Crystal Ball 2020: What to Expect in Federal Health IT

Published: January 09, 2020

Electronic Health RecordHealth IT

Federal Health IT trends to watch in 2020.

EHR Implementation

Expect agency spending on health IT to be dominated by implementation of Electronic Health Records (EHRs). Both DOD and VA’s implementation of Cerner’s Millennium solution, along with related migration, training, and infrastructure upgrades will top the list of highest contract spending in the federal Health IT area in 2020.  The FY 2020 minibus appropriations passed in December included $1.5B for VA’s EHR effort and DOD’s IT budget request for the same period included $623M for the DOD Healthcare Management System Modernization (DHMSM) which includes DOD’s MHS Genesis implementation. Deltek expects these initiatives to be at the forefront of federal Health IT spending for the next several years. 

Other federal agency EHR efforts to watch in the coming year include Coast Guard, Indian Health Service, Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Telehealth, Virtual Health and Mobile Health Progress

Agencies with health-related missions will continue to expand remote, virtual, mobile and telehealth programs. Look for more health-related mobile apps to assist federal providers and clinicians, as well as apps for veterans, caregivers, Medicare beneficiaries and the general population. In recent years, apps like CMS’ Blue Button capability have allowed patients more access to their health records, while apps like VA’s Annie promote self-care by providing automated text messages.

DOD will continue working on its Virtual Health (VH) strategy to include expanding specialty support for deployed providers via teleconsultation portals, improving access to virtual video visits, and implementing remote health monitoring for patients with chronic diseases.

VA will continue to lead the way among federal agencies in virtual health programs by expanding its Connected Care initiatives. Just this month, VA received praise for launching the country’s first remote chemotherapy clinic. Veteran patients living in central PA have now been receiving cancer care and chemotherapy treatment for a year, from a clinic located in Pittsburgh using telehealth capabilities.

Additionally, VA will continue to expand its Video Connect Program which it began rolling out in 2017.  The program allows veterans to connect with providers via mobile devices or video conferencing units to receive care, eliminating the need to travel to a VA medical facility. 

Continued IT Advancement and Application

Lastly, expect health mission agencies to continue to expand their use of cloud computing, analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), blockchain, and other technological advancements such as 3D printing to promote health, advance medical research, and lower costs.

Health agencies are escalating cloud usage to gain efficiencies, lower costs, and promote collaboration and data access. For example, even while transitioning to a new EHR, VA is also moving its current EHR, VistA, to a cloud environment.

NIH is prioritizing cloud migration in 2020 to overcome data challenges, through its Science and Technology Research Infrastructure for Discovery, Experimentation and Sustainability (STRIDES) Initiative. NIH will be aggregating and integrating scientific data across various enterprise data platforms to advance biomedical research.

HHS has been leading the way with piloting blockchain by receiving the first federal ATO for blockchain in December 2018 for its HHS Accelerate program. HHS Accelerate uses a combination of blockchain, AI and microservices to add efficiency and automate some acquisition and contract writing functions.

To rapidly advance the application of AI at VA, the department appointed its first-ever director of AI in July, Dr. Gil Alterovitz.  Additionally, VA is using 3D printing for prosthetics and medical models, and has expanded its 3D Printing Network from three labs in 2017 to 30 today.

2020 looks to be an exciting year in the federal Health IT arena. Contractors should look to the trends above to target potential contracting opportunities.  Here’s to a Health-Full 2020!