What Healthcare Will Look like in 10 Years
Over the last ten years, technological advances have changed the healthcare industry drastically. Online access to a never-ending stream of medical advice has led to an increase in self-diagnosis (perhaps as well as hypochondriasis).
Other advances include the use of digital tablets to aid in patient engagement, radio frequency identification (RFID) for tracking patients, and Electronic Health Records (EHR) that reduce medical errors while increasing quality of care.
All of these advances have springboarded the healthcare industry into a new realm of progress. However, when taking a peek at the next ten years, the development of even more advanced technological tools will continue to shift the day-to-day responsibilities of those working in the industry.
Telehealth: A Fast-Expanding Healthcare Sector
Virtual medical, health, and education services have been available for quite some time but the practice is used now more than ever. The healthcare industry has recently seen a drastic increase in demand for remote/telehealth providers.
Telehealth1 encompasses four distinct domains of application:
Real-time, two-way interaction between patient and provider.
Transmission of recorded health history for evaluations by a specialist.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM)
Data collected from a patient in one location and then transmitted to a provider located elsewhere.
Mobile Health (mHealth)
Public health practice and education supported by mobile communication devices such as cell phones and personal tablets.
The support of long-distance education and diagnoses is due to high cost savings, convenience, and demand.
Service Robots: The Answer to Personnel Shortages?
An emerging field, robotics will greatly impact how patient care is practiced. Due to workforce shortages, service robots2 are being developed for use as caregivers in Japan and may increase their use around the world, especially for elderly patients. Tasks performed include washing and transporting patients, delivering medications, and offering therapeutic responses.
Not necessarily robotic, but Smart beds3 are making their way into hospital wards. These beds are outfitted with the ability to measure basic vitals such as weight and temperature. They can also automatically change head and neck elevation as needed and assist with patient positioning. Another feature prevents falls via mattress sensor. The same technology also creates reports of patient movement which doctors can use to investigate informative patterns.
Healthcare Informatics: Analyzing and Integrating Knowledge
“I don’t know what is the matter with this patient, but I am trying to be very observing and find out things for myself, for knowledge so acquired is never forgotten.”
–Extract from a Probationer’s Diary, Orange Training School for Nurses, 1884
Observing, analyzing, and integrating knowledge into practice has always been forethought for healthcare professionals. In the future though, all of this knowledge will be supported and moved forward by big data.
The ability to identify, define, manage, and communicate data is at the foundation of health science. With the introduction of information structures, processes, and technology, big data will make it possible to benchmark and improve quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness.
Many of those working in the healthcare industry will be expected to decipher the large quantities of collected data and use it for the well-being of their patients as well as for making informed decisions on how to more effectively run their department or clinic.
Genomics: A New Skill Set
Genetic testing is already being to determine the existence or likelihood of developing a variety of inherited conditions, but in the next ten years we will see how the applications of genetics and genomics will transform the healthcare system even further. As it applies to healthcare, there is reason to believe that the genomically competent medical assistant will be in very high demand.
Those working in some healthcare positions will need to “obtain comprehensive family histories, identify family members at risk for developing a genomic-influenced condition and for genomic-influenced drug reactions, help people make informed decisions about and understand the results of their genetic/genomic tests and therapies, and refer at-risk people to appropriate healthcare professionals and agencies for specialized care.”4
The way work is accomplished may alter and evolve, but there is never a shortage of need. Personal attention in healthcare is always in demand and always welcome from patients everywhere.