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HealthLeaders' Top 5 Innovation Stories of 2019

Analysis  |  By Mandy Roth  
   December 31, 2019

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:

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 ridesharingdrones, and blockchain also were popular.

Here are the five leading innovation stories for the year, ranked by popularity:

5. Parkinson's Tremors Vanish with Incisionless Surgery

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.

4. 5 Tech Tools That Could Change the Way Your Hospital Delivers Care

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.

3. Amazon-Backed Healthcare Venture Gets Much-Needed Name: Haven

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.

2. In EMR Market Share Wars, Epic and Cerner Triumph Yet Again

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%.

1. 3 Predictions for Virtual Care in 2019

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:

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.

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