Healthcare is facing an escalating crisis due to workforce shortages, expected to persist into 2024. This situation has compelled healthcare organizations to operate with constrained resources while grappling with financial strain. Concurrently, healthcare leaders acknowledge the imperative of tackling widening health inequalities and environmental issues to ensure the sustainability and inclusivity of healthcare systems.
The following ten healthcare technology trends demonstrate how advancements in AI, virtual care, and related domains can significantly benefit healthcare professionals, patients, and society as a whole.
1. AI-driven Workflow Streamlining and Optimization
Amid persistent staff shortages, healthcare organizations are reshaping their workforce strategies to attract and retain talent, emphasizing flexibility for healthcare professionals pursuing improved work-life equilibrium. Simultaneously, there’s a growing reliance on automation and AI to expedite routine tasks and measurements, easing the workload on healthcare professionals.
In diagnostic imaging, AI integration within CT systems is revolutionizing radiographers’ workflows by automating their most time-consuming procedures, allowing them to prioritize patient interaction. AI-driven reconstruction ensures the delivery of high-quality images vital for precise diagnoses by radiologists. Similarly, AI simplifies cardiac ultrasound procedures by offering comprehensive 3D quantification and heart modeling, automating measurements. This empowers sonographers to capture and assess images accurately while enabling clinicians to offer more effective cardiac care.
The forthcoming surge in generative AI within healthcare is poised to further augment automation’s capabilities. A recent survey highlights healthcare leaders’ anticipation of generative AI’s immediate impact in reducing administrative burdens on staff and optimizing operational efficiencies. Among the promising applications are automated documentation and succinct summaries of patient visits, liberating physicians to concentrate on higher-value responsibilities.
2. Addressing Staff and Expertise Shortages through Virtual Collaboration
An intertwined trend in healthcare technology with automation is the utilization of virtual collaboration to mitigate the impact of staff and expertise shortages. Anticipated growth in this realm offers the added advantage of enhancing care accessibility in remote and rural areas, where there’s typically a scarcity of specialized staff.
The ongoing adoption of radiology operations command centers serves as a notable illustration. This cloud-based hub-and-spoke model facilitates virtual expert support from imaging technologists to their less experienced or specialized counterparts at remote sites, even while the patient is undergoing scanning. Similarly, real-time virtual collaboration in ultrasound extends specialist care outreach, enabling physicians to communicate remotely with their team and patients across hospitals, clinics, or remote satellite offices. Both instances demonstrate how virtual collaboration expands expertise availability, ensuring a consistent standard of care across a healthcare system.
Tele-intensive (or tele-ICU) programs are poised for continued advancement, with healthcare providers seeking seamless integration of virtual care to augment bedside care. Remote intensivists and nurses, assisted by AI-powered monitoring technology, alleviate on-site staff burdens, serving as complements rather than replacements.
With the healthcare workforce aging, these virtual collaboration models create fresh career avenues for experienced professionals. They can remotely mentor and guide younger peers, preserving valuable knowledge and expertise, especially as more doctors consider early retirement and nurses express intentions to exit the healthcare sector.
3. Enhancing Multi-disciplinary Collaboration with Integrated Diagnostics
Amidst the surge in diagnostic data gathered from diverse sources, spanning imaging, digital pathology, and genomics, the integration of this data has become imperative for physicians to craft precise, personalized diagnoses and treatment plans for patients. Presently, this data often remains fragmented across disparate systems.
Advancements in integrated diagnostics are poised to facilitate smoother exchange of patient data among healthcare specialists, enhancing their collaborative efficiency and effectiveness. Picture it as establishing a shared ‘cockpit’ that amalgamates pertinent data from varied domains within a vendor-neutral digital environment, facilitating timely and accurate patient diagnoses.
For individuals battling cancer, this translates to more precise diagnosis and treatment at earlier stages when treatment outcomes are more promising. Additionally, diverse specialists gain deeper insights into the alignment of their findings, fostering a continuous feedback loop that can refine and optimize diagnostic procedures further.
4. Enhanced Interoperability for Improved Monitoring and Care Coordination
Interoperability in healthcare remains a persistent challenge, mainly due to the complex and fragmented nature of existing healthcare IT and data systems. The recent report underscored interoperability as one of the top four critical elements for effectively integrating in-person and virtual care across diverse healthcare environments.
To truly elevate care coordination, healthcare technology providers need to embrace an open ecosystem approach that frees data from isolated silos. In the realm of patient monitoring, data from medical device vendors has traditionally been compartmentalized, forcing clinicians to navigate multiple sources to gain a complete clinical picture. The inefficiencies arising from this disjointed process can impede clinicians’ ability to offer timely diagnoses and treatments.
Emerging interoperability features aim to unify disparate medical devices and systems into a cohesive interface, providing a comprehensive overview of a patient’s condition. This empowers caregivers to confidently recommend treatments from any location within the hospital, alleviating the burden of information overload. Recent advancements such as visual patient avatars convert complex patient data into easily understandable displays, offering healthcare professionals a more intuitive grasp of the information.
5. Early Detection of Risks and Intervention Using Predictive Analytics
Predictive analytics stands out as a significant trend in healthcare technology, harnessing real-time and historical data to offer operational and clinical insights. This technology aids healthcare providers in enhancing efficiencies and taking proactive measures. According to 2023 recent report, 39% of healthcare leaders plan to invest in AI for outcome prediction, up from 30% in 2021.
Presently, predictive analytics plays a pivotal role in healthcare by enabling providers to anticipate and manage patient flow, enabling strategic allocation of staff and resources, especially during critical times like the COVID-19 pandemic. These capabilities are now integral to data-driven hospital operations. Additionally, by continuously monitoring medical equipment like MR scanners, predictive analytics identifies potential maintenance needs, preventing around 30% of service cases, thereby averting disruptions in healthcare operations.
In clinical settings, predictive analytics aids in early identification of health risks using patient data, offering crucial support in acute care scenarios where timely intervention is critical. It also facilitates remote patient monitoring, with studies showcasing its potential in predicting life-threatening conditions like ventricular arrhythmias. By detecting risks early, predictive analytics facilitates a shift towards preventive care, enhancing overall patient outcomes.
6. Employing Technology to Address Health Inequalities
Millions worldwide continue to lack access to essential health services, and within nations boasting well-funded healthcare systems, inequalities in health are escalating. There is an immediate and pressing demand for healthcare to be fairer and enduringly sustainable.
The urgency to tackle these health disparities has prompted leaders to turn to healthcare technology as a means to narrow critical gaps in healthcare provision while also minimizing the industry’s environmental footprint. Collaborative partnerships aimed at advancing health equality will play a pivotal role in harnessing technological advancements to fulfill the potential of digital transformation in enhancing care, particularly for marginalized and underserved communities.
7. Intelligent Technology Facilitating the Establishment and Sustenance of Healthy Habits
Over a decade and a half ago, the emergence of wearable, adaptable technology such as smart watches popularized healthier physical habits. The current array of increasingly advanced smart health devices, now even capable of monitoring wearers’ vital signs [1,2], signifies an ongoing demand for health technologies seamlessly integrated into people’s lives, customized to their changing preferences and needs.
Looking ahead to 2024, this trend in healthcare technology is anticipated to further grow and encourage healthier behaviors. For instance, it will aid individuals in adhering to oral healthcare routines and closely tracking children’s growth and development. This evolution signifies a shift toward a future where individuals possess tools to predict and prevent potential health issues.
Consider oral health, a well-documented factor influencing overall well-being. While individuals aspire to take charge of their well-being, there exist knowledge gaps and inconsistent dedication to good oral hygiene, necessitating support. Electric toothbrushes synchronized with AI-powered applications gather brushing data and offer personalized recommendations to enhance users’ routines.
Similarly, in realms like pregnancy and parenting, health technology complements rather than replaces essential in-person care. Mobile apps, for instance, provide convenient access to actionable information, offering reassurance amid the journey – acknowledging that reducing stress is integral to maintaining health. Imagine a pregnant woman checking her brushing habits through an app while holding a toothbrush in her other hand, exemplifying this blend of convenience and personalization in health technology.
8. Managing the Environmental Impact of Healthcare IT
The outlined healthcare technology trends underscore the vast potential of digitalization in revolutionizing care delivery, making it more effective and efficient. Through the application of clinical decision algorithms and predictive analytics, data can provide tailored, actionable insights, such as notifying acute care teams of potential issues or promoting healthy habits through app-based coaching.
Digital solutions possess remarkable scalability, supporting widespread prevention, enhanced triage systems, and reduced care costs. This facilitates a shift from resource-intensive clinical environments to more cost-effective settings, including home-based care. Moreover, for the 3.5 billion individuals globally lacking healthcare access, digital health technology holds promise in expanding sustainable healthcare models.
However, this digital transformation comes with a cost. Healthcare generates a substantial 30% of global data, and healthcare data’s projected growth of 36% between 2018-2025 surpasses that of any other data type. On the bright side, research suggests that the efficiency gains from IT outweigh the environmental impact caused by its deployment, especially when transitioning to cloud-based systems. Yet, sustaining these benefits requires the healthcare industry to prioritize the development of eco-friendly digital infrastructure. This includes adopting carbon-neutral cloud solutions, utilizing circular hardware, and creating sustainable software.
Encouragingly, a growing trend persists—extending into 2024 and beyond—where health technology companies, healthcare systems, suppliers, and other stakeholders collaborate to ensure informed decisions aimed at minimizing healthcare IT’s environmental footprint, paving the way for a sustainable future.
9. Sustainable Procurement Revolutionizing Healthcare Supply Chains
In response to the urgent need to make healthcare more environmentally friendly, a discernible trend is emerging among healthcare technology companies, healthcare systems, and other stakeholders. They’re actively promoting sustainable practices across all facets of the healthcare value chain, spanning operations, innovation, services, and delivery. Among these transformations, procurement stands out as a particularly impactful arena.
Driven partly by the substantial expansion of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) disclosure mandates globally, the landscape of healthcare supply is poised to undergo a notable shift towards green procurement in the years to come.
In the procurement of medical equipment and health technology solutions, key strategies include:
- Mandating supplier reporting on environmental impact and their plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Emphasizing circularity for health technology products and solutions.
- Demanding transparency from suppliers regarding product performance and implementing Eco-Design principles for products and equipment.
- Requiring suppliers to showcase how digital offerings facilitate de-carbonization and dematerialization by optimizing resources and workflow efficiency.
- Mandating suppliers to publicly disclose their social impact.
Looking ahead, the adoption of sustainable procurement criteria like these will become imperative strategies for health systems and governments seeking to combat climate change and preserve biodiversity while simultaneously safeguarding human health and advancing health equity.
10. Joining Forces to Diminish Healthcare’s Environmental Impact
Healthcare systems operate within a broader value chain that spans from extractive industries upstream to operations, logistics, and phases of use and disposal downstream. This expansive chain significantly impacts biodiversity through activities such as land use changes, pollution, consumption patterns, and emissions.
There’s a growing acknowledgment of the profound influence environmental health holds over human well-being, leading healthcare systems to actively pursue strategies aimed at shrinking their environmental impact. Examples include transitioning to resource-efficient healthcare technology and intelligent digital solutions, along with embracing emission reduction targets aligned with scientific guidelines – a requirement for all California-based companies exceeding $1 billion in revenue by 2025.
However, while climate-related risks often receive greater attention due to their financial implications, broader risks to nature, like deforestation or water depletion, can have direct and substantial consequences for public health. Thus, an anticipated trend involves the increased adoption of ‘natural capital accounting’ to facilitate improved decision-making regarding resource management. Additionally, more companies are expected to commit to science-based targets focusing on nature preservation.
A financial services company highlighted in February 2022 that the escalating water crisis will necessitate a reconsideration of water usage across industries. Acknowledging this, some organizations have initiated programs to slash their total water consumption, especially in water-stressed regions.
On a global scale, the biodiversity footprint of a single organization might seem limited. However, unlike emissions where individual reductions directly impact the environment, ecosystem restoration is more effective when diverse initiatives are integrated, despite spatial fragmentation. Collaboration across the value chain becomes crucial, particularly in this realm, to ensure a more cohesive and impactful approach to ecosystem regeneration.