IDC Health Insights: 2012 Health Industry Predictions

Earlier this week, I attended the annual IDC Health Insights Predictions 2012:  Health conference call.  

This was a global predictions call that covered the entire Health Industry, including health payer, provider and life science sectors.  The team identify major global trends that will impact the has scheduled other prediction calls going into more detail on topics specific to payer, provider and life sciences.  There are also other calls coming up that focus on health industry related predictions in both Europe and Asia.   

Leading this conference call was the IDC Health Insights Group Vice President, Scott Lundstrom.  Also on the call were 8 other members of the IDC Health Insights analyst team


IDC says significant changes are transforming components of the Health Industry value chain driven by a focus on patient safety, cost containment, quality improvement, and regulatory compliance.  Key topics of importance to business leaders will be EMR and EHR for providers, connected health, healthcare industry reform, and the life sciences value chain. 

Overall, IDC list 5 major technology themes

  1. Reform
  2. Analytics and Big Data
  3. Cloud
  4. Mobile
  5. Social

IDC is hot on themes 2-5 throughout all of its predictions calls.  

The IDC Health Insights Ten Predictions for 2012

The 2012 predictions list below was sourced from the conference call slides.

  1. EHR. “The Majority of U.S. Providers Will Use an EHR by the End of 2012”.
  2. ACOs. “Successful Accountable Care Organizations Will Emerge from Private or Public-Private Initiatives” 
  3. Re-Branding for Care. “Health Plans Rebrand: Care is the New Core”
  4. Integrated Strategies. “Integration of Payment, Clinical Performance and Outcomes”
  5. Analytics for Pharma. “Pharma adds "Actionable" to Analytics in 2012”
  6. Analytics for ACOs. “The Next Mountain for ACOs to Climb Will be the Development of an Enterprise Analytic Framework Including Clinical Analytics”
  7. Outsourcing.  “Outsourcing Best Practices Shift From Vendor to Partner”
  8. Mobile. “Bring Your Own Mobile Device Gains Popularity, But Security Risks Abound”
  9. Communication Strategy. “Second-Generation Communication Strategies Emerge”
  10. Social. “The Next Generation of Consumer Engagement will Leverage Consumers’ Social Graphs”

For More Information

Scientific American: 20 World Changing Ideas in Science

Scientific American 20 World Changing Ideas Scientific American published an article back in December titled “World Changing Ideas” that caught my eye.   The article provides a laundry list of ideas that Scientific American says have the potential to improve our lives and our planet.  The magazine has been running similar articles on an annual basis for a number of years.

The December article covers ideas in five general categories (Energy,Transportation, Environment, Electronics, and Health) that highlight the power of science and technology to improve the world.

Here’s a summary of some of the 20 ideas from this article


  • Pay for solar panels on your house like you pay for a house mortgage.
  • Biofuels from genetically engineered plants.
  • Innovations in Nuclear Power production that can stem nuclear proliferation
  • Smart meters in the home
  • Wind Power harvested from a fleet of high-flying giant kites or windmills


  • Plug-in hybrid trucks for short-haul cargo trips
  • Subway-like bus lines


  • Someday the oceans might be regulated by a worldwide marine planning and zoning committee
  • Harvesting energy trapped in garbage via a technology called plasma gasification
  • Cement that naturally absorbs carbon dioxide as it hardens
  • Introducing new honeybee colonies to our farms
  • Developing crops that can handle saltwater


  • HP’s Central Nervous System for the Earth (CeNSE) project
  • Smartphones that can act as real-time language translators
  • Advances in Personal Robotics


  • Biomarkers can help understand the causes of complex diseases
  • Satellites can help track and predict the spread of diseases
  • Better and cheaper ways to help blood clot quicker
  • Performing blood tests in real time by putting a drop of blood on a computer chip
  • Innovations in dental care.

The 20 ideas above are all interesting and innovative trends in science and technology.  Some I would say are more ‘world changing’ than other ideas.  And I am sure we could all come up with another 20 trends / ideas in science that are not listed above.

There’s much more detail in the article.  Scientific American articles are available to subscribers only, but at the time of the writing of this post, I found the article at Scribd here:  Also…you can listen to a podcast where Scientific American magazine Editor in Chief Mariette DiChristina and editor Michael Moyer talk about the "World Changing Ideas" feature ( Download this podcast ). 

IBM Scientists Reinvent Point of Care Diagnostic Testing

IBM scientists have created a one-step point-of-care-diagnostic test based on an innovative silicon chip that is easy to use and can test for many diseases, including cardiovascular disease. The results are so quick and accurate that a small sample of a patient's serum or blood, could be tested immediately following a heart attack, to enable the doctor to quickly take a course of action and to predict the patient's survival rate. 

IBM scientists have encoded the forces of capillary action on a microfluidic chip made of a silicon compound, similar to those used in computer chips, thus leveraging IBM's vast experience in developing and manufacturing silicon semiconductor wafers. The chip, which measures 1 × 5 centimeters, contains sets of micrometer wide channels where the test sample flows through in approximately 15 seconds, several times faster then traditional tests.   Uniquely, the filling speed can be adjusted to several minutes when the chip requires additional time to read a more complex disease marker.

You can check out the full story here

Making Healthcare Smarter

Unless you are on Mars, you are aware that there’s a bunch of discussion going on now about making our Healthcare systems better.   Much of that discussion, I feel, is missing the critical topic of the IT infrastructure supporting our healthcare systems.  There needs to be more discussion on how to modernize the technology within the Healthcare systems. 

HealthCare systems should be designed to connect people to information, to experts and to each other so that collectively, we can all act proactively to better manage and deliver preventative and therapeutic care.  Our healthcare system s need better connections, better data, and faster and more detailed analysis.  It needs an integrated view of the underlying data/information and centering it on the patient, so each person "owns" his or her information, controls who access it, and has can provide that access to a networked team of collaborative care. 

We need to move away from paper records to electronic records.  This will reduce medical errors and improve efficiencies.  And more importantly, it will allow us to apply  advanced data analytics to the the vast amounts of data, to improve outcomes.

Some places for you to check out some good discussion going on these days about how technology can improve our healthcare system.


The video to the right (lasts 1:41) makes the case for a smarter HealthCare System


The following blogs are great resources on what is happening in Healthcare and IT

Upcoming Webinar

Join IBM and University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) on September 16th, at 12:00ET for a complimentary web seminar:  "Making Smarter Healthcare a Reality: Implications for Today's CIO."Dan Pelino, General Manager of IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences, along with a distinguished guest panel will share their points of view on the evolution of smarter healthcare and how the motivational forces of patient safety and quality are driving new levels of transformation.  On the guest panel is…

  • G. Daniel Martich, MD, Chief Medical Information Officer and Associate Chief Medical Officer, UPMC, will discuss how UPMC embodies smarter healthcare and their transformative journey. Dr. Martich will also discuss the Center for Connected Medicine, a showcase facility for patient-centered, collaborative care.
  • Sean Hogan, Vice President, Global Healthcare Delivery Systems, IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences and Peggy Rodebush, RN, MSN, Healthcare Partner, IBM Global Business Services will share the results from the soon-to-be released IBM Global CIO Study providing provocative insights on the evolution of the Healthcare CIO’s role in the organization’s business strategy and in realizing innovative, smarter healthcare.  


Pew Internet: The Social Life of Health Information

The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released a report, “The Social Life of Health Information”, that contains results from a survey on the way people are seeking out health information.   The survey was focused on U.S. respondents only. 

As can be expected, Americans are now turning more and more to online sources for information.   In the past, patients typically called a health professional, their Mom, or a good friend.  Today they are also searching online, reading blogs, listening to podcasts, updating their social network profile, and posting comments.   And many people, once they find health information online, talk with someone offline about that information they have found online.

Some interesting findings from this survey:

  • 57% of respondents use the Internet when locating health information
  • Two-thirds of people that find information online then discuss with someone else their findings
  • 60% of respondents have said that information they have found online has impacted the way they have then pursued treatment.
  • 41% of e-patients have read another person’s commentary or experience about health or medical issue

Also interesting was the finding that "e-patients" – what the authors called people who look online for health info – are more likely to engage in social media in general, compared with other Internet users.  For instance, e-patients are more likely than non-health seekers to have created or worked on their own blog, read someone else's blog, used a social networking site, used a micro-blogging site, and other activities.  Small numbers of people are using social software like Twitter and Facebook.  Mostly these services are used to follow another person’s health issue and then perhaps include their own commentary on the health issue. 

As use of the Internet and social media increases, it's not surprising that more people are searching for health information and participating and engaging in health-related communities.   As these people search for and create their own content, this will put added pressure on providers to embrace social media in order to participate in the discussion.

Read the entire report here:

Flu Vaccine Process – Opportunities for Improvement

I was surprised – more than scared – by a recent NY Times article titled "Swine Flu Vaccine may be Months away." Although production is much faster than it would have been even a few years ago, it still may not be on time to avert illness if the virus starts spreading widely and becomes more virulent. However, the virus might also mutate in the coming month while the northern hemisphere enjoys a brief warm weather pause and then come back in a more virulent form in the cooler autumn weather. A few more articles helped me understand the process to create the vaccine and the opportunity for accelerating it and making it more efficient.

Despite years of effort, the world is still relying on half century old technology to make the flu vaccines. The first step is to turn the flu virus into seed stock – an essential first step, so the CDC has sent samples of the new strain to about 10 governments and academic labs in the US, Australia, GB, Hungary, and Russia. The vaccine is made by growing samples of flu virus inside fertilized chicken eggs then breaking out the key proteins that provoke an immune response. The process is time consuming as each egg is injected with repeated rounds of virus, each round of virus growth takes about 42 hours. The ultimate goal is to create a uniform seed stock from a single virus and to produce 80 vials of it, each containing millions of viruses. Then they are purified tested, and packaged into syringes. Once production is started, four months are needed for the vaccine to be ready.

In parallel, there is also a process for selecting which strains will be in the next few vaccines that started in February when a Government advisory committee selected three flu vaccines based on surveillance data indicating which strains are more likely to be circulating in the fall and winter. The Swine flu strain could be swapped for one of the other strains or added as a fourth. A second vaccine could also be developed, which would raise capacity issues.

Scientists are working on technology that would allow flu vaccines to be manufactured somewhat faster as the egg method is ill suited for a potential pandemie. The vaccine industry is in a much stronger position to respond now than it was five years ago when the US had only two flu vaccine suppliers and was hit by a severe shortage. Now, there are five suppliers to the domestic markets and the vaccine is attracting new investment lured by Government subsidies and higher prices. The Government is encouraging manufacturers to set up production in the US since all companies but Sanofi Aventis now import their flu vaccines. The government also gave $1.3B to develop ways of producing the vaccines in vats of animal cells rather than in eggs. Novartis is building a cell culture flu vaccine factory in NC which by be ready for use in 2010. By contrast, Solvay decided it was too risky to build a flu vaccine plant in the US and Sanofi Aventis put its efforts to develop the flu vaccine on a back burner. It seems that great opportunities for improvement exists not only at the technology level (capacity and productivity), but also at the supply chain level (delocalization, prioritization). Which industry is still relying on 50 year old technology anyway?

MSN Health: 9 Mind-Boggling Medical Technologies

This is a summary of was an article titled "Mind-Boggling Medical Technologies" that recently appeared on MSN's Health website.   Article here .  The article provided overviews of 9 emerging technologies in the medical field.  Some of them may seem far fetched, but I suspect there are many scientists working on these ideas and we will no doubt see many of them in our lifetime.

  1. Blood bots.  Someday surgeons will guide small robots through the body.  These robots may perform certain tasks, like clean plaque-filled vessels, slice off tissue for biopsies, or deliver targeted drugs
  2. Thought-controlled artificial limbs.  In the future a biological interface would link a patient's nervous system to an artificial limb that responds to thought.
  3. Brain-clot vacuum cleaner.  In the same way a vacuum cleaner suctions up debris, a device called the Penumbra is being tested that could suction life-threatening blood clots out of a stroke patient's brain.
  4. Deep transcranial magnetic therapy.  This technology sends an electromagnetic pulse through the skull and can induce neural excitation or inhibition deep inside the brain and is being tested for treatment of depression, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even eating disorders.
  5. Breathalyzers for disease diagnosis.  This emerging technology will perform tests on a person's breath that might reveal a range of illnesses or conditions, including cancer, asthma and many others.
  6. Diagnosing Alzheimer's with a blood test.  Diagnosing Alzheimer's by means of a simple blood test may become a reality in the foreseeable future. 
  7. Spit here to detect breast cancer.  Researchers are trying to develop a simple breast cancer test that uses a person's saliva.
  8. Implantable nano wires to monitor blood pressure.  A little invasive, but researchers are working on an idea to implant small wires (we are talking very, very small wires) in the body to remotely monitor blood pressure
  9. Laser-powered heart beats.  This technology uses lasers to stimulate a release of calcium ions within the heart, which can restore a heart to a steady beat.

This was an interesting list to read.  Healthcare Technology is such an amazing  imagine industry.  We are living in an age where technology advancements in healthcare are happing rapidly.  The next 50-100 years we will see so many more fantastic innovations.  I can only hope that we find a way to deliver these innovations and other important medical advancements to less developed nations.