Where healthcare meets technology is one of the most important intersections for humanity. After all, most everyone to a degree cares about their personal wellbeing, and technological advances constantly improve the way medical professionals can help individuals feel better and live healthier lives. As experts understand more effective standards and routines to improve the quality of life, so too must the tools used by healthcare providers continue to evolve.
In some ways, the medical field leverages tools that were created long ago. Consider a hundred years ago: Alexander Fleming developed penicillin, Earle Dickson invented the adhesive that changed the Band-Aid brand completely, and even further back in the 1700s when Dr Edward Jenner began inoculating against smallpox which inspired developments of modern vaccines for tuberculosis, whooping cough, and other troubling illnesses. In our present time, mRNA vaccines can instruct cells on how to fight diseases but do so without introducing dormant or weakened viruses. Medical professionals still rely on the origin and importance of these tools, yet the practice of medicine has evolved in ways that the original inventors could only dream.
Technology not only improves the tools available to medical providers; it also helps make the lives of patients easier by making their healthcare more manageable and convenient. Telehealth, for instance, allows medical professionals to reach patients that are in otherwise hard-to-reach areas. Machine learning and intelligent automation improve patient UX and streamlines their healthcare experience. Health data interoperability keeps physicians up to date with a patient’s healthcare history immediately and regardless of where they receive care.
These are not pipe dreams reserved for science fiction. These are emergent technologies that have driven the recent healthcare revolutionization. At Hoverstate, we are constantly seeking out the latest buzz on healthcare technology, and here are six of the healthcare IT trends that will continue making the biggest headlines throughout 2022:
Telehealth remains a difficult to adopt concept yet is becoming wildly popular, thanks in part to its prevalence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telehealth allows medical providers to interact with patients at a distance, whether that is through video conferencing software, a chat portal, or even through an app. While telehealth is nothing new, the pandemic increased demand tremendously for safe, secure telehealth options. Healthcare providers, insurance companies, and governmental bodies worked quickly to expand access to telehealth options and opened the door for patients that might otherwise not have been able to obtain service.
A plethora of telehealth services and apps are available on Smartphones. Prescription request and renewal is a clear fan-favorite based on convenience and anonymity factors. Even more recently, Warby Parker unveiled an at-home virtual vision examination you can administer to yourself, submit to an eye doctor, and get a lens subscription in what they promise to take less than ten minutes.
While telehealth continues to evolve, the pandemic showed just how powerful a tool telehealth can be to medical professionals. Patients that might have trouble reaching a medical office could still receive care, dismantling a persistent problem in healthcare of accessibility. Patients suffering from the most difficult illnesses need the most medical care but also tend to have the hardest hurdles reaching a medical provider. Telehealth also enables medical providers to see more patients, allowing them to help more individuals and increase their efficiency. Finally, telehealth helps patients seeking specialists talk with experts who may not be in their physical area.
The ubiquity of smartphones and the average person’s reliance on results in consumers expecting smartphones to do increasingly more, and that also extends to their health management. Healthcare providers utilize patient-centered mobile apps to improve and streamline a patient’s healthcare experience, but expectations continue to grow for what these apps can do.
Mobile apps can vary in their features and functions, from allowing a patient to pay bills and schedule appointments to reminding a patient of upcoming visits. Understanding what patients want from their mobile app experience will be a key part in improving patient satisfaction. For instance, do patients want the ability to access lab results and their care plan on the go? Does the mobile app allow them to ask questions about their medication? And who will respond to such questions: a medical professional or a chatbot?
Patients are just one part of this equation. Medical professionals also need to provide their input on the power of these mobile apps. For instance, medical professionals may want the ability to monitor their patients remotely to make sure they are following care plans or are healing as expected. The functionalities that can empower medical professionals need to be baked into mobile apps so they can deliver better medical care.
As healthcare becomes more complicated, health data interoperability will become increasingly important. Health data interoperability means that information from various information systems, devices, and sources can all work together in harmony. Especially with the rise of telehealth, patients are expanding where they are receiving their healthcare. They might receive a vaccine at a pharmacy, stop by an urgent care center on the weekend, and see a physician all in the same week. Health data interoperability would ensure that the physician knows everything that had happened to the patient at all those visits.
There are unfortunate hurdles to health data interoperability, the greatest of which might be HIPAA. While healthcare privacy is a principal issue, the sharing restrictions make it difficult for various providers, sources, and systems to work with one another. Furthermore, various healthcare systems often output data differently, making it difficult to have one succinct form of communication between systems.
Health data interoperability is not a dream; it is, in fact, mandated by the Cures Act. However, just because most EHR systems claim to provide health data interoperability does not mean they all deliver on that promise. EHR systems will need to continue to evolve if they want to truly provide a clearer, less complicated experience.
So why does all of this matter? Considering that medical error is one of the leading causes of death, health data interoperability has a tremendous impact on severe patient outcomes. A smoother, better implemented system can improve patient care and cut down on medical error.
So much of what we have talked about so far relies on automation, and yet in the healthcare industry, there is still a heavy reliance on manual input. As systems become increasingly complex, intelligent automation will need to play a bigger role, using a combination of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation to make processes completely automated from end to end. This includes processes that often involve critical decision making.
Intelligent automation has all kinds of benefits, like cutting costs, freeing up personnel, and reducing errors. The applications for intelligent automation are incredibly helpful when processing high volumes of patients. For instance, intelligent automation can help process health insurance claims faster. Traditionally, employees review claims manually, including basic information that otherwise an automated system can check much faster. Intelligent automation not only speeds up the process but cuts down on errors that can cause unnecessary rework.
The thing that makes intelligent automation exciting is that it utilizes data already in the system in better ways, allowing medical professionals to streamline their practice. Tasks that consume time but require little thought might not seem like major waste of personnel, but when tasks become automated, all those seconds and minutes spent on manual input add up and suddenly become freed up for more personalized patient care.
Considering the amount of administrative work that goes on at a health provider, it becomes clear just how important intelligent automation can be to improve efficiency and reduce costs while maintaining the dignity of healthcare professionals’ jobs.
Smartphones killed the wristwatch, so chances are if a person is wearing something on their wrist, it is most likely a wearable device that communicates back to their smartphone. In 2022, Statistica.com estimated that there would be a billion wearables in use, which are either worn on or attached to the body and use application-enabled wireless technology to process inputs. The basic incorporation of regular accessories with advanced computing technology tracking events such as heart rate, steps taken, and even sleep quality, truly makes understanding personal health easier. More advanced wearables offer EKG and breathing monitoring, serving as an emergency extension independent of a smartphone. The list of events possible to track is only getting longer which is obvious why user adoption of the technology has doubled in the past three years.
Regulations may not always consider the information quality and accuracy from these wearables as medical grade; however, the popularity of wearables cannot be overstated, and medical professionals should not ignore the potential altogether. For example, a patient requiring a specific physical activity as part of their recovery would benefit from a wearable that would automatically provide updates to the medical professional whether how progress is happening with the prescribed care plan. More advanced wearables provide alerts when specific or irregular events have occurred, such as heart rates have been exceeded, making wearables a possible key to saving someone’s life.
The trends we discussed all revolve around making information more available, which requires digitization. Of course, sharing digital information exposes the data and the source to more vulnerability, making protection critical for both patients and medical professionals.
Best practices for healthcare providers to increase cybersecurity:
Cybersecurity goes beyond software detecting and preventing hackers’ intrusions like ‘social hacking’—gaining access to a system through phishing attempts—which can bypass even the best security system. Cybersecurity is a team effort, and it is important to make sure employees all do their part to keep data secure.
Technology and healthcare will continue to grow hand-in-hand. There will be growing pains, as there are in any field, especially as innovative technologies emerge that disrupt the industry. However, maintaining systems with the latest technological improvements will help take care of patients and medical professionals in the doctor’s office, at home or online.
Hoverstate strives to stay at the forefront of technology advancements and works with healthcare providers to create and maintain fitting digital solutions that seem ripped right out of the future. Our experience in implementing software and creating customized solutions ensures that our clients can do more than simply meet healthcare standards; we create a healthcare experience that prioritizes the holistic well-being of humans.
Written By: Linda Komisak
Breathing machines for sleep apnea. Smartwatches to monitor heart rates. Trackers to measure blood oxygen. White noise machines to calm brain waves. Noise-canceling earplugs to tolerate your...Read More
The United States spends a lot on healthcare. In fact, in administrative costs alone, we spend more than four times the average per capita than other wealthy countries and three times more than...Read More
Innovation is the key to growth. In the right doses and with the right timing it can be incredibly powerful and profitable in competitive markets. There is no question that innovation comes with its...Read More