Going to the doctor used to be somewhat of a simple affair – you check in at the desk and get escorted to a bare, extremely bright white room where you wait for the doctor to come in with his stethoscope and reflex hammer. Maybe some blood work.
Not anymore. Like many other industries, health technologies are taking over the healthcare field, with the goal of streamlining your healthcare into an efficient, well-oiled machine. Or tablet.
Executives reluctant to innovate
One staple of television is a drama revolving around the doctors and nurses that work in a fictional hospital. These storylines usually involve seemingly outlandish and impossible technologies – such as 3D organs – that makes the viewer wonder if the situations have any basis in reality or if they are simply the product of the collective imagination – Hollywood style.
Two main reasons why some hospital executives are entrenched in their old ways are fear of taking risks and bureaucratic “red tape,” such as security concerns (particularly with healthcare apps but more on that later.)
Despite all challenges – some more legitimate than others – the healthcare industry is undergoing a massive change. And while some fear the impact tech may have on the overall delivery of health services, others praise the fact that emerging technologies will improve the quality of care and reduce readmission rates.
In this article, we will briefly cover the top ten technologies we are confident will change healthcare forever. And we mean it!
10 tech trends executives should embrace today
1) Big Data
The days of paper charts are long gone. Healthcare records are commonly digitized these days, usually via computers or hand-held tablets. The information found in the digital records is compiled into big data that can be analyzed, for example, to detect and predict cardiovascular problems.
Just one of multiple ways big data is used in healthcare is via the creation of patient’s personalized ‘medical maps’, using data points such as anatomy and physiology as well as more complex identifiers as DNA, RNA, and chemical composition. This kind of information analysis was not possible in the past, and could prove vital in diagnosis and treatment in the future.
Another great example of big data in healthcare is the work done by HealX, a British startup which focused on curing rare diseases. HealX is operating in an under-represented market that big pharma doesn’t want to tackle: the 7,000 rare diseases impacting over 350 million people all over the world which have no treatments. HealX is using technology and artificial intelligence to examine the current universe of existing drugs in order to repurpose them for curing rare diseases. In other words, they’re running complex computations against billions of data points tied to other drugs to hopefully identify new treatments from a list of existing cures and drugs already on the market.
Bottomline: big data is big news for healthcare. From managing population health to predicting the likelihood of certain patients develop specific diseases, big data is redefining how healthcare professionals get actionable insights to do their job better.
2) Chat Bots/Virtual Appointments
Almost every commercial website on the internet now offers chatbots in lieu of telephone assistance – why not healthcare providers? Chat bots or virtual appointments can save time for both the providers and the clients.
Security concerns and billing are two hurdles that need to be overcome before chatbots and virtual appointments become more commonplace in the healthcare industry.
According to Chatbot magazine, healthcare is ripe for disruption and chatbots will play a key role in how doctors and patients interact with each other and how information is share “auto-magically” between different parties.
Today, chatbots are used to complete simple functions like gathering patient background information, collecting data around their symptoms, alerting hospital staff or primary care providers when a case needs immediate attention and more.
In addition to the immediate benefits of chatbots, namely the fact that it frees up doctor’s time to focus on other activities, chatbots are also very appealing because they automated solutions.
A chatbot is nothing more than a simple script which is thought to react in certain ways, in specific scenarios. For now! In the future, artificial intelligence and machine learning will improve chatbots dramatically by giving the ability to make smart decisions based on the information they’re provided. One company, Babylon Health is already reported to have created a chatbot which can diagnose specific conditions with a very high degree of accuracy.
But if chatbots have not yet evolved to a point where they can have meaningful conversations with patients, one thing is clear. Chatbots can collect information from patients and pass it on to physicians without any intermediary in between. In other words, the appeal of a chatbot is that it is available 24/7, doesn’t get tired and doesn’t “miss” things. That’s why healthcare providers should consider investing in chatbots right away.
3 Wearable Devices
Fitbits are all the rage right now. Those are the most recognizable brand of wearable devices, used to track and meet fitness goals. However, there are many other types of wearable devices that can offer monitoring for other medical fields aside from cardiology, such as a device that tracks glucose levels. For example, one of the most talked about technologies this year is the Omron Smartguide watch recently dubbed the Top of CES awards for the most revolutionary wearable technology in 2019. The watch has an inflator on the cuff allowing people with high blood pressure to monitor their stats throughout the day.
Telemedicine allows for healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat patients remotely. Types of telemedicine include real-time appointments, remote patient monitoring, consultations with specialists and medical imaging, among other features.
The main benefit of telemedicine is that it cuts costs for the patients immensely by implementing shorter hospital stays and better management of chronic diseases.
4) Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)
No, robots aren’t operating on you… yet. Artificial Intelligence in healthcare is mainly computerized assistance with billing efficiency, though there are some advanced artificial intelligence devices that can assist surgeons in performing the surgeries. Check out this in-depth guide showcasing how the Top 20 companies in healthcare are leveraging AI.
Cyber-security is an issue we hear about quite often these days, especially in regard to bank institutions being hacked and things of that nature. Blockchain is a digital ledger that cannot be altered or modified in any way.
6) Medical Mobile Apps
With the invention of mobile phones and mobile phone apps came a sedentary lifestyle that can be detrimental to one’s health. Many companies have rolled out medical mobile apps to encourage physical activity.
In addition to apps that encourage body movement, there are apps that can track a person’s vitals and apps that can access your health records and other healthcare related affairs. You can even view and pay your medical bills on some apps.
7) Automated Texts and Text Messaging Platforms
Whether it is appointment reminders or reminders to take your medications, automated texts and text messaging platforms are a huge asset to managing your healthcare.
While text messages aren’t necessarily faster than a phone call reminder, they are more practical and accessible, given that most people take their cellphones with them everywhere and few people have house landline phones.
Telemonitoring programs allow healthcare professions to closely monitor the vital signs and symptoms of their patients in a fast and streamlines process. For example, someone with high blood pressure could have their blood pressure monitored remotely instead of going to frequent appointments to see their doctor for the few minutes it would take to get their blood pressure checked.
10) Rapid Prototyping
Rapid prototyping is the process of building, launching and testing a concept on a patient all within a span of two weeks. 3D printing is an example of rapid prototyping. This innovation allows its creators to design quickly, make necessary adjustments and customizations in less amount of time.
Technology is trendy
There’s an old adage that says, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” The healthcare industry is one area that most people can agree IS broken. Progress is scary. Change is scary. We tend to stick with what we know because the unknown is a risk.
Technology is everywhere in our lives – in our homes, our cars, part of our jobs. Why shouldn’t it be in our healthcare, to make things simpler to access and easier on the checkbook (not that anyone uses checkbooks anymore.) For a world that is constantly on the go, having your healthcare at your fingertips is a luxury we can and should afford and a part of the digital transformation in healthcare.