Alex Tate in : thejournalofmhealth.com
As digital health gains momentum, the medical professional is bound to shift and evolve at a growth rate that is sure to outpace the previous years. Today, as the promise of digital health becomes even more highlighted, more and more patients expect the physicians to deliver better standards of care customized to their needs. Not only this, they expect the practices to meet their requirements in a manner suited to their personal schedules and lifestyles. In lieu of this digitization and changing patient expectations, there are five key trends that are transforming the digital health landscape as well as patient care:
Delivery of Health Care to Underserved Populations
One of the biggest benefits of digital health is the enhanced patient outreach. Access to healthcare services is undoubtedly one of the most daunting challenges for many patients in the U.S. With digital health, a lot more patients are able to access healthcare services, with the help of breakthrough apps in telemedicine. These patients come from various demographics (both rural and urban settings), different social-economic strata, and from varied work dynamics. Telemedicine has evolved as an innovative technology that has been used to bridge gaps in healthcare.
Apps available for easy use on smartphones is perhaps the most plausible benefit of digital health services. For instance, pregnancy facilitating apps are helping out rural women in ordering birth control pills at ease, which would otherwise require hours long drive to see a physician and seek a prescription. Many low-income patients are able to seek medical assistance without having to worry about affordability. However, it does have demerits such as the lack of being able to engage in one-on-one conversation about one’s health, and the absence of personal touch.
Application of Big Data
The healthcare industry, by default, generates huge amounts of data. With the rapid pace of technological advancements, this big data is being put to the right focus in order to reap the best health outcomes. Healthcare organizations are always on the hunt to harness and interpret whatever valuable information they collect. Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have emerged as a viable digital health tool that makes use of Big Data to generate positive health outcomes.
Big Data analytics allow the physicians to make important predictions about the patient health, make better diagnosis and hence, deliver optimal treatment plans for them. Through these integrated efforts, healthcare personnel are able to achieve positive and quality health outcomes at sustainable cost. Moreover, the rate of medication errors is significantly reduced through patient record analysis available through ehr emr software. At the same time, predictive analysis allows hospital and private practices to predict their patient inflows and, hence, make accurate staffing estimates.
Internet of Things (IoT)
While being labelled as a disruptive technology, the Internet of Things (IoT) is accredited for providing the healthcare industry with highly connected hardware that has significantly improved patient care. Not only this, it has played an important role in enhancing patient engagement as well as clinical collaboration. Wearable technology has significantly transformed the healthcare industry by making patient monitoring a much easier task. In today’s digital age, when the patients are more focused on preventive care and health maintenance, wearable tech has emerged as a viable tool for self-monitoring personal health. As a result, healthcare companies are investing relentlessly in proactive wearable technology devices that can offer up-to-date monitoring of patient health and determine the likelihood of any major health risk. From fitness trackers to heart rate sensors and oximeters, wearable devices have made predictive healthcare much easier. Moreover, they personalize the entire healthcare experience for enhanced patient satisfaction.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is more than a mere digital transformation trend in the healthcare industry. Instead, AI represents the epitome for innovation in field of medicine, calling for major investments and Research and Development. With AI gaining momentum in terms of application in the healthcare industry, the healthcare Ai-powered tools markets is expected to surpass $35 billion mark by the year 2025. This means that this innovative technology will actually shape literally all facets of the industry.
Chatbots and virtual health assistants is the most widespread manifestation of Ai-based technology in the healthcare sector. Chatbots can fulfil multiple roles, from diagnosis to acting in the capacity of customer service representatives, and even therapists. However, the most powerful application of AI is in areas like medical imaging and precision medicine. Physicians and specialties both are able to make accurate diagnosis through AI-facilitated medical imaging, and hence deliver better treatment plans. Similarly, AI is also taking lead in drug discovery and genomics. Owing to the sophisticated pattern recognition capability of AI, patients today have access to personalized therapies that are customized to their genetic makeup and personal lifestyle.
Consumerization of Healthcare
With the evolution of digital health, retail healthcare model is being highlighted as the future of patient care. Many patients today prefer a digital app-based medical experience for diagnosis and prescription, as opposed to the conventional in-person visit. However, the healthcare organizations need to keep in mind the diversity of their patients in terms of age, socio-economic status, geographical setting, and other attributes. Care delivery and insurance coverage needs might, therefore, be different for a middle-class patient living in a rural area, as compared to an elite-class patient dwelling in an urban setting. Hence, with this consumerization of healthcare, the practices need to be particularly mindful of avoiding overgeneralizations while deploying digital health.
Despite the widespread adoption of digital health, what remains an important concern is to decide which emerging technologies are worth investing in. For any digital health technology to be successful, it is particularly important to have a proper implementation plan as well a risk management strategic framework. Since it calls for disruption, it also requires a shift towards a flexible work flow.
About the author
Alex Tate is an independent Health IT Consultant with several years of experience in offering perceptive, engaging and informative consultancy on industry-wide topics. The consultancy revolves around Electronic Health Records, Practice Management, Billing Solutions, Revenue Cycle Management, State and Federal Compliances, Telehealth, Digital Medicine and anything that falls within the domain of American healthcare ecosystem. Alex’s guest blogs and articles have been published on various Health IT platforms, he has also analyzed and reviewed various healthcare IT products.