The year 2020 saw a rapid acceleration in the development and uptake of new healthcare technologies, largely due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Nascent technologies, such as telehealth solutions and AI chatbots, quickly became essential as the world united in its fight against coronavirus.
As the pandemic continues to unfold, will we see a surge in digital health technologies through 2021? Innovation in digital health will be key to resolving the pandemic and supporting economic recovery and growth. Here, we consider some of the trends in healthcare technology and compliance that can be expected in 2021.
Accelerated Cloud Adoption Driven by the Need for Compliance and Telehealth
Cloud adoption within the healthcare industry has traditionally remained notoriously slow, due to concerns regarding data security and regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA and HITECH. Today, it is regulatory compliance that is driving the growth curve.
The COVID-19 pandemic has served to drive forward cloud adoption in order to address the changing needs of the healthcare sector. In 2021, we can expect more healthcare organizations to utilize the benefits of cloud-based infrastructure, to support remote consultations, improve collaboration, increase security and provide the scalability required for data storage.
Telehealth has played an essential role in ensuring that patients remain able to access vital healthcare services during the pandemic. Indeed, 43.5% of Medicare primary care visits were delivered via telehealth services in April 2020.
Telehealth solutions have allowed physicians to continue to offer primary care to patients while abiding with the necessary social distancing guidelines. Virtual consultations lessen the strain placed on healthcare services by limiting the use of valuable time and resources, including PPE, which has remained in short supply throughout the pandemic.
With high patient adoption rates, this telehealth boom looks set to continue long after the pandemic has ended.
5G, Geonomics and 3D Printing
These three technologies will surge in popularity in 2021, as 5G networks are already expanding across the globe at a rapid pace, and coverage will populate all cities and major towns quickly. The added network performance introduced with 5G will benefit telehealth significantly, improve teleconferencing capabilities, and give doctors greater flexibility with remote surgery, transferring medical files, and real-time monitoring of patients.
Genomic medicine will thrive in 2021, and advances will include using genomics to personalize care for diagnosis or decision making. 3D printing (bioprinting) advances will push genomics further to creating human cells and tissue for use in regenerative medicine.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Powered Healthcare
The potential for AI/Machine Learning in healthcare is endless. AI has certainly proven valuable so far during the fight against coronavirus, powering scientific research, managing hospital bed capacities, triaging COVID-19 patients, and easing the burden of administrative duties via the use of AI-powered digital workers. AI solutions help to reduce costs, increase productivity, and, most importantly, improve patient outcomes.
In 2021, we can expect to see many more AI-powered solutions being deployed within the healthcare sector. With technological advancements, we will see a move to a personalized medicine model, steering away from the traditional “one size fits all” approach.
AI tools will enable physicians to select the appropriate treatment strategy for their patient, based on the analysis of unique information that may include biometrics, such as genetic data. As we move towards identifying many potential COVID-19 therapies and vaccines, AI tools can also help to speed up and cut the costs of the vital drug discovery process.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies are helping to transform healthcare services. When used alongside telehealth solutions, VR/AR can enhance patient-physician interaction, improving diagnosis and treatment planning.
VR and AR technology also presents an invaluable tool for the education and surgical training of medical students. VR and AR tools show promise in improving visualization when gaining intravenous access or conducting spinal surgery and for helping patients with certain chronic conditions, for example, improving motor deficiencies in victims of stroke.
As the technology advances throughout 2021, we can expect to see progress in the use of VR/AR for these applications.
Increasing numbers of healthcare organizations are adopting blockchain technology to improve the security of data and enable secure interoperability and accessibility. The implementation of blockchain technologies is set to optimize the healthcare industry.
Replacing the conventional pharma supply chain management system with blockchain technology would help to overcome the issues surrounding counterfeit products, improving drug traceability and authenticity.
As we move towards building a more resilient healthcare system, the swift implementation of transformative technologies, such as blockchain, will become vital.
Internet of Medical Things (IoTM)
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) refers to a system of connected medical applications and devices that serves to collect individual patient health and fitness data. By 2026, the IoMT market is predicted to be worth USD 254,233.6 million .
While the adoption of wearable devices is soaring, IoMT will not be limited to such tools with the implementation of this technology for new applications set to occur throughout the coming year. Driven by advances in 5G technology, network coverage, and patient acceptance, we expect an upsurge in IoMT.
As the precision of device sensors improve, an increasing number of chronic conditions will be able to be effectively managed using IoMT. IoMT will enable remote patient monitoring to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of telehealth solutions, as well as providing a welcome boost to patient engagement.
Big Data and Predictive Analytics
Leveraging the power of big data and predictive analytics to predict pandemics/epidemics, improve patient outcomes, and cure chronic disease has become more important than ever before.
The scale and quality of data available is growing as fast as the deployment of new technologies, and we must keep pace to ensure that we are using the right tools to obtain calculative and meaningful insights from this information.
Throughout 2021, all eyes will be watching keenly to see how advances in big data are used to gain real-time control of coronavirus and help in our fight against the current epidemiological crisis we find ourselves in.
Post-Pandemic Focus on Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity was already incredibly important before the Covid-19 pandemic, but with remote working becoming commonplace and telehealth appointments increasing, cybersecurity must become the backbone of any healthcare in technology.
It has been essential for healthcare providers to carefully consider security and compliance requirements throughout 2020. While certain HIPAA compliance regulations were relaxed and waivers introduced during the pandemic, healthcare providers must still ensure that their services remain fully compliant wherever possible.
Some telehealth solutions are not fully HIPAA compliant and, as telemedicine becomes the norm, this is an issue that needs to be addressed in 2021.
Atlantic.Net Healthcare Hosting Solutions
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