Digital technology and innovation are helping healthcare organizations provide higher-level service for patients, with better diagnoses and care. This ongoing transformation of healthcare is also greatly shifting how doctors, nurses, patients and families are getting and communicating healthcare information.
These are five of the biggest healthcare trends reverberating through the industry now.
1. Responsive web design.
Responsiveness is seldom what hospitals and other health organizations are recognized for. However, that’s changing as these entities come online. According to PEW Research, 72 percent of U.S. internet users acquired health-related information online last year. As the number of mobile users skyrockets, using Responsive Web Design (RWD) is crucial. RWD can automatically adapt to all different phones and devices for easy navigation, making a huge impact on how information is viewed and engaged.
The Children’s National Health System has found success with RWD. In 2014 nearly half of their website visits came from mobile devices. Their RWD includes interactive floor plans, personalization, social media integration and engaging content. This upgrade has paid huge dividends in page views (up 15 percent), session duration (up 161.45 percent) and donations (54 percent). John Berndt, CEO of the organization’s digital agency, TBG, says “[The] site is truly a model for patient-focused high content medical websites."
Telemedicine is the future of healthcare everyone saw coming. Telemedicine gives patients and specialists remote access to each other from hospitals or even after they’ve left care.
One of the better examples of this technology is The ACT. It’s consists of a pendant and small electrodes a patient receives via mail and attaches themselves. The system monitors the heart automatically, transmitting information to a center using WiFi. Healthcare professionals get updates if anything unusual comes up and can contact the patient immediately.
The lack of rural health professionals has also lead to virtual partnerships between rural and urban healthcare sites. Doctors can virtually hear heartbeats, look into throats or ears and decide if they need to make the long trip to the urban centers. The Southern Illinois Telemedicine Initiative is taking advantage of this technology. With the initiative, patients arrive at a rural hospital with stroke symptoms and have instant access to a neuroscience specialty center that would be hours away from their homes. It also allows for one healthcare professional to simultaneously monitor the vitals of many patients, which decreases costs.
HIPAA has long been a pertinent topic but as health data continues to be leaked, HIPAA compliance remains at the forefront. In 2009, under the HITECH Act, personal information became much more serious as breaches could cost organizations up to $1 million in fines. In fact, healthcare organizations are taking more action to be HIPAA compliant than two years ago, according to a 2016 HIPAA Survey Update.
Working towards compliance is now more prevalent with the use of healthcare apps that collect information. It's a bit concerning that only 31 percent of healthcare organizations use encryption extensively, 49 percent use it sometimes, and 20 percent don’t use encryption at all. As Hoala Greevy, CEO of HIPAA-compliant email provider, Paubox explains, “Encryption is tough for many organizations to implement because it usually requires extra steps for users, and any time you add steps you slow down adoption.”
Compliance has become such an issue that the FTC has created a tool for healthcare app developers to check if they’re compliant. Companies such as TigerText are also joining in with tools that keep messaging more secure than ever.
Brands including FitBit and Jawbone have pioneered the wearable industry, but it quickly moved beyond fitness to health tracking. I’ve recently noticed advertisements for Spire, which monitors your breath through a wearable on your waist. It can see when your breath is erratic, and the accompanying app guides you through breathing exercises that calm you during tense periods of the work day.
Wearable technology is now in many forms such as headbands, shoes, patches and glasses, with the capability of detecting brain injury and measuring blood oxygen levels. Corporations, including giants Apple and Google, are working to get market share while navigating complex regulations and approvals from insurance provider.
As Telemedicine continues to grow, the need and use of wearables is skyrocketing. However, issues with consumer confidence and accuracy remain. According to a new report, shipments for healthcare wearables will rise from 2.5 million this year to 97.6 million units annually by 2021, accounting for almost $18 billion in revenue.
5. Social media.
As many industries have done, healthcare is moving towards social media, creating pages and humanizing content. Already 31 percent of health professionals are using social media for networking and even more patients are using it for medical advice, especially millennials. Social media is much more efficient at connecting and sharing information compared to the legacy systems in place. "I'm always looking at tools to help me amplify my brain and be in more places and moments in time," Chuck Webster, MD, explained to Healthcare IT News. He uses applications such as Hootsuite and TweetDeck to manage his consistent social media presence.
New social media platforms are in development aiming to fill the void. Prepared Health is creating a new platform that allows patients, caregivers and families to follow along with someone’s healthcare. The platform streamlines communications and creates a more enjoyable way to get reports, updates and photos similar to Facebook. This technology is encrypted and HIPAA compliant. The ease of sharing through social media will continue to accelerate how the healthcare field adopts new platforms for information sharing.
Overall, digital and technological trends continue to take the healthcare industry by storm. As technology improves, these care and service changes will go from being what’s new to the everyday standards of healthcare.