The new normal
The past couple of years saw many healthcare industry changes, most often created out of necessity as we struggled to deal with the Covid 19 pandemic. As we move through 2022 and into 2023, some of these trends will continue for the short term, while others will likely be around for a long while.
What healthcare technology trends should we be watching for in the coming years? Here are a few of the biggest.
For at least the last decade or so, much of the healthcare industry technology has been moving toward a greater focus on patients rather than providers.
Personalized healthcare technology is a booming industry, and we’re only beginning to see its promise.
We expect this trend to continue into 2023 and beyond
As hospitals and other practices began to be overwhelmed by Covid patients in 2020, many healthcare organizations introduced or ramped up remote patient monitoring and care options to help curb the virus’s spread.
Look for digital solutions to continue to grow in popularity. Wearable devices and artificial intelligence will help medical professionals monitor patient health markers from afar. Telehealth services will give greater access to homebound patients or those who live in isolated areas.
Cleaning and disinfection technologies
Cleaning and disinfection protocols starting in 2020 focus everywhere from the grocery store, to the doctor’s office, and to our homes. We sprayed, scrubbed, washed, and cleaned far more frequently than in the past. And in hospitals and other medical institutions, this included implementing new technologies to get the job done on a massive scale.
Look for more high-speed cleaning and disinfection machines to become commonplace in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. UV light disinfection and high-tech air filtering are also making a major push into the marketplace. An additional growing trend is screening technology to identify contagious patients before they even enter the building.
Increased focus on communication
Healthcare providers and facilities face unique challenges when it comes to communication. Administrators must efficiently communicate with office staff and frontline workers alike, across multiple specialties, various devices, and sometimes even far-flung locations, all while having to protect electronic health records.
“Healthcare is always complicated, and our system is no exception […] it’s been intense in the last year, but also very critically important. We have felt the impact of the work that we do and have seen it both in the stories we tell internally and externally.”— Paul Baltes, Director of Communications at Nebraska Medicine
While front-end technologies like cleaning, screening, and remote monitoring and access options are front and center in the public eye, there’s a quiet revolution in communication happening behind the scenes in the healthcare sector.
Healthcare systems and facility administrators are adopting new technologies for internal messaging. This type of technology can help increase healthcare employee engagement and make it easier to disseminate critical information, even in a crisis.
If your facility hasn’t upgraded the technology used for internal communications, it’s time to look into a new solution.
In recent years, we’ve seen increasing attacks on large business networks, including within the healthcare industry. As facilities raced to upgrade their systems to handle the load presented by the challenges of the Covid 19 global pandemic, cybersecurity and data protection upgrades may not have been able to keep up. This presented hackers with attractive targets for attacks, especially given the rapid digital transformation in healthcare.
Protecting patient data and electronic medical records is always top of mind for healthcare professionals and companies in the healthcare industry. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Rules (HIPAA) require organizations to be constantly assessing their data controls and risks to protect patient privacy.
Protecting patient privacy
From employee wellness apps to wearable technology to the internet of medical things (more on that later!), the protection of private patient information in the healthcare market is not only one of the top digital health trends; it’s also required by law, so healthcare organizations are investing heavily in the tech needed to comply.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
The GDPR is “the toughest privacy and security law in the world. Though it was drafted and passed by the European Union, it imposes obligations onto organizations anywhere, so long as they target or collect data related to people in the EU.”
Organizations in the US healthcare market are already under some pretty strict data privacy laws thanks to HIPAA, but there are also GDPR requirements for US companies, too.
If a US healthcare provider does business with citizens from the EU, it must also comply with GDPR laws. Penalties for not doing so are significant, so it’s very important that US providers do everything they can to meet or exceed these privacy laws when it comes to patient care, electronic health records, and general patient data.
The future of privacy
Look for upgrades to cybersecurity systems across the board in 2022, but especially within the healthcare industry and electronic health information. Security solutions for healthcare providers, cloud-based data storage, VPN exploits, and network access management are all top of mind for IT healthcare professionals.
Digital healthcare services
Virtual reality, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and machine learning are all healthcare technology trends that are going to play a vital role across the entire healthcare system. Let’s take a look at how.
Virtual reality in healthcare
Virtual reality was once the realm of video games, but not so in 2022. In fact, as of 2020, the global healthcare virtual reality market was estimated at $336.9 million. VR allows healthcare professionals, students, and patients to interact in simulated, non-invasive environments for education, rehabilitation, healthcare monitoring, and pain management.
In one study of low back pain and fibromyalgia, VR was shown to reduce discomfort by more than 30%, and the World Health Organization predicts that by 2030, as mental illness will be the leading burden of disease around the world, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and other technologies will help “to create new effective care models in the wider context of creating positive lifestyle changes, and prevention of, education about and support for individuals” affected by – and in need of – mental health care.
Augmented reality in healthcare
Meanwhile, in a growing healthcare technology trend, augmented reality and machine learning are taking some of the load that was traditionally allocated to overworked clinical staff.
Symptom checker chatbots used to check symptoms and answer simple questions can alleviate bottlenecks in triage systems. Artificial intelligence programs are double-checking physician conclusions and providing likely alternate diagnoses. Augmented reality and virtual reality will also assist with the growth in the remote monitoring of patients.
Machine learning in healthcare
Machine learning is one type of artificial intelligence (AI) that uses collected data to “learn” in order to improve performance or become more accurate at predicting specific outcomes.
Healthcare organizations utilize machine learning to search for cancer cells, make diagnoses, predict potential future health problems, improve medical data record-keeping, or improve health outcomes while lowering healthcare costs.
While certainly not even close to a full-on replacement for healthcare workers, machine learning will continue to play an important role in the healthcare sector.
Augmented reality and virtual reality solutions, and artificial intelligence, are now being used in healthcare industry training and classroom settings to help students and healthcare workers learn challenging skills safely. These digital health tools are also being used in senior care facilities to help with memory retention and mental health.
Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
The Internet of Medical Things, commonly known as IoMT, is a system of medical devices, software, and applications that connect together. These devices link to cloud computing platforms such as Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services, where the collected health data is collected, stored, and used for predictive analytics. While most people have heard of the Internet of Things (think smart refrigerators, etc), the systems are just one part of important digital health trends we are seeing put in place more and more.
Examples of this healthcare technology include remote patient care and monitoring of people with chronic or long-term conditions; tracking medication, and wearable medical technology, all of which allow a healthcare provider to have awareness of how a patient is doing, without them having to be standing right in front of them, which also helps to provide health equity for those who cannot afford regular in-person doctor visits.
Healthcare industry companies that use IoMT to monitor patients also refer to it as telemedicine, which we will discuss next.
Telemedicine and the evolution of remote care
Telemedicine is a generalized term for the ways in which patients and healthcare providers can use technology to interact and deliver digital health solutions – from a distance. This could be over the phone, via Zoom calls, through email, or with text messages, all of which allow for long-distance caregiving and consultation.
Because there can be many ailments that don’t require much more than getting some information over the phone or continuous care that just needs monitoring, telemedicine has changed the way we “go to the doctor”. It used to be that for any and everything, you had to call a doctor and make an appointment, or visit an ER or urgent care center, just to get patient care for even minor issues.
Communication is key
But thanks to advances in communication and the medical industry, this healthcare technology trend has allowed healthcare providers to see more patients – more quickly – potentially increasing patient outcomes and maybe even saving them some money.
Overcoming mental health challenges with telepsychiatry
Telepsychiatry is exactly what it sounds like; psychology via phone, video, etc., and it’s one of the biggest trends in healthcare.
Psychiatry.org defines it as “a subset of telemedicine, (which) can involve providing a range of services including psychiatric evaluations, therapy (individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy), patient education and medication management. It also encompasses psychiatrists supporting primary care providers with mental health care consultation and expertise.”
Telepsychiatry in the healthcare system can help overcome common mental health challenges by meeting patient needs for convenient and affordable mental health services. It can improve access for patients who may not have local care choices, it can integrate mental health with primary care,it helps to reduce trips (and transportation issues) to get to an office or facility, and assists in eliminating the stigma that is often associated with seeking out this kind of care, meaning more patients may be willing (and able) to get the attention they need.
We all know about 3D printers being used to make toys and spare parts for machinery, but it’s now being used for organ creation, called organ bioprinting. It is used to put together multiple cell types or stem cells in a typical 3D printer way, building layer-by-layer to create “bioartificial” organs that imitate their natural counterparts as closely as possible. This tissue can then be used to not only test drugs for safety but also have the potential to create new organs for transplant patients.
As of now, the only organ that has been 3D bioprinted and successfully transplanted into a human is a bladder, but the future of organ bioprinting looks promising for many other organs as well.
This is one of the health tech trends we are all looking forward to tracking the progress of!
Social Determinants of Health (SDOH)
While there are a ton of new healthcare trends that warrant the attention of patients and providers alike, they alone aren’t going to solve the major health inequity issues we as a society face every day.
Social determinants of health are the conditions under which humans are “born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” These play a large role in the mental and physical health of any given community or group of people.
SDOH contributes to wide health inequities amongst different communities. For example, communities without a grocery store may not have access to healthy food, and ones without healthcare facilities don’t provide access to care. These kinds of examples increase not only the risk of illnesses but also the risk of death from those illnesses.
Making SDOH better
In order to right-size these inequities, public and private health systems, educators, public policy advisors, housing organizations, and other community partners need to collaborate to improve the social determinants of health in our communities in order to improve the overall health of community members.
Healthcare trends alone won’t do that, but they will provide some assistance such as remote patient monitoring, telemedicine, and improved communication.
2022 is already proving to be an exciting year for emerging healthcare technology trends and advances in the tech we’ve already come to trust. Don’t be left behind as technology marches on.
If your healthcare organization is looking for a communications platform to make internal messaging more effective and efficient to meet the demands of new digital health trends, contact Firstup for a demo today.