Field Report from the 2023 HLTH Conference

Trends in healthcare information technology (HCIT) are continually evolving to enhance patient care and streamline healthcare processes. Here is an overview of the investment trends and opportunities that I found most compelling — as a practitioner, health system executive, and a commercial diligence leader supporting private equity and M&A teams — at the HLTH Conference in Las Vegas last month:

  1. Patient Digital Engagement Software: Patient digital engagement software focuses on improving the patient experience by offering convenient and accessible ways for patients to interact with healthcare providers. It includes telemedicine platforms, mobile apps, and patient portals that allow patients to schedule appointments, access medical records, and communicate with their healthcare team remotely. These software platforms are now expected by a growing number of patients, which has created a flywheel in the adoption by various categories of healthcare providers. I have long seen hospital systems be vulnerable to low tech and manual engagement processes that are ripe for disruption, and I foresee a long-term and more significant migration for hospitals and large physician practices to adopt technology solutions to automate, enhance, and further patient engagement. Additional pressures created by labor costs and shortages will also foster adoption by healthcare providers. HCIT businesses focusing on patient communication and engagement are prime targets for PE investment – and, ultimately, I believe we will see the best opportunities move beyond administrative efficiency gains to effectively going after improved patient outcomes from this digital engagement; this step will be harder, though, and investment opportunities deserve even greater diligence scrutiny. But it entirely aligns with the payor models rapidly unfolding.
  2. Predictive AI for Quality and Safety: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being increasingly used to predict and enhance the quality and safety of patient care. Predictive AI algorithms can help healthcare providers identify potential issues before they escalate, such as predicting disease outbreaks, optimizing hospital resource allocation, and identifying high-risk patients who may need extra attention. Reduction of in-hospital errors and injuries is a key metric for hospital quality performance with additional revenue payments for high performers and negative financial consequences for poor ratings. My viewpoint (from personal experience at hospital systems’ board discussions) suggests that predictive analytics along with real-time data presentation offer significant value solutions for aiding to reduce errors and enhance quality performance critical to regulatory metrics.
  3. Data Science and Analytics for Quality Improvement: Data science and analytics play a crucial role in healthcare to improve the quality of care provided. Healthcare organizations are leveraging data to identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement in patient care, administrative processes, and resource allocation. This data-driven approach is essential for evidence-based decision-making which allows for standardized treatment algorithms necessary for optimal health outcomes. Metrics such as hospital-acquired infections from indwelling catheters and devices are a prime example where data science algorithms can be employed to improve provider driven outcomes. In its simplest form, healthcare quality is measured by the delta in improved patient outcomes, while maintaining or reducing the cost of care. We believe that robust data science driven solutions will remain attractive investments for PE.
  4. Digital Care Management Solutions: Digital care management solutions aim to enhance patient outcomes by providing continuous support and monitoring outside the traditional clinical setting. These solutions often include wearable devices, remote patient monitoring, and apps that allow patients to track and manage their health conditions. They enable healthcare providers to monitor patients' progress and intervene as necessary. We are seeing an ongoing shift away from inpatient hospital care to ambulatory and in-home acute care. As this migration of care continues, we believe digital monitoring and action devices will play a critical role enabling the safe transition to out of hospital care and could disrupt some of the traditional drivers for inpatient care.

These trends all have a common theme: HCIT providers play a critical role in addressing various challenges in healthcare by improving both the patient experience and patient outcomes. Some of the problems addressed include:

  1. Patient Education: Many patients lack a clear understanding of their medical conditions and treatment options. Digital engagement software can deliver educational content in various formats, making it easier for patients to comprehend their health issues and treatment plans.
  2. Communication and Engagement: Effective communication between healthcare providers and patients is essential. Digital engagement tools facilitate secure messaging, appointment reminders, and follow-up instructions, enhancing patient engagement and adherence to treatment plans.
  3. Appointment Scheduling: Patients often struggle with the complexities of scheduling and managing appointments. These platforms provide online scheduling options, reducing wait times and administrative burden for both patients and healthcare providers.
  4. Remote Monitoring: For patients with chronic conditions or those in post-operative recovery, digital engagement software can enable remote monitoring of vital signs and symptoms, allowing healthcare providers to intervene early and prevent complications.

Healthcare providers and organizations are increasingly adopting these technologies to provide better care and adapt to the changing healthcare landscape (ongoing pressure for market share gains, scale economics, participation in outcome economics and incentives, and margin protection).

I would love to hear your observations from the conference, and I look forward to upcoming forums.