June 03, 2021
Health technology, or HealthTech, is breaking new ground in the way healthcare is delivered and it is constantly improving the way we understand illnesses. By leveraging data-enabled delivery systems that are integrated across the continuum of care – from precision prevention to personalised care delivery – the future of health and healthcare is changing beyond recognition.
There is no doubt that Covid has already dramatically accelerated this healthcare revolution. Technology-based solutions have enabled doctors to safely expand their reach with the ability to remotely examine more patients in a shorter amount of time. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, healthcare providers are transforming patient experiences using high-quality video and audio on commonly held devices, with secure, up-to-the second patient data available.
The case for HealthTech is equally as compelling from a commercial perspective. With the number of Americans aged 65 and older predicted to more than double over the next 40 years to reach 80 million in 2040, minimising the number of people entering hospitals and medical facilities is needed to mitigate - and even reduce - escalating healthcare costs.
Three of the fastest growing HealthTech trends
With aging populations in most of the developed world and life expectancy increasing, leveraging new technologies is no longer just a nice extra. It’s now an urgent necessity. Here are 3 important growing trends:
1. Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)
An infrastructure of connected medical devices, health systems and software applications is changing the way that care is delivered as well as how individuals look after their own health. The Internet of Medical Things has the potential to gather increased patient data, enhance patient-doctor conversations and empower better decisions. There are many examples of how IOT-connected smart devices are facilitating medical treatment, preventing illness and aiding healthcare.
Wearable technology can collect and send detailed information to doctors, helping to create personalised treatment plans. ‘Smart’ belts and chest straps that are embedded with ECG, temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate sensors are being used by elderly patients. Doctors are provided with the real-time health status of their patients, including the ability to detect falls and monitor heart functionality so that they can make timely interventions.
Connected inhaler apps which treat respiratory conditions like asthma help patients to track their medication use, offering audio and visual alerts to remind them to take a dose. By generating usage reports, doctors can see when medication is being taken, helping to provide additional data points if the physician is considering adjusting the treatment plan. They can also warn against impending symptoms, for example through allergen forecasts.
Covid has led to much greater use of telemedicine, allowing patients to discuss medical issues with a doctor by phone or online. Organisations such as Teledoc and MeMD in the US are becoming household names, providing easily accessible and affordable healthcare.
And while not all doctors’ equipment can be replaced with a video screen or phone, telemedicine enables medical professionals to collect information in more effective ways. White coat syndrome, as an example, often occurs as a result of the concern of being in a doctor’s office, triggering a rise in a patient’s blood pressure which leads to an inaccurate reading. Telemedicine can help to mitigate the effects of this. In a similar way, many patients perform cognitive tests for dementia better at home, where they are more relaxed and clearer-minded.
3. Artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare
AI can improve the speed and precision of diagnoses, helping patients to achieve the best outcomes. Through machine learning algorithms, drug development can be improved by advancing the search for chemical and biological interactions, helping to bring new pharmaceuticals to market quicker. The use of AI in healthcare is extensive and growing exponentially.
Recent research undertaken by MIT and Harvard University is an example of how AI technology is being used to track the pandemic’s impact on mental health. Using machine learning to analyse the text of thousands of social media posts, researchers are able to analyse changes in the language that people use to express their anxiety online. The results can help psychiatrists to better identify and help people whose wellbeing is suffering.
Microsoft’s Project InnerEye is another good example. Radiotherapy improves cancer survival rates, but before treatment the doctor will spend significant time ensuring the radiation is delivered to the correct part of the body without damaging any healthy tissue. AI technology can carry out this preparation more effectively than an expert clinician in just a few minutes, improving efficiency and reducing costs.
Igniting the HealthTech capabilities of your organisation
With a new wave of global ‘doctorpreneurs’ who are trying to change medicine as we know it, what are the key elements for success? In our view, these include:
- Establishing third-party IT consulting support services. Electronic health records, healthcare finance, billing, patient care, and prescription are increasingly important to patient care. HealthIT.gov reports that 75% of healthcare providers agree that electronic health records enable them to deliver improved patient satisfaction rates and fewer medication errors. ‘Prescription tech’ is a high growth area, driven by better digital infrastructure and rising demand. Last year Amazon launched Amazon Pharmacy, its online and mobile prescription medication ordering and fulfillment service. Using a secure pharmacy profile, customers can add their insurance information, manage prescriptions and choose payment options. They also have the option to speak to pharmacists over the phone for advice.
- Creating advanced analytics. Successfully converting data into insights for decision makers requires advanced analytics, such as machine learning, natural language processing and artificial intelligence. Data liquidity will lead to more robust patient risk identification, as well as blood type and gene structure personalised diagnosis and precision of treatment.
- Improving efficiency. Enhanced operational and clinical workflows inside healthcare along with the ability to reduce friction and remove waste from the system are critical to success. Cost reduction for patients and healthcare providers will help servicing bigger populations and generate room for further technology advancement investments. The potential of cost reduction from telemedicine prompted Amazon to jump in the fray with Amazon Care, a virtual primary care clinic catering to some of the company’s employees.
- Re-assessing technology infrastructure. Taking stock of virtual applications, interoperability with systems of engagement and supporting infrastructure is already enabling organisations to move from the rapid solutions created by Covid, to a sustainable, secure, integrated virtual health platform.
- Agile delivery. To succeed in a rapidly changing environment, organisations must be nimble, consumer-focussed and tech-oriented. Market disruption is ubiquitous, with new entrants constantly re-evaluating how they can add or find value. Investment in digital innovation and execution readiness will provide a foundation for innovation and growth.
A new era in Healthcare
In 2019, the global digital health market was worth US$106 billion. With an expected Compound Annual Growth Rate of 28.5% from 2020 to 2026, the digital health market should see a six-fold increase. By 2026, the digital health market will amount to nearly US$640 billion.
From AI to mobile apps, to robots and better user interfaces, tech is driving an innovative new era in healthcare. According to PWC, by 2030, healthcare will be centered on patients empowered to prevent diseases rather than seek treatment. Enabled by AI, personalised health solutions will integrate into their daily lives, and global healthcare systems will be organised in entirely new ways.
At NashTech, we deliver solutions across the entire HealthTech journey with our agile, solution-focused approach, leveraging mainstream and emerging technologies to build custom software products that are robust, scalable and secure. As a trusted partner, we work in close collaboration with you to ensure you realize the value of the technology investment earlier. We are here to help. Get in touch today to find out more.
You can read more about how AI can be used to improve the customer experience in healthcare and other sectors in our eBook.