The healthcare industry is undergoing an unprecedented period of transformation as new health technology and healthcare delivery systems hit the market every year. For the CIOs responsible for keeping pace with the latest trends in healthcare tech, it can be difficult to determine which innovations will lead to genuine business transformation for IT in healthcare and which ones will fail to catch on.
As 2019 approaches its final quarter, it’s worth taking a moment to evaluate which emerging healthcare technology trends are likely to have staying power in the upcoming year.
One of the most exciting trends in healthcare tech has been the robust development of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning applications. According to OptumIQ, 75 percent of healthcare organizations are planning to implement an AI strategy within the next few years. While initial applications will likely be confined to automating business processes like administrative tasks and customer service, there is also hope that the same health technology could be deployed to uncover incidents of fraud, waste, and abuse. In the long run, however, AI has the potential to completely revolutionize healthcare by providing data analysis and insights to clinicians to help predict disease, anticipate complications from procedures, and develop customized treatment plans based on patient data.
Internet of Things (IoT) devices are already playing a major role in the relationship between healthcare and technology. With wearable IoT devices becoming more affordable, healthcare providers can finally gather accurate health data from patients remotely, which allows them to develop a more complete and sophisticated picture of a patient’s actual health. From wearable ECG and blood pressure monitors to more sophisticated biosensors, there is no shortage of medical devices in use today. Users seem eager to embrace them as well, with consumer usage of healthcare devices in the US increasing from 9 percent in 2014 to 33 percent in 2018.
One of the most interesting trends in healthcare tech is the emergence of virtual health or telemedicine. Administered through some combination of phone, video, chatbots, and other software tools, virtual health applications allow consumers to directly access healthcare providers in ways that are both convenient and HIPAA/HITECH-compliant. Patients benefit from having fast and inexpensive access to healthcare while providers can cut down on expensive services associated with managing patients on-site. While a number of startups were early innovators in this space, health insurance companies were quick to see the potential and have implemented virtual health services of their own. These systems allow their customers to access healthcare resources remotely on their own time while still enjoying the benefits of their provider network. The technology has proven remarkably useful for managing chronic conditions and addressing minor medical issues such as cold or flu symptoms and mild injuries like sprains.
After the massive data breach that drove American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) into bankruptcy in 2019, healthcare organizations are more sensitive than ever about safeguarding the protected health information (PHI) of their customers. The healthcare industry faces unique challenges when it comes to data management and protection due to the fact that it handles so many different forms of data. Most importantly, this includes PHI, financial information, and personally identifiable information (PII), all of which are strictly governed by various compliance standards. To better protect this precious data, healthcare organizations are beginning to rethink their approach to cybersecurity by making it a core aspect of their operations rather than a preventative afterthought. The proliferation of IoT devices and virtual health applications require companies to be more creative than ever before, and it’s hardly a surprise that the industry is expected to spend over $65 billion on cybersecurity between 2017 and 2021.
The average patient interacts with a variety of provider IT systems throughout their healthcare experience. A general practitioner may use a different system than the specialist they refer a patient to, who similarly uses a different system than the hospital where the patient is admitted for a procedure. Then there’s the question of outpatient care and the insurance provider, both of whom may manage patient health information in different systems. While customers have long wanted their medical information to move smoothly between these systems, significant technological and compliance obstacles have stood in the way of that interoperability for decades. Fortunately, recent healthcare IT trends like the push for standardized application programming interfaces (APIs) and fast healthcare interoperability resources (FHIR) are making it more likely that true interoperability will be possible in the near future.
As organizations work to keep up with healthcare IT trends and implement the latest best practices to improve healthcare delivery, data centers will continue to play an important role in their business transformation. Whether they need to secure a backup site for disaster mitigation services or expand the reach of their IoT networks with edge computing strategies, healthcare organizations need to make sure they partner with providers that are fully compliant with relevant data compliance standards such as HIPAA and ISO 27001. Finding the right partner is an ideal first step in capitalizing on emerging healthcare technology trends.