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Healthcare Technology in 2020: Trends and Innovations
During the last few years healthcare technology has been changing at an astounding pace. Dramatic innovations that include robotics, artificial intelligence, and advanced software are just a few of the new breakthroughs driving twenty-first century healthcare. Perhaps nothing is pushing technology faster and harder than the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to make healthcare as safe and effective as possible, scientists and medical providers are pushing the boundaries of what they want to accomplish and how quickly new advancements are readily available and put into practical use. The following are 10 of the most exciting trends in healthcare and medicine you should know about.
More Chatbot Communication
Chatbots can communicate by talking, texting, or both. They provide what seems like real human interaction through complex algorithms and advanced computer software. You probably already interact with chatbots on a regular basis and often don’t even realize it. Since almost all individuals have a smartphone, chatbots can easily work with patients when healthcare professionals can’t. Patients will increasingly receive healthcare related information and advice at their fingertips with the use of chatbots. The Medical Futurist lists 12 different types of chatbots that can help both patients and healthcare providers. The following are just a few of these types of bots.
Chatbots that are personal nurses are reminding patients when to take medication or make suggestions for healthy meal choices. These bots will increasingly help patients with their daily care. Your facility can use this type of technology in conjunction with your nursing staff to save money and increase efficiency.
Chatbot Cancer Assistance
There is a chatbot specifically for patients who are fighting cancer. These bots are actually apps that help a cancer patient understand and implement diet and exercise advice. Specific chatbots will refer a patient to a medical expert if the need arises.
There are chatbots that give specific information regarding drug interactions and the different types of medication that a patient takes. They can answer a variety of questions many patients may have regarding their prescriptions. Your hospital or healthcare organization can use these types of chatbots to help patients safely make the transition from hospital to home.
Some of the more advanced bots even serve as medical assistants. They can assess symptoms an individual is having through text, video, or images. These chatbots can assist patients directly in a facility or through texting and video after patients are at home. They can give patients advice or direct them to the right medical personnel.
Increase in Wearable Medical Devices
Wearable devices are a variety of electronic instruments that individuals wear on their body. They wear these devices as accessories on clothing or sometimes directly on the body. The first type of wearable device were probably eyeglasses. Wearables today consist of some sort of microprocessor that transfers data through an internet connection. There are dozens of wearable medical devices now in use. The following are a few examples of this type of technology.
Tattoos are now in use that can monitor muscle function, brain activity, and sleep disorders. Smart tattoos are laser cut and last for months on fabrics or the skin.
Breast Cancer Patches
These tattoos can detect early symptoms of breast cancer and then transfer the data to a lab for testing.
There are wearable smart devices that can monitor pollution and air quality to help individuals struggling with respiratory conditions.
News Wise states that wearables are capable of continuously monitoring ECG. This can help detect everything from pregnancy complications to epileptic seizures.
One of the more exciting breakthroughs in wearable devices is in the field of mental health. HIMSS states that some devices can now detect and monitor certain aspects of stress. Through a combination of temperature, blood pressure, and skin conductance, wearable devices can assess emotional temperament. This will enable healthcare providers to quickly contact and assist their patients if they are experiencing any distress.
Cloud Collaboration Between Patients and Providers
Collaboration is crucial between healthcare providers and their patients. Healthcare technology is working toward the goal of making the location of patients and their providers irrelevant. Cloud collaboration is a big part of reaching this goal. Ongoing collaboration gives patients more control. Patients become partners with their doctors and other healthcare providers through the collaboration process. Web-based software allows your patients and staff to collaborate anywhere at anytime through a variety of devices.
Cloud collaboration isn’t just for providers and patients, but for your medical providers to work more effectively together. Cloud-based platforms are now in use that can improve scalability, flexibility, and security for collaboration purposes. There are platforms that can easily link a variety of medical services including radiology, laboratory, surgical, and pharmacies. Cloud collaboration between healthcare providers creates an integrated approach to healthcare that is easier to manage and is more efficient.
There are a wide range of cloud collaboration platforms available. If you’re looking for a customizable and flexible platform, you might want to choose Podio. If your team wants a platform that supports video calling and an easy interface, you’ll want to look into Slack. Microsoft has a collaboration platform that is currently bringing about the best of all aspects of cloud collaboration. This platform enables medical providers to provide personalized and comprehensive healthcare plans for patients. This system also includes HIPAA compliant apps and portals for patients to pay bills and schedule visits. Part of the Microsoft strategy is including the highest levels of end-to-end security measures. These are just a few of the types of platforms available for cloud collaboration.
Extensive Use of Telemedicine
In simplest terms, telemedicine is the remote delivery of medical or health related services. It involves two-way communication in real time. It’s important to distinguish between telehealth and telemedicine. According to the AAFP, telehealth involves a wide range of healthcare services while telemedicine is specifically clinical services. Whatever type of service you’re looking to implement, there are several ways this technology can improve healthcare in your organization.
Few things have led to the advancement of telemedicine more than the Covid crisis. Diagnosing and even treating conditions digitally will help limit the spread of the virus. There are several specific ways that telemedicine is currently saving money, making healthcare more readily available, and promoting healthy outcomes.
Reviewing Scans and Images
Telemedicine allows healthcare professionals to view patient scans sent over a secure server rather than seeing each patient in person. This will limit the amount of interactions and places a patient goes to.
Promoting Proper Use of Medication
Making sure patients take their medication and take it correctly is a crucial aspect of healthcare. A wireless medication bottle can now remind patients to take their prescriptions.
Providing Home Monitoring
A combination of telemedicine and advancements in wearable technology means more patients can stay in their homes. An example includes heart patients using home monitoring devices that records and transfers blood pressure, weight, and other metrics to health professionals.
Serving Remote Locations
Whether it’s a remote rural area in West Virginia or a village in Sudan, there are millions of individuals living in remote areas around the globe with inadequate healthcare services. Telemedicine can provide these individuals with advanced clinical services that they may never otherwise receive.
Supporting Decentralized Healthcare
One of the more recent trends in medicine includes an increase in decentralized healthcare. Many physicians, therapists, and other providers are leaving large hospitals and opening clinics that provide specialized services. With so many services in a variety of places, the need for effective telemedicine opportunities will only increase.
Rise of Data-Driven Healthcare
Just as data is driving everything from finance to education, it’s also at the heart of medicine. The primary advantage of data-driven medicine is the ability to personalize healthcare. The best use of accurate data provides a customized approach for each individual patient. Any healthcare organization must implement the most advanced technologies available when retrieving, organizing, managing, protecting and then using data. The following information details what each of these steps ideally should look like.
The first step in fully utilizing data is collecting it. Computer programs bring data in from several different sources including EHRs and insurance information. Advanced software is making it easier to retrieve large swaths of data.
Computer programs can separate and organize data in a variety of meaningful ways. Advanced programs have the ability to handle increasingly large amounts of information that wasn’t possible even a few years ago.
While some hospitals and healthcare facilities store their data on-site, many now hire outside IT teams to store and manage data in the cloud. Managed data companies are experts in data management and can provide a facility with the latest technology and 24/7 management.
Protecting sensitive data from hacking and ransomware is critical. Technology is constantly adapting and preventing many of the new and dangerous hacks and viruses.
Data is truly effective only after retrieving, organizing, managing, and protecting it. After these steps are in place healthcare professionals can use the data to predict medical outcomes, prescribe medication, suggest surgery, and monitor the effectiveness of therapies.
Even if your organization can retrieve, organize, manage, protect and use data in the most effective and efficient ways possible, it won’t provide any benefits if you’re using “dirty data.” Dirty data is information that is inaccurate or incomplete. Making sure all data is accurate and up-to-date is a top priority for any healthcare facility.
Artificial Intelligence Predicting Disease
Artificial intelligence (AI), is a machine or software that through development and design, responds to situations as a human would. Artificial intelligence is currently part of industries such as security, surveillance, manufacturing, agriculture, and medicine. One of the most promising uses in the field of healthcare includes analyzing disease and predicting when it may occur.
One of the greatest benefits when using AI is its ability to digest and process an enormous amount of data in a relatively short amount of time. Deep learning can provide predictive models for a variety of illnesses and health-related conditions. This happens when software finds complex patterns within large amounts of data.
According to Harvard Review, not only is AI instrumental in predicting disease, but it can also find out why certain diseases occur. When researchers discover what causes certain diseases, they are better able to create new drug combinations to fight it. Artificial intelligence algorithms can also discover how different types of data relate to one another. This can lead to the discovery of what factors are actually causing the disease to form in the first place.
Augmented Reality Treatment Solutions
Individuals who suffer from a variety of medical conditions may now use augmented reality as part of their treatment program. It’s important to understand the difference between virtual and augmented reality. Virtual reality is the total immersion into a different reality. Virtual reality totally shuts out what a person experiences in the physical world and provides an alternate world through computer technology. Augmented reality provides digital elements, usually visually, to a user’s overall experience. Elements or images merge into the real world using augmented reality. Healthcare technology is using both augmented and virtual reality to treat a variety of conditions.
Patients suffering from stroke can now use different types of augmented reality to treat symptoms. The National Center for Biotechnology Information states that augmented reality can assist with upper limb rehabilitation after a patient suffers a stroke.
Phantom Limb Syndrome
Mirror therapy is one of the most prominent ways to treat phantom limb syndrome. Now scientists and physicians are using augmented reality. The patient wears goggles, a glove, and places electrodes on the residual limb. The ability to create a three-dimensional reality enables patients to perform activities using both hands. Providing tactile and visual feedback helps reduce the pain.
Mental health therapy is an exciting area that is incorporating virtual and augmented reality. Gamers create virtual situations that patients can experience within the safety of a therapist’s office. These virtual situations can help an individual learn to deal with panic, anxiety, and other mental disorders.
When a medical emergency arises you likely reach for your phone to call 911. There are now apps you can download that show on your phone screen where in your general location you will find items such as defibrillators. Augmented reality in conjunction with your smart phone can quickly locate devices in your area that can help save lives in emergency situations.
Smart devices are now a regular part of our lives. According to Healthcare IT News, a smart hospital is a hospital system that designs and optimizes new management systems and clinical processes through a digitized network of assets that all connect. Through digital connections and technology, a smart hospital can improve patient care and make operations more efficient. Just going paperless isn’t enough to earn the term “smart” hospital. The following list provides a few examples of what a software system needs to incorporate to qualify a hospital as a smart hospital.
Ability to Streamline Communication
This would include leveraging mobile technologies to enable healthcare providers to easily communicate with one another through different platforms and devices. It would also enable patients to easily and effectively communicate with their health and medical providers.
Increase Patient Engagement
This would include enhancing a patient’s experience with technology such as touch-screen monitors in hospital rooms. Through smart systems a patient in a hospital would view their own health records as well as treatment schedules.
A smart hospital would have software in place that could leverage data and analytics. This would include everything from individual patient data to financial information. A specific example of this might include patient wearables that track biometric data.
A smart hospital will have systems in place that will monitor everything from how much penicillin the staff uses in a particular month to how quickly the restrooms use paper towels and other supplies.
It’s important to point out that there isn’t a specific blueprint that each hospital must follow to reach the status of “smart hospital.” Each hospital system is unique and what type of technological systems are necessary are different for every organization.
Increased Robotic Surgery
Robotic surgery isn’t a new technology, but it is advancing rapidly. This type of surgery is even more important as healthcare professionals are struggling to find the safest and most effective ways to treat patients during COVID-19. According to UCLA Health, there are several advantages when implementing robotic surgery.
Robotic Surgery is Minimally Invasive
This means less blood loss, less chance of contracting an infection, and smaller scars.
This aspect of robotic surgery is increasingly important during a time when thousands of patients experience addiction to pain medications.
Faster recovery means an individual will spend less time in a hospital bed or in the rehabilitation process. It also means fewer healthcare costs for both the hospital and the patient.
Available for Many Conditions
Robotic surgery is now available for several conditions. Surgeons are using robotic surgery for organs such as the liver, lungs, kidneys, heart, uterus, prostate, and the bladder.
3D Printing Will Continue to Develop
3D printing is an exciting development in healthcare. Using a digital file, scientists can create three dimensional objects. The printer will layer successive files on top of one another. These layers will eventually form a 3D object. According to MedTechDive, this amazing technology is helping to advance orthopedics, surgical planning, and even dentistry. While this technology is rapidly evolving, there are some obstacles. There are some regulatory challenges regarding FDA approval concerning using different types of materials in the human body.
If you’re thinking of purchasing one, 3D printers can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000. While this may sound reasonable, especially for a large medical organization, there are other costs to take into consideration. Printing metal materials is especially costly. Considering the expense, as well as the necessary expertise, it’s probably a good idea for most healthcare facilities to outsource any 3D printing needs. There are several areas in the field of healthcare that is now incorporating 3D printing.
Improving Prosthetic Devices
The best prosthetics are those individually made for each patient. Using 3D printing, a device can specifically fit each individual’s unique anatomy.
Merging with Robotics
3D printing also includes elastomers made of liquid crystals that are part of robotic surgery. Special ink enables the printing to create shape-shifting materials that is part of the surgical procedure.
A 3D matrix using embedded cells is able to bioprint different tissue structures. This type of 3D printing can advance the understanding of how cells behave and how different types of tissues grow. It can also potentially bioprint skin cells that will treat burn victims.
Reconstructing body parts goes beyond tissues and skin. Replacing bones with 3D printing is enabling scientists and medical specialist to replace specific body parts. Everything from a new leg to jawbone replacement is now possible.
Each of these emerging technologies promises exciting healthcare advances for healthcare professionals and their patients. If you’re a business leader in the field of healthcare, you’ll definitely want to study and understand how these advances in technology can improve your organization.