As the demands placed on technology continue to increase the push toward modernization across industries, the healthcare sector finds itself at a crossroads. How do medical facilities and physicians take advantage of new technological strides being made, while at the same time maintaining the high level of patient care that they are expected to deliver? The year 2018 has been no exception to speed of innovations in technology, and there are some recurring themes that have popped up determining the direction healthcare providers will take in addressing the impact of emerging technology trends.
Read on to find out how these technology trends will impact the healthcare industry going forward.
Mobility and Digital Health Applications
Digital health applications are on the rise, specifically within doctor and clinical settings. Nowadays, doctors carry tablets with them everywhere they go, and with mobility, can access a patient’s medical record with a higher degree of convenience. Clinical digital applications are being designed to improve patient outcomes, especially in those remote health instances. Doctors utilize modern mobile technology to develop better relationships with their patients and provide all the information that they need in an easy-to-read way.
Furthermore, digital health applications allow patients to gain greater access to their personal medical data than ever before. Gone are the days when all your medical history was tucked away in a messy, manila folder. Through provider-specific applications and web portals, patients have visibility to much of their private health information. What used to be accessible only to medical professionals is only a few mouse clicks and a secure sign in away. Digital health applications have great potential, and can enhance patient care from everything to scheduling appointments to patient monitoring for those with chronic conditions.
As mentioned above, tablets have grown in use in medical facilities, and along with the uptick in mobility is the growth of mobile applications. From diagnostics to diabetes, a plethora of new health applications are putting more power into the hands of patients. For instance, some digital applications can keep track of medications and provide user-configured reminders of when to take said medicine and automating refills at the pharmacy. Other applications can collect blood pressure data from a fingerprint and share it with a doctor.
The flexibility that mobile and digital health applications give both patients and physicians is something that is only going to continue to evolve and expand in both the short – and long term future with the aim of empowering patients and improving healthcare outcomes.
Pharmaceutical Supply Chain
The pharmaceutical industry, which needs to utilize the latest technology to remain agile and ahead of the curve, is also adopting new and improved digital technologies. Over the past few years, significant challenges, from the rise of counterfeit drugs to government regulatory reform, to increasing alternatives to brand medications is forcing a downward trend on prices.
Additionally, creating new medicine has never been so complex, with niche products and a steep decline from traditional batch production methods, pharmaceutical companies are looking to technology to help optimize the rapidly shifting landscape of the pharma fulfillment supply chain.
Pharma companies must therefore, in order to mitigate competitive forces and support new offerings in emerging markets around the world, take on a long-term view and realize the potential of supply chain optimization.
Because of the multitude of challenges, pharmaceutical companies have grown increasingly reliant on their supply chain and are prioritizing agility and flexibility across their trading partner ecosystem – an often expansive multi-enterprise network of partners, suppliers, and logistics companies to source raw materials, develop new formula, test, produce, ship and distribute their products. In order to fully leverage a growing, complex supply chain, pharmaceutical companies must adopt newer technologies that support integration.
Connecting business processes across enterprise lines and the secure sharing of sensitive proprietary information to other members of the supply chain via a business network. A modern B2B integration platform allows an organization to collaborate more freely, tapping legacy on-premise data stores and application infrastructure, while leveraging the cloud, big data analytics, and real-time visibility tooling across the supply chain.
Healthcare providers and distribution facilities must also contribute data in order to increase transparency and veracity of inventory and demand. With better B2B data integration capabilities, pharma companies will gain better insight into the demand for their products, as well as control the quality of the product at the contract manufacturing organization (CMO) level, and manage their distribution more efficiently through complete downstream visibility.
Personal Health Wearables
While the CDC Healthy People 2020 report states that only 23 percent of adults meet the recommended guidelines when it comes to exercise, wearable healthcare technology may help increase that number.
Wearables are all over the place, and fitness and wellness trackers and applications are growing at a rapid rate. From the Fitbit to Apple Watch, these smart devices are being used by millions of people to track their total steps, monitor heartrates, and various other physical activities. In fact, Juniper Research did a study that said activity trackers will be used by as many as 1 in 5 Americans by 2021.
And while wearables are everywhere from a consumers’ perspective, doctors are also using the data generated by wearables for increased insight into the actual health of their patients and also replace less advanced or secure methods of sharing sensitive medical data including printing data or emailing providers.
Wearables are taking over healthcare. It is not a rare occurrence nowadays for a doctor to prescribe a wearable to a patient in order to track his or her health over a period of time. Some of the reasons might be to monitor:
- Blood pressure
- Activity levels
- Sleep quality
With the current capabilities of wearable healthcare tech, a physician can use the device data to better prescribe medicine and make a more accurate diagnosis. It’s a win/win for both parties.
And while today’s version of wearable fitness trackers are certainly helpful, the next stage will be even more beneficial to a person’s health and well-being. The next-generation wearable will be able to securely send data directly to a patient’s healthcare provider and payer to provide better accuracy, functionality, and real-time data analysis on the health of a patient. A physician will monitor everything from glucose levels to blood pressure with the goal of pinpointing anomalies faster for more proactive treatments that will drive better patient outcomes.
Artificial Intelligence in Medicine
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has gone from technology incubators and R&D facilities to something that promises a great deal of potential. Many healthcare organizations are actively piloting AI in a variety of ways, such as:
- Improving diagnostic medicine through medical image studies
- Distilling massive amounts of data used in population studies
- Identifying infection patterns for proactive diagnosis
- Studying the quality of hospital networks or doctors at delivering optimal patient care
AI and machine learning has the potential to generate real impact across healthcare provider organizations. Healthcare providers take advantage of AI most commonly through natural language processing and robotic automation. AI can truly narrow down specific data and automate monotonous administrative tasks to allow employees to better focus their time elsewhere.
Radiologists are also taking a special interest in artificial intelligence and machine learning, specifically around AI imaging research and image-sharing networks. A particular challenge here is the proliferation of medical imagery data is putting pressure on existing tools to acquire, move, and share medical images with doctors and to outside diagnostic medical firms.
While machine learning helps radiologists in image segmentation, captioning, and classification tasks, a robust data movement platform that can scale to reliably and securely transfer image data to applications, people, and external healthcare organizations is paramount. Once the essential capability is met, AI and machine learning provides doctors, researchers, and diagnosticians a more precise to maintain and ensure accuracy in patient care.
Other medical facilities use artificial intelligence for clinical decision support, readmissions, and claims processing. But the possibilities are much more than that, from pathology and image recognition to even cancer diagnosis.
Human Genomic Data
Genetic sequencing to better pinpoint and treat rare and chronic diseases used to be not just expensive, but required a level of technology that most health care organizations simply didn’t have. But as we cross the halfway point of 2018, medical facilities are benefiting from the lower cost barrier and technological strides leading to some breakthroughs and medical advancements tied to genetic sequencing.
Here are of a few of the scientific opportunities tied to genomic sequencing and conditionally, the ability for organizations to adequately ingest genomic data sets to storage and analytics platforms and share the data with other researcher organizations or pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities:
- Gain an increased understanding around the genetic basis of human disease
- Apply genetic variations to the life sciences and medical manufacturing sectors for the development of new targeted medications
- Improve the level of knowledge into evolutionary science, the process of aging, and comparative genomics within and across species
For some of the most exciting real-world applications, look no further than prenatal testing. This arena is the largest use case for genomic medicine, and offers a never-before-seen depth into what a baby’s genetic will be. Through genomic data science, doctors will be able to diagnose and optimally treat genetic diseases or harmful mutations before the baby is even born.
Further, oncologists are looking to genetic sequencing to develop more targeted treatments for specific cancers. Through this, it is hoped that medicine specific to an individual’s cancer can better attack tumors at the molecular level offering more reliable and safe treatment options.
Additionally, in terms of improving patient outcomes, consider patient allergies. Often the best medicines cannot be prescribed because of a known allergy, or worse, the patient discovers the allergy after taking the medicine. Rather than reactively treating a patient’s allergy, physicians can utilize an individual’s genomic data set to predict whether he or she will have a reaction to a certain type of drug before it is even prescribed.
As technology continues to advance, healthcare organizations are striving to grow with it. Whether you consider the ongoing super-trend of digitization, or examine several of the near-horizon technologies slated to disrupt the industry, most healthcare organizations will look to an underlying digital infrastructure to carry their business into the future. A comprehensive and flexible digital integration platform will allow organizations to:
- Secure the data movement and integration of PHI generated by mobile health devices and digital health applications
- Connect to partners, suppliers, and logistics companies across the pharmaceutical supply chain
- Integrate the data from personal health wearables into an EHR or other digital system of record
- Ingest massive amounts of data into analytics clouds for machine learning and AI
- Leverage the massive potential of genomic data with the ability to move and securely share massive data sets
Never before have had we had so much healthcare information available at our fingertips, and the potential of devices, supply chain optimization, AI and machine learning, and genetic sequencing can truly make a difference in the lives of millions.