Healthcare has evolved at an incredible pace. The industry has brought forth a number of cutting-edge developments, including personalized medicine, electronic health records and implanted medical devices.
But even with advanced technologies and the heaps of information they produce, the best of the digital healthcare revolution has yet to come. The healthcare sector will generate an estimated 2,314 exabytes of data (the storage equivalent of about 9 billion personal laptops) in 2020, according to Stanford Medicine.
The sheer amount of healthcare data being created and maintained can boggle the mind. So how are physicians, researchers, engineers and others using it? And, more importantly, what does it mean for the future of healthcare?
It means disruptive innovations and revolutionary change are on the way. Here are just a few of the trends that experts predict will cause a digital transformation in healthcare.
Healthcare Access Via Remote Monitoring
People in rural parts of the world have traditionally struggled to find quality, accessible healthcare. However, thanks to virtual technologies that help remotely connect patients with providers, that's starting to change.
Video-powered telemedicine emerged as one of the first types of these technologies. This enables individuals to consult with their physicians through a mobile device, no matter where they are. According to the American Hospital Association, 76 percent of hospitals currently engage with their patients via telemedicine.
With greater access to biometric data and monitoring technologies, telemedicine becomes all the more powerful. For example, our CardioMEMSTM HF System remotely monitors a person's cardiac activity and uses a special pillow to send it to the treating physician. As cardiac activity changes, so too can the care plan, even between in-person visits.
This is just one example of nanotechnology, which assesses a person's health from within. As scientist continue exploring the application of nanotechnologies, new developments could someday help spot biomarkers linked with cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions earlier than ever before.
AI Is More Than Sci-Fi
Artificial intelligence (AI) has made significant contributions to many industries, healthcare included. Those in the radiology field have started to turn to AI to help examine large volumes of imaging scans to detect abnormalities that could indicate heart problems or cancer, according to Nature Reviews Cancer. Some providers have even started to use AI to help alert them when patients start showing signs of life-threatening diseases like sepsis, according to Health IT Analytics.
Those (and future) advancements are possible thanks to large pools of patient data. With AI, providers can instantly tap into thousands or even millions of insights from existing patient populations to better predict a person's risk of medical issues.
Predictive Analytics Improve Check-Up Attendance
Patient no-shows at appointments can hold people back from getting the medical care they need and limit providers in achieving efficiencies that lower healthcare costs for everyone. Presently, millions of people miss appointments each year, at an annual cost of $150 billion to the healthcare sector, according to Becker's ASC Review.
By harnessing the power of predictive analytics, modern-day technologies have begun to change that figure in beneficial ways. For example, budding tools can help hospitals use data to identify truant patients, according to Health IT Analytics — that is, those who are most likely to skip their healthcare visit.
With that info, health systems can then do whatever's necessary to help ensure that the patient attends their check-up, from offering transport to the hospital to giving them an extra reminder leading up to the visit.
In the future, those technologies could make that process even more automated and streamlined. They could also possibly ensure that people take their medications as instructed and provide extra reminders if patients are at risk for forgetting a dose.
Preserving Humanity During Digital Transformation
The future of healthcare is digital but that doesn't mean it's not personal. In many ways, improved data and technology has freed up physicians to spend more time doing the jobs only humans can do: talking and listening to patients.
There will be many exciting changes in the decades ahead, but the human element of medicine — interacting with patients face-to-face or screen-to-screen — is sure to endure through this digital healthcare revolution.