One of the tricky things when it comes to writing about the technological evolution of the healthcare industry is to balance my enthusiasm for improvements in patient focus, increases in data availability and advancements in analytical capabilities with the understanding that we’d probably rather not be patients in the first place.
I think we can agree, though, that in this imperfect world, healthcare is a necessity, and we’ll all be patients at some point in our lives.
Fortunately, the healthcare world is awash with new technologies designed to improve your “user” experience and increase your ability to live a better, healthier life. So, as we approach the close of 2018, let’s take some time to discuss the more salient healthcare trends and their impact on the patient experience.
Patient engagement tools
Because of the desire to improve the patient experience, many providers are integrating patient-facing tools into their practices. Ninety-five percent of physicians who responded to a recent survey said they use patient engagement technologies, from waiting room education screens to handheld exam room tablets and client portals that track every step of your medical experience.
If you haven’t been to a medical facility in the last decade or so, you might be surprised to see that old-fashioned analog registration systems have been replaced with digitized, interactive tools. Good bye clipboards, hello tablets. That’s just the beginning of change from the patient’s perspective. Some of the best tools for patient engagement come after discharge and help patients comply with medical instructions among many other improvements
Some refer to it simply as “machine learning,” yet opportunities abound to utilize revolutionary new artificial intelligence, or AI, technology for patient care. AI can predict disease progression, individual patient outcomes and make recommendations on new courses of treatment.
Medical imaging might be the greatest beneficiary AI’s unmatched pattern recognition abilities. Assuming a sufficient reference baseline, smart machines can identify image-based patient abnormalities with amazing levels of accuracy. Recent studies have shown algorithmic analysis of dermatology images can actually outperform a panel of board-certified dermatologists. While not ready to replace human expertise entirely, AI advancements undoubtedly improve the interpretation of X-rays, MRIs and CT scans. If it involves image-based analysis, AI (once taught for what to look for) can exponentially accelerate accurate diagnosis.
Big data is a gift and a curse in healthcare. More information is always better, but it does present storage and security challenges. Still, big data allows us to glean vital information about what actually works in healthcare (evidence-based medicine), and is helping bring new, designer therapeutic drugs that specifically target intractable genetic maladies and other previously untreatable conditions.
Analytical tools are a necessity to make sense of all that data being captured by digital patient measurement devices. Increased analytics provide real-time information about the clinical course for patients and provide vital information about which treatments work for the majority of individuals. This is another example of evidence-based medicine with the added benefit of increased precision, streamlining resource allocation as doctors weed-out ineffective treatments earlier and arrive at definitive answers quicker.
Internet of things
With so many devices available to track patient progress, IoT sensors offer a strong appeal in the healthcare space. It’s not only in the hospital setting with IV pumps, blood pressure cuffs and other automated devices, but also how these devices communicate with each other, allowing physicians to draw conclusions that might have otherwise eluded them. Remote monitoring devices also provide a huge benefit, allowing doctors to monitor patients outside of a hospital setting.
The emergence of telemedicine will rapidly change how care is delivered, helping in both rural limited access areas and urban areas where underserved patient communities are also found. Widespread use of telemedicine ties directly to the successful emergence of peripheral technologies that support the healthcare industry, including stable, secure mobile platforms, broad availability of patient-focused smart devices and apps, and perhaps most importantly, reimbursement for services provided over a telemedicine platform.
I really wanted this post to highlight the technology that will make all of our lives better. But I would be remiss if I did not also mention that to fully realize the aggregate power of these innovations, a basic information technology support structure must be in place: security, simplicity, disaster recovery and the expertise to design the needed architecture, support the requisite services and deploy optimization opportunities as they develop.
This is where Rackspace helps to ensure that you can leverage these exciting new tools for longer, better living. Our secure and HIPAA ready, HITRUST certified hosting solutions are an ideal solution to realizing the full potential of the digital revolution now sweeping the healthcare industry.