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Emerging Trends in Health Informatics

October 10, 2019

Healthcare technology is evolving at a rapid pace, so we sat down with Kent State University professor, Rebecca Meehan, to discuss emerging trends in health informatics. She gave us her thoughts on everything from AI in healthcare and patient-generated health data to wearable EKGs and virtual visits.

What are some emerging technology trends you’ve noticed in the HI field within the last year, and how have they made a difference in patient care?

Artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare continues to emerge as anywhere from a helpful tool to a game-changer. Recent work done at Google is utilizing AI in healthcare to document patient encounters and reduce the amount of time a clinician needs to spend on data entry, order entry and other EHR related hands-on writing. This kind of innovation could help clinicians dramatically by saving their time for one-on-one interaction with the patient instead of data entry. It also has the potential to identify issues and information from the visit that went unnoticed initially.

What are your thoughts on patient-generated health data, like the new Apple watch’s EKG capabilities?

The Apple watch, and other wearables like it, are changing the way we, as healthcare consumers, are monitoring our own health. This is particularly true for the wearable EKG capabilities. An EKG historically has been something accessed only after scheduling an appointment with your doctor, or at the emergency room after an incident. Now, through this new wearable EKG technology, the healthcare consumer has an idea, a warning, and a call to action to address issues with his/her heart right away. Something that was once unheard of has now become a tool at our fingertips (or just beneath them on our wrists).

How do you think the patient-generated health data will affect doctors’ visits? Will this data be viewed kind of like WebMD self-diagnosis information, or will it assist doctors?

There is great usefulness in patient-generated health data, so much so that clinicians have been asking patients and their families for centuries about their health and habits at home or since the last visit. The issue has been that patients, for sociocultural, contextual or physical reasons can only convey so much information. Now, patients and caregivers are coming into clinical visits prepared with more information, aided by wearables or other health IT guides for monitoring health data. Patient generated data will supplement clinical data during the visit, allowing for a more thorough understanding of the patient’s condition.

What are your thoughts on telemedicine and virtual visits? Do you foresee them completely replacing in-person visits?

While I do not see telemedicine and virtual visits replacing an in-person visit to your doctor, they are critically important tools available to us now. Telemedicine and virtual visits allow people who are too geographically remote or too sick to travel to visit a doctor to communicate remotely with healthcare professionals. I think the field and technologies will continue to evolve, allowing clinicians to improve their interactions and clinical assessments in this virtual space. It certainly will encourage more communication from both the patient and clinician as they seek to bridge the virtual gaps.

How is the development of AI in healthcare changing the way patients are educating themselves? Do you see more growth or great ideas coming in this area?

Yes, AI in healthcare is changing the ways patients are educating themselves about health. AI and other health information technologies help us as healthcare consumers to be more engaged in our own health. The technologies give us opportunities beyond reading text, by involving us in games, interactives and social media to learn about and participate in our own health awareness and management. AI is changing the culture around personal health.

Explore how health informatics and patient-generated health data are revolutionizing the healthcare industry and consider how an online Master of Science or Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Health Informatics could help you lead new conversations about how to transform the way patient data gathered, utilized and stored.