Experts: Telehealth and AI Among Hot Topics at HLTH

The healthcare industry is not getting left behind as we navigate an increasingly complex world driven by data, analytics, and technology. The HLTH conference held in early October was a powerful reminder that our most precious asset – our health – is being propelled into the digital age with remarkable speed and precision. From harnessing big data to predicting diseases to using augmented intelligence to personalize treatment plans, the event offered a glimpse into a future where science and innovation converge, promising to reshape how we approach healthcare.

Thought leaders at Health Catalyst who were in attendance shared their takeaways and said the following five key themes emerged at HLTH:

  1. Personalized Medicine
  2. Augmented and Artificial Intelligence
  3. Health Technology Innovation and Funding
  4. Telehealth
  5. Holistic Patient Care

At-Home Health Driving Patient-Centered Care Approaches

One prominent trend discussed throughout the conference was patient-centric, personalized care. Our experts said speakers and attendees highlighted the need for healthcare organizations to prioritize patient engagement and empowerment. Indeed, there was a marked emphasis on leveraging data and digital technology to personalize medical care, ultimately leading to enhanced population health and better individual patient health outcomes.

Industry leaders also recognized a push to deliver care remotely and at home. According to Senior Director of Product Strategy Eric Crawford, examples included the growing prominence of self-service, at-home labs, such as Reperio Health, and provider-based enablement, like Inbound Health. Additionally, non-healthcare companies are heavily investing in healthcare use cases, as demonstrated by Zoom’s focus on telehealth as a growth market. 

“Now that telehealth is a proven technology, it’s not hard to imagine even more routine care being delivered at kitchen tables,” Crawford said, adding that the healthcare technology industry is experiencing a boon in innovation and a surge in funding.

AI Is Not Just Hype as Use Cases Expand

The conference also highlighted a growing trend in utilizing augmented and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for clinical decision-making. TJ Nicolaides, VP of Product Management, said the conference was abuzz with discussions about the impact of AI, with nearly everyone having claims or questions about it. Nicolaides said that the many novel applications showcased were conversational chatbots, process automation functionality, predictive analytics, and generative AI for summarizing data. Building on that point, Crawford said these technologies could improve diagnostic accuracy, enable the exploration of various treatment options, and improve the prognosis of diseases and patient outcomes. “Witnessing such creativity and innovation as innovators harness the latest AI capabilities is truly exciting,” Nicolaides added.

From his view, Crawford said speakers primarily applied AI to patient engagement use cases. More specifically, they discussed generative AI, which can support customized patient engagement through remote monitoring, appointment scheduling, and producing health information and educational content tailored to patients. “There is a general understanding that generative AI has the potential to be a game changer, but the specific killer use case(s) remain unclear,” Crawford added. “However, with time and fine-tuning, context-aware AI utilizing healthcare data and clinical knowledge will enhance provider workflows and improve healthcare data interoperability.”

Dan Soule, Vice President of Technology Operations, agreed. He observed that AI’s most practical application to date is in assisting humans with clinical practice decisions, data research, and diagnostics, but only to a degree. He cited an example at the conference where AI and human experts reviewed four patient charts. The AI tool suggested a more “aggressive” diagnosis not supported by the health records, while the clinicians suggested a more cautious approach. Despite this, the consensus was that augmented intelligence could help providers quickly and effectively extract relevant details from patient charts to inform a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Vendors Prioritize Patient Autonomy and Chronic Disease Management

Tarah Neujahr Bryan, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, said many new technologies showcased promised to prioritize patient needs and expand access to care. These technologies grant patients more autonomy over their chronic conditions management – enabling them to decide when, where, and how they receive treatment. “Effectively connecting all these devices and data will require comprehensive, data-agnostic platforms like those provided by Health Catalyst,” she said.

According to Nicolaides, vendors are placing more emphasis on comprehensive patient care, creating specialized solutions for various aspects of wellness, such as nutrition, mental health, and sleep. Vendors are also earnestly capitalizing on mobile apps and wearable devices to assist patient well-being. In addition, several startups are dedicated to addressing specific conditions like pelvic pain, sleep disorders, addiction, kidney disease, and gut health. Moreover, there is a concerted effort surrounding technological developments targeting chronic conditions like Type I and Type II diabetes and programming to support the mental health challenges associated with managing long-term health burdens, Nicolaides said. 

Overall, it is evident that a shift towards a more holistic and personalized approach to patient care will continue. What’s more, IT companies, vendors, and tech partners recognize the importance of addressing physical ailments alongside mental and emotional well-being.

As more targeted solutions come to market, patients will gain access to software that better supports their lifelong wellness journey. Furthermore, startups and tech giants are pushing the boundaries in innovation, harnessing data-driven technologies like AI. As such, health systems and providers must embrace these advancements and collaborate to enhance patient outcomes and quality of life.

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