Digital transformation has been an ongoing evolutionary process in the healthcare sector as much as in any other industry for several years. We’ve seen increasing convergence between lifestyle and medical devices and software, further amplified by the omnipresence of wearable technology.
Check out our previous trend reports to uncover ongoing trends:
2016 Trends and Challenges for Medical Technology Providers
Digital Health Industry: Medical Technology Trends in 2017
Medical Technology Trends in 2018
Secure healthcare data: a modern cure-all
Privacy and data security concerns have for years hindered the better accessibility of patient data in the cloud. The growing adoption of blockchain (the public ledger technology credited with delivering the trust that was so vital to bitcoin’s success in recent years) is set to end hesitation. In several industries, blockchain is already used with success, enabling users to manage information securely and with more integrity.
Blockchain’s ability to provide data security is expected to drive a push towards more data-driven technologies in healthcare, too. And it is this shift towards data that is expected to bring about a real revolution in digital healthcare.
Besides the obvious EHR applications (medical records hosted in the cloud), wider access to personal or anonymized medical data could also propel the development of Artificial Intelligence-based solutions.
Use cases of Artificial Intelligence in digital healthcare
The value of any AI application based on machine learning is primarily determined by the amount and quality of input data used when training the machine. Therefore, the availability of huge medical data sets, recorded by wearables and other gadgets, will greatly spur the development of new, smart, and accurate AI software. This opens up new use cases in diagnostics and predictive analytics.
Already, medical experts are enlisting the help of data sciences and Artificial Intelligence to look for deeper insights in existing health information. Historical health data (both from population-wide data sets and the diagnostic records of certain family members) could greatly impact the accuracy of diagnosis. Another important use case is to pair fast-evolving image recognition technology with medical imaging solutions. Through this, AI could help identify symptoms in advance, enabling early treatment for better outcomes.
There is already promising use of machine learning in the pharma sector to explore and analyze potential chemical and biological interactions in the body. As the technology matures, it could greatly reduce the time to market of new drugs.
As a lookout for what is to come in the future of digital health, the use of AI in improving healthcare robotics is another promising field. This could potentially enable robots to perform certain kinds of operations in a semi-autonomous or even autonomous way. Such solutions would make healthcare accessible in remote and isolated environments, all thanks to evolving robotics technology and a better use of existing health data – combined with Artificial Intelligence.
Technologies to streamline and simplify healthcare
Perhaps less likely to be termed a revolutionary breakthrough, further use cases of AI and other modern technologies have the potential to significantly and positively impact patient experience and the efficiency of healthcare services.
Providers are looking into the application of smart chatbots as digital assistants. These assistants could help conduct a “qualification” process, acting autonomously to help uncover and identify easily diagnosed problems. Such assistants will also make it easy for patients to schedule appointments. Feeding data back to the hospital or practitioner, such solutions will help optimize work schedules for doctors and nurses, reducing waiting times for patients and offering better quality of care while also cutting costs.
As the use of VR (Virtual Reality) technologies is expanding, experts are already looking to apply Augmented Reality in healthcare. AR enables the rendering of virtual 3D information on real-world surfaces. Up until now, the technology seems to have had the most effect on emoji-enhanced selfies. Yet AR is a hugely promising field that could revolutionize medical education, enabling medical students a previously unseen level of detail in studying the human body and in performing operations virtually.
Health data challenges
With more data, of course, come new challenges. Tightening regulations of personal data like HIPAA and GDPR mean that blockchain really is vital to enabling this data-focused transformation in healthcare. In order for data to be shared with trust and in compliance with regulatory requirements, blockchain technology needs to mature and deeply penetrate the healthcare sector globally.
The challenge here, of course, is a recurring problem of early-phase technologies: there is need for the adoption of a common technical standard in order for such a transformation to be effective.
Current trends reflect general confidence in overcoming data security challenges. According to research, 94% of hospitals in the US are adopting EHR systems, while an initiative from the European Commission is driving a similar change in the EU, calling for the creation of a centralized European health record system by 2020.
Overall, current trends in digital healthcare point to the increasing importance of medical data in 2019. The use of blockchain could help align with tightening regulations on personal data protection, opening up new opportunities for the development and medical-specific use of Artificial Intelligence. Digital transformation is set to propel the evolution of healthcare technology this coming year, enabling better quality of care, enhanced patient experience, and better outcomes, all at a reduced cost.
Find out more about MedTech trends in 2019
Join our webinar on 16 January 2019 as we kick off the new year with a fresh perspective on next year's trends in digital healthcare. To learn more about the trends and challenges that developers of medical technology should prepare for in this coming year, sign up for our trends analysis webinar: