Spending on health care makes up about one sixth of U.S. GDP, making the industry an influential force—and one that can be slow to change. Still, health care—and its technology—needs to be able to keep up with the latest trends if providers want to survive and give the best care to their patients.
One of the biggest siteseekerfts occurring in the industry is the switch to value-based care, in which physicians and health care providers bill patients for all service related to treatment of a particular condition, rather than on a procedure-by-procedure basis. It involves more sharing between different providers and, usually, better quality care for the patient.
It also means changes in how care is delivered and the role technology plays. Here’s how health care technology is evolving to meet these new trends.
Patients take control of their health
This year, over 93 million Americans searched health-care-focused topics online, up 28 percent from 2001. Some take it even further: 84 percent of consumers believe that using a monitoring device (such as a fitness tracker) to keep tabs on their own health data will help improve their overall health. It’s why Apple has been working with developers and hospitals to turn the iPhone into a central repository for all of a patient’s health and medical information.
Whether they’re right or wrong is up for debate, but one thing is clear: Patients want to be plugged into information regarding their own health, and even be active participants. For health care providers, this often means providing additional connected services for patients, including on-demand health records.
In a market with a growing number of choices, and growing interest among the public, being able to connect to patients on their own technology and terms is becoming more and more important.
Telehealth means fewer beds and more care
Information isn’t all patients are interested in—they’re also looking for convenience. Health care practitioners are following through.
In 2015, Mercy Hospital opened the first hospital without any beds—just a $54 million facility with remote, real-time vital sign tracking, virtual hospitalists, and in-home monitoring capabilities. This doesn’t mean the elimination of typical hospitals, but it does mean telehealth is going through a renaissance, as it offers an affordable alternative for patients, and allows doctors to see more of them.
To prepare for this rise in virtual, affordable, convenient care, health care organizations need to start with the infrastructure to handle it—including powerful broadband and networking equipment. Although such investments are often expensive, rural health care organizations can work with the Healthcare Connect Fund to receive a 65 percent discount on these expenses, and leasing and financing options are often available for others to install such networks.
AI takes on the overwhelming health care data set
More data collection (from both patients and their telehealth practices) and more sharing of information (because of value-based health care) mean that there’s more information to sort through on a daily basis. More, in many cases, than humans could possibly review in their lifetime.
To help handle, sort, and utilize all this data, health centers are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) in droves, with 35 percent of health care institutions hoping to leverage AI within two years and 50 percent within the next five years. AI has already been adapted for health care in areas such as predictive analysis, population health management, clinical decision-making, and many other trend- or analytics-based solutions, and money spent on the technology is expected to reach nearly $8 billion by 2020.
As such, health care organizations need to make sure they’re preparing their infrastructure in ways that can support AI going forward. This means having a flexible data center and enough storage to accommodate AI’s constant learning and growing, as well as the expansion of the data and EMRs health care organizations are collecting.
This data and its value (EMRs are currently worth about $355 apiece) is another reason AI is becoming so important for health care organizations. With such sensitive information, security is a top priority. So much so that facilities are considering the use of AI to protect it—leveraging the technology to adapt and react quickly to evolving threats.
Keeping your edge in a value-based world
As health care systems change, they’ll need technology to keep a competitive edge. Patients are no longer simply going to the closest hospital to them, but the ones that can fulfill their specific requirements and needs—especially if they don’t even need to leave the house to do so. Making sure that you are proactive, rather than reactive, about assessing and implementing these trends can put your health care organization at the top of a patient’s list when it comes to choosing their care.