Exciting and emerging technologies have been transforming the healthcare industry in recent years. Whether it’s clinical services, drug research and manufacturing, or healthcare related industries such as insurance, the technology driven response to adapt and innovate is also defining healthcare of the future.
In the US, national healthcare expenditure is expected to rise to almost $6 trillion by 2027. In the UK, modelling suggests by 2062 the UK will be spending around 20% of its total wealth on the NHS, very likely more.
While past systems are usually preferred due to reliability, healthcare can benefit from integrating digital technology to improve patient care experience, increased productivity and efficiency.
Adoption of technology in the medical industry has also sky-rocketed in the past year, and the following technology trends are set to have a rapid application in the future.
Telemedicine is one of the simplest forms of an on-demand service in healthcare innovation. It offers clinicians and medical professionals the ease and ability to use technology to deliver healthcare at a distance.
Telemedicine technology covers a wide scope, including online databases, computer assisted diagnosis, electronic prescriptions, increased availability to research data and drug information. Remote monitoring of health is also possible, through smart devices such as cameras and analytical software.
Remote technology has transformed the way healthcare can be delivered as a hybrid care model. This will allow patients to stay at home, reducing time spent travelling to appointments, and lower the burden of hospitals and clinics to cope with non-urgent cases. This reduces the pressure on clinicians and organisations, enhances patient experience and provides better long-term health care management.
Medical professionals can offer better follow-up care and are able to handle more patients that the traditional face-to-face healthcare model allows for.
This is especially important in remote or regional areas where specialist healthcare services can be limited, allowing for more prompt diagnosis and treatment options, and greater access to healthcare workers as needed.
2. The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
While not a new healthcare tool, the union of medical devices, applications, and healthcare IT systems as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is expected to have enormous growth in the future.
The increasing reliance on internet-connected devices is designed to drive enhanced healthcare outcomes, increase efficiencies, and lower costs of care across the healthcare sector.
The ability of IoMT tools to collect, analyse and send data is swiftly changing the way healthcare is delivered now and into the future. Chronic diseases can be tracked and prevented with wearable devices and mobile apps, such as monitoring blood pressure or insulin delivery. Newer advancements are connecting implantable devices to smartphone apps, such as Bluetooth-connected cardiac defibrillators.
With future technologies such as the smart pill on the horizon, the healthcare industry is set to embrace even more IoMT technology as it becomes available. The benefits to patient experience, streamlining the healthcare process and increasing profits are obvious and the market for these devices is expected to reach over 254 billion USD by 2026.
As healthcare systems move towards transitioning to cloud platforms for data management and storage, cybersecurity and data protection will be one of the most critical technology trends to appear.
Already, the increased attacks on healthcare systems in 2020 has shown hackers are moving from data theft to ransomware attacks, shutting down IT systems in healthcare facilities, and impacting healthcare delivery. These attacks emphasise the importance of scaling up cybersecurity and protection of data storage in the healthcare sector.
Ensuring healthcare data is safe from security breaches not only ensures patient privacy and safety, it allows for high quality care to be delivered without disruption. It can also ensure research is ongoing, with secure data sharing and collaboration. In 2020, hackers attempted to steal vaccine data from companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech, highlighting the need to ensure medical research data is protected and shared securely to improve collaboration.
Healthcare blockchain could resolve this issue of data security. When healthcare data is recorded in a way that makes it difficult to alter or hack, this increases the ability for patient data to be shared and accessed more readily. This ultimately streamlines healthcare administration, reduces costs, and enhances the patient experience by delivering personalised care.
4. Healthcare data interoperability
Interoperability in healthcare is the ability of two or more systems to quickly and securely access and exchange electronic health data. This data comes from sources such as hospitals, pathology laboratories, medical records held at clinics and pharmacies.
This fast and reliable access to health data means different clinicians can network and utilise health records with more efficiency, improving time to diagnosis and implementing treatment plans across multiple providers. A patient in an emergency department can be diagnosed faster, if the treating doctor can access health records that already outline drug information, previous health incidents, and so on.
The goal is to improve health outcomes for both individuals and populations and make healthcare more efficient and accessible, avoid clinician burnout, and reduce the cost to patients and the healthcare system.
The challenge is security and protection of health records as the collection of health data increases. Data protection laws means healthcare systems must be guided carefully in regard to data storage, confidentiality, management policies and security.
These regulations mean improvements in interoperability between healthcare providers and medtech developers, particularly to help evaluate and comply with current and future regulations.
5. Artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare is the use of software and machine-learning algorithms to act like the human brain in analysing, presenting, and understanding complex medical data.
From healthcare administration to application in medical imaging, AI has the potential to open many new digital technology possibilities in the healthcare industry. As learning algorithms become more accurate as they interact with training data, this allows medical professionals to have unparalleled insight into diagnosis, care pathways, treatments, and patient outcomes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, AI-driven analytics has been critical in developing tools and models to predict and track the virus, as well as estimate severity risk in patients. This technology will be vital in predicting and preparing for future health crises and reducing the impact on populations and healthcare systems.
AI can also be used to improve health research, allowing new treatments to be developed with more speed and brought to market with enhanced safety assurance. Researchers have used AI to analyse potential mutations of the coronavirus, to figure out which vaccines are quickly needed. This technology gives medical researchers a huge advantage over emerging strains, as this kind of data modelling traditionally took months, and now is accessible in a matter of minutes.
6. Virtual and augmented reality
VR and AR technologies have important roles to play in healthcare IT. Virtual reality has been utilised to quickly educate staff in new infection control techniques needed as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Surgeons using VR can prepare and plan for complex surgeries, while medical students who use VR in their training tend to be faster than those who only receive traditional training.
VR technology is being used in patient education, taking them through planned surgeries to enable a greater understanding of the process which improves treatment and recovery. VR is also used in treatment for mental health conditions such as PTSD, as well as to gather data for dementia research.
Stroke patients use VR training for ongoing rehabilitation, which also allows care providers to tailor treatment to patient needs and improve recovery. It also shows promise for helping those with cognitive impairments such as dementia, providing ways to uncover memories more easily, improving their quality of emotional wellbeing.
Healthcare and patient education is another application of AR that has enormous benefits. AR is used to overlay digital information on the real world, allowing surgeons to effectively see anatomy more thoroughly, offering greater precision. Video data collected from AR headsets during surgery can make automated recommendations with the aid of machine learning, such as assessment of surgical skills, coordinating teams and making surgeons aware of critical surgery information.
No longer the stuff of science fiction, nanotechnology is being applied in the medical world, to prevent or treat diseases of the human body. Nanomedicine has endless potential, from imaging and sensing to diagnosis and treatment delivery, all on a tiny scale.
Researchers are constantly looking at new ways to use nanomedicine to target individual cells, such as using nanoparticles to target drug delivery to cancerous tumors, or nanotech to fight against bacteria and viruses. Smart pills are already in use for colon exams and in 2018, MIT researchers created an ingestible pill that is wirelessly controlled to relay diagnostic information or initiate drug release via a smartphone app.
In today’s connected world, technology has become essential to every business industry. The healthcare sector is no exception and in recent years it’s become increasingly obvious the key role technology will play in healthcare in the future.
If you want to maximise the developing technology trends for your healthcare business, talk to the INTELLIWORX team today about how they can help you move into the future.