2019 is just around the corner and CIOs everywhere are wondering what’s next in the healthcare field. Over the past few years, our reliance on technology has increased in proportion to regulatory and reimbursement complexities. This has put increasing strain on our technology teams and staff to continue to adapt to these rapid changes.
Some of the tech trends we’ve seen have included increases in consumer adoption of cell phones. This has spawned a whole new market for startup healthcare apps. Consumers are using these phones for everything from health monitoring to a virtual doctor visit. The volume of these telehealth visits is skyrocketing and there’s been rapid growth in the Internet of Things (IoT) market providing us with new ways to remotely monitor our patients. All of these trends have created a volatile environment for new security threats that we’re scrambling to respond to.
Let’s explore what some of the healthcare technology pundits are excited and worried about next year. What digital health predictions for 2019 are just ahead?
Digital Adoption Trends 2019 in Healthcare
“Moving forward, physicians and healthcare providers should work with their patients to encourage digital solutions, as they have been shown to make a tangible impact on patient health.”
Jonathan Catley MD Connect
#1 Mobile Apps and BYOD
One of the first predictions for next year is our increasing reliance on our handheld digital devices. Health IT Security says that “mobile and tablet use continues to sky rocket.” The trend impacts both patients and clinicians.
Patients use their devices for healthcare more frequently now. The studies show that patients increasingly want to manage their own health through digital technology in the form of mobile apps, online portals, and telehealth. In fact, one-third of patients today use the Internet as a diagnostic tool for their health. This trend, more than anything else in today’s Internet-fueled society has commoditized healthcare, pulling back the medical curtain and empowering our patients. This democratization of information has had a tangible impact on patient health and will continue to do so in the future.
But the medical community isn’t immune from our digital obsessions. More doctors and other clinical providers will continue the “bring your own devices,” (BYOD) trend from 2018. Most hospitals and clinics have adapted to healthcare workers bringing their own smartphones, laptops, and tablets to their facilities. One study showed 91% of doctors and 51% of nurses’ use their personal devices to communicate between care teams, access sensitive data, or discuss treatment with patients. One of the challenges, of course, is that the phone apps on these devices could serve as a backdoor for hackers. ComputerWorld summed up the problem of trying to balance the desires of healthcare workers versus the security risks:
CIOs will also need to balance the need for security with
physicians’ need for easy access – a task made more
difficult by the fact that, when it comes to patient care,
physicians are not patient people!
But handheld digital devices are not the only tools expected to make waves next year.
#2 Wearables and IoT
The IoT market overall is predicted to grow by 30% between now and 2022. In healthcare, this means more Internet-connected devices will come into play in 2019 to improve workflows and patient outcomes. One study suggested 87% of healthcare organizations would use IoT devices by next year.
We’ve already seen some unexpected benefits:
- 1,100-bed Mt. Sinai Medical Center is using IoT software to track inpatient bed occupancy. The software looks at 15-different metrics, including nurse proximity, to help clinicians make admission decisions. The end result was a reduction in admission wait times by one hour.
- Remote monitoring tools are being used in to monitor post-surgical orthopedic patients, for cardiac care, and even to help with population health initiatives.
- Business leaders like Apple have gone further into the IoT wearables space, launching a new study aimed at connecting orthopedists with hip and knee surgery patients. The goal is to reduce costs, improve care coordination and communication while treating patients in the comfort of their homes.
These digital tools are having an enormous impact on how clinicians are interacting with patients. They’re even changing the traditional in-person clinical visit to a virtual house call.
“Medical professionals can view scans, assess diagnostic reports, monitor symptoms and physical progression of a medical condition remotely. This means that the patient can consult without having to personally visit their consulting doctor; something that could be difficult, expensive or in cases unadvisable from a medical standpoint.”
Naval Kishor HealthWorksCollective
2018 saw many of the barriers to telehealth technology growing smaller or being removed completely. Predictions suggest telehealth will allow an unprecedented level of access to care for time-strapped and chronically ill patients during a time of clinician shortages and rising healthcare costs. This is why, according to Becker’s, seven million patients will use this service by the end of 2018.
We anticipate that telemedicine will be particularly useful for the older patient, whose limited mobility may make it more difficult to attend an onsite doctor’s office. Too, rural communities experiencing doctor shortages will benefit from the expanded access allowed by telehealth technology.
The OrthoLive telehealth app has shown exactly what these tools can do to improve care; 87% of the patients using the service say they would leverage it in the future.
With more personal devices accessing healthcare networks, an unprecedented level of risk is expected for 2019. Patient wearable devices will also continue to impact hospital networks and provider systems, making for a higher number of entry points and a broader risk for cyber breach. CIOs are scrambling to respond by increasing encryption, tightening BYOD policies, and seeking new ways to manage risk. Health IT Security suggests more hospitals will hire IT security experts, including cloud-driven managed service providers to mitigate these threats.
2019 and Digital Technology
Adopting digital technologies in 2019 will help keep clinicians connected with patients who prefer to use these tools. While there will remain a core contingent of patients that prefer face-to-face interactions, healthcare providers will continue to respond to consumer demand by expanding their digital offerings.
One easy way to expand services lines is through smartphone apps like OrthoLive. We offer a cloud-based, secure, HIPAA-compliant telemedicine application for orthopedic providers. Contact us and get started on your own digital transformation today.