Guest post by Bill Balderaz, president, Fathom Healthcare.
No matter what the discussion is or who you are talking with, this often seems to be the big question. It’s not enough to say “what;” what matters is, “What’s Next?”
Healthcare: This area is the largest, fastest growing and perhaps the fastest changing element of our economy and lives. As a result, just about every conversation we have about healthcare involves a “What’s next?” discussion.
At Fathom, we have the privilege of spending a lot of time exploring what’s next in healthcare marketing and communications. Based on our conversations, observations and research, here is a list of the top 10 tech trends every hospital and healthcare professional should know about.
Predictive analytics. Real time isn’t fast enough. Predictive analytics—or the systematic use of data to predict patient behavior—will usher a big shift in the quality of care. By analyzing hospital data, social media conversations and search patterns, hospitals can predict patient behavior and needs. Hospitals can predict and be ready for flu outbreaks. By analyzing historical admissions data, weather patterns and census data, hospitals can predict emergency room volume and staff for it. Healthcare systems can even look ahead 10 or 20 years and predict the need for cancer care or assisted-living facilities with population data.
Wearables. Wearable devices can monitor blood pressure, heart rate, insulin levels and more. Forget the simple devices we use today: The next generation of wearables will elevate health monitoring to the next level. All this information can also be shared in real time with a healthcare provider, making it part of a larger trend: Partnership between patients and providers.
Point-of-Care Technology. Physicians routinely bring iPads to the exam room. By the time a patient walks out the door, electronic health records are updated. Prescriptions are sent directly from the exam room. Gone are the days of paper records and long waits for information. Expect technology in the exam room to become more robust and less intrusive.
Telehealth. As technology becomes more prolific, it may ultimately become the exam room. Telehealth is real and showing no signs of slowing in terms of growth. Today the range of teleheath covers activities like behavioral counseling via a Skype-like interface, laptop-based exams for what previously would have been an urgent care visit, and entire pods equipped with Internet-ready medical devices.
Healthcare Analytics. Re-admissions. Population health. Hospitals have a greater need than ever to understand data. Smart analytics tools can help identify trends early. Is a particular patient or population more likely to have a readmission? What procedures, physicians or facilities consistently deliver the best outcomes? What costs are rising quicker than expected? Few organizations have the complexity of financials as that of hospital systems. Sophisticated analytics allows executives to boil down key performance indicators into one dashboard, take action and measure results.
ePrescribing. Few trends in healthcare took hold as quickly as ePrescribing. Seemingly overnight, paper prescriptions have all but disappeared. ePrescribing is safer and faster than paper-based prescriptions. But what’s next? There are still a few hiccups. A mix of legislative and technology issues still holds ePrescribing back from its full potential. Controlled substances are more difficult to prescribe electronically. Some pharmacies, including mail-order ones, still have technology limitations that prevent them from filling electronic prescriptions. And privacy advocates have some lingering concerns around the transmission of sensitive information. Expect these roadblocks to be addressed soon and paper prescriptions to go the way of the rotary phone.
Electronic Health Records. By most indications, EHRs have achieved the goals the industry aimed for: Raising quality of care and lowering costs. However, complexities still exist. Not all symptoms interoperate smoothly, standards on communication methods are still lacking, security remains a concern, and initial costs are often hard to swallow for organizations of any size. What’s next? Costs, legislation and patient preference will address all these challenges. Smart companies are investing in solutions to create standards, address security concerns and streamline implementation.
Do-It-Yourself Health. Patient portals, health apps and Fitbits have empowered patients. At no time in history have patients been so close to their own healthcare. Today’s patients are healthcare shoppers. They expect customer service and transparency. For generations, the doctor was the authority , and procedures and medications were accepted without question. Patients now expect collaboration with their healthcare providers. Loyalty to a system, hospital or physician is low.
Gaming. With ubiquitous mobile devices, healthcare gaming became inevitable. Today apps bring a gamification layer to manage chronic disease, promote an active lifestyle or follow treatment plans. Expect patients to use games to improve health and even connect with other patients.
Health Networks. We have a fundamental need to connect with people similar to us. Often, patients battling chronic or rare diseases feel alone. Prior to online social networks, someone diagnosed with a rare disease was unlikely to find a group that fully understood his or her challenges or the disease-specific jargon. Fast forward to the present, and any disease or disorder imaginable has an active online group. Patients relate to each other better than they can to healthcare professionals. Studies and surveys consistently show that patients trust other patients more than they trust doctors, hospitals or pharmaceutical companies.
Being a healthcare professional has never been as demanding as it is today. The clinical side of the industry continues to accelerate and change, and this new layer of rapid technology development requires a constant “heads-up” philosophy to understand and participate in patient lives. Understanding technology (and how patients use it) should ultimately improve care and lower costs.