Here’s What the Future of Healthcare Looks Like

September 6, 2016

11:45 am

There’s no denying that the healthcare industry is limping along. Though access to care is available to more Americans now than ever, it’s also more expensive. As patients struggle to pay higher and higher premiums, providers grapple with compliance issues and ever-changing regulations while trying to deliver to best care possible.

But, thanks to technological advancements and burgeoning innovations, healthcare is about to be resuscitated. Here are some industry trends we can expect to see in the near future.

Remote Health Monitoring

Yes, Virginia, there’s an app for that.

Mobile apps will allow providers to engage, communicate with, and deliver care to more patients than ever before. Providers can monitor chronic diseases through these apps, and patient data will be fed directly into their electronic health record (EHR) system, which will analyze it for health trends.

Here’s an example of how this might look: Let’s say a doctor has a patient who’s a diabetic. For the most part the patient’s glucose levels are always within an acceptable range, and those levels are recorded and stored in the EHR system. One day the glucose test reports an abnormal result. The app sends both the caregiver and patient a text message saying something like, “Let’s connect to figure out what’s going on.”

An Evolving Workforce

Care delivery teams of the future will most likely look much different. This is in large part due to a shift in focus toward population health, prevention and wellness, and more affordable treatment approaches. These shifts will require a team change-up from the traditional doctor and nurse.

Enter smart care teams.

While a physician will still be the quarterback when it comes to treating the very ill, new players, such as nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, exercise physiologists, stop-smoking coaches, social workers, care coordinators, and health coaches will be drafted onto the team, offering their expertise and training patients in self-care and self-management.

Big Data Gets Bigger

The past few years have seen tremendous growth in the amount of usable data being generated in all industries. Data analytics will play a big role in the future of healthcare. Through it, care providers will be able to identify past patterns – as in at-risk populations and early symptoms of disease – as well predict future trends thereby improving outcomes.

The benefits of predictive analytics can’t be overstated. Consider the ability to identify biomarkers of certain conditions, like sepsis. By analyzing data, providers and hospital administrators could predict which patients are the most susceptible for the infection before they step foot into the hospital, and could then monitor them closely.

In future years, big data will allow providers and payers to halt disease progression and unnecessary hospital admissions and ER visits, improving population health management exponentially.

3D Printing

It’s hard to believe, but 3D printing has been around since 1984. In the last 10 years, the technological advancements have allowed these machines to print everything from shoes, to jewelry, to pens and even 3D-printed cars.

But perhaps the most exciting advances of the technology are taking place in medicine.

According to a study by Visiongain, in 2013, there was a $1.2 billion market for 3D printing in healthcare; by 2018, that will increase to over $4 billion. Current growth is coming from an increased use of customized prosthesis and other devices. But the future will see much more ambitious uses for 3D printing.

Bioprinting is the ability to print living tissues. Bio-ink, a blend of living cells, will be used to create human tissue layer by layer. Researchers are already testing the technology to create skin grafts, joint cartilage, and small heart valves.

Of course the ultimate goal, and one scientists believe will come sooner rather than later, is the ability to print entire organs. The ability to print a pancreas or kidney from a person’s own cells could mean reducing lengthy transplant lists and improving the chances of acceptance and recovery. Simply stated, 3D printing has enormous implications in healthcare.

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I cover future trends, startups and entrepreneurs.

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