information in a specific domain, they were not designed to work together to present a comprehensive view of a condition, nor for use by clinicians at the point of care.

Current EHRs typically organize this information into separate “tabs” or “buckets” in the medical record. To monitor the course of a disease, a user must navigate between sections and spend time hunting for the relevant details – which takes time that could be better-spent interacting with the patient and managing their condition. The EHR may contain all the relevant information a clinician needs for decision making, but finding the precise details they need is not always easy.

A better way

In the world of value-based care, the effective monitoring and management of chronic conditions requires that all relevant information for a diagnosis be instantly available to the clinician at the point of care, without requiring clinicians to waste precious time searching for details. A better way would be to empower clinicians with a clinical toolset that allows them to select any condition and immediately see a diagnostically organized view of all the relevant details. Such technology could replace manual searches by automatically filtering information for diagnostic relevancy based on the codified details and using natural language processing and mappings to organize the items.

In addition to diagnostic filtering and presentation, the ideal clinical toolset must also integrate with existing system workflows and provide point-of-care services to evaluate the patient’s medical record for adherence to clinical best practice guidelines and mandated quality measures, appropriateness of diagnostic coding, and sufficiency of documentation.

Without a new set of tools that clinicians can access at the point of care, the availability of information from QHINs will increase provider burdens because they will struggle to find the information needed to evaluate a patient, take action, complete documentation, and move to the next patient.

Basic interoperability is about to become real. The next step is diagnostic interoperability – which could very well be the impetus for value-base care success and for the transformation of EHRs from clinician burden to essential tool.

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Not too long ago, in the 1990s and 2000s, the health care system’s best solution for chronic pain was an opioid prescription. Today, of course, we know that opioids are highly addictive and deadly, only to be used as pain relief in moderation with careful oversight.

Still, even after more than a decade of trying to curb opioid use, overdose deaths continue to ravage the country, with each year’s death count higher than the last. In a single 12-month period ending in April 2021, more than 75,000 people were estimated to have died from opioid overdoses – nearly 20,000 more deaths than the previous year.

Clearly, the nation’s strategies to lessen opioid-related deaths are not working. Even though opioids are off the table in many instances, people still experience pain. So how do we address pain management effectively with little or no opioids?

One solution is digital health, an effective – though underutilized – tool for pain management. In my role as a chief clinical officer of a virtual physical therapy platform, I get to see firsthand how solutions like these can help reduce opioid reliance and regain mobility.

Recently a patient with a significant amount of pain and reliance on opioids began virtual physical therapy. Through the program, she began the process of learning how to safely move without injuring herself. With this practice, she was able to overcome her fear of movement, which is a typical reaction for those living in pain. The patient regained her independence in activities she used to enjoy, simple things like going out to dinner with friends or putting away the dishes, and her reliance on opioid medication was reduced.

She explained how she could do things she couldn’t do before, such as lift some heavier things, and how her mobility increased. Most importantly, she was no longer in pain all the time and had significantly reduced the use of medication.

As we see in this example, virtual physical therapy can help individuals overcome barriers that they thought could only be solved by medication. When leveraged correctly, digital health offers three advantages over in-person care and can reduce the need for opioids and improve pain management.

Get upstream on pain management

Digital health allows us to get upstream of chronic pain problems by connecting with patients early and before it feels unmanageable. Many health plans now offer members access to various digital programs, which they can sign up for without needing a referral from a provider or having any existing health conditions. By lowering the barrier to access, digital health providers and their partners can begin building relationships with members even before they enter the medical system.

For example, once a member is onboard, digital health programs have the ability to identify people in pain or at risk of pain and offer to begin working with them before their pain becomes chronic. Dealing with chronic pain is both physically and emotionally stressful. It can cause depression and greatly reduce a person’s quality of life. The development of chronic pain is even associated with structural and functional changes in the brain.

Building a solid foundation to manage pain early on will allow patients to better cope. And, better pain management strategies are thought to also undo or prevent the changes in the brain that can propagate pain and lead to emotional disorders.

As Benjamin Franklin famously said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Accessibility, when pain is calling

Access to brick-and-mortar clinics is restricted to certain hours and days of the week. Conversely, digital health can fit into the palm of someone’s hand, with programs that are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Access is vital because chronic pain doesn’t mind a schedule. A pain crisis can occur at any time. Having unlimited access to digital health programs – such as virtual physical therapy or mindful meditation – during a crisis can help reduce suffering and promote patient empowerment.

For patients, digital health tools are something tangible, something real they can use in the moment to lower and manage their pain. That in itself can make a world of difference for the person suffering, helping them turn away from the need to use opioids for pain relief.

Providers gain increased insights

In collaboration with digital health, health care providers gain access to robust data that they wouldn’t normally get through in-office visits.

Digital health programs that track members’ progress and monitor outcomes are able to present providers with regular updates and insights into their patients, such as physical activity level, medication intake monitoring, pain level, function level and engagement. That level of granularity is not possible through regular medical or wellness check-ins with a primary care doctor.

It isn’t uncommon for one doctor to tell a patient the pain isn’t a big deal, while another prescribes pain pills. Digital health can act as the connective tissue among solutions, patients, providers and clinics, improving communication among a patient’s care team and keeping them up-to-date in real-time. With all the providers on the same page, it is easier to maintain consistent messaging around pain, avoiding those mixed messages.

The power of digital health in helping people manage pain is clear, yet it remains untapped potential. All the players, from digital health vendors to payers and providers, need to work together to make it a scalable reality.

More than 200 hundred people are dying a day from an opioid-related overdose. Having access to alternative opioid options for pain management is essential in lowering this outrageous death toll.

Photo: sorbetto, Getty Images

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If there’s a silver lining to the past two years, the pandemic brought mental health to the forefront.

Studies show that one in five adults will experience a behavioral health disorder yearly. The number is almost certainly higher in rural areas.

Anxiety and depression rates among adults reached 42% during the pandemic, according to data secured by the National Center for Health Statistics in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.

About a fifth of the population lives in rural areas. While mental health issues aren’t necessarily higher in rural areas, rural residents receive less frequent mental health treatments and often have more limited access to doctors and counselors who specialize in mental health.

In rural communities, patients often go directly to the emergency room with mental health issues. Unfortunately, these hospitals’ emergency rooms often do not have a safe waiting area for psychiatric patients or patients in crisis.

Sometimes patients can wait hours before a hospital can find the right place. Unfortunately, this scenario diverts one or more nurses away from their primary emergency room or acute care responsibilities because they must stay with that patient one-on-one until the hospital can find somewhere for them.

This scenario often plays out in hospitals and compounds an existing problem.

Rural areas already struggle with an acute shortage of medical personnel and particularly nurses. With patients coming in with urgent, life-threatening medical issues, hospitals need their nurses to focus on those patients.

In the next 12-18 months, healthcare providers — especially rural providers — have an opportunity to lay the foundation that will stem the volume of patients with mental health issues from going to the emergency room. Instead, organizations can see these patients receive the help they need and deserve.

Telemedicine will be more prevalent

Amid the pandemic, rural mental health providers increasingly deployed telehealth to reach more patients. Organizations can use that technology to treat patients, schedule counseling sessions, and hold outpatient and one-on-one sessions.

Telehealth options took off as a “necessary evil” amid the pandemic. In the post-pandemic world, it will be necessary for survival and a bit easier to roll out from a staffing standpoint.

To deliver counseling — whether via telehealth or in-person — healthcare providers must find these qualified counselors out there that can conduct the actual telehealth sessions.

More than that, rural health clinics can relieve hospitals of the need to be the sole provider of mental health counseling for children or adults. These rural health clinics or their outpatient clinics serve as a route to provide health and care by using telehealth, bringing that telehealth into their outpatient offerings.

Furthermore, tapping into larger health systems — specifically, their psychiatric units — for advice and help will enable smaller providers to expand their offerings without increasing staffing and outlaying capital on new services.

While we’re making progress, building those bridges and making those connections takes time.

Growing the connection is paramount

One challenge with telehealth offerings is that not everybody has a computer or a reliable network connection. The good news is that nearly everybody has a smartphone, which has helped patients and providers stay connected.

The federal government has allocated billions of dollars to expand broadband connectivity. Moving forward, some healthcare providers may take a more active role in advocating for the expansion of reliable broadband in rural areas to ensure telemedicine becomes an even more viable option for underserved communities.

As community leaders, healthcare providers and perfectly positioned to advocate for this expansion.

Increased use of analytics will help predict outcomes

Perhaps the most significant trend we’ll see in the next 12-18 months is the increased use of analytics to predict patient outcomes.

Incorporating analytics into enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems allows organizations to monitor and capture data better. That will help organizations gain more insight into where the shortfalls are and what we need to do to improve.

This insight improves strategic planning because organizations can look at those numbers for a more complete picture of what’s happening.

Smaller rural hospitals benefit from ERP systems to help them survive, but since the implementation of ERP systems, I see these hospitals using data more often to capture what’s happening with trends and growth in their marketplace. This technology helps organizations manage their financials and see the bigger picture of what’s happening and what is needed.

For example, I’ve seen this technology specifically benefit diabetic populations in rural areas. Recent trends show that the diabetic population is climbing in rural areas. Now healthcare providers can use technology to help decide whether they need to bring on board diabetic counseling or teach classes with a nutritionist.

Technology can be applied in the same manner to mental health. It helps inform organizations where their shortfalls are and where they can add or enhance services.

More conversation means more clarity.

Ideally, every small town in America would have a psychiatrist. Many rural hospitals are integrating these services into their practices, recognizing the need for psychiatric services. These expansions include adding geriatric psychiatry units to help older populations.

While the expansions are helpful and much-needed, they won’t change the situation overnight. It’s a process that takes a while to develop and hire and train the staff, and organizations still need a medical director and a psychiatrist to oversee it.

Everything won’t be solved with staff, but it certainly will make a good step.

Mental health often isn’t talked about in rural areas. Unfortunately, it still carries a stigma and all the technology in the world won’t change that.

Solving the mental health crisis in rural areas still comes down to people acting — no action is too small.

If there’s one change in the next 12-18 months, let’s hope there’s an increased awareness and openness to talking about mental health, especially in our rural communities.

We’ve already done the hardest part: bringing it to the forefront. Now, we just need to see it over the finish line.

Photo: marekuliasz, Getty Images

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Turning the page on 2022 will be a cause for celebration in the healthcare sector.

The past year was one of the worst financial years on record for hospitals, according to Kaufman Hall. New data from the healthcare consulting firm and the American Hospital Association indicates that 53% to 68% of the nation’s hospitals will end 2022 in the red. At the same time, hospital employment is down approximately 100,000 from pre-pandemic levels.

This is all happening amid a backdrop of growing margin pressures and an aging population.

So, what will the coming year hold for healthcare organizations and their patients? And how can businesses in the healthcare sector best position for success in 2023 and beyond?

Let’s examine the situation, assess what 2023 will look like and identify the best treatment.

High costs will dissuade people from getting the care they need

Past experience shows us that in recessions, Americans are quick to cut routine visits and medical advice that comes at a cost. Expect continued media coverage on the questionable economy, recession nerves and layoffs to keep people away from healthcare in the year ahead.

Concerns about the economy and the fact that as many as 15 million Americans could lose Medicaid access when the pandemic ends could exacerbate the trend of people putting their health on the backburner to save time and money or try to avoid stress.

Staff shortages and wage demands will pack a one-two punch

Healthcare employees are stressed as well. A recent report explains that nurses are “beyond burnout.” This problem has prompted the launch of a multimillion-dollar burnout prevention program pilot. But research suggests that turnover is highest for health aides and assistants.

High burnout keeps employers struggling to recruit and retain staff. And increasing wages make it increasingly difficult for healthcare institutions to afford the help they need and turn a profit.

One of the reasons there aren’t enough people to serve patients and generate more revenue is because there’s a lot of friction in the current model. Rather than spending time with patients, healthcare workers have to dedicate significant time to dull, inefficient administrative processes. If healthcare organizations don’t address it, this problematic pattern will continue.

A growing number of healthcare companies will automate back-office work

In a move to improve their situation and that of all healthcare stakeholders, healthcare companies in 2023 will automate accounts payable, claims processing, collections and other back-office work. At the same time, health insurance providers will automate most of the administrative work associated with processing claims. This will be especially prevalent at mid-sized companies, many of which previously felt automation technology was out of their reach.

Automation will free up employees to spend more time serving patients, which is what attracted many of these workers to healthcare to begin with. It will enable healthcare organizations to know that administrative tasks are done exactly right every time. And it will allow healthcare organizations to improve efficiency and scalability and reduce their costs.

Typically, automation has been the domain of large organizations, which have the resources to do heavy integration work and bot maintenance. But now, platforms that don’t require such integration and continually optimize bots put automation within reach of mid-sized businesses.

In-person care will take a hit as more people embrace telehealth

Expect growing adoption of telehealth in the coming year and beyond. Many Americans now understand the value and ease of telehealth, which took off amid Covid-19 stay-at-home orders and dramatic policy changes. In the first year of the pandemic alone, 44% of continuously enrolled Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries had a telehealth visit, totaling more than 45 million visits.

Baby boomers and those in dire scenarios utilize in-person visits most often. Chronic pain cases, mental health concerns and pain points of younger people – who will look to mobile-first experiences rather than considering physical locations – will funnel into telehealth.

Meeting patients where they are, rather than requiring them to travel or overcome other barriers to get service, will help patients and every other stakeholder in the healthcare system.

Advances in AI will take wearable technology, healthcare applications to the next level

Major wearables companies like Apple and Google Fitbit have amazing proprietary data sets. Recent artificial intelligence (AI) breakthroughs will allow these major wearable companies to use their unique data and devices to unlock new and even more exciting applications.

OpenAI’s new GPT-3 chatbot, which delivers more advanced results than people expected, is one sign of where things are headed. This signals that AI models are becoming more advanced.

To date, wearable technology has primarily involved consumer applications that track how many steps you take or capture your workout history. And with recent advances in AI modeling, we’re likely to see some interesting new use cases in the healthcare and insurance arenas over the next year. But now, the major differentiator won’t be how you interface with AI but rather who has the unique training data needed to unlock new experiences and applications for end users.

Technology will move healthcare in the right direction

Running a healthcare operation and delivering quality care to patients isn’t easy, as the past year clearly demonstrated. Inefficiency and unnecessary friction are a large part of the problem. And healthcare is far more expensive than it needs to be. The U.S. spends nearly twice as much as the average OECD country yet has some of the worst outcomes.

But, with the right technology, healthcare organizations in the year ahead can become more efficient, make quality care accessible to more people, reduce their recruiting and hiring costs, prevent mistakes, and deliver better outcomes for themselves, their workers and their patients.

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Customers are at the center of business, and in the medical technology space quality assurance reigns supreme.

Quality assurance looks at a company’s services or products to make sure everything is running efficiently and up to par with what is desired and mandated by an industry. When this process is streamlined, quality assurance provides a significant benefit to both the consumer and the business.

For a company, quality assurance provides an opportunity to create efficiency in the business model. For customers in the medtech space, quality assurance can improve patient safety, effectiveness and user experiences, while also ensuring they are getting necessary outcomes at a fast and accurate pace.

Improving user experience with products can then translate into loyalty for the brand. When companies know what customers want, they can use that to innovate and keep people coming back for more.

Innovation is key. The customer is number one.

Without innovation everything is stagnant. Nothing evolves. Nothing improves. In the medical field where everything constantly changes, innovation is of utmost importance.

One way to figure out what could be the next big innovation is to listen to your customers.

Monitoring customer feedback and vigilance about a product goes both ways. It can be positive or it can be negative. Both are useful for the business to hear. A business can take that input and then make adjustments to the product to better optimize the user experience.

In addition, customer feedback is an integral part of quality control checks. In medtech, feedback is crucial. It is important that all medical devices and technologies work properly and efficiently for the user. A business wants – and needs – to know what is working and what isn’t.

If your customer is using a hearing aid, and it breaks after a few uses, there could be a structural issue with the specific device, or it could be a bigger manufacturing problem. Being able to listen to that feedback, pinpoint the problem, and look into a solution is important.

Having that direct line of feedback to make necessary adjustments is a win-win for the customer and the business.

Is it functioning at the high level that it was designed in the research and development (R&D) to achieve including user needs? What can be improved to better satisfy and improve patient outcomes? Did one part of the device malfunction or break? Can that malfunctioning part be replaced, or is it a bigger manufacturing issue in the supply chain?  These are all necessary and important questions to address.

Performing quality control checks on products is integral in the future developments of the products. Being able to control and streamline how a business will respond to changes will resolve issues quicker and more smoothly.

Follow the regulatory mandates.

Our environment is constantly changing. Technology is being updated, and new laws are being passed every day. It’s important to make sure medical devices follow all regulatory mandates.

Furthermore, quality R&D and regulatory oversight must work together in developing a product to make sure all needs are met. Having a well-documented product lifecycle can help streamline the process and keep everything in check from all angles.

Businesses working in the medical device space must not only be financially compliant, but also regulatory agency compliant across the board. Regulatory compliance ensures products have been tested to make sure it’s effective, safe and have the proper usage directions laid out for the customer.

Following all mandates and government guidance is necessary and advised.

Automation increases accuracy.

Automation can lead to more accurate results by reducing variability and increasing the overall quality of the system. It can also help ensure your company stays compliant with regulatory mandates.

If a business has an organized system, it can improve supplier management and help the business operate at an optimal level.

All in all, quality assurance helps a business make sure its process meets the standards and regulations of an industry – a key component in medical technology. Having a streamlined process to get customer feedback, adhere to regulations, and automate processes not only helps make sure a business delivers the best quality products, but also helps ensure that customers are satisfied.

Photo: marchmeena29, Getty Images

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Life science organizations faced down an array of daunting challenges during the last three years: a global health crisis, supply chain upheaval, and uncertain economic climate, just to name a few. But if we can say the dust is beginning to settle, we can also look to the future with the knowledge that uncertainty will persist – and that we should be prepared. How can companies prepare for an unpredictable year ahead?

Many pharma and medical device companies will look inward, with the goal of standardizing and modernizing even highly regulated activities. They’ll lean into new approaches for specific challenges, and apply purpose-built technology across drug and device development. Here’s a closer look at some important industry trends for 2023.

Tech maturation matters

Pharmaceutical companies continue to forge ahead in their quest to create a truly end-to-end insights management function. Teams understand that insight generation and analysis are vital to the success of new drug development – but may lack the willingness to devote significant business resources to solving the problem.

Happily, even in a notoriously conservative and risk-averse industry, leaders are coming around to the idea that they can solve the problem with technology. Next year, pharma companies will begin putting both minds and money behind the push to put insights management into the spotlight as a strategic business pillar.

One way they’ll do this is by using artificial intelligence to support – not replace – talented humans who don’t have enough time to manually comb through reams of patient data, medical records, and other important sources of information. For pharmaceutical teams, 2023 will be the year of understanding that AI can be a benevolent partner rather than an intimidating threat.

What’s the danger of ignoring AI? Teams that don’t understand AI applications run the risk of missing out on key insights, and all the opportunities those can provide. This can have a particularly meaningful impact on applications like precision medicine, where developing the best treatment pathway often requires analyzing information about different aspects of the patient experience.

While much of this information is obtained from structured data from electronic medical records, there is also valuable information contained in the unstructured text of physician notes, referral forms, and medical charts. Developing precision therapies also requires input from global experts who won’t necessarily turn up in the usual publishing and speaking circuits. This is an ideal case for technologies that are specific to life science, where gaps in knowledge can interfere with the expedient development of precision and targeted therapies.

Adding agility where it counts

Like other industries, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are eager to return to the days of in-person meetings and busy show floors. But as folks return to racking up frequent flyer miles, an old problem is rearing its head: at in-person events, where do the insights go?

How are important observations collected and shared, and how will that information make its way into the mix with data from other channels, like virtual meetings and social platforms? As organizations balance traditional and tech-enabled ways of working, technology will stay in the picture to add process and consistency.

What does this look like in practice? Teams will gladly return to the muscle memory of an in-person medical congress, but it will be far less chaotic: they’ll use social listening to understand trending topics ahead of and during the event, adding currency to their real-time conversations. They might share same-day observations in a virtual venue and achieve alignment on important discussions before they pack to go home. And once the event is over, the conversations can continue online, with sentiment analysis tools to potentially shorten the time from insight to action by weeks, or even months.

Increasing the all-important agility factor simply equips life science organizations to have more choice in engaging truly global audiences, eliminating traditional roadblocks like travel time and expense, disparate geographical locations, and different preferred languages. Having experienced first-hand what it’s like to work in a world where travel – even as far as an in-town office or clinic – is impossible, the importance of this flexibility can’t be overstated.

As pandemic-induced limitations fell away, many old habits returned. Some, like traveling and meeting in person, were welcomed. Others, such as congress chaos and deluges of data, have been less well-received. The year ahead will be about figuring out how to move forward with flexibility and preparedness when – not if – the next challenge arises.

Photo: Feodora Chiosea, Getty Images

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In July of 2020, an Experian survey found that 60 percent of people had higher expectations of their digital experience than before the pandemic. That means it took less than four months for online behavior and expectations to shift — irrevocably.

As the pandemic accelerated the rate of digital adoption across all aspects of life, consumers began to develop similar expectations for their healthcare. These days, people want to search for and evaluate providers, doctors, and treatments in the same way they do electronics and clothing. (After all, that’s the experience they’ve come to expect from Amazon, Google, and Walmart.) They want immediate access to a wide variety of information—from hospital location to a specific doctor’s specialty to treatment reviews from other patients—so they can make their own informed decisions about their health.

In short, patients want more control of their own healthcare journey.

But providers, hampered by outdated data systems and insulated from marketplace competition, have not made the same adjustments as retailers. That will change quickly as new technology makes data more accessible and consumer goods giants like Amazon and CVS continue to encroach on primary care.

Here are three lessons providers can borrow from retailers to improve the patient experience.

  1. Make your “inventory” visible.

Finding the perfect shoes on a site like Amazon is simple and intuitive. A quick search for “green men’s running shoes” shows you what’s in stock and how soon each option can be delivered, while individual results pages provide detailed product information and customer reviews.

Finding the right doctor should be just as easy. If provider data and availability is your health system’s “inventory,” a patient should be able to search for it on your website just as they would for shoes on Amazon.

Modern search technology can take a natural language query like “doctors near me who accept Aetna insurance” and filter out relevant results. It can access information like a doctor’s specialty and whether they’re accepting new patients and available on a specific date — all of which can be used to deliver specific, accurate info to the patient.

This is particularly valuable for providers facing staff shortages. Just because a doctor is available on a certain day doesn’t mean her support staff is. Advanced search technology can determine if support staff is unavailable and remove that option, saving the patient the frustrating experience of having to rebook an appointment.

  1. Break down information silos.

So why isn’t searching for a doctor online as easy as finding a pair of running shoes? That has a lot to do with how healthcare organizations have historically stored and organized information.

Too often, the information a patient needs is scattered across siloed technology systems within a provider organization. Medical records may be stored on one database, facility records in another, and staff schedules in a third. These legacy data systems, often constructed piecemeal over the years, can’t communicate with one another, trapping the information.

This is where modern search technology can make the difference. The right system can leverage APIs to extract information from disparate sources and combine them into workable data sets. This can be used, for example, to match physicians to specialties and conditions treated.

That information can power a specialized search experience like “find a doctor” or a universal search experience that relies on natural language processing. What’s more, it can be made accessible to a third-party search engine — so a patient searching Google for doctors with a specific speciality in your area will see your results.

This allows patients to do more than just find a doctor. They can also answer other critical questions: Where is the provider located? How do I pay my bill? How do I log into my medical records? How do I change or schedule an appointment? All of this information already exists within an organization; the key is connecting it and making it accessible to the patients who need it.

  1. Focus on consumer experience. 

Providers used to focus on digital search primarily as a patient acquisition tool. The web was seen as a way to attract more patients and feed them into the top of the conversion funnel.

Priorities have shifted amid the healthcare workforce shortages caused by the pandemic and Great Resignation. With more than eight in 10 facilities facing shortages of allied healthcare professionals and America’s already thin nursing workforce retiring en masse, many hospitals aren’t in position to take on additional patient volume.

So, what are short-staffed providers to do? Shift the focus from filling the funnel to improving the patient experience for those already in it. As retailers have shown, digital channels can be just as adept at improving retention as they are driving acquisition.

An immediate way to address the digital experience is by ensuring consumers have easy access to the information they need. Patients already in the process of receiving care within your health system have just as many questions about their care as prospective patients… maybe more. They want access to their medical records, contact information for their physician, details about their treatment, reminders about scheduled appointments, and more.

People accustomed to easily accessing information online don’t have the patience to navigate complicated website drop-downs or pick up the phone every time they want an answer. Putting this information at their fingertips with advanced search shows that you prioritize their time and wellbeing.

Of course, building a strong patient experience will help with acquisition as well. As the primary driver for making healthcare choices has shifted from things like proximity and price to valuing the experience, patients are relying more on word of mouth. Improving the experience brings in better reviews, which improves both your online and offline reputation and brings more patients to your facility. What improves the bottom of the funnel improves the top of the funnel, creating a flywheel.

Hospitals go to great lengths to deliver exceptional care to their patients. That commitment should extend to the digital space. By making your inventory visible, breaking down data silos, and building a better patient experience, providers will have happier patients and healthier margins.

Photo: LumineImages, Getty Images

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Congress passed the FDA Modernization Act 2.0 last week removing the requirement to use animal testing in drug development. This will allow drug companies the option to use alternative safety-testing models when making new drug submissions.

This is important because the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938, which is still in force, mandates animal testing for every new drug development protocol. Advocates of non-animal experimentation have argued that the cost of animal research is high—in dollars, in time, and in delays in approvals of beneficial drugs for human use. They also maintain that some drugs that were deemed safe by animal studies went on to cause harm in human subjects in clinical testing, although this last position is poorly quantified.

Once the FDA Modernization Act 2.0 is enacted, a transitional moment will follow. The section of the House bill that allows for alternatives to animal use to be incorporated into pre-clinical testing outlines approaches most likely to predict human response based on scientific evidence. These include cell-based assays; organ chips and microphysiological systems; and sophisticated computer modeling. Several of these approaches allow drug developers to incorporate safety assessment alternatives that are robust enough to convince regulators that a program has been adequately de-risked.

The bill comes at a pivotal time; modern toxicity testing has been moving away from a reliance on animal studies. One substitute has been mechanism-based testing strategies, such as cell-based assays. These are already being used as research tools to support the interpretation of in vitro toxicity data, as well as the design of in vitro experiments, and considerable progress has been achieved in making assays available and deployable in a user-friendly form.

So-called organ chips and microphysiological systems began to be used more frequently during Covid-19 drug and vaccine testing, which reportedly helped researchers to better understand how Covid-19 interacted with human organs and elicited an immune response. Using human cells and engineered structures, these approaches create an environment that mimics or models the function of organs, and they may have application in testing drug efficacy in genetically diverse human populations using human genetic material.

The average cost of bringing a drug to market is about $2 billion, of which more than half is spent on clinical trials. But before trials are conducted, researchers are increasingly employing computer modeling, a technology that has been expanding for several decades and which provides several benefits.

Sophisticated modeling that uses in-silico, computer-based testing with virtual patients, biosimulation is fast and relatively inexpensive and reveals rich information about how a drug would perform and how to best design a trial before the drug is ever tested in patients. Biosimulation also offers the flexibility of computer-based testing, allowing developers to optimize trial design and dosing for different patient populations.

By easing regulatory requirements for animal testing, the Act allows scientists to use innovative, leading-edge technologies more fully in future drug development strategies.  These alternatives are not yet the complete answer, but by increasingly taking a “totality of evidence” approach where the combination of multiple data points can be used to assess whether a confidence threshold is reached in relation to the safety of a drug at a particular dose, regulators are allowing developers to accelerate the process.

Now that Congress has passed the FDA Modernization Act, drug companies should consider how to take advantage of the translational tools outlined above, which can be an important part of the drug developer’s arsenal. Depending on how they are used, they can result in researchers more cost-effectively developing the lifesaving drugs and vaccines that patients need, faster.

Photo: Rawf8, Getty Images

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