Jan 19 2017

7 Healthcare Technology Trends to Watch in 2017

While text messaging proves it has staying power in healthcare, newer technologies and security trends make waves in the industry.

Now that a digital healthcare environment is the new normal, a plethora of technologies — both familiar and groundbreaking — continue to change the landscape.

From the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) to telemedicine and virtual reality (VR), healthcare technologies open the door to new possibilities for keeping people healthier, streamlining clinical communication and improving the quality and efficiency of care.

Here are seven trends to keep your eye on in 2017 and beyond.

1. Virtual Reality Delivers Real Benefits

Hospitals have high hopes for VR tools, which are proving highly effective in controlling pre- and post-surgery patient anxiety, helping veterans overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and controlling pain for numerous medical conditions. In fact, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center researchers found that playing VR games lowered acute pain levels nearly as effectively as narcotics, the MIT Technology Review reports.

VR is also revolutionizing medical education and clinician training. VR holograms help teach medical students anatomy, pharmacology and surgery. VR instructional software is used to provide training for CPR, nasal gastric tube insertion and wound care. The retention rate is impressive: 80 percent after one year, far superior to traditional training’s 20 percent retention rate after one week.

2. Healthy Prospects for Healthcare IoT

The healthcare industry is wasting no time jumping on the IoT bandwagon. A Strategy Analytics survey found that healthcare providers ranked among the earliest adopters of IoT infrastructure and apps across 45 verticals, using IoT strategies to tackle pressing issues such as patient engagement, chronic disease management and patient safety. IoT devices and sensors hold promise for monitoring Alzheimer’s, dementia, cardiac and chronic disease patients as well as predicting epileptic seizures and contributing to medical research. Other anticipated IoT benefits that can both improve patient care and bend the cost curve include:

  • Improved communication between patients and their care teams
  • Expedited response time in medical emergencies
  • Greater patient satisfaction
  • Shortened hospital stays and fewer readmissions
  • Proactive patient monitoring through smart beds

3. Sky-High Potential for the Cloud

Despite some lingering concerns about security, healthcare organizations are finally embracing the cloud en masse. As providers move to data-driven value-based care models, they face greater pressure to reduce costs and recognize that IT is not their core business. Increasingly, they’re migrating applications, storage, disaster recovery and other infrastructure components to public and private clouds.

Wider adoption of cloud computing creates valuable opportunity for deeper patient engagement by simplifying data sharing and providing easier, more flexible access to health data. In addition, the cloud plays an essential role in other initiatives to improve outcomes and the quality of patient care, such as population health, precision medicine, mobile health and interoperability.

4. The High Cost of Ransomware

Ransomware is on the rise, and healthcare is paying the price. Several hospitals have been victimized in recent months. The Los Angeles Times reports that Los Angeles-based Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center paid $17,000 in bitcoin after hackers disabled its IT systems in 2016. Another attack target, MedStar Health System in Maryland, was able to regain access to its electronic health records (EHR) without paying the ransom.

Although security experts generally recommend against paying ransom, nearly half of the hospitals surveyed by Health IT News and HIMSS Analytics indicated they were unsure about whether they would pay or not. Deciding factors include the scope of the attack, how quickly it is detected, how fast a business continuity plan could go into effect and how recently the last data backup occurred.

5. Population Health and Big Data

To thrive under the new value-based reimbursements model, providers need to seriously ramp up their population health programs. PwC’s “Population Health: Scaling Up” report points out that although most efforts to date have been promising, their scope has been limited.

Innovative tools and best practices that can help healthcare organizations take population health to the next level include:

  • Medical algorithms that help diagnose, manage chronic disease, identify readmission risks, and predict and alert clinicians to deterioration in patients sooner

  • Geographic information systems (GIS) software that assesses risk based on geography and the populations that live there

  • Interoperability that supports communication, collaboration and ability to access comprehensive patient records

6. Long-Term Advantages for Long-Term Care

As telemedicine becomes mainstream across the continuum of care, a growing number of long-term care (LTC) providers are beginning to see the benefits. For starters, it can improve access to services. LTC providers often find it challenging to reliably access physicians, particularly specialists. This is especially true in rural or underserved areas. Telemedicine offers a cost-effective way to provide timely access to geri-psychiatry, dermatology and other specialized services that can significantly improve the quality of care for LTC residents.

7. The Ups and Downs of Secure Messaging

Clearly, text messaging is here to stay. According to a study in Telemedicine and e-Health, 60 percent of physicians sent work-related messages while at work, more than half texted about work-related matters while off duty and nearly one-third have received protected health information in a text.

Research from Imprivata increases the appeal of texting, indicating that hospitals could save $1 million each per year by using texting to support patient admissions, emergency response team coordination and patient transfers. A study by the Perelman School of Medicine found that communicating through secure text messaging reduced the length of hospital stays by 14 percent.

Dive Deeper

Check out CDW's Health Tech Report Summer 2016 to learn more about:

  • Disaster recovery and backup tips
  • Increasing cloud adoption in the industry
  • Why cybersecurity is not keeping pace with attacks

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