The healthcare industry has come a long way, as it originally all started with home remedies. People would learn about the medicinal properties of plants through trial and error and document their observations, then came colonialism. In addition to exchanging trade and goods, diseases were also transmitted. This led to the development of new healthcare trends such as vaccinations, prevention and treatments. Fast forward to the 21st century, the healthcare system has improved tremendously and will continue growing. So, what does the future hold? This article explains in detail what the healthcare industry might look like in the future. Take a look!
Telemedicine and virtual healthcare
Telemedicine has been around for several decades, but it’s only during the COVID-19 pandemic that it became a buzzword in healthcare. By the look of things, telemedicine is here to stay. It will continue expanding, connecting patients and providers remotely. This will go a long way in addressing the uneven distribution of physicians. It will also help patients with rare conditions access specialized care more easily, which will save patients lots of money they would otherwise spend making trips to the hospital. Consequently, patients will be more likely to follow through with their treatment plans, leading to better results. In addition, the improved connection between patients and doctors will lead to early diagnosis of some conditions, reducing the risk of further complications.
Another reason to lean towards virtual healthcare is that it reduces exposure. The doctor can perform a contact-free consultation so they don’t put themselves at risk. It also means vulnerable patients who cannot leave the house to seek care can receive the help they need wherever they are.
Notably, telemedicine puts extra emphasis on mental health. Teletherapy and telepsychiatry will continue expanding. Perhaps mental healthcare providers are the most well-suited to shift to 100% virtual care because they don’t need to perform a physical exam. As time passes, more and more people are embracing the idea of seeking mental healthcare, so expanding virtual healthcare will make room for new patients. The question is, does teletherapy take away the personal connection a person builds with their therapist? Perhaps therapists can work with technologists to ensure that they develop interactive solutions that support this type of connection.
Artificial intelligence in healthcare
Artificial intelligence is transforming the delivery of healthcare. Organizations have accumulated a lot of data, including health records and clinical trial data. They are using AI technologies to analyze this data to uncover patterns and insights that might be hard for humans to find on their own. AI algorithms are expected to continue helping healthcare providers to make more accurate clinical decisions. Artificial intelligence will also help improve efficiency in operations.
Artificial intelligence can help mitigate the impact of there being too few qualified clinical staff by taking over some diagnostic duties. For instance, AI imaging tools can screen chest x-rays for signs of tuberculosis with precision. This service can be deployed through a mobile application available to providers in low-resource areas, and they won’t need to have a trained diagnostic radiologist on site.
Machine learning algorithms will also continue shaping cancer treatment. These algorithms can synthesize highly complex datasets that help clinicians target therapies to an individual’s unique genetic makeup.
Dermatology and ophthalmology are other fields of medicine that could greatly benefit from artificial intelligence and machine learning. People can simply take pictures of themselves using cell phone cameras, and the algorithms can analyze the photos to make an accurate diagnosis.
Undoubtedly, tapping into artificial intelligence is one of the most promising areas of healthcare. However, developers must factor in different populations as they work on these algorithms. If there is no diversity in the training data, then the algorithms tend to work well on one population and not on others.
The effect of AI on demand for healthcare providers
One might wonder whether artificial intelligence will render healthcare providers, such as nurses, redundant. The truth is that nurses will continue to be in high demand even with the increasing use of technology. This means there has never been a better time to pursue a CCNE accredited program at a reputable institution such as Walsh University. Students can learn about the latest uses of technology, including AI, in the healthcare sector, and how this may change medical practice moving forward.
If anything, technologies such as AI are expected to help nurses provide better patient care. For instance, technology can reduce the time nurses must spend maintaining patient records, which means more time to spend with patients.
Wearable technology and remote monitoring
Wearable technology has recently been expanding rapidly, and it will continue growing. Healthcare providers are focusing on personalized care delivery, and wearable devices are making that possible by allowing consumers to take charge of their health.
Before looking into the applications of wearable technologies, it would be worth exploring the various types of wearable technology. There are three broad categories of wearable technology in healthcare, including:
Health monitoring devices
Health monitoring devices have sensors and actuators. They have processing and communication capabilities. The data collected by health monitoring devices is transmitted to physicians on apps installed on devices such as smartphones. Some of the metrics a health monitoring device can track include heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure.
Therapeutic devices measure metrics related to disease therapy and treatment. They monitor these metrics in real-time.
Activity tracking devices
Activity tracking devices are not particularly designed for specialized medical care. However, some are equipped with the capability to measure vital signs.
Applications of wearable technology
One of the applications of wearable technology is disease diagnosis. These devices can track health vitals, such as heart rate and blood sugar levels, around the clock. This consistent monitoring makes it easy for caregivers to detect diseases early on. If a patient has a known condition, it becomes easier for healthcare professionals to monitor it. The caregiver can even make real-time adjustments to the disease management plan based on the data they receive from the wearable device.
Wearable devices might also become a crucial part of patient rehabilitation. Currently, there are wearable devices used for stroke rehabilitation. With these devices, caregivers can easily assess the patient’s progress and recommend further treatment to help them recover.
Additionally, wearable technology will help more people improve the quality of their lives through activity tracking. One can receive a daily reminder to stay active. Depending on their current condition, they can also determine when they have received sufficient exercise.
The future is collaborative
Modern healthcare is like a puzzle with several pieces, which can only come together through collaboration. As the healthcare system continues to change, we can expect enhanced cooperation between professionals.
One way collaboration will improve in the future is through seamless data sharing. Various team members will easily access information about a particular patient through advanced software. However, it’s worth noting that collaboration goes beyond data sharing.
Healthcare providers need to engage with each other, and with patients and their families to create treatment plans that work for them. This means that patients will have more control over their healthcare, unlike in the past, where the doctor had almost all the power.
Improved collaboration, especially among healthcare providers, will help reduce medical errors, which can be costly. It will also help caregivers to initiate treatment faster. Additionally, it will improve staff relationships and job satisfaction, which is very important for the industry.
New challenges for medical issues
As you have read, the future of healthcare is bright in so many ways. However, there are a fair number of challenges to anticipate. Among them are ethical issues that were not present in the past. For instance, there is the issue of hacking medical devices. A study that spanned two years proved that drip infusion pumps could be remotely manipulated to change the dosage administered to patients. People can use this method to perform malicious acts. There is also the issue of data privacy. For instance, wearable devices log a lot of personal data. This leads to the risk that this data could land in the wrong hands and be used unethically.
Another challenge to be wary of in healthcare is self-diagnosis. With so much information on the internet, some people might look up their symptoms on the internet and interpret the information incorrectly. So, how can society be persuaded to turn to the doctor instead of running to the internet?
Preparing for the future
One thing is certain, change is coming if it’s not here already. All stakeholders in healthcare must prepare for the future. One of the ways healthcare providers can get ready for the future is through training on how to use advanced technologies. Physicians and practices that don’t familiarize themselves with new technologies might gradually lose their relevance.
It is also essential for healthcare providers to develop a disruptive mindset. They must be willing to learn whatever comes their way. For instance, social media has become one of the biggest sources of information, so practices that want to place themselves as experts in a particular field must share knowledge on social media. That means hopping on trends and getting comfortable in front of the camera.