Being a healthcare provider in the 21st century isn’t easy. In fact, if anything, it can be very stressful, judging by the burnout rates in the industry. Nearly 8 out of 10 physicians claiming to be burned out say the feeling began before the pandemic, but 21% started feeling the effects during the past year. During the same period, physician satisfaction rates dipped, as fewer than half say they are satisfied with their jobs.
A number of factors may be playing into the challenges physicians face, including an increasing rate of chronic disease, shortage of medical professionals, burdensome administrative tasks, cost of treatment, and a rising life expectancy (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic). These can all add to physicians’ workload.
At the same time, technology is becoming an increasingly critical part of healthcare delivery. Digital healthcare solutions helped many healthcare providers continue treating patients throughout the pandemic, and certainly enabled many pandemic healthcare services. But, while the past year provided some momentum, the real test is in what happens as conditions continue to return to normal. There are several technology trends that can continue driving connected health and pave the way for the connected, digital physician.
Even before the pandemic, physicians’ use of connected health tools was increasing, with virtual visits and remote patient monitoring among the fastest growing services. The proliferation of mobile devices is certainly a benefit, as it creates familiarity with the digital applications that support connected health.
So, what are the top technology trends that are driving connected health leading to digital physicians?
Big Data in Healthcare
The healthcare industry on its own collects massive amounts of data about patients and conditions. The increased use of connected health devices only adds more data available to healthcare providers, researchers, pharmaceuticals, governments, insurance providers, and others. Adding other data sources, like social media, socioeconomic, employment, and other demographic information, adds yet another layer of data. Leveraging analytics and artificial intelligence, this data can be a resource for the healthcare industry and provide several benefits, including:
- Reducing medical errors
- Enhancing preventative care
- Enabling more efficient staffing
- Increasing speed and accuracy of medical diagnoses
The Internet of Healthcare Things
The healthcare IoT market is projected to more than double to $188 billion by 2025, paving the way for more devices, applications and services that, which can help reduce the burden on physicians and staff. While providers are using a number of remote patient monitoring sensors, fewer than 15% of physicians using RPM tools say patient data is fed directly into their patient portals or EHRs. As 5G connectivity continues to increase, it will enable better and more connectivity for wearable healthcare devices that can deliver more data to providers without requiring additional effort from patients or medical staff.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
While virtual reality and augmented reality apps may make for a fun gaming experience, in healthcare, they have a much more significant opportunity to transform patient care. VR applications are being developed for a variety of applications, such as: pain management, mental health treatment, physician training, surgical preparation and support, patient rehab, emergency services support, and more.
As they do with other brands they buy from, patients are increasingly looking for easy scheduling, minimal wait times, and self-service options. Connected health services can allow patients to more conveniently schedule appointments on their own, and even have easy access to telehealth visits for immediate care, which can also enable greater flexibility for physicians, who may be able to work some shifts from home offices on telehealth shifts. In addition, access to their own records, chatbots, and other information sources can allow patients to find answers on their own, increasing their satisfaction levels, making them more engaged in their health and wellness, and reducing the burden on providers.
Over the past year, connected health took center stage as providers everywhere had to adapt rapidly to a global pandemic. By and large, it was a successful test for connected health but, while patients and doctors are largely in favor of using it in the future, the momentum needs to be sustained. The good news is both older and younger patient populations are driving continued use, and emerging technology trends will continue to make new digital health applications possible, driving a new era of healthcare dominated by the digital physician.
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