Top 5 healthcare tech predictions for 2021 in a post-COVID world

More physicians are turning to new innovations that can improve the patient experience and raise the level of care necessary as we navigate these new times.

The coronavirus pandemic jumpstarted the digital health tech market with solutions that bring a stronger connection between patients and doctors. More physicians are turning to new innovations that can improve the patient experience and raise the level of care necessary as we navigate these new times. Here’s my take on what’s ahead in health tech in 2021 and beyond.

Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)

RPM is going to be a big part of our future due to COVID-19. RPM tools allow physicians and medical professionals to remotely monitor patients in real-time tracking a patient’s well-being. Medicare and Medicaid as well as other insurance companies are now receiving reimbursement for RPM.

Additionally, Internet-connected blood pressure cuffs, scales, and the like can be used for RPM. IoT devices are also part of the RPM future, such as IoT glucose meters for diabetic patients, IoT thermometers, and sleep monitoring devices. By adding RPM, practices can focus on patient care and have access to real-time patient data and with remote staff support. With more physicians turning to virtual care, telehealth and EHRs that manage this critical patient data are proving to be the lifelines to modern healthcare going forward.

Telehealth & Telemedicine

Telehealth visits are going to supersede in-person visits as time goes on. Because of COVID-19, the world changed and Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other insurers, started paying out for telehealth visits.

Telemedicine will continue to grow at a very quick rate, and verticals like mental health (psychology and psychiatry) and primary care fit perfectly into the telemedicine model, for tasks like administering prescription refills (ePrescribing) and ordering labs. Hyperlocal medical care will also move towards more of a telemedicine care team experience. Patients that are homebound, families with young children, or people that just recently had surgery can now get instant care when they need it. Location is less relevant because patients can see a provider from anywhere.

Machine Learning

Machine learning will become an even bigger part of healthcare in 2021. For example, machine learning combined with telemedicine will give more insight to a physician in a remote setting reading voice intonation and facial expressions for a patient’s mood, pain, or depressional flags and the like. ML will be able to indicate and provide mood data to the physician in real-time and will allow the doctor to take any immediate action. ML-powered medical copilot scribing can help write a draft chart as the patient and doctor chat via telehealth. A lot of information is exchanged quickly, and having a real-time scribe will save time for the medical community. There’s also ML for early diagnosis, for example during a telemedicine appointment if a patient has a consistent cough or drop/change in tone of voice is detected, this can also be flagged to the provider to ask more questions to a patient.

Practices can accelerate their business during the pandemic and integrate virtual assitant solutions that will vastly improve a practice’s operations and efficiencies by managing inbound and outbound scheduling calls, telehealth workflows, reduce no shows, and fill canceled slots.

Mobile Health

Apple rolled out a series of new products and features over the past few months that will greatly impact healthcare and bring more benefits to physicians and patients. Apple is one of many players in the industry making the investment and committed to bringing the latest innovations to healthcare. Here are just a few of Apple's exciting announcements:

  • Apple’s new Blood Oxygen sensor in the Apple Watch Series 6 can change the way consumers monitor their health.
  • The new iPad Air features more power and functionality such as an all-screen display, a smaller Touch ID sensor, new cameras, and a redesigned speaker system that will help medical staff expedite log-ins, run apps more efficiently, and review X-rays and other images.
  • Picture-in-Picture is new allowing a provider to watch medical videos while multitasking.
  • HomePod mini can read off reminders and texts to a medical professional from home.
  • iPhone 12 now has 5G with improved performance and speed. The Phone 12 Pro video camera enables providers better than ever medical video. Also, when complex medical scans need to be reviewed, this new technology can allow physicians the ability to download images faster than ever and could be lifesaving.

The Pop-Up Testing Clinic

COVID-19 has ushered in a new way of testing that has never been seen before across the country. The white tents scattered around parking lots and connected to medical facilities have proven that this new way of testing is working. Furthermore, the data that is being collected, stored, and reported at the pop-up testing clinics and then shared with various local, state, and federal public health databases is critical. Companies are creating integration tools to help share and analyze this data.

If you haven’t already, take a look at some of these new developments in digital health tech to see how they can improve your practice and ultimately enhance the patient experience. Take the time to research and determine the solutions and partners that are the best fit for your practice and patients’ needs.

About the Author

Daniel Kivatinos is the Co-founder and COO of DrChrono, a medical platform for doctors and patients.