What's hot in healthcare innovation? Telehealth tops the list.
As 2019 draws to a close, we take a look back at HealthLeaders' most popular innovation stories of the year. In an online world, your click-throughs help us better understand what topics matter most to our readers. Your interest is abundantly clear: Of the top 100 innovation stories we published this year, 18 involved some aspect of telehealth or virtual care.
While telehealth dominated, innovation leaders' interests covered a broad range of topics. Some highlights include:
- A toilet seat that could detect congestive heart failure
- Command centers at Tampa General and AdventHealth that are improving the patient experience, while reducing costs
- One recently posted story quickly leapt into the top 20: 6 Unusual Healthcare Innovation Ideas We Heard in 2019
Innovation leaders also like to learn about how other healthcare systems and organizations are innovating. Examples include how Kaiser Permanente is using an EHR-interface to tackle social determinants of health, how free genetic testing could improve primary care for NorthShore University HealthSystem patients, and how Banner Health is tying executive bonuses to its reputation score. Articles about ridesharing, drones, and blockchain also were popular.
Here are the five leading innovation stories for the year, ranked by popularity:
One of our most popular innovation stories this year involves a novel way to treat tremor-predominant Parkinson's disease with FDA-approved focused ultrasound technology, an incisionless modality that often instantly eliminates symptoms. The treatment, which was already used by 13 U.S. medical centers in the treatment of essential tremor—a separate disease—was launched at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia and is less invasive than deep brain stimulation.
In addition to treating movement disorders, INSIGHTEC, the company that developed this technology, is working with leading research institutions on clinical studies for numerous other purposes, including treatment of Alzheimer's, epilepsy, and brain tumors, as well as its possible ability to temporarily disrupt the blood-brain barrier to allow targeted drug delivery. Clinical trials are underway for all of these applications.
At the time we posted our story, nearly 2,000 patients had been treated for one of these two conditions in one of 50 medical facilities globally, and the waiting list at Penn Medicine was growing. More healthcare systems were expected to offer the treatment for tremor-resistant Parkinson's, although financial reimbursement through government or private payers was not yet available.
Our January/February magazine cover story about tech tools that are changing healthcare delivery was also popular with readers. We examined five healthcare technologies that appeal to patient-consumers, while simultaneously creating value for healthcare organizations. Among the innovations we assessed:
- Playback Health offers video highlights of physician-patient encounters, capturing explanations of diagnoses, treatments, and procedures, as well as diagnostic images. Nurses also use the app at discharge to record an overview of patients' hospital experience, medication instructions, and homecare. Use of the technology at Northwell Health has improved HCAHPS scores.
- Spire Health Tag, a wearable monitor the size of a key fob, may one day predict when a patient is becoming ill. The device, which can be attached to undergarments and is hardy enough to survive the washing machine and dryer, measures patients' breathing, heart rate, sleep, and movement. Health Tag uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect physiological patterns that are early warning signs of problems or illness.
- EASE is a Snapchat-like app that enables surgical teams to communicate with family members during surgery, sending HIPAA-compliant messages and images that disappear once reviewed on a smartphone. Created by doctors at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Florida, EASE decreases waiting room anxiety by updating families about a patient's progress with video, photos, and text messages from the OR during surgical procedures, and has improved the hospital's HCAHPS scores.
See the complete story for more examples, including a COPD app and a telesitting device that resulted in a 51% reduction in falls by one health system.
Our readers are hungry for news about Amazon, Apple, Google, and other nontraditional players who are entering the healthcare arena. When Amazon finally applied a moniker to its healthcare initiative, many of you clicked through for the big reveal: the venture was named Haven.
Another hot topic during 2019 was electronic medical records (EMR). Several stories on this subject captured innovation leaders' attention, but none was more popular than this innovation story of the year about who's winning the EMR market share wars. The Salt Lake City—based research and insights firm KLAS released a report detailing a lot activity, much of it stimulated by mergers and acquisitions among health systems. Yet after the dust settled, the victors were predictable, with Epic having a slight edge over Cerner in terms of overall market share—28% and 26%, respectively. Epic reigns supreme in the over 500-bed category with a 58% share of the market, compared to Cerner's 27%.
If the subject involved telehealth, innovation leaders wanted to hear about it. Nearly 20% of our top 100 innovation stories in 2019 featured telehealth, virtual care, or connected health topics. Our No. 1 story of the year was posted almost exactly a year ago, highlighting expert's predictions for virtual care during 2019.
The forecast: Changes in reimbursement would spur growth, the focus would expand beyond direct-to-consumer models, and technological advancements would enhance capabilities. Regardless of the reason, the overwhelming consensus was that 2019 would bring accelerated growth to telehealth. This prediction proved true as confirmed by numerous surveys released this year:
- According to Definitive Healthcare's 5th Annual Inpatient and Outpatient Telehealth Studies, adoption of inpatient telehealth solutions or services has surged from roughly 54% in 2014 to 85% in 2019. Their outpatient survey indicated adoption rates by outpatient physician practices remained relatively flat from 2018 to 2019, hovering at about 44%.
- American Well's Telehealth Index: 2019 Physician Survey, took a look at physician adoption, indicating usage was up 340% in 2018 compared to 2015.
- According to the 2019 J.D. Power Telehealth Satisfaction Study, "Among the commercially insured, telehealth visits increased 261% between 2015 and 2017, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) report that telehealth adoption has grown more than 65%."
Yet there's still work to be done. While consumers give virtual care high rankings, according to the J.D. Powers study, lack of awareness presents a huge obstacle to success.
Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.
Telehealth is the topic innovation leaders want to hear about most.
Another popular topic is tech tools that appeal to patient-consumers, while creating value for health systems
EMRs, Amazon, and nontraditional healthcare players garner attention from readers.