Digital transformation is more than a mythical buzzword these days. Technological improvements have disrupted many industries, and innovation has transformed the way businesses execute their processes. The number of advances healthcare has made in recent years is mind-boggling, but they’re just getting started.

Healthcare innovation has always centered around improving patient outcomes, increasing preventive healthcare, and reducing physician workloads. A study by Grand View Research projects the American digital healthcare market, currently valued at $110.2 billion, to earn $295.4 billion in 2028. 

Here are four key trends that will drive the way forward as digital transformation changes the way we look at healthcare.

AI and Predictive Healthcare

Data collection has been a pivotal element in healthcare for a long time. Patient medical histories and treatment information are now being used to transform the way hospitals and clinics prescribe treatment. 

Identifying and prescribing preventive plans has helped hospitals reduce loads on emergency rooms and clinics. Big data analysis has also helped hospitals predict the number of admissions they can expect during different seasons of the year and staff them appropriately. 

As big data collection has grown, companies have begun investing in AI-enhanced solutions that have been trained on historical datasets. The public has already been exposed to robots such as Moxi, which is designed to assist nurses with routine tasks.

AI-powered chatbots are increasingly finding their way into customer service and even therapeutic roles. However, AI’s power can be fully unleashed in the field of medical research. Precision medicine, genomics, medical imaging, and drug discovery will benefit from AI algorithms’ ability to quickly process large data sets and discover hidden patterns in them.

Big pharmaceutical companies already use AI to shorten the drug development cycle and have found that discovery timelines have been reduced by four years on average. To fully embrace AI’s potential, healthcare companies need to invest in making AI more friendly to humans.

As industry thought leader Koen Kas says, “The future of healthcare is not so much about adoption of technology, it is about changing behavior. And doing that in an invisible, delightful fashion, by surprise and reward, in the background.”

On-Demand Healthcare

More than half of all internet traffic is from mobile phones today, as they’re used to communicate, research, transact and carry out daily tasks. Add to this fact that more than 4 billion people worldwide have access to the internet, and it’s easy to see how healthcare can be provided at a patient’s convenience.

People use online information hubs primarily to research doctors and medical facilities, but they don’t use them to schedule appointments. The healthcare booking process is an anomaly compared to the progress achieved in the rest of the sector.

Patients still dial into clinics and have operators book them into slots manually. Research conducted by scheduling solutions provider Deputy reveals that young adults are more likely to book appointments by calling instead of via apps or online channels. The lack of usability inherent to online channels is the major reason for this. 

Aside from making online channels more usable, healthcare has also witnessed the rise of the freelance medical professional. Companies such as Nomad Health link doctors and professionals with medical centers that need their skills.

As a result, hospitals can now accommodate a wider range of treatments, even if they don’t have staff on-site with the necessary skills. This prevents the need for patients to travel to specialty hospitals and instead receive treatment at their preferred venues.

Wearable Health Devices

Wearable medical devices are a fast-growing market. Some estimates expect the market to reach $195.57 billion in size by 2027. The appeal of wearables lies in their ability to inform preventive healthcare procedures.

Fitbit, perhaps the most popular wearable biometric collection device on the market, revealed how wearables could play a role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The company found that its devices can detect about half of all COVID-19 cases one day before participants report the onset of symptoms. 

“If we can let people know they should get tested a day before symptoms begin,” wrote Fitbit Director of Research Conor Heneghan about the implications of these findings, “they can isolate and seek care sooner, helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

As the adoption of wearables grows, companies are discovering new ways of personalizing the healthcare experience. From empowering individuals to take better care of themselves, to providing insurance incentives, the ceiling is very high when it comes to healthcare wearables.

The US healthcare system will receive the greatest benefit. Approximately 90% of the $3.5 trillion spent annually goes towards treating chronic and mental conditions that can be better managed via preventive healthcare programs. Wearables are the key to deploying more effective preventive healthcare programs, and they’re just getting started.

Decentralized Databases for Record Storage

As the amount of data gathered by companies grows, security is increasingly becoming a necessity. Cybercrime is increasing across the globe, and this trend is particularly alarming for healthcare due to the sensitive nature of medical records and data.

A persistent problem healthcare professionals have faced is the existence of fragmented medical records. People receive treatment from different doctors for different diseases at various points in their lives, and any of their prior treatments can cause adverse reactions in the present.

The lack of a centralized database that records every person’s medical history is both a risk and an impediment. It creates a single point of failure, but it also increases the chances of an inappropriate treatment being prescribed. 

The blockchain is an elegant solution to this problem. Thanks to its nature, a blockchain network is close to impossible to hack. The network can also detect conflicting information and alert administrators automatically. 

Australia and the UK have begun experimenting with migrating patient records to the blockchain and handling data transfers between providers.

In the United States, patient privacy is a hurdle, but there is an increasing number of startups that are bringing app-based security to these records. It’s no wonder that the blockchain for the healthcare market is expected to reach $5.5 million by 2027.

Digital Transformation = Instant Healthcare Access

All of these trends ensure that shortly, people will have the power to address all aspects of their health within the palms of their hands. The rise of preventive healthcare also promises to relieve the burden hospitals and healthcare providers currently experience. 

With data increasingly being analyzed and transformed to actionable advice, the world is set to become a healthier place. 

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