2020 Megatrends: Consumerism, Data Privacy and Security, AI

By Scott Hampel, president of MedeAnalytics

With 2020 two weeks old, it’s becoming clear the data produced in the healthcare industry by providers, consumers and payers will power and propel our 9 megatrends. Healthcare data is the foundation on which we’re building everything from healthcare outreach for the underserved to new Internet of Things-based healthcare programs to treatments designed just for you.

The thread that ties each megatrend to the next is data. Every megatrend has data at its foundation. And the challenge patients, providers and payers will face is extracting and making sense of the 2,314 exabytes of healthcare data expected to be created this year.

The data exists, but do we really understand it? Can we use it to improve health? How will we protect it? In some ways we have, but there’s much work to do in the future. Without the use of high-powered data analytics, artificial intelligence and the internet of things, much of this data would simply sit unused and 2020 megatrends would be nothing more than ideas on a blackboard.

These are Megatrends 1-3:

1. Healthcare consumerism continues apace

A few years ago, healthcare consumerism was primarily defined as knowing your cholesterol numbers, keeping track of a few other personal health statistics and ensuring your doctor understands your wants and needs. Now, healthcare consumerism much more complex and complicated because of the use of wearables and internet-connected health devices, including smart speakers and at-home diagnostic devices, which create considerable amounts of data.

 “We are seeing a much larger focus on digital technologies and taking advantage of the analytics, data, and the technology that is out there,” explained Ferris W. Taylor, HealthCare Executive Group executive director. “Those have changed quite dramatically in the last five years or so. Data is much more readily available and it’s broader than just administrative data. We now have clinical data, lab data, social, economic, and demographic data. The analytical tools also are much more sophisticated.”

In addition to these larger initiatives, wearables are coming into their own. The wearables market continues to grow. In 2019, nearly 58 million people in the US, or 22% of the population, had wearables. By 2022, it’s estimated 67 million or 25.3% of the population will have them. Wearables and other healthcare devices connected to the internet could save the healthcare industry $300 billion by potentially reducing the need for some office visits.

Healthcare consumerism will continue to increase in 2020 as technology improves and drives new, faster and more robust wearables and home-based IoT devices are integrated with wearables, healthcare apps and healthcare providers.

2. Data security and privacy will be tested

Every part of healthcare is producing massive amounts of data each day. Data is an appropriate segue to the next topic: data security and privacy.

There is a tacit agreement between the healthcare consumer and companies that these organizations will harvest and use their data. The healthcare consumer uses the website/app/wearable/smart speaker and the agreement is the company will use the data in just about any way it wants. This understanding, mostly unspoken, but seeing the light of day more often hasn’t stopped many people from using the devices, websites and apps, although one study found Americans were slightly less likely to share basic information, like first and last name and address in 2019 compared to the previous year.

Our private health data, really all our data, face many risks. As data floats through the internet ether and eventually arrives at a multitude of servers owned by companies with varying levels of security, a lot of it will find its way to bad players interested in exploiting the information. Data exposed through hacks, phishing or lax data security protocols will make healthcare consumers wary and will negatively affect the healthcare industry’s reputation and finances. Healthcare data breaches cost the industry $4 billion in 2019. In 2020, it’s expected to be worse:More than 93% of healthcare organizations have experienced a data breach since Q3 2016, and 57% have had more than five data breaches during the same timeframe. Not only has the number of attacks increased, but more than 300 million records have been stolen since 2015, affecting about one in every 10 healthcare consumers.

Unfortunately, in most cases, once a healthcare consumer’s data is stolen, it’s impossible to get it back.

As for data privacy, non-profits and government entities are working toward protecting all consumer data, including healthcare data. “State-level momentum for comprehensive privacy bills is at an all-time high,” according to the International Association of Privacy Professionals. “After the California Consumer Privacy Act passed in 2018, multiple states proposed similar legislation to protect consumers in their states.”

No matter who’s involved in and responsible for securing personal health information—companies or the government—it ultimately falls to healthcare consumers to be hyper-vigilant and take the steps necessary to protect their data and ensure its use falls in line with their wishes.

3. Advanced artificial intelligence goes commercial

Advanced AI is moving away from opensource to commercial models for good reason. Open-source AI is generally opaque, however commercial models are frequently transparent and show the model used to arrive at an answer. If you’re using AI to question the validity of the physician’s decision, for example, you need to know how the AI came to its conclusion. Data transparency must be very clear to ensure understanding.

Advanced AI is getting easier to use and more, generally, more available in healthcare. Many advanced AI companies now offer a library of AI models. Just select the model you want to use that applies to the problem you want to solve.

As we enter a new decade, transparent AI code and libraries of AI models will become the norm.

Practical use of AI in healthcare will continue to grow in 2020. It is far more important to use AI to drive healthcare value for all stakeholders—payers, providers and patients—rather than employ it as a novelty designed to simply draw attention.

2020 and beyond

Every 2020 megatrend depends on data and analytics. Everyone involved in healthcare—from healthcare providers to payers to patients to the government—must work toward understanding, securing and managing the data they produce and control.

Healthcare, in general, is behind in terms of analytics adoption, but a big part of it is because of the complexity and magnitude of the environment in which we work.  

Nevertheless, there must be a concerted effort among those involved to use analytics more. There will be hiccups along the way, more data breaches, companies that overstep or shirk their fiduciary responsibility, but there also will be many accomplishments, and new medical treatments and health services developed thanks to the use of data and analytics.

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