The healthcare industry is in the midst of a period of rapid evolution; in fact, the pace of change in the past 10 years is outpacing the rate of change we saw in the previous 50-60 years. As the knowledge keepers of their specialties, physicians were the primary change agents in the previous half century. Doctors instituted evolution in techniques and most of the change was focused on how they treated patients. Today, however, the drivers are different. The changes we are seeing are happening across many paths in the healthcare industry, and change is being pushed by everyone from technologists to data scientists to administrators to business experts. This is an evolution unlike any we have ever seen.

This trend was evident at the recent HIMSS 2015 show, where data was the talk of the show. In every hall, at every booth, data was a topic of discussion, debate, and concern. As I anticipated and discussed in a previous post, big data was on everyone’s mind. Data is essential to the business of caring for the patient and its capture and storage continue to grow. Some estimate that the demand for data in healthcare will grow at a rate of 70 percent per year as organizations add clinical data to their storage and compute functions.

An offshoot of big data and another hot topic at HIMSS was data analytics and visualization. As data visualization becomes more prevalent, it allows healthcare organizations to delve deeply into data to help make adjustments to everything from how it administers to patients to what information it requires doctors and other healthcare professionals to capture.

For example, if your system has a large physician population you can capture data from all of their consultations/patient interactions, pull it into data visualization tools and then use that data to create knowledge across the entire physician population. Imagine the ability of analyzing all of the orders written by physicians and comparing it to evidence-based medicine protocols, such as assuring that every patient over age 65 receives a flu-shot. Using visualizations of the captured data, it’s easy to see which doctors are seeing the most patients, and which are utilizing evidence-based healthcare practices.

Another very hot topic at HIMSS was data security. When most of us hear about breaches on the news, we immediately think of breaches from large companies like Sony or Target. What most people don’t realize is the large number of data breaches occurring in healthcare. Besides the major ones like Anthem, healthcare breaches don’t get the same level of attention.

But, these breaches are happening, and these breaches are serious. During the show, I heard from a security vendor that on the black market right now, a valid credit card number is being sold for $1. A valid medical record is being sold for $1,000! I have no way of knowing if that is true, but I can believe it. Medical records can be used to create an identity and then procure healthcare using someone else’s insurance.

For me, the bottom line for healthcare is that there are going to be some individuals who can ride out this data evolution and others who decide to jump ship. The individuals who leave don’t want to deal with the requirements for electronic health records and the added need for device security. However, as people leave, there will be a new generation coming in and making an impact.

However, what we need to keep top of mind, is that we must continue to evolve technology in a way that honors the humanity of healthcare. As people look at new ways of facing challenges, they must not forget that we are dealing with lives. It’s the people who keep this top of mind when solving problems that will be successful.