The healthcare industry is in the midst of a colossal shift, driven by the growth of new digital health technologies that are transforming the way doctors deliver and patients access healthcare services. While the end goal is to create an optimized healthcare system, the real shift is in the data – the amount of new data, new data sources, new methods for collecting data, new technology for analyzing data, and new opportunities for using data – that can be used to drive new processes, patient analytics and treatments, population health programs, and more.
There may no better time for this evolution to be happening, considering the growing gap between the demand for healthcare services and the industry’s ability to deliver it on a consistent basis. The system is caught between an increase in patients and chronic disease cases, increasing costs and system-wide waste, and a shortage of healthcare professionals.
As is happening in many other industries, there is an expectation that technology can help solve the current healthcare dilemma. In a data-driven world, where more data should equate to better and more consistent results, it may be possible if telehealth, remote patient monitoring, and other connected health services become the norm.
The technology available and is growing, with telehealth use, for instance increasing by 53% in 2017. Perhaps more importantly, physicians see value in the data from a variety of sources, including wearable devices (83%), self-reported data (80%), genetic testing reports (65%), and even online sites like WebMD and peer-to-peer health sites to a degree. This is hardly surprising, considering nearly half of physicians and medical students, themselves, use health monitoring wearable devices, and most of them use the data when making decisions about their own healthcare.
In addition to the value of the data, automation and AI can play a major role in connected health programs. Altogether, 46 algorithms have already been approved for use by the FDA through the middle of 2019, already providing doctors with increased accuracy and efficiency in treating patients suffering from a variety of conditions. It’s believed that even today, in the early stages of connected health, automation can reduce the manual workload for physicians by 25% or more. This can create more time for treating patients, help physicians be more productive during their office hours, allow them to conduct telehealth consultations from remote locations, and allow them to have a better work-life balance.
But, while the technology is ready, there remains a gap between its value and adoption-readiness. With the exception of EHRs, physicians and students/residents alike feel unprepared for connected health in practice due to lack of appropriate education. Less than 20% of professionals say their education has been very helpful in preparing them for innovative healthcare technologies.
Still, medical school applications have increased over the past decade, along with the number of graduates, so the path to a more efficient and effective healthcare system is clear. Doctors and students alike believe in the technologies behind connected health, and say the most impactful innovations over the next five years will be:
- Personalized medicine
- Artificial intelligence
- Wearable monitoring devices
Doctors – both current and future – believe in digital healthcare. The problem is they may not all be ready to use it. Still, because of the value proposition, and the deficiencies in the current system, adoption can continue to grow, especially if the connected health solutions are easy to use and providers include proper education in their implementation protocols.
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