In recent years, the proliferation of new technology in healthcare has been exponential and this trend is expected to continue in 2018. However, this doesn’t mean that healthcare IT trends will be limited to wellness and fitness apps.
Last year, digital health initiatives attracted over $4.7 billion in investment, so you can expect significant digital transformation across the industry going forward.
So what healthcare IT trends and challenges can we expect to see in 2018? Let’s take a look.
1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare Will Be Prominent
The most obvious agent of change in healthcare will be AI. This year, you can expect to see this technology move from away from pilot programs and start making a real impact on healthcare organizations.
The most common use cases of AI in healthcare so far have come in the form of robotic process automation and natural language processing. But this year AI-driven assistants like Watson for Oncology and Babylon are expected to play a more significant role in patient diagnosis.
This means that AI and algorithm-driven diagnostics will process in-depth healthcare data in real-time to support doctors by helping them make more accurate diagnoses.
The use of virtual, proactive care will also grow in healthcare settings to become more patient-centric and enabled by predictive algorithms to alert providers prior to a change in health status.
However, going forward, there will need to be some trade-offs between privacy, transparency in diagnosis, and improved outcomes as there will be significant regulatory challenges to overcome.
2. Blockchain to Secure Critical Data
For AI to make a real impact on healthcare it will need to be supported by blockchain technology. This is because the decentralized ledger will enable the analysis of data sets which aren’t analyzed at present because of privacy and regulatory concerns.
At the moment, the way electronic medical records (EHRs) are stored is also disconnected and lacks interoperability. Blockchain can help overcome this challenge by hashing the data onto the blockchain to keep it secure, scalable, and tamper-proof.
It’s almost impossible to manipulate records on the blockchain and it will only be accessible to those with the right credentials. It can also empower patients to maintain full access and control to their own data and only share this information with healthcare providers they want to share it with.
This will enable insurance companies, hospitals, clinics, and labs to connect in real-time and securely share data seamlessly and instantly. As the data stored on the blockchain is only shared with pre-approved individuals or entities, patients can be sure that their private information is being used properly with complete accuracy, transparency, and trust.
However, for this to become a reality, institutions will have to overcome the challenge of securely transferring EHRs to the blockchain.
3. Telehealth Will Finally Take Off
For years we have been expecting telehealth to play a role in healthcare, but to date, it just hasn’t happened. However, in 2018, telehealth is expected to grow significantly to impact almost all facets of healthcare.
This means that more doctors will be able to attend to more patients quickly and efficiently regardless of their physical location. As adoption increases around the country, it’s also expected to drive stronger EHR integration.
For both healthcare professionals and patients, telemedicine will offer better access and greater convenience. This year, telemedicine will also be promoted by enterprises across industries to access cost savings.
For those located in rural areas, this will be a game-changing initiative that will provide them with seamless access to high-quality care.
4. Security Will Continue to Dominate Healthcare
Last year’s WannaCry malware attack brought many corporations and the National Health Service (in the United Kingdom) down to its knees. This year, healthcare providers will strive to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself.
According to the federal government, we saw a 525% increase in medical device vulnerabilities in 2017. This is a significant concern that is also compounded by the rise of bring-your-own-device initiatives and the internet-of-medical-things.
With so many endpoints connected to the network, maintaining security and compliance can become a huge challenge for in-house IT teams. This is because they’ll have to not only monitor the network in real-time but also engage in extensive penetration testing to maintain compliance.
While blockchain and AI can help enhance security, healthcare providers will need to strategize and develop a robust plan that helps them make a successful transition.
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