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    How will health IT trends evolve in 2017?

    Waves of predictions about the health IT industry roll in at the end of every year. But how accurate were they in 2016?

    A number of trends, topics and technologies were expected to affect health IT over the past year. While each had an impact, the size and shape of these impacts may have been somewhat different than expected.

     

    Further reading: Health IT creates lose-lose situation for physicians

     

    To better understand and anticipate the future of health IT in 2017, we’ll take a look at how the following predictions about the top health IT trends of 2016 played out.

    1. Information security will be a major focus

    Provider organizations were expected to invest heavily in information security in 2016. High-profile data breaches throughout 2015 turned this into a major priority.

    Healthcare has become an attractive target for cybercriminals for a plethora of reasons. Many people within and across healthcare organizations, from clinicians to administrators, have access to protected health information (PHI), and tools to leverage PHI have been rapidly adopted in recent years without all of the appropriate safeguards in place. Moreover, healthcare data continues to grow in volume and value as records are highly confidential and often very complete, enabling healthcare fraud. Lastly, there has been a heavy reliance on compliance measures. However, because these guidelines haven’t been updated to keep pace with today’s complex security landscape, complying with them isn’t enough, as compliance doesn’t mean that organizations are safe from sophisticated attacks.

    As expected, spending on security increased dramatically in 2016 as the number of cyberattacks increased overall. According to research from the Telecommunications Industry Association, annual spending on security was expected to grow by more than $20 billion between 2013 and 2017, reflecting both a new paradigm and a growing priority. Last year, however, experts failed to forecast some of the most significant health IT security issues.

    First, in spite of a growing sense of urgency, security budgets are still smaller than the scope of the problem. Second, the prevalence of ransomware wasn’t necessarily anticipated. Many hospitals were threatened with their networks being taken down unless they paid a ransom. This heightened security concerns. In turn, care continuity and the potential risk of patient harm due to security events became even more imperative for health IT professionals to address.

     

    Hot topic: Why have EHRs failed to deliver their promised efficiency benefits?

     

    The priority placed on cybersecurity will only grow in 2017 — health IT data and networks remain appealing targets. The advent of the Internet of Things has brought “smart” medical devices that connect directly to providers’ networks into the mix. Consequently, if the network at a primary care physician’s office houses and shares critical care data regarding the PHI of a stroke patient with the ICU’s network, for example, a security breach in either network could compromise the patient’s treatment. With increasingly complex health IT infrastructures that are more reliant on the cloud and expanding due to mobility requirements, new vulnerabilities emerge every day. That reality means that the market for security products and services in hospitals is estimated to grow by 13.6 percent, year over year, until 2021.

    Next: Optimizing connectivity solutions

    Karin Ratchinsky
    Karin Ratchinsky is the director of healthcare vertical strategy at Level 3 Communications.

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