IT Manager at MediSwitch, Wayne Botha, explains what he sees as being the most interesting Health IT trends that will come to the fore in 2018.

If there is one thing we can be sure of when it comes to technology, it is that it evolves faster than many can even keep up with. In 2017 we saw a growing trend centred on the digitisation of business, along with the attendant trends around cloud, mobility and big data and analytics. Looking at how rapidly the technological landscape is currently changing, it is certainly worth considering what the near future may hold.

In what has already been an ongoing trend, we can expect to see the lines between IT and Business becoming increasingly blurred in 2018. Furthermore, we can expect this same trend to occur at scale, in relation to the lines between various industries. For example, we are already witnessing a company like Apple, renowned as a creator of productivity tools, moving into the healthcare arena, thanks to the advanced tracking and early warning capabilities built into the Apple Watch. As we continue to digitise the physical world around us, we can expect to open up access to additional new information streams that will inevitably start to disrupt the traditional way of doing business.

Another trend that will grow in 2018 is that of artificial intelligence (AI), and there is no escaping this – every industry will be impacted. When it comes to AI, the data and processing ability is already readily available, it doesn’t require a business to invest in huge upfront costs to get going. As we digitise the world around us, we create many opportunities for automation. Of course, automation in itself becomes a burden as the pool of data grows. However, machine learning and AI will prove to be the nut-cracker we need to unlock the true value of this exponentially increasing pool of data.

A third trend to be on the lookout for is containerisation, which will help companies to move between clouds. The days of choosing a single cloud provider and sticking with them are long gone. Businesses will begin choosing the best cloud provider for each application and/or use case and will thus seek to move between them. Containerisation is the vehicle that will allow this movement.

Trends in the healthcare space

In healthcare, we can expect to see the popularity of wearables continue to rise, something that will lead to better collaboration between patients and care providers, and which will result in a better patient experience.

A current IT buzzword is ‘omni-channel’, which is all about the promise of a similar experience, regardless of the channel used. Wearables will enable a healthcare omni-channel for a better patient experience.

Then, of course, there is the much talked about Internet of Things (IoT), which is already a part of our daily lives and will become even more so, as non-IT industries like logistics, supply chain management and healthcare begin adopting IoT technologies at scale. In terms of the IoT, the need is probably greatest in healthcare, as this carries a sense of purpose in that it is about improving quality of life, so it is an industry that will attract both innovators and investors. I believe that healthcare will attract a lot of the media attention in the coming year, as there will likely be an air of controversy around some medical IoT applications.

What else?

IT is rapidly moving away from its traditional focus of simply supporting the business, and is now starting to become the business. While the traditional IT department still has a role to play, it can no longer expect to be the provider of everything to the business.

Digitisation is opening up the IT space to virtually everyone. I mean, in marketing alone there are over 3,500 applications available, and many, if not most, of these are obtainable by the relevant department through a simple credit card transaction. Moreover, organisational departments can now choose to use any combination of these for a single purpose, and use a completely different set for the next.

Basically what this mean is that today, any business user with a credit card can become an IT person. Therefore, the role of IT in this new era is not to constrain the business through policies and procedures, but to support business in using these technologies as effectively as possible.

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