by Avery Cloud

Healthcare IT: reading the tea leaves, part 2

Apr 23, 2018
Healthcare IndustryTechnology Industry

Another go at predicting how emerging technical capabilities will affect healthcare services.

01 intro prediction
Credit: Thinkstock

I am back for round two of reading the tea leaves (read round one of my predictions here). It may be fun to speculate as to whether or not consciousness can be programmed into a robot, but such speculation is not very useful for creating a strategy that leads to success in today’s world of high velocity change. So I will continue to focus on near-term future trends along with the challenges and opportunities they present to organizations. One thing is sure, technology will get smaller, faster, cheaper and even more pervasive; but the question is, how these emerging technical capabilities will affect business and the provision of healthcare services. So, here we go.

The rising threat of cybercrime will make it more and more difficult to find a balance between ease of use and security.

The cost of cybercrime in the United States increased from $17 million in 2016 to $21 million in 2017. Malware instances are up from around 100 million in 2012 to over 700 million in 2017. Computer viruses such the infamous MyDoom can allow cybercriminals to take total control of your PC and make it a nightmarish experience to regain control. MyDoom alone has perpetrated over $35 billion of financial losses. Through social engineering over a two year period one hundred banks were compromised at a loss of over $1 billion. Cybercriminals today are developing more powerful tools at a faster rate than ever to facilitate their electronic larceny. There are national and international cyber racketeering rings, and even countries launching cyber attacks for profit. There are cyber-terrorists intent on disrupting economies. Both small and large scale cybercriminals threaten every transaction that traverses the internet, as well as those moving through private networks. 

Along with greater risks of experiencing a breach, and greater costs to avoid one, another result of these growing threats will be an increasingly higher hassle factor getting to needed information. The increased inconvenience will threaten utilization and adoption rates of applications, therefore decreasing their benefits. A good example of how ease-of-use affects utilization is how easy it is for me to check email on my instant-on tablet computer versus waiting for a boot-up on my laptop; and then having to enter a myriad of necessary logins and passwords.

Companies will respond to these escalating security threats by developing more effective security schemes and tools to protect company data while maintaining ease of use, and decreasing the cost of labor to manage a secure environment. I was introduced to one such innovative solution recently through a start-up firm whose security software can identify authorized users by capturing their keyboarding characteristics. If someone logged in as you uses a different typing style from you, the security system can react by reporting the situation or freezing the user’s access until an investigation is completed.

Current static security systems attempt to manage threats by defining anomalous behavior with blacklists that define unacceptable system behavior. A lot of expensive expert care and feeding is often required with blacklists based security, and this technique simply cannot react fast enough to emerging threats. A better alternative seems to be whitelist-based security (policy-driven security). These systems are built upon a comprehensive list of acceptable system behaviors instead of unacceptable ones; and they flag any behavior not on the whitelist. Whitelisting provides more protection because we may not know what a malicious user request will look like next week, but we should be able to define how the system will respond internally to a valid user request. Once we know these behaviors we can flag any response that doesn’t look right for a valid request.

Finally, the most promising trend is called, Adaptive Security Architecture (ASA), which employs a form of artificial intelligence (AI) to make decisions and respond within seconds or milliseconds after anomalous behavior. In a report by Gartner, Designing Adaptive Security Architecture for Protection from Advanced Attacks, they describe four elements of ASA: predict, block/prevent, detect and respond. The report advocates that these four elements should work intelligently together as an integrated, adaptive system to constitute a complete protection for advanced threats.

HR departments will pre-evaluate potential hires using social media

Some employers have discovered that information from social media sites is an effective way to develop a profile of job applicants and as such have implemented tools to collect and use these data. Other employers are very careful due to potential legal ramifications, but do recognize many applicants freely post information about themselves that would either be impossible or illegal to acquire otherwise. For example, applicants post family pictures, pictures of themselves scantily dressed, behavior in social settings, political or racist rants, experiences with former employers, and so on. On the positive side, HR departments can be positively influenced by information such as an applicant’s civic involvements, or multi-lingual talents. Information on social media is too useful to ignore, and despite the fact that many employers worry about the legality of using this information, employers will learn to thread the legal needle and develop sophisticated information mining techniques to understand who they are considering for hire. Even if employers don’t use social media directly, they may benefit from background check services that do use social media. Makes you wish you hadn’t posted those pictures from the wild weekend at the beach, doesn’t it?

There will be an increase in the use of bots to automate redundant tasks across the enterprise

With so many industries interested in trimming the labor force, bots are getting a lot of attention and have achieved impressive results in many companies. Typically bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, but at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. But what exactly is a bot? It is a software robotic device. Bot is a derivative of the word robot and in the IT context refers to a program that operates as an agent for a user, another program, or simulates a human activity. There are different categories of bots as follows as well as derivations not listed here:

  • Chatterbot:  a program that can simulate conversation with a human being (natural language).
  • Knowbot: a program that collects knowledge for a user by automatically visiting Internet sites and gathering information that meets certain specified criteria. For example, Knowbots can be used effectively to gather information from social media to pre-screen HR applicants, as discussed previously.
  • Video game bot: a computer-controlled player or opponent
  • Internet bot:, also known as web robot, or WWW robot, is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet.

A list of some common jobs where bots have been found effective follows:

  • Order fulfillment
  • Pharmacy dispensing
  • Order taking
  • Package tracking
  • HR record updates
  • Research and analysis
  • Legal document review looking for words and phrases

Robots and AI are expected to create 15 million new jobs in the U.S. over the next 10 years. Impressive, but there will be a cost on the human side. Robots are also expected to kill 25 million existing jobs over the same period. Price Waterhouse Coopers estimates around 38 percent of jobs in the U.S. are at “high risk” of being replaced by robots over the next 15 years. AI is expected to drive 95 percent of customer interactions by 2025. It will become less and less perceptible that you are talking to a machine.

Interactive medical holograms will become more cost effective widely used.

It is not science fiction anymore. Holography has progressed rapidly and will become a very powerful tool in medicine. It takes imaging to a new level, generating interactive, 3-D holograms in real time of organs and systems using inputs such as cardiac imaging data based on rotational angiography and live 3-D transesophageal echocardiography. Big words for big data, and big improvements in imaging will give physicians the ability to visualization medical images in 3-D without the need for 3-D glasses. Physicians can interact with the real-time rendering to crop, rotate, magnify and move structures as they float in front of them. These capabilities allow physicians to gain the insights of depth and proximity of adjacent anatomy with greater ease. This technology promises phenomenal benefit for teaching students to understand anatomy in 3D. Stay tuned on this one. Vendors are already coming to market with offerings.

More organizations will catch on to the benefit of using innovation to solve economic and competitive challenges

Traditional cost cutting measures such as mass layoffs can go only so far in improving an organization’s financial performance. At some point organizations may even discover they have cut past the point where they can remain competitive. For that reason, innovation has become a hot idea in business. Steve Jobs exemplified the concept when he said, “The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.”

We can expect to see continued growth in the number of Chief Innovation Officers as organizations with little history or experience in innovation seek help to figure out how to put innovation to work to change business models, develop new products and services, improve policies and procedures and so on. This is particularly true in health care as a new operational model is called for to move from fee for service to value based reimbursement. More companies will begin to introduce ideation tools such as Job-To-Be-Done, LEAN, and so on, and those who are already using these tools will expand.


That’s it for this second round of reading the tea leaves. It is an interesting period of change we are experiencing where technology supports, changes and enables business processes while creating entirely new lines of business for companies. I will continue this series with five more prognostications next time.