What are the most promising upcoming healthcare innovations that are likely to have the biggest impact on improving patient care in 2015?

The Brigham Innovation Hub team applied its collective clinical knowledge and innovation experience to develop a list of Top 10 Healthcare Innovations in 2015. The process began by gathering ideas from both clinical and industry perspectives with special note to current healthcare trends. A shortlist of 30 innovations was compiled and voted on by more than 450 of Brigham Innovation Hub’s subscribers, which consists of BWH clinicians in a variety of health fields and members of the healthcare innovation community. Engagement, reduced costs, and digital health were found to be the top issues for 2015:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.17.48 AM1. Use of “Big Data” to reduce the costs for high-cost patients

Only 5% of patients account for a whopping half of U.S. healthcare expenditures. Using “big data” can create algorithms for identifying patients who would more likely be “high-cost,” i.e. patients with multiple co-morbidities. This information can then be applied to make actionable predictions to prevent re-admission of this patient cohort.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.28.36 AM2. Financial incentivizing of healthy behavior by employers

Although half of all U.S. employers offer some kind of wellness program, it is not usually taken advantage of by employees. To lower their own costs, employers are now seeing that they have to be more active in helping their employees be healthier. Companies are spending more on healthcare than they did 5 years ago and that’s because a healthier workplace means increased productivity.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.17.58 AM3. Innovations for managing outpatient behavioral health

Up to 30% of Americans have a mental health condition but less than a quarter of them seek help. Hospitals partnering with outpatient mental health agencies create a teamwork approach to patients in crisis. The link can seamlessly transition patients in and out of the appropriate facilities when an episode occurs. The use of telepsychiatry is also on the rise, providing counseling services to remote patients.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.18.05 AM4. Better reimbursement for telemedicine leading to greater use of telehealth and digital health by clinicians in their daily practice

The expansion of telehealth services being covered by Medicare and the increase in coverage of patient distance is making telemedicine a more viable option for clinicians’ plans of care. The addition of imaging and monitoring offered in digital health services also adds value to these visits making them comparable to physical clinical encounters.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.18.10 AM5. Healthcare delivery goes retail to increase patient engagement

Retail giants like Walmart and CVS want to get out of our medicine cabinets and into our lives. The call for providing deeper services to its customers comes from the belief that better health outcomes can be fostered in community settings like at your local pharmacy.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.18.24 AM6. The use of “wearables” increasing in hospitals to detect continuous biomarkers

The use of wearables allows for inexpensive continuous physiological monitoring with little manual intervention. On busy inpatient units, sensors serve as the eyes and ears to alert clinicians of safety issues and sudden medical emergencies.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.18.29 AM7. Increased prescription of health apps

Mobile apps connect care from home to hospital and allow patients to take more responsibility and interest in their own health. Apps that can reduce costs through remote consultation will be the most valuable for hospitals. Listen to BWH Chief Innovation Officer, David Bates and his thoughts on how health apps can improve care of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.18.35 AM8. Care delivery innovation for end-of-life care patients

The goal of end-of-life care is to reduce suffering and respect the wishes of the dying. These patients require more care coordination, continuity of care and timely care encounters. The use of telemedicine and digital health could enhance the care delivery of this sensitive patient population. Read more about Atul Gawande’s new book “Being Mortal” on the uneasy conversations clinicians have with their dying patients.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.18.41 AM9. Increased use of 3-D printing

Brigham & Women’s Hospital is using 3-D printing to better map out the techniques of face transplantation pre-operatively and to follow the progress of patients post-operatively [Tweet this]. This provides better visualization for surgeons and better satisfaction with appearances for patients.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.18.45 AM10. Better care delivery and engagement for the large number of newly insured and millenials

The number of millennial (people born in the 80s and 90s) Americans now surpass the Baby Boomers. They are more culturally diverse than any other generation and more budget-conscious. They are also more difficult to engage with traditional marketing campaigns and will surpass their parents’ earnings by 2018. Health plans that can succeed at influencing this group will reap the benefits of retaining this demographic.

Read more in this month’s Look Who’s Talking feature.