Healthcare Technology Trends to Look For In 2018
“The intelligent digital mesh is a foundation for future digital business and its ecosystems. To create competitive advantage, enterprise architecture and technology innovation leaders must evaluate these top trends to identify opportunities that their organizations can exploit.” – Gartner
We know that the adoption of technology within the healthcare industry has been slow – however, the industry is poised to undergo some dramatic and significant changes over the years. Digital transformation is about altering operations within the industry in order to make them more automated, effective, and efficient. This transcends the idea of simply ‘transforming’ to buy the latest technologies and tools to ease up healthcare procedures. This ‘transformation’ focuses on efficient management of information collected through the contemporary digital devices. When collated, and channelized effectively, the information can be structured in a way that responses to current and future health problems become automated. Hence, a rigorous and meticulous plan is necessary to use the technology to the optimal advantage. Globally, some countries are beginning to see the benefits of healthcare digitization.
Let us look at the top trends for the industry in this New Year 2018, which should provide some clues as to the future of healthcare digital transformation.
The Trends to Watch
Computing through the Cloud
Today, cloud-based platforms have become fundamental to digitization, allowing companies to manage complex systems efficiently and cost-effectively. Even if companies are not completely ready or open to adopt the cloud in totality, the hybrid cloud models offer the flexibility and reliability that the healthcare industry needs, while maintaining control over their IT systems.
Email and finance being common applications, have already found a place ‘amongst the cloud’, and now healthcare companies seek to move applications specific to their industry to the cloud. The fact is that the processing prowess, bandwidth to communicate, massive storage ability, and extended flexibility make the cloud appealing to this industry. With new programs being implemented within the industry, the cloud is here to stay among the technology trends.
A survey conducted in the year 2016 revealed that doctors prefer to treat chronic illnesses through telemedicine. Simply put, telemedicine is about using telecommunication technology to diagnose and treat patients remotely. Doctors believe that traversing to the hospital regularly proves cumbersome, demotivating, and expensive for chronically ill patients, and hence telemedicine is the answer.
Through the telemedicine technology, patients use a smartphone and internet connection, receive the best care. It is a huge saving in terms of time and money for the patient and the doctor. This form of providing healthcare is making successful inroads, especially in the mental healthcare realm, with patients who need emotional care and support finding the right therapist sitting at home through the click of a button. The social stigma, in some countries, of visiting a healthcare professional is alleviated through this technology.
AI and Big Data Analytics
Today data is the most valuable asset and resource – more than oil (The Economist) and hence, the use and distribution of data can create exciting new opportunities for healthcare companies. These companies could use big data, AI, and other tools of analytics to enhance and accelerate healthcare, optimize patient support, and better manage high-risk patients by being able to identify the factors that put them at risk and recommend preventive medication. From improved decision-making, enhanced data management, and optimized doctor-patient relationship, AI systems are becoming a core element of many healthcare applications.
With the advancement in technology, today even a person’s smartphone with a healthcare mobile application can help to conduct ECGs, record temperature, monitor heartbeat, and perform blood tests. This technology has, therefore, lowered the need to visit a physical store or clinic for these activities. These ‘wearables’ are changing the way health is monitored.
Automatic prompts reach patients to check their weight, pulse, oxygen level, sugar, and other such bodily functions. Once the check-up ends, patients are able to enter the results on a portal designed specifically for this purpose. This is also effective because it is real-time, and with some proactive effort, people can reduce the possibilities of more serious ailments such as kidney or lung failure, heart diseases, and others.
The use of IoT in healthcare is growing steadily. IoT-enabled applications for remote monitoring, medical inventory tracking, enhancing patient safety and security are helping healthcare organizations reduce costs, improve disease management, and significantly reduce errors. It is also helping in pharma industry in improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of their clinical trials and bring new drugs to the market in a shorter time. Virtual nurses are helping healthcare organizations in supporting patients with chronic diseases.
Robots / Robotics
According to the International Data Corporation, the year 2019 will see an increase of about 50% in the use of robots in the realm of healthcare. Hence, the debate on whether the use of robots in healthcare is futuristic seems to be put to rest. These robots are expected to undertake automated, manual, routine, and time-consuming tasks such as delivering medicine, supplements, food, taking pre-operative medical information, analyzing X-Rays, CT scans, tests, etc. In many cases, robots are already helping surgeons in performing complicated surgeries.
The Right Time to Undertake Digital Transformation
Since every healthcare organization must undergo such transformation, I feel that the trends mentioned should be an integral part the digital transformation strategy. There are doubts and concerns for sure, since digitally transforming the organization through these technologies is not a trivial matter or undertaking.
This exposition has possibly provided a preview of the future of healthcare digital transformation and the fact that these technologies would be beneficial for patients. If these technologies were taken ahead full throttle, patients would be a lot happier, would gain better access to top doctors and healthcare facilities, at a nominal cost, and with reduced effort. Is not this the aim of healthcare and technology?