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The convergence of technology in healthcare is becoming a reality. In the next few years, technologies will completely change the landscape of care. Here are our predictions for the next 5 years of convergent health.

AI and machine learning will change how hospitals make every decision

Often, we think of AI in healthcare terms of how it will impact patients, through device technology or perhaps population health. But more and more, we see hospitals and healthcare facilities using AI tools, not only to track patients but to run their businesses more efficiently.

Forbes predicts that AI for healthcare IT Applications will cross $1.7 billion by 2019. And a significant part of that prediction is for hospital workflows, e.g., HR management, supply stocking, and productivity tracking. In addition, Forbes says to look for AI to influence imaging diagnostics, drug discovery, and risk analytics applications.

Deloitte’s Hospital of the Future report says that AI will help simplify the admission, discharge, and other processes to improve efficiency and patient satisfaction. For example, if a patient’s physician advises admission, instead of the patient registration process, the patient would receive a digital welcome packet. Clinical, financial, and demographic information would be automatically filled out through cloud records. Likewise, non-medical support and discharge workflow could be managed and tailored to a patient’s needs.

HIMSS examination of the top trends of 2019 predicts a broader adoption of AI and machine learning for population health. It notes that the technology will identify patients at risk and deliver personalized (precision) treatments.

The Forbes article also notes that pricing concerns for implementing AI into Hospital IT will force suppliers to provide clear ROI evidence and work to become more cost-effective to sustain the market growth.

Digital therapies will enhance or replace traditional treatments, and further decentralize healthcare

We are already seeing increased use of digital products to compliment health practices, e.g., medication compliance. Experts also see a rise in digital technologies used as alternatives to traditional treatments, such as prevention and management programs for diabetes and other chronic conditions.

Forbes predicts that digital health tech for use outside the hospital will grow by 30% and cross $25 billion before the end of 2019. Tools such as remote patient monitors, telehealth platforms, personal emergency response devices, and other mHealth applications will continue to gain popularity. Provided these innovations support the capture and delivery of clinically relevant data that demonstrate improved health outcomes, they will be encouraged by favorable reimbursement policies.

Patients will start to accept virtual healthcare

Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision 2019 notes that virtual reality or extended reality (XR) systems are increasingly being used in healthcare. The report notes that 38% of healthcare organizations have adopted XR.

Brian Kalis, Accenture’s managing director of digital health writes that extended reality enables machines to behave with natural mannerisms, making the experiences immersive. For example, Cedars-Sinai is using XR for pain management. The system uses XR to help patients cope with pain through breathing techniques and positive thinking. The hospital reported that patients experienced a 24% pain reduction after 10 minutes.

In addition, XR has a significant opportunity to help make telehealth the first line of connection for patients. Steve Burrill, Vice Chairman, US Health Care Leader, Deloitte LLP wrote in an advertorial for Modern Healthcare that virtual health could help patients who might otherwise avoid the doctor until a problem worsens communicate more readily with caregivers.

He noted that despite the possible benefits, only a small percentage (14%) of physicians are using such technology, likely because of a lack of infrastructure and reimbursement. Among insurers, however, as of 2016, 74% of large employer-sponsored health plans had incorporated telehealth into their benefits.

Conclusion

The future of healthcare is closer than we might think. As we near the next decade, the challenges of reducing costs, increasing access to care, and improving outcomes remain. But converging technology is changing the conversation. Digital health, virtual reality, AI, and machine learning are allowing designers and developers to dream of a new healthcare experience. Healthcare that meets patients where they are, that unlocks data to provide health at a personal level on a universal scale. That’s a future worth encouraging

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