Explore in this article the main technological trends in healthcare software that have the potential to transform your organization in 2022.
Though 2021 is well behind us, the presence of COVID-19 still lingers around the world. While the pandemic has forever changed a lot of industries, it has arguably impacted the healthcare industry the most. Businesses across the world are making significant advances in technology and methods required to support the high demand for access to healthcare.
As we move with unsteady steps into the future, it is vital we remain mindful of the trends driving healthcare technology in 2022. Though legacy software and infrastructure are crucial to the success of modern healthcare centers, it is essential we think about how these systems integrate with newer technologies and how more reliable systems might eventually replace them.
With our focus on improving productivity, security, performance, and efficiency, here are the most important technologies that can potentially transform your organization.
Trend #1: Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making great waves across various industries, particularly healthcare.
- AI’s Against The Pandemic
Amidst COVID-19, cutting-edge technology has been helping healthcare firms stay ahead of the curve. For instance, a Canadian firm could predict COVID-19’s spread worldwide. Their application named BlueDot scanned over 100,000 media sources in more than 65 different languages daily, thereby ascertaining dangerous outbreaks in what was nearly real-time.
Furthermore, machine learning advances in the development of vaccines have also made great progress. Leveraging machine learning, protein fragments could be identified to develop vaccines for COVID-19 in shorter periods than before.
AI has also been beneficial in analyzing crowd temperature data, making thermal screening a more viable option for identifying potentially symptomatic individuals. Additionally, AI-powered facial recognition has also made it seamless to identify individuals even if they are wearing a face mask. It can also be used to detect if an individual is not wearing a mask in areas where it is mandatory.
- AI For Diagnosis and Drug Development
Beyond its applications of managing the pandemic, AI is incredibly efficient in helping with information processing and decision making. In the healthcare industry, machine learning helps develop new pharmaceuticals and turns the diagnosis process more efficient. For instance, with the help of AI-powered CT scans, people being treated for the effects of COVID-19 can be analyzed to detect pneumonia.
Project InnerEye, a radiotherapy AI tool developed by Microsoft, speeds up the process of 3D contouring of the patient, thereby bringing down the time to completion to minutes which earlier used to be hours. Similarly, Project Hanover is another AI system from Microsoft that is aimed at cataloging biomedical research papers from PubMed. The solution reduces the time for cancer diagnosis and assists with prescribing drugs for each patient.
- Data: The Key to AI
Training data is the most crucial element that powers artificial intelligence’s success in healthcare. Software solutions that leverage machine learning never outperforms the quality of their training dataset. So, the better the quality and breadth of data put into the model, the better its performance.
Trend #2: Telemedicine and Remote Care
Thanks to the pandemic, Telehealth got the recognition it received. One and a half months into 2022, care providers constantly have video consultations with patients over the internet. The infrastructure that supports such meetings has dramatically improved, and Telehealth is projected to hit $185.6 billion by 2026. With that in mind, here is what is in store for Telehealth:
- Legal Compliance
Before talking about the possibility, an important issue to consider is HIPAA compliance. While some restrictions were relaxed when the pandemic was at its peak in 2020, it is important that healthcare providers think about the applications they leverage to communicate with their patients. Are these applications secure and certified to handle private health information?
- WebRTC for Video Conferencing
During certain instances, you might require a more dedicated solution that can adhere to legal privacy requirements. WebRTC is one technology that every dedicated telemedicine app needs. An open-source API-based system, WebRTC connects web browsers and mobile applications, thereby allowing audio, video, and data transmission. This is a beneficial teleconferencing feature.
- Cloud Hosting and Data Storage
Often cloud storage services are considered to be secure. However, they might not always be compliant with government regulations on protected health information. Therefore, you must ensure the cloud hosting solutions you leverage are HIPAA compliant for maintaining functionality and efficiency for any healthcare operation that uses electronic health records (EVR).
Other than cloud hosting and video conferencing, other features such as location services, wearable integration, appointment management, healthcare provider reviews, and secure messaging are potentially helpful features in the healthcare industry.
Trend #3: Extended Reality
Extended reality is a blanket term used to refer to augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality. It has great potential in the healthcare industry—from aiding telehealth applications to assisting surgery.
- Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality
Augmented and mixed reality find their use in several healthcare settings. Perhaps this technology’s most popular form is mixed reality headsets like Microsoft Hololens 2. The headset offers heads-up information to surgeons, allowing them to use both their hands during the procedure. This is something that can enrich surgeries and make them a collaborative and remote effort.
A camera mounted to the headset enables other doctors to observe the surgery and give advice. Additionally, the solution is also ‘holographic’ in nature, meaning it can be leveraged to enrich training.
Nevertheless, AR isn’t limited to headsets and operating rooms. The technology can also help nurses find veins to draw blood from.
Regardless of whether metaverse is overblown or not, it has some potential for virtual reality in healthcare settings. One brilliant application of VR in healthcare is training.
Building virtual training situations for doctors can help them improve their skills and prepare for surgeries. Additionally, VR can be used in some contexts for treatment. For instance, The Virtual Reality Medical Center leverages VR therapy to help people suffering from phobias and PTSD.
Currently, Maplewood Senior Living in Connecticut has a VR therapy program for the elderly, which helps them unlock past memories and improve emotional wellbeing.
Trend #4: IoT and Wearables
Wearable and IoT technologies are growing in popularity. This also translates to their potential in the healthcare industry growing significantly. Many call its applications in telehealth and telemedicine technologies as micro-processing the Internet of Medical Things.
Bringing in some figures, at the beginning of 2021, around 11.3 billion IoT devices were connected at the start. The global IoT medical devices market is expected to hit $94.2 billion by 2026, from a mere $26.5 billion in 2021.
The advancement of wearable technology happens to be one of the most important innovations in the healthcare industry. According to Deloitte’s survey, 39 percent of users have a smartwatch.
With the availability of smartwatches increasing, their potential for healthcare applications shouldn’t be ignored. After all, the ability to monitor the status of patients throughout the day remotely is incredibly valuable.
The most common use of smartwatches in healthcare is to record a person’s heart rate. But that isn’t the only thing a smartwatch can be used for. These wearable devices can also be used to measure blood oxygen saturation and monitor physical health. Low blood oxygen saturation levels are hard to detect without special sensors. As this can be a life-threatening condition, smartwatches that come with such sensors can save lives.
Beyond smartwatches, other wearable devices used in the healthcare industry include bio patches and smart hearing aids with similar levels of impact.
- Smart Pills
The concept of smart pills has a profound application in healthcare. It transforms the IoT into The Internet of Bodies. Smart pills, as the name suggests, are edible electronics. Not only do they serve as pharmaceuticals, but they can also offer healthcare providers valuable information about patients.
Trend #5: Healthcare Privacy and Security
While efficiency and quality of care matter in the healthcare industry, security and privacy matter the most.
A notable security breach that happened last year was when Kroger pharmacy data was exposed in a data breach in February through Accellion’s FTA secure file-transfer service. According to HealthITSecurity.com, more than 550 organizations suffered data breaches in 2021, which affected nearly 40 million people.
As stated earlier, making sure your organization is HIPAA compliant is essential to steer clear of data breaches. If you cater to patients internationally, it might be a great idea to consider the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulations valid in the European Union.
A few healthcare providers can use software solutions like Skype and Facetime to communicate with patients who might not fully comply with government regulations. While the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the United States had relaxed enforcement policies for organizations during a public health emergency, you shouldn’t rely on that discretion. Eventually, when the pandemic subsides, enforcement will go back to normal. So, it is only fitting you to stay ahead of the curve to avoid costly fines down the lane.
There exist several compliant video conferencing software solutions in the market. Nevertheless, some instances demand a more customized solution. This is particularly the case where an existing data infrastructure doesn’t integrate with the available options.
If a healthcare provider wishes to use an existing system to exchange ePHI with patients via third-party software, they should obtain a business associate exception with the vendor. This is often a tedious and challenging process. But even so, there is no guarantee that the third-party program will completely secure patient data. Furthermore, protecting information through remote doctor calls is difficult. ePHI data should be transmitted in structured formats, and these calls make the process complicated.
The Future of Healthcare Technology
With 2022 rolling forward, healthcare technology will continue advancing in every area. Though security will improve across the industry, threats will continue to evolve, and necessary measures should be taken to deal with and prevent them promptly.
Nonetheless, one thing is for sure—the quality and efficiency of healthcare will continue to improve, thanks to ground-breaking technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and extended reality.
If you are planning to modernize your healthcare organizations, the first step is to have time and funding on the line. Then, team up with the right software engineers who understand your needs and objectives, and you will well be on your way to success.
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