Advancements in technology are having a major impact on every aspect of our daily lives, from how we communicate to how we work, exercise and relax. So it’s no surprise that the healthcare industry is poised to take advantage of certain technological breakthroughs in a very big way.
Of course, if you’re directly involved in providing healthcare, or if you manage a facility or service related to health and wellness, the adoption of these new technologies couldn’t come at a better time. The American Medical Association reports that, while U.S. health spending rose 4.3 percent to $3.3 trillion in 2016 — or in excess of $10,000 per person — that growth rate was down from the 5.8 percent increase seen in 2015. And the trend to slow, or at least rein in, healthcare spending looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.
What this means is that while patients’ expectations are growing, healthcare spending is slowing down. And nowhere is this fact felt more than through the slowing of spending related to physician services. Over the ten-year period from 2006 to 2016, this spend has only seen an annual growth rate of 3.8 percent — and that represents a lower increase than other large categories associated with health, such as hospital care at 5.2 percent or clinical services at 6.5 percent.
This is why healthcare technology trends specifically designed for professionals looking to make healthcare practices more efficient are welcome additions if you’re facing the simultaneous challenges of managing costs while increasing the quality of care you provide to your patients.
Best Technology for Healthcare Businesses
If you’re deciding how to use technology to improve healthcare, the following list of top trends meet the double criteria of having the potential to increase the level of care provided and helping to control costs. Read on to see how the future of healthcare is likely to be positively affected by each of these promising technological advancements.
Artificial intelligence (AI) — often referred to as “machine learning” — is finally turning the corner from being a distant idea to becoming a powerful everyday tool. Since it’s particularly useful for repetitive tasks and data processing, it can assist in a wide range of functions, from insurance claim processing to diagnostics such as cancer screening. In addition, while voice-activated assistants like Alexa and Siri are changing people’s personal lives, AI-powered chat bots are pushing the boundaries of conversational applications in the health industry. Now, within a few minutes of speaking with a chat bot, it can serve as a medical intermediary ready to monitor a patient’s condition and, if necessary, make an appointment.
Forget its association with digital currencies for a moment and think instead of blockchain as a new way of securely sharing vast amounts of sensitive health data. Granted, there are plenty of skeptics when it comes to employing the power of what amounts to a digital ledger for the purposes of the healthcare industry. But when you stop to consider that Microsoft, Google, IBM and Intel all have departments dedicated to the development of products using blockchain technology — including applications associated with healthcare — then you have to take it seriously.
In addition, it’s hard not to acknowledge its growing importance after the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology encouraged IT developers to explore healthcare-related uses of the blockchain. Nevertheless, before it can be used as a data transmission method, it will need to be cleared as HIPAA-compliant.
While some technology trends may still seem like far-off predictions, others are already here, in use, and making a big impact on healthcare professionals and practices. Nowhere has the challenge to make healthcare data more secure been met with more positive and cost-effective results than with HIPAA-compliant cloud faxing services. Saying “goodbye” to the costs and complications associated with traditional fax machines and on-site fax servers is now a reality for numerous hospitals, clinics and private practices.
With reliable cloud-based fax services like those supplied by Softlinx using the ReplixFax delivery platform, your transmission and receipt of electronic protected health information (ePHI), including electronic health records (EHR), practice management (PM) documents and radiology information systems (RIS) are secure, encrypted and fully HIPAA-compliant.
While technology has advanced, so too have the threats associated with it — in fact, data breaches currently cost the healthcare industry $6 billion each year. Unfortunately, the nightmare of a healthcare organization falling prey to cybercrime and ransomware and having to pay thousands of dollars to regain access to its sensitive data remains an all-too-real scenario. And when you realize that ransomware alone is a multi-million-dollar industry for cybercriminals, it’s not surprising that the need for robust online security for healthcare companies has never been greater.
For this reason, expect to see everything from the addition of two-step authentication for online patient information portals to increased cybersecurity training for healthcare professionals to stronger cybersecurity systems.
More than helping you count calories at the gym or track cycling speeds on the road, wearable technology is about to vastly improve how health information is collected and shared with healthcare providers. Thanks to advancements in wearable technology, diabetics will be able to enjoy far more comfortable and accurate glucose monitoring. People who have difficulty sleeping will be able to monitor their resting state to help determine if they’re suffering from sleep apnea or some other respiratory condition. And heart patients will be able to send data about their heart rate right to their physician, who can analyze it and determine if any additional action is required.
To get an idea of how widespread this trend is set to be, consider this: The International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that more than 200 billion wearable tech devices will be in use by 2020!