We're rapidly approaching "Star Trek" status in healthcare technology, with new innovations boldly taking the industry to new frontier.
Trends toward greater patient involvement, proactive population health management, and creative use of digital health in chronic care management are shaping the healthcare technologies of the future. We're also seeing a dichotomy between the desire for greater access to information and pressures to more securely protect healthcare data, especially in light of increased malware attacks and IT security threats.
Each of these forces shapes the healthcare technology trends we'll see in 2018 — and offers much for physician practices to ponder as they consider their approach. Three healthcare tech trends stand out.
Technology Trend No. 1: Voice recognition technology will take healthcare to new heights in quality of care and patient experience. Think of the ways voice-driven technologies such as Amazon's Echo are changing healthcare. Today, 23 percent of physicians use voice assistants like Alexa and Siri in their daily work, according to a recent survey. It's easy to anticipate a world where Alexa and Siri will assist patients in scheduling doctor's appointments, diagnosing their symptoms and more.
New voice recognition technologies also are emerging that will recognize the sometimes-garbled speech of patients with Parkinson's disease or those who have been affected by stroke — and these technologies will significantly heighten the patient experience.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) has already been used in customer call centers for patient billing, while physicians routinely use voice recognition technology to add notes to the patient medical record. Now, progressive organizations are using voice recognition technologies that enable nurses to update records in the EHR, increasing real-time documentation capabilities. Look for next-level IVR applications to play a big role in patient engagement and chronic care management in 2018.
Technology Trend No. 2: Cloud-based applications will become a must-have for physician practices. As healthcare security threats loom large, physician practices are particularly vulnerable because they often do not have the resources to stay on top of security updates or the IT staff to manage their response to potential threats. Cloud technology addresses the potential for risk very well in an economically attractive way.
Cloud technology can provide an added measure of data security for small physician practices by enabling automatic access to the latest security tools. It also provides enhanced data backup and recovery capabilities. In 2018, we'll see a move toward increased use of cloud applications by physician practices. One key consideration for physician practices: interoperability among cloud applications and vendors, including with systems used by hospitals and health systems.