Healthcare is one of the most rapidly evolving fields, with new developments changing the way we access care and the types of treatments available to us.
In the last two years, there has been a seismic shift towards digital healthcare and a spotlight on innovation due to the pandemic. As we look forward, what does the future hold? In this guide, we’ll explore some top tech trends to watch out for.
Remote And Virtual Healthcare
Virtual health services were becoming more commonplace before the pandemic, but the Covid-19 outbreak undoubtedly accelerated the shift towards remote healthcare.
During the first few months of the pandemic in 2020, the proportion of virtual consultations increased from 0.1% to over 43%. The virus was the driving factor, but there are several benefits to being able to access care, advice or treatment remotely in addition to reducing the spread of communicable diseases.
Research conducted by Deloitte shows that most people are happy to continue with telemedicine and virtual appointments after the pandemic. For many, accessing remote care offers an opportunity to save time, effort and money, and it’s particularly beneficial for those who don’t drive and patients who live in rural areas.
Telehealth-based services also free up time for healthcare professionals and they can be a less daunting prospect for patients who may be anxious or nervous about going to a face-to-face appointment.
The scope of virtual services has increased significantly in a short space of time. Patients can now access a broad spectrum of services from the comfort of their homes. Providers, clinics and companies that specialize in telehealth can offer everything from introductory consultations to personalized treatment solutions such as supplements for hormone balance, tailored nutrition and fitness plans and blood pressure and diabetes management. The elimination of travel and space constraints also paves the way for improved access to care in communities where the ratio of patients to doctors is high.
Investment in remote services and new technology also affords patients and care teams the option to create virtual facilities, which enable real-time monitoring. Patients can use wearable devices, for example, which share data with doctors to provide updates on heart rate, stress indicators and blood oxygen levels. This enables patients to access care that would previously only be available in hospitals or healthcare centers from home.
Extended reality is an umbrella term, which covers AI (artificial intelligence), AR (augmented reality) and mixed reality (MR). Extended reality has an increasingly diverse role to play within medicine and healthcare. VR is an incredible training resource for medical and dentistry students, and it’s also an effective treatment option for patients with a wide range of symptoms and conditions.
VR headsets are already used to treat children with autism and people who have PTSD and it can be used alongside other therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help individuals with anxiety and chronic pain.
Augmented reality is opening doors for students and healthcare professionals by providing access to new ways to learn, train and carry out procedures. Systems, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens, which provides real-time information for surgeons during operations, are likely to become more commonplace in the future.
Students and qualified doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals can also learn and develop their skills through the creation of digital twins, which represent virtual patients. Simulation enables individuals to train and recreate real-life situations without the risk of working on human patients.
Personalized healthcare is a trend that is gathering pace. In many cases, when treating people, there is a set of guidelines for patients, which covers most bases, but there will always be differences between patients. Professional advice may be much more relevant to one person than another and one patient may have completely different symptoms or requirements to others.
Personalized treatment aims to offer an alternative to the one-size-fits-all approach to achieve better outcomes. Healthcare providers and companies that operate within the industry are moving towards bespoke plans and treatment programs, which are tailored to the individual. This covers everything from recommended dosage for medication to customized healthy eating plans for patients who want to lose weight or alleviate symptoms of digestive disorders.
Technology enables healthcare companies and providers to work on a granular level. Teams can use data, such as genomics, and cutting-edge technology, including AI applications, to design personalized treatment plans.
Personal Health Monitoring
We are more interested in health than ever before. Technological advances have provided us with the tools to monitor our health and well-being without the need to go for tests or attend frequent medical appointments. Developments such as wearables and health apps enable us to keep an eye on our activity levels, heart rate, sleep quality and diet.
Statistics suggest that the number of people who own a wearable device more than doubled between 2016 and 2019 and by 2023, 1 in 4 Americans will use a smart wearable. Research suggests that people who use wearable activity trackers are likely to exercise more. Some devices also provide information about heart rate and training zones, which can be linked to apps and even shared with doctors and healthcare teams.
Using apps and smart devices gives consumers the option to track their health and take an interest in what they’re eating, how they sleep and how active they are. Regular exercise, a healthy, balanced diet and good quality sleep can all contribute to better mental and physical health and reduce the risk of lifestyle-related illnesses, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Technology is changing the way healthcare teams deliver care and treatment and modifying the way we access services. As technology advances, new opportunities become available for healthcare students, researchers, working professionals and patients. In the future, tech will play an increasingly integral role in the delivery of care, training and personal health monitoring.
Healthcare teams will have access to new ways of communicating with patients and providing advice and treatments, patients will have more choice and the doctors and nurses of tomorrow will be able to use innovative training techniques and resources to hone their skills.