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Healthcare technology is approaching Star Trek status, with the ability to take practices to a new frontier.
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.
Technology Trend No. 3: Patient-generated health data capabilities will increasingly be used by providers. The federal government recognizes the value of patient-generated health data in supplementing medical information captured by providers, especially between medical visits. Meanwhile, the rapid increase in options for healthcare wearables and use-at-home medical devices, like blood pressure cuffs, points to increasing desire by consumers to capture and share their health information with providers.
There is great potential for patient-generated health data, such as data captured by wearables, to transform chronic care management. But providers - especially smaller physician practices - have struggled not only to record personal health data in their systems, but also to use it in ways that can influence quality of care and treatment decisions, especially during the space of a 10-minute office visit.
In 2018, look for the healthcare IT industry to make big moves toward closing the gap between the ability of consumers to capture personal health data and the capabilities of providers to use this information to make a difference in patient care.
Exploring the New Frontier
These emerging health tech trends demand thoughtful response from physician practices. Before investing in emerging technologies, there are four things to consider.
Look at the big picture for your individual practice. Ask yourself: What type of practice do you want to be? What is your patient demographic? What patient demographic do you want to attract? Where are you headed, long term? The answers to these questions will help guide your technology investments.
Be practical about the technology solutions you use. Consider your geographic location and what it will take to support up-and-coming technologies. What works in an urban setting may not be the right choice for a practice in a rural setting due to issues with connectivity and more.
Have conversations with your vendors about where the market is headed and the types of technologies that might be the best fit, economically and for your patient base. Vendors typically see 25 clinics or more in a month, and the conversations they are having with physicians across the country give them unique perspective on emerging tech trends. Mine their insight in determining your practice's approach.
Consider patient focus groups to inform your approach. A well-run patient focus group can tell you which technologies have the potential to make a deep impact on patient engagement in your market and the capabilities they consider to be most important.
As next-generation healthcare technologies take us to a new frontier in care and patient engagement, success in navigating the journey will require careful consideration of which path is right for your practice and your patients. Now is the time to develop your practice's road map for the future.
Chris Walls is President and CEO of Pulse.