As the U.S. population ages and the percentage of citizens over 65 continues to increase, healthcare consumers are taking advantage of a whole new generation of medical technology. Sociologists and anthropologists have been writing about that fact that millions of oldsters are delaying retirement until well past their seventies. Indeed, it’s not unusual for senior citizens to embark on new careers, sell insurance policies to life settlement companies for cash and basically reposition themselves for a completely new way of living.
The new year will usher in several new medical technologies that will help everyone live longer, healthier, happier lives. Forty might be the new 30, and 50 the new 40, but once 2020 rolls around the catchphrase might become, “70 is the new 50.” Here’s a peek at what senior citizens, and everyone else, will be dealing with next year and beyond:
So-called “wearable technology devices” have been around for a while. They include items like blood-pressure cuffs, blood-sugar monitors and even brain-wave devices. They all have one major concept in common: real-time data is relayed back to medical professionals who can see important changes in the patient’s vital signs and other essential anatomical parameters.
In 2018 and 2019, the use of wearables exploded when cost for many devices came way down. Now, as 2020 approaches, the majority of healthcare consumers are becoming aware of what wearables are and what they can do. For heart patients, a wearable monitor can mean the early detection of trouble. Anyone who has suffered a stroke is a prime candidate for wearable technology. In practical terms, wearables are almost like having a doctor by your side every minute of the day but without the cost.
Voice-activated everything is one of the fastest-growing trends in several fields, medicine included. Heart monitors no longer need to be reset by hand but can simply be commanded to “reset at base level and reset start date.” But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for seniors, millions of whom reside in care facilities. The beauty of voice activated devices means that oldsters need not know how to interface with keyboards and tablet screens. A simple word or phrase is all that’s needed to turn on lights, open secure doors and inform nurses that everything is okay.
What was once a futuristic dream in 1960s television shows is now full-blown reality. You no longer need to travel to the clinic in order to “see” a doctor. Especially in rural areas, where long-distance drives are a burden for ailing and elderly patients, telemedicine has caught on. A standard Internet connection and a decent camera are all that’s needed for a virtual visit to the doctor. At fist only popular with psychiatrists and psychologists, tele-visits are now commonplace for routine physical checkups. Experts say that medical teleconferencing and tele-checkups will become the norm rather than the exception in 2020, as more health organizations look for ways to eliminate costly in-person patient interactions. The estimated cost of a telemedicine checkup is about one-third the cost of an in-person visit.
As we launch into 2018, questions remain about the healthcare policy environment and how it can impact many healthcare initiatives. As Yogi Berra said, “It’s difficult to make predictions – especially about the future.” I feel confident, however, about some fundamental trends in the healthcare landscape. These include a steady shift toward value-based care, an increased focus on data and analytics as a core enabler for digital transformation, and the all-consuming focus on the patient experience.
Here are my four key predictions for the healthcare IT trends that will transform the industry in 2018:
Patient Satisfaction Takes Center Stage
The era of healthcare consumerism is here. Patients are bearing increasing financial responsibility for healthcare costs, and seek improved experiences as a part of the value-for-money equation. In response, providers are taking a 360-degree view of patients, employing better analytics to leverage patient data such as demographic information, lifestyles and individual preferences, to personalize interactions and treatment.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Becomes Entrenched in Clinical Settings
Despite the overuse of the term AI to describe many types of technology-enabled solutions, the adoption of AI has been steadily gaining ground in a wide range of settings. Deep learning algorithms will increasingly be used in clinical settings to support medical diagnosis and treatment decisions, predict the likelihood of patient re-admissions and help providers better leverage the data that has been accumulating in electronic health records. According to the 2017 Internet Trends Report by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, medical knowledge is doubling every three years, and the average hospital is generating more than 40 petabytes of data every year.
While all this accumulated information empowers more informed physicians, the growing range of data and knowledge sources creates a challenge as well, since physicians and clinicians must manage and stay on top of this information on specific conditions, especially in fields such as oncology. AI technologies are enabling time-constrained and overworked physicians to make sense of the vast amounts of data, helping them uncover hidden insights and supporting their medical diagnoses and decisions with timely and relevant input at the point of care.
Open Source Finally Takes Hold
Healthcare organizations have been conservative when it comes to open source technologies, largely due to concerns about data security and privacy. With the growing adoption of cloud-enabled solutions and a gradual shift of enterprise IT workloads to the cloud, they no longer have to worry about risks to the IT environment and can rely on mature cloud service providers, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure. And, open source architecture can now incorporate robust technology components with rich functionality. Our current collaboration with Partners Healthcare to build a digital platform for clinical care is based on an open source architecture. As the industry shifts rapidly to value-based care, cost pressures will force healthcare enterprises to transform their technology strategies, turning to open source solutions to rapidly build new solutions cost-effectively.
Prior to launching Webbed Marketing (the previous name of Fathom Columbus), founder Bill Balderaz worked with some of the largest publishers in the world to plan, execute and measure Internet marketing programs. He began working on search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising and link-building in 1998, prior to the launch of Google. He has spoken on Internet marketing topics at events sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America, the American Marketing Association and the National Fuel Funds Network. Bill holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations journalism from Bowling Green State University and an MBA from Franklin University.
Here, he discusses health IT trends, the future of wearables as he sees them and the consumerization of healthcare.
What are the biggest changes we will see in 2015 in terms of healthcare technology?
Hospitals and health systems across the country will be adopting or upgrading EHRs, telehealth capabilities, and mobile tools. Look for increased reliance on and more sophisticated use of data analytics, as well as individualized medicine, ‘doctor-less’ patient models, and quantification of population health via social media. Patients will take more control of their health.
Also look for integration. Patients have so many inputs: lab results, wearable data, fitness plans. Then they have outputs, newsletters, emails, patient portals. The smart money is on the technology to connect and simplify.
What is driving these changes?
At the consumer level, where patients are more informed and involved than ever, what some call the ‘democratized future’ of healthcare is bringing more accountability and transparency to both the methods and costs of care. The parallel needs to cut skyrocketing costs, increase access to care, improve quality of service, and encourage patient engagement are all factors contributing to the growing potential of health IT to transform the delivery and experience of healthcare at fundamental levels.
You work with healthcare systems across the country in a variety of markets. What trends are common to all hospitals and healthcare systems? What differences do you see?
Guest post by Daniel Piekarz, vice president of life sciences business development at DataArt.
The life sciences industry will be defined in 2014 by the growing market demand to apply newly developed technology, including big data analysis, to healthcare and medical device practices. While many of the amazing technological advances in the space are driven by a desire to aid humanity, the industry is also caught between increased economic and regulatory pressure that is forcing many to electronically collect heaps of data while looking for custom technology solutions that will allow them to leverage this valuable data and adhere to new industry standards.
Over the next year, trends that reflect newly available technology will start to develop. The adoption of healthcare big data technology will become a major theme in the sector this year, just as it has in several other industries. Many new technology offerings have been created to tie together data from multiple sources that can be accessed by researchers and physicians to allow them to easily exchange information. This also aids in research and development practices by offering another valuable tool to gather and analyze data.
Tied to the big data trend is the emergence of personal healthcare data aided by physicians’ adoption of EHR technology. By allowing patients to own and access their healthcare data on a healthcare information dashboard, patients can more easily understand risks and preventable care options. Pooling anonymized patient data together can also lead to better analysis, and physicians are already starting to work with vendors to develop big data diagnostic tools. These new technology advancements have started to create a generation of patients more committed to their own healthy future than ever before. Through an intelligent system database, patients and physicians can better understand patterns and symptoms that affect their healthy lifestyles. While this type of big data solution is gaining a foothold, there is still resistance from some doctors due to their concern over critical review of their procedures.
After a detailed conversation recently with a practicing physician, my long-held suspicions about meaningful use may be coming to fruition.
You see, though I’m a believer in meaningful use from a data collection perspective and for the benefits it provides the healthcare community in being better able to track outcomes and measure results, I’m also concerned with the amount of regulation and oversight required of the reform. Additionally, I’m concerned about how the overbearing amount of added reform is affecting the thousands of small businesses that are private practices.
With the added mandates and with the continual burdening requirements of the physician as educator to patients, there’s only so much room left for them to take on their tasks as caregiver.
All of that said there is some growing resentment in the healthcare community that suggests physicians are growing resentful of their educational assignment.
“Our job is not patient education,” the physician I spoke with said, asking that his name be withheld. “We’re on the precipice, teeter tottering on the verge of collapse and the system is going to fall down. We’re being pushed to the extreme with patients. We need to see more patients per hour just to cover our expenses because the margins have disappeared.
“We’re forced to focus on getting more patients through the door; we don’t have time to focus even more on patient care,” he said.
Besides meaningful use, there are other issues to address in healthcare, he said, like 5010, ICD-10, Medicare and Medicaid changes and insurance hurdles.
On top of these issues, physicians struggle with internal operations because of the financial cuts to their practices. With ever-changing reimbursement rates affecting the amount of money they can bring into their practices, practice leaders also have to worry about making payroll. Certainly, physician salaries are declining. Gone are the days when physicians were guaranteed lucrative careers.
The more likely model now will become the one where physicians become employees.
“Healthcare reform essentially is putting the private practice out of business,” he said.
In the long run, the only successful private practice model will likely come down to where large practices dominate the landscape. Anything less than a 300-physician group probably won’t survive, he said.
“This is the reality of what we’re seeing in the outside world.”
Add all of this to a physician shortage that’s only getting worse, and the healthcare community is indeed embarking on a tumultuous road ahead.