ECRI releases 10 healthcare trends to watch for in 2016

With the healthcare industry undergoing rapid change, executives and providers must focus on delivering high quality care at low costs. It is a difficult conundrum that can be aided by utilizing new concepts and tools and making informed decisions.

The nonprofit ECRI Institute recently released a list of 10 topics that will play a major role in healthcare this year and recommended how C-suite leaders can embrace technologies to improve their practices.

"Taking an evidence-based, 'just the facts approach' to assessing new healthcare innovations-from gadgets to drugs to infrastructure issues-that have been on our radar for the last year, we present hospital leaders with unbiased guidance to support informed decision making and help them understand how new innovations will affect care delivery," Diane C. Robertson, ECRI Institute's director of health technology assessment, said in a news release.

Here is the list:

  1. Mobile stroke units: Are they more than a concierge ambulance ride? – ECRI defined a mobile stroke unit as one that uses special ambulances and staff, telemedicine and equipment to diagnose strokes at patients’ locations before transferring them to hospitals. So far, two such programs are operating in urban areas in Houston and Cleveland.
  2. Medical device cybersecurity: When will your pacemaker be hacked? – ECRI noted that many hospitals are not equipped to handle potential medical device cyberhacking. On Jan. 20 and 21, the FDA is hosting a public workshop to address issues surrounding medical device cybersecurity.
  3. Wireless wearable sensors: Data sense or data chaos? – ECRI said the FitBit, Apple Watch and other wellness data collection devices may be useful for health systems looking to improve the cost-effectiveness and safety of patient care. They could be used to continuously monitor health status and provide for patient monitoring for serious, chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure.
  4. Miniature leadless pacemakers: Will potential benefits make a difference? – ECRI noted that two companies are developing a new generation of pacemakers that are less than 10 percent the size of conventional pacemakers, are leadless and do not require surgery to implant. St. Jude Medical is developing the Nanostim leadless pacemaker, while Medtronic is manufacturing the Micra Transcather Pacing System. The devices are not yet FDA-approved, but they are both available in Europe.
  5. Blue-violet LED light fixtures: Can the flip of a switch help prevent healthcare-acquired infections? – ECRI said that a light fixture is now available that uses continuous environmental disinfection technology to kill bacteria linked to healthcare-acquired infections, which are a major cause of morbidity, mortality and increased healthcare costs. Hospitals are penalized for having too many healthcare-acquired infections. ECRI cited U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that found there are approximately two million healthcare-acquired infections each year, which result in 100,000 deaths and $28 billion to $45 billion in excess healthcare costs.
  6. New high-cost cardiovascular drugs: Will they help your readmission rates? – ECRI mentioned that the FDA approved two proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 inhibitors to treat low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and an angiotensin receptor neprilysin inhibitor to treat heart failure. Although the drugs were effective in clinical trials, their high costs are a concern.
  7. Changing landscape of robotic surgery: Is a mainframe to tablet-type paradigm change coming? – ECRI mentioned Intuitive Surgical, Inc. offers three robotic surgery systems and that more than 500,000 robotic surgeries are performed throughout the world each year. When deciding whether to acquire robotic surgery equipment, hospitals and leaders should consider the intended surgical use and other issues such as the surgical field of view, required range of motion and image guidance.
  8. Spectral computed tomography: What’s the new hype about? – ECRI said spectral CT is not new and does not yet have a body of evidence that it leads to improved diagnosis and patient management. The authors mentioned health systems interested in spectral CT scanners should make sure they support a wide range of general CT applications.
  9. Injectable bioabsorbable hydrogel: An end to some radiation therapy complications? – ECRI noted that the FDA ranted a de novo clearance in April 2015 for the SpaceOAR system, a bioabsorbable hydrogel technology that is intended to protect the rectum of patients with prostate cancer who are receiving radiation therapy. Although the technology is promising, ECRI said reimbursement is limited so far.
  10. Warm donor organ perfusion systems: Will they ease the organ supply shortage? – ECRI said two new technologies (the Xvivo Perfusion System and the OrganCare System) may improve the viability of donated lungs and hearts for transplantation. The FDA approved the Xvivo system for donor lungs in 2014. The OrganCare heart and lung systems are available in Europe, and the OrganCare heart system is expected to be approved in the U.S. in early 2016. In the coming years, the technologies could double the number of lung and heart transplants and serve all patients on the U.S. wait lists for lungs, according to the report’s authors.