While almost every industry stands to be transformed by emerging technology in 2017, we believe few will feel the impact as significantly as the healthcare industry. Nearly every emerging technology can have a direct impact on the way healthcare providers and wellness organizations operate. More importantly, the technologies we already use on a daily basis will become tools for enhancing the healthcare experience and exploring entirely new methods of treatment. 2017 is sure to be a ground-breaking year for digital transformation across this important industry. Let’s take a look at some of the most disruptive trends we see now, as well as how to handle new technologies that may come into play this year.
Digital Disruption by Blockchain
There are few industries that won’t be impacted by Blockchain technology, but healthcare stands to be deeply disrupted by it. Blockchain represents a fundamentally new way of storing, transmitting and exchanging sensitive health information, as well as facilitating more efficient settlement mechanisms. Healthcare providers, insurers and the like face a new landscape when it comes to the way they manage, store and process patient data. For more details on the ways healthcare is already being disrupted by Blockchain, check out another one of our articles: Six Observations from the Distributed Health Blockchain Conference.
New Treatments and Training through Virtual Reality (VR)
From revolutionary approaches to psychotherapy to completely virtual surgical training, virtual reality is the future of the healthcare industry. For healthcare professionals, VR means being able to minimize risk in exploring new methods of treatment and training. Experiments have already begun using VR to soothe help patients with PTSD by gradually exposing them to triggering stimuli in VR environments. Similarly, medical schools and hospitals have begun training doctors in new surgical techniques via VR simulations - within the next year, it’s not unreasonable to expect that doctors could become experts in entirely new surgical procedures without ever having to touch a human body. Remote surgery through virtual reality control of robotic surgical instruments could enable the rarest of skilled surgeons to operate globally. Furthermore, mixed and augmented reality technologies like Microsoft Hololens will enable the healthcare industry to combine the virtual and physical worlds in new ways to solve an array of important problems.
Holistic Healthcare through Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Big data gave way to machine learning, and machine learning has paved the way for artificial intelligence. In 2016, Stanford University released a study on their predictions for AI in over the next century. They found significant implications for healthcare in particular - from robotically assisted surgeries (which are already the standard of care in some laparoscopic procedures) to the potential for machine learning technology to mine patient social media records to identify health risks. They even suggested that this dramatically increased availability of healthcare data combined with AI could lead to the identification of entirely new subpopulations - this is big news for health insurers when it comes to identifying patient risk factors. Mining historical and real-time sensor data for predictors of disease after the fact could dramatically improve early detection and proactive treatment.
Patient Self-care through mHealth Apps and IoT
Making personal biometrics data readily available to patients means they can monitor their health, healing and self-improvement processes with greater acuity than ever before. It also means that healthcare professionals can be more aware of patient behaviors and prescribe more personalized healthcare solutions. Instead of resorting to aggressive prescription treatments right away, doctors can prescribe behavioral change treatment plans and monitor patience progress toward health goals.
The Increasing Imperative of Health Information Systems Security
As health information is increasingly stored, managed and accessed through virtual networks, the vulnerability of this information also increases. While hackers are typically the number one concern of healthcare organizations, there are also significant liabilities associated with unintentional internal hacks that could cost organizations millions. Not only do organizations need to stay 5 steps ahead of hackers, they also need to maintain complex permissions-based systems that protect against internal hacks of sensitive health information. With all the exciting advancements in healthcare in 2017 comes an increasing pressure on healthcare organizations to protect their data.
Increased Availability of Organs Through 3D Printing
The days of organ scarcity may soon be behind us thanks to the advancement of 3D printing technology. While printing new organs entirely from scratch is probably at least a decade away, the near-future implications for this technology are powerfully disruptive. 3D printing represents the potential to repair damaged organs, removing the necessity for invasive replacement procedures in many cases and making more donor organs available. Printing custom titanium plates or bones printed from polymers is also a near-future reality.
A recent experiment by Wake Forest researchers has yielded exciting results in this area - they’ve successfully printed and implanted ear, bone and muscle structures into rats that are thriving as living tissue. Whether its 10 years or 20 years into the future, producing viable human organs via 3D printing technology is the inevitable future of medicine.
While these are only predictions based on what we know to be happening already, it’s impossible to tell what new technologies may emerge in 2017 that will impact healthcare. Right now, healthcare organizations are leveraging data from Social Media to influence patient behavior and incentivise positive behavioral change. As mentioned, within the next year, this data may be used to identify entirely new sub populations. But how many people anticipated the impact of Social Media on healthcare when Facebook first emerged in the early 2000’s?
While these exciting advancements mean big things for healthcare as a whole, healthcare organizations that are just starting to leverage these technologies may be too late to maximize their value. Late adoption of emerging technologies is costly, and are usually the most costly for established industry players that find it difficult to adapt early on. For example, organizations that are already exploring treatments through VR may have established treatment methods by the end of this year, whereas those who are just now starting to explore the technology will barely be setup to start trials by that time.
It’s vital for organizations that want to stay ahead of the curve to enlist the help of an external technology partner that can identify technology trends in their infancy and explore their potential for industry applications. Taking these exploratory efforts to external partners allows organizations to minimize the associated risk while maximizing the benefits of staying ahead of the technology curve and ensuring long-term success.
Productive Edge offers R&DaaS (R&D as a service) for large enterprise healthcare organizations that are looking to stay ahead of the technology curve. Our dedicated team of emerging healthcare technologists is solely focused on identifying emerging technologies and constantly testing their viability for healthcare industry applications. We have successfully enabled Fortune 1000 healthcare organizations to leverage emerging technologies such as Blockchain and AI long before they came on the radar of the industry at large, and we continue to help them identify and leverage disruptive technologies as they emerge.
2017 is going to be a ground-breaking year in healthcare, is your organization ready?
To find out more about any of these trends, or for more information on Productive Edge R&DaaS (R&D as a service), connect with us at 312-561-9000 or Services@ProductiveEdge.com