Healthcare systems all over the planet were facing a 100-year storm that was fueled by high costs, new technologies, patient burdens, and high consumer expectations. COVID-19 was just a kind of rogue wave hitting the industry broadside and accentuated already perilous health systems.
In order to explore where we are with healthcare technology in 2020 and what solutions can be outlined, we need to begin with the problems.
Technology must be harnessed to help healthcare professionals accomplish the following:
· Improve patient care
· Lower care delivery costs
· Manage admin/paperwork responsibilities
· Access information “on-the-go”
· Provide data transparency
· Enable patients to be more involved in their care
· Lower capital expenditures
· Remove siloed legacy applications and IT systems
· Meet EMR federal mandate
· Comply with HIPAA, HITECH, and European legislation (BSI, ISO, EU Healthcare)
· Handle supply chain logistics
The trends in healthcare can either help alleviate the current challenges within the system, or conversely, add exponentially to the burden already on healthcare providers and payers.
People are beginning to view their healthcare as more of a retail exchange, complete with expectations of modern communications and access to/control of their healthcare data. Added to this is the widespread acceptance of wearables and other internet-connected healthcare devices.
· Virtual Reality
Whether you are a surgeon using augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) to visualize a complex procedure or a resident in a long-term care facility using a VR headset for “virtual vacation therapy,” VR use is growing, and healthcare professionals are constantly finding more uses for it.
· AI Aided Diagnoses
Identifying disease, improving the accuracy of diagnosis, supporting population health diagnosis studies are just three of the many practical utilizations of AI in modern healthcare.
· Securing Data
Healthcare data is a treasure trove for cybercriminals. Not only is there information about billion-dollar healthcare companies, but there is also the personal information of millions of patients available to them in an unsecured system as well. It’s big business. In fact, healthcarefinancenews.com tells us that cybercrime cost the industry $4 billion in 2019 alone.
· Mobility and Accessibility
Remote patient care and the increasing need for healthcare professionals to have remote access to patient records and their own workflow is pushing everything toward the need for secure, mobile access.
· Pricing Transparency
Recent moves by the federal government is forcing more pricing transparency in the industry. Kaiser Health News tells us that “Hospitals will soon have to share price information they have long kept obscured — including how big a discount they offer cash-paying patients and rates negotiated with insurers…”
What does that mean for the state of healthcare technology?
It’s going to put the burden on technology to increase efficiency even more in an effort to be competitive in pricing.
· 5G and WiFi 6
The faster speeds and increased communication capabilities with these new networks will be an competitive advantage to the healthcare providers in the markets where the technology first becomes available.
COVID-19 has pushed telehealth to the forefront of the healthcare thought process. Now, it is being used across the nation to overcome the obstacles of time and space to provide healthcare at a distance.
· Individualized Treatments Based on DNA
Precision medicine is driving exponential utilization of data. While DNA targeted therapies are saving lives, they are requiring a higher level of computing capacity than has been previously been required across the board.
· New Players on the Horizon
Companies like Amazon, Best-Buy, Salesforce, and others that have a handle on high-level technologies are making or considering ventures into the healthcare space in response to a rise in consumerism in healthcare. In an article on the topic by Hannah Chenoweth at HealthSpaces, she states that “Retailers put consumers in control, and their spaces are inspiring and engaging, whereas the traditional medical experience means waiting in a sterile, intimidating environment.” Keeping up with disruptors in the market is going to require staying ahead of the game technologically.
· Critical Nature of Interoperability
Hundreds of different vendors for analytics are in use across the country. In fact…more than 400. To streamline the system so that physicians and clinicians don’t face interoperability roadblocks is going to be a monumental technology challenge.
Who is affected by the State of Healthcare Technology?
· Patients’ Families
· Healthcare IT Administrators
· Admin Staff
· Data Scientists
· Medical Imaging Specialists
So that’s a snapshot of the situation. Next we will take a look at some of the IT bright spots looming on the healthcare horizon.