Technology has disrupted virtually every industry, and healthcare is no exception. The advent of digital tools, from apps to wearable devices, has changed so many aspects of practicing medicine.
These six emerging trends in healthcare technology will help physicians stay ahead of the curve, so they’re poised to maximize productivity, productivity, and flexibility.
It’s Time to Stop Neglecting the “Digital Front Door”
In 2020, telemedicine was undoubtedly the most important trend in healthcare technology. And it’s here to stay:
- 83% of patients say they plan to continue using telemedicine even after Covid-19 pandemic is resolved.
- The global telehealth industry is expected to surpass $185 billion by 2026. It was only $41.6 billion in 2019.
For physicians, telemedicine represents an incredible opportunity for growth. But it also means that doctors need to start thinking differently about how they attract, engage, and communicate with patients.
With fewer occasions for in-person interactions, doctors must embrace a “digital front door” strategy. This technology-first approach prioritizes patient engagement at every opportunity, using tools that patients are already comfortable with. Examples might include the following:
- Online appointment scheduling, so patients can make an appointment anytime, even when your practice isn’t open
- Symptom-checking chatbots, which can help patients determine whether they should seek immediate medical attention or need follow-up care
- User-friendly apps that facilitate easy exchange of radiology scans and other medical information
- Virtual assistants that provide reminders about prescription refills, follow-up care, and appointment reminders
Big Data Is Going to the Cloud
A staggering 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is generated every day, and the volume of data is projected to double every two years. That explosion in data is also happening in healthcare, where government regulations already mandate the adoption of healthcare information systems.
Meanwhile, emerging data sources will also increasingly play a part in delivering high-quality medical care. From wearable devices and mobile apps, to at-home testing, a wealth of data could become part of each patient’s medical record.
All that data can present quite a storage challenge for medical practices, and cloud storage is an appealing solution. Moving your data to the cloud offers multiple advantages:
- Easy access: Data is accessible anytime, anywhere. This means you’re no longer tied to the office, and it’s easier to collaborate with other physicians about shared patients.
- Lower costs--with better security: Storing data certainly isn’t free! Physicians can reduce IT costs (and usually improve cybersecurity) by outsourcing data storage to a cloud provider,
- Predictive analytics: Centrally stored data can be analyzed in aggregate--the main benefit of Big Data. You’ll be able to use the data to make more proactive decisions.
Alexa Can Come to the Office
Most of us are familiar with Alexa or Siri. These virtual assistants help us with myriad tasks around the house. The technology has evolved, and now virtual assistants can perform multiple jobs for medical practices, as well.
We mentioned earlier that virtual assistants can help with tasks such as prescription refills or confirming appointments. They can also handle a host of diverse responsibilities:
- Patient monitoring
- Billing and accounting
- Insurance authorizations
- Marketing automation
Thanks to advances in natural language processing (NLP) and ambient listening, virtual assistants might soon also play a role in the exam room. Through an integration with your EHR system, virtual assistants can listen to a patient consultation and automatically add the information to the patient’s EHR.
Patients Get More Access to Drug Trials
Covid-19 brought an immediate, pressing need for contactless options in healthcare--and a competing need to swiftly develop a vaccine, which requires drug trials (usually not so contactless). The solution was virtual drug trials.
Virtual and online drug trials are hardly new; Eli Lilly conducted the first large-scale one in 2001, using patient surveys to evaluate the efficacy of Tadalafil. But the explosion in wearable devices promises to make online drug trials an even more viable option. Clinical R&D leaders are excited about the potential of online drug trials to increase participation and sample sizes, and to improve the percentage of patients who complete the full study.
Online drug trials have different implications for practicing physicians, especially those who specialize in rare or complex conditions. Patients with “orphan” diseases often have very limited access to clinical trials or cutting-edge treatments because there may be only a few treatment centers in the world. Online drug trials address that issue by expanding access.
Cybersecurity Takes Top Priority
Last year the US healthcare sector saw a 55% jump in the number of data breaches; 26 million patients’ records were exposed. Experts predict that cybersecurity attacks will continue to pose a considerable threat, especially because healthcare organizations are the most frequently targeted.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlined three specific types of attacks that healthcare providers must anticipate:
- Phishing: These scams begin with soliciting employees’ login credentials and other sensitive information via people--often by posing as someone “safe.” In some instances, hackers have even posed as IT staff from the victim’s own organization.
- Network edge vulnerabilities: An unpatched vulnerability in the network can be used to gain unauthorized access.
- Remote desktop protocol (RDP): Remote desktop software that already has access to a machine is exploited to gain access to the device and steal information.
Remote work has introduced multiple new risks, especially because Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are not always secure. Gartner predicts that most healthcare organizations will transition from VPNs to Zero Trust security framework by 2023.
Enterprising Doctors Embrace the Gig Economy
Last year, about 57 million American workers participated in the gig economy--that’s 43% of the country’s population. Now, with the proliferation of telemedicine and digital tools that make healthcare more accessible, the gig economy is coming to healthcare.
Physicians’ interest in telemedicine has been steadily increasing for years, and along with it, their interest in locum tenens work. These positions might last a day, a week, or several months, based on the healthcare organization’s staffing needs.
Previously, physicians and other healthcare professionals had to go through an intermediary to find temporary or part-time work. But new technologies are cutting out the middlemen, making it more attractive for healthcare providers to hire locum tenens doctors. After all, staffing accounts for 60% of the average provider’s expenses, and going through a third-party inflates costs.
Platforms like Nomad Health offer a place for providers and professionals to directly connect, a win-win scenario for both parties. Tools like this can help address other pressing problems in healthcare (such as physician shortages and lack of healthcare in rural areas), so it’s likely that more gig economy-inspired options will emerge in the near future.