Connected Health Predictions for 2013 1/2/13

It’s been a great holiday for my family and me. I hope you have enjoyed some downtime. I can’t really believe I just typed "13" as the year in the post title – it’s crazy.

Looking back at my predictions from a year ago, I missed the mark on a few, but predictions are like a box of chocolates. With that lead-in, my predictions follow for 2013, which I think will be another very big year for connected health. I’d love for you to  send me your predictions or post them as comments.

1. Patients are offered app bundles

This is my biggest prediction for the year and the one I’m most excited about. Bundles are groups of apps, devices, and services that people use for health and wellness functions. This came up a few weeks ago when I was doing the mHealth Zone radio show and the guys from Happtique said that they’ve been hearing about facilities starting to talk about app formularies, another name for app bundles.

I think and hope that in 2013, we’ll start seeing health systems — or maybe payers and concierge groups — offering connected health bundles for specific types of patients, such as diabetics or hypertensives. The key will be integrating the data from these connected health offerings. Payers are likely to lead the way, with Aetna and CarePass as a good example.

Bundles solve two key problems: data integration and curation. A definite theme of 2012 was the lack of interoperable connected health apps. Bundles solve this, at least for specific types of patients. Curation is needed to help systems, providers, and people sift through the ever-growing number of connected health and wellness services.

Like the rest of connected health, health and fitness will probably lead this. We may start seeing this on the direct-to-consumer side first this year before any health systems do this. For me, my current bundle is the Fitbit Aria scale, Nike FuelBand, Nike+ app, and LoseIt! service. The FuelBand doesn’t connect to LoseIt!, which I use to aggregate, but it does connect to Path, which I use to get motivation from friends. It’s not perfect, but it works.

2. Blue Button gets huge

Blue Button is going to be huge in 2013 for two reasons. First, more EMRs (meaning more records) will support it through export capabilities. Second, we’re going see more cool apps built on top of, enabled by, or initialized by Blue Button data. My selfish desire is to see somebody combine Blue Button with health bundles (#1) so that Blue Button data can generate a recommended grouping of apps tailored to an individual’s medical history.

4. Licensing reform will ease the regulatory burden of telehealth across licensing and state lines

Maybe this is more hope than prediction, but I really want to see some of the barriers to virtual care broken down to increase access to virtual health services. I’ve recently been working with a group that is launching a virtual health service. Seeing the incredible differences in state-specific regulations showed me how broken things are. Let’s hope some of this happens in 2013.

5. Physician use of secure smartphone communication platforms will increase 

This is an easy one because it seems so obvious. I added it here because I’ve spoken with several docs lately, none of whom are very tech savvy, who told me they’ve tested secure communications platforms with colleagues in the last few months. I think we’ll see more and more providers using these services instead of SMS, pagers, and e-mail.

6. Enterprise business models will get more of the available funding

This is already happening, but we’ll see more of this in 2013 as EMR extenders, Blue Button apps, and other enterprise services are developed.

7. Concierge and integrated systems will blaze a trail

I say this in almost every post these days. If we’re going to see the big growth or scale that we want in connected health in 2013, it’s going to be led by concierge groups (I lump direct primary care in here) and integrated systems.

8. Patients will be issued tablets for in-facility use

I predicted this last year, but more for entertainment purposes. Tablets will start to augment and replace smart TVs in hospitals and healthcare facilities. They are relatively cheap and have multiple uses. Companies such as Tonic Health (which I met last year at HIMSS) and Phreesia are exciting examples and are the tip of the iceberg.

9. We’ll start to figure out what a mobile EMR looks like and what it should do

Mobile EMRs aren’t the same as desktop EMRs. The screen size and usability are vastly different. We’ll see more mobile-optimized EMRs in 2013, meaning apps that provide limited but high-value user functionality. I’m going to go further to bet that these mobile EMRs are going to be developed by smaller companies and potentially by third parties like AirStrip.

10. Acquisitions

I might as well make a couple of acquisition predictions. Last year I predicted that WellDoc would be acquired. That didn’t work out for me or for them.

This year, I’ll pick two candidates that are also competitors. Either Cake Health or Simplee –  both of which are trying to bring cost transparency to healthcare – will be acquired. I don’t know who the buyer might be, but Castlight and ZocDoc probably have money to burn.

My personal resolutions for 2013:

  1. Post more high-quality connected health commentary. I want to focus more on HIStalk Connect this year, growing the reader and subscriber base. If you have ideas or suggestions, please e-mail me.
  2. Be selling more of the time. I need to sell myself and my work much more frequently, trying to weave it into more of my every day.
  3. Network better. I’m lousy at making and keeping connections. This ties closely to #2 above.
  4. Personally complete development and deployment of an end-to-end application. I’m working on one that I want for my kids that will track educational activities, projects, and things they learn, getting feedback and documenting what they observe daily. A bit like Evernote (and maybe eventually connected to Evernote), but tailored specifically to my needs. I’m already done with the back end (database and REST API) but need to build a responsive Web client for front-end web and mobile. I doubt I’ll bother learning native iOS development, so mobile web will be it.
  5. Earn 5,000 Nike Fuelpoints every day with my FuelBand. No matter what I’m doing or where I am, this is my new goal. It’s going to be very hard, but I figure it’s worth working towards. I’ll hit over 2,000,000 Fuelpoints for the year from the FuelBand alone if I can accomplish that.


Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

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