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Emerging
technology
in healthcare

Author: Megan Williams

Keeping up with emerging technology in healthcare is a complex endeavor.  That's because the industry is in constant flux and typically has a slow technology adoption rate which can be sensitive to multiple factors—including the current pandemic, patient engagement trends, and drastic demographic shifts. 

As the sector is finally allowing itself to be reshaped, industry professionals can benefit from learning about new technology in healthcare including solutions to improve patient access, patient care, and healthcare provider capabilities.  Here is a collection of new technology in healthcare that made the biggest impressions in 2021.

Digital technologies in your home and your hospital room

The way patients engage with and experience their healthcare system is rapidly evolving, as are patients’ expectations for self-service, instantly accessible, personalized experiences.  The patient journey can be mapped by digital entry points, for example, via the web, mobile applications, contact centers, AI chat bots, and other tools.

The concept is borrowed from other industries, such as retail, entertainment and hospitality. The goal is to anticipate the needs of patients, address consumer pain points and provide intuitive, patient-centered experiences whenever possible. This includes online interactions, in-person experiences and interactions with the healthcare revenue cycle.

Major hospital systems including Ascension, Intermountain and Bon Secours have expanded their digital strategies by introducing apps, social media initiatives, search-optimized content and more, leveraged alongside traditional care, to create a more holistic patient experience.

For some providers, this experience extends to wherever patients are, including the hospital room. Smart hospital rooms feature patient-centered comforts, such as in-room entertainment, pillow speakers, access to streaming services, education materials, AI assistants and even interaction with medical records and communications with care teams.

The cloud is changing everything it touches

To help keep pace with innovation, many organizations are expanding their use of the cloud to help them maintain a competitive edge and manage ever-growing amounts of data.  With provider consolidation and regulatory pushes, increased needs for flexibility and collaboration across both teams and physical locations, the cloud helps to support efficiency, improved outcomes and a positive patient experience. Cloud adoption is growing quickly, intersecting with other new technology in healthcare, including AI, machine learning, telemedicine/telehealth and cybersecurity.

AI is becoming the norm

Artificial intelligence (AI) was once considered to be the stuff of science fiction, but these days, it's becoming critical to some of the most common tech initiatives in healthcare.

AI driven, automated solutions like voice-based natural language processing are having a major impact in healthcare organizations to help improve the delivery of care and patient outcomes.  Take natural language processing (NLP) for example. NLP is the ability of machines to contextually understand voice or text data, which allows machines to respond to it.  NLP can help with the improvement of medical record usability (think progress notes,  prescriptions, or patient communications) and it can help to alleviate physician burnout and stress due to data entry and information overload as reported by the American Medical Association.

Additionally, AI-driven solutions are changing the way patients are screened and treated. A recently developed algorithm helps to predict patients’ future risk of developing new atrial fibrillation and stroke.  AI is also being used to help predict demand for hospital and health center services. In an industry that's swimming in unstructured data, AI-driven solutions have emerged as incredibly useful. However, it’s important to keep in mind the potential for bias in applications of AI. There are some well-documented examples of AI introducing or codifying existing bias in healthcare that must be considered in deploying these solutions.

Data management is redefining security

Healthcare has long topped data breach lists, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this trend. A 2021 Identity Breach Report found that the sector saw a 51% increase from 2019 in the volume of records exposed.

With the wealth of patient data circulating, healthcare cybersecurity professionals have had to turn toward data-centric approaches to cybersecurity. This includes a fresh look at data management that prioritizes:

Telehealth and telemedicine have found their stride

Telehealth (and telemedicine) has long been an emerging technology in healthcare, but the COVID pandemic greatly accelerated adoption of virtual care solutions.

Telemedicine is the use of electronic information and telecommunications to support healthcare across distances. It leverages technologies such as video conferencing platforms, streaming media, wearables and remote patient monitoring devices, and wireless communication capabilities. Both telemedicine and telehealth (which includes non-clinical services as well as clinical) are greatly transforming healthcare.  In light of the pandemic, there have been recent shifts in industry which include but are not limited to but include:

  • Changes to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement definitions and physician fee schedules
  • New standards around prescription of controlled substances
It’s still undetermined if these changes will be modified, expanded upon or made permanent.

VoIP is an emerging technology in healthcare again

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and cloud-based phone systems allow for the transmission of voice and multimedia over internet connections and through the cloud. They're also well positioned to address multiple modern healthcare challenges. These include decentralization of care by supporting dependable long-distance communication, reducing costs in patient communications, and enabling provider call centers in complex patient communications.

New technology in healthcare

The potential of new and emerging technology in healthcare is almost limitless.  Take a look at this case study about a healthcare virtual contact center that helped to streamline patient communication, increase productivity and improve the healthcare customer experience.