Consumers will see an increase in successful cyberattacks against their online health records next year; supercomputers like IBM's Watson will reduce patient deaths and treatment costs by 10% in 2018; and virtual healthcare will soon become routine.
Those are some of the predictions made by IDC's Health Insights group in a new report.
The report claims that because of a legacy of lackluster electronic security in healthcare and an increase in the amount of online patient data, one in three consumers will have their healthcare records compromised by cyberattacks in 2016.
"Frankly, healthcare data is really valuable from a cyber criminal standpoint. It could be 5, 10 or even 50 times more valuable than other forms of data," said Lynne Dunbrack, research vice president for IDC's Health Insights.
Not only do healthcare records often have Social Security and credit card numbers, but they are also used by criminals to file fraudulent medical claims and to get medications to resell.
Healthcare fraud costs the industry from $74 billion to $247 billion a year in the U.S., according to FBI statistics. Fraudulent billing represents between 3% and 10% of healthcare expenditures in the U.S. each year, Dunbrack said.
The biggest problem is that the industry has been a laggard in deploying security technology. Dunbrack pointed to high-profile examples of healthcare providers who experienced massive breaches this past year, including Anthem and Premera Blue Cross.
"Part of this increase [in cyber attacks] is because there's more electronic data than ever before," Dunbrack said. "Some of the things leading to attacks are good things. For example, digitized formats allow [sharing] patient data among providers."
The solution to reducing data breaches is to educate patients and healthcare provider staff to be more aware of sophisticated phishing and spear-phishing schemes being used to access sensitive data.
Phishing is an attempt by cybercriminals to masquerade as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication to gain sensitive consumer data. Phishing attacks typically come in the form of emails, social network messages or other forms of electronic communication.
"We're not talking about the Nigerian prince who'll share millions of dollars with you if you will only wire him some money," Dunbrack said. "They look like something you might get from IT or from...UPS or FedEx. They've got all the logos. You've got to stop and think."
Additionally, healthcare networks need to increase the sophistication of their security analytics software so they can identify attacks as they're happening and head them off by learning their patterns.
In all, IDC's Health Insights group offered 10 predictions for the healthcare space, including that nearly one in six doctor visits will be virtual by 2018.
Another prediction: Cognitive computing, like that performed by IBM's Watson supercomputer, will have a tremendous affect on healthcare costs and mortality rates.
By 2018, physicians will use machine learning to identify the most effective treatment for 50% of complex cancer patients, resulting in a 10% reduction in mortality and a 10% cut in costs, IDC said..
Cancer will be the first disease targeted by cognitive computing, according to Dunbrack, because its treatment tends to be more expensive and the way cancer progresses is unique in each patient.
Also by 2018, 30% of worldwide healthcare systems will employ real-time cognitive analysis to provide personalized care leveraging patient's clinical data, directly supported by clinical outcomes and "real world evidence" data.
That data is information pulled from patient studies and treatment results. For example, genomic data gleaned from abnormal sequences in one cancer patient could be used in treating other cancer patients with similar cancer-causing abnormalities in their DNA.
As supercomputing gets better at aggregating and analyzing data from both structured (i.e. databases) and unstructured (i.e. radiological images, natural language processing, physician notes, clinical trials published in medical journals) sources, it can provide healthcare providers with evidence-based treatments.
Apart from clinical data, analyzing big data, which includes information about patient education, utility bills and even weather data such as regional smog and pollen counts, will play a huge role in social determinants of health, according to Dunbrack.
For example, by examining utility bills, data analytics applications can determine medical conditions that may have resulted from the inability to afford air conditioning in hot climates.
Virtual doctor visits/computer-assisted surgery to be the norm
By 2018, surgeons will use computer-assisted or robotic surgery techniques to assist in planning, simulating, and performing 50% of the most complex surgeries, according to IDC.
For example, earlier this year, a Florida hospital successfully tested lag time created by the Internet for a simulated robotic surgery in Ft. Worth, Texas, more than 1,200 miles away from the surgeon who was at the virtual controls. Next, the hospital plans to test lag times for remote robotic or "telesurgery" in Denver and then Loma Linda, Calif.
"Based on these tests, we have determined that telesurgery is possible and generally safe for large areas within the United States," said Roger Smith, CTO at the Florida Hospital Nicholson Center in Celebration, Fla., where the tests were performed. "Limitations are no longer due to lag time but factors associated with reliability, social acceptance, insurance and legal liability.
The Florida Hospital's simulator mimics procedures performed by a da Vinci robotic surgical system, the most common equipment in use today; it's used for hundreds of thousands of surgeries every year around the world.
Today, da Vinci surgical robots allow physicians to perform surgeries yards away from patients, sometimes even behind glass in spaces adjoining operating rooms.
Physicians watching the virtual telesurgery using laparoscopic instruments on video 1,200 miles away couldn't even detect a lag time, according to Smith.
IDC Health Insights also predicts that within three years, "virtual care" will become routine, and by 2020, 80% of consumer service interactions will make use of Internet of Things (IoT) and big data to improve quality, value, and timeliness.
As more information is online and online communications continue to develop, more patients will opt to use instant messaging, email and video chat sessions instead of spending hours driving to doctors' offices and sitting in waiting rooms, IDC predicted.
Last year, research from Deloitte revealed one in six doctor visits are already virtual.
The overall cost of in-person primary physician visits worldwide is $175 billion, according to Deloitte. Globally, the number of eVisits climbed to 100 million last year, potentially saving over $5 billion when compared to the cost of in-person doctor visits. The eVisit projection represents growth of 400% from 2012 levels, Deloitte's study showed.
Hospitals are vigorously rolling out patient care web portals that allow consumers to not only virtually communicate with physicians, but also see laboratory test results.
Last year, for example, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) revamped its patient portal, renaming it MyUPMC, and rolling out AnywhereCare, offering patients throughout Pennsylvania eVisits with doctors 24 housr a day, seven days a week either over the phone or through video conferencing.
UPMC, an $11 billion health care provider and insurer with 21 hospitals and more than 400 outpatient sites, said its AnywhereCare service has an 80% satisfaction rating. Patients love the convenience and speed of remote care, according to Natasa Sokolovich, executive director of telemedicine at UPMC.
Elderly patients and patients convalescing with mobility issues, in particular, will find an advantage in using virtual doctor visits so that they won't be forced to commute to and from healthcare facilities.
It will also let physicians offer routine care, whether it's to answer questions or monitor their ambulatory patients through remote devices.
For example, blood sugar and heart monitoring devices can now transmit information to primary physicians and specialists, enabling them to keep tabs on a patient's condition and receive any alerts to drastic or even subtle changes in their conditions.
Results of a five-year study on telemedicine showed that patients can be treated virtually by physicians as effectively as if the patients made actual visits to a doctor's office. In another finding, the remote treatment also improved doctor-patient communication.
Virtual doctor visits could also preclude late night trips to the emergency room.
"As consumers become more [comfortable] with technology, there'll be more opportunities for a physician to visit with a patient who wakes up with terrible ear ache," Dunbrack said. "My generation expects to wait hours in a waiting room, so we bring a book or a laptop and get work done.
"Millenials won't put up with that. They'll press to have care provided in a more convenient, around-the-clock, whenever-they-want-it method," she added. "Not whenever the office is open."