The best way for healthcare providers to improve their bottom line is to continuously examine future trends, especially when it comes to technology. Just like medical training needs the occasional refresher to remain valid, physicians and administrators need to sharpen their knowledge about the technology and equipment shaping the medical industry.
This article highlights some of the most important healthcare trends to keep an eye on in 2023.
1. Virtual Medicine and Insurance
The global pandemic accelerated the telehealth trend considerably, and demand hasn’t dissipated. Telehealth can reduce costs for both providers and patients, provide greater access to treatment (especially for sufferers of chronic diseases) and improve the working conditions for physicians and support staff by giving them greater flexibility. According to Healthcare Drive, telehealth could become a $106 billion industry in 2023, up from just $29 billion in 2020.
As telehealth and virtual consultations become more commonplace, insurance companies are far more likely to cover virtual consultations. Several insurance companies are already incentivizing virtual first consultations in order to reduce the cost of claims. Telehealth consultations are, on average, $130 cheaper than in-person care and $2000 cheaper than a visit to the ER, which appeals to both payers and patients alike.
2. Greater Regulatory Approval for At-Home Testing Platforms and Products
The next trend on the list is closely tied to the first. During the pandemic, the demand for at-home rapid test kits soared. Patients (and physicians) have become more accepting of at-home test kits and health monitoring platforms. The FDA is already exploring the approval of several mobile apps, wearables, and AI-driven platforms and developing more rigorous frameworks for clinical validation and management.
3. The Blockchain
Cryptocurrencies may have had a bad year, but the use of the blockchain isn’t limited to cryptocurrency. Some believe that the blockchain and its ability to decentralize data storage can revolutionize the healthcare industry. The blockchain could unlock several advantages, including the secure maintenance of patients’ digital health records, secure online consultations, and other benefits.
4. Remote Monitoring and Wearables
The ability to monitor patients remotely can improve patient outcomes and reduce costs considerably. It’s far easier to place a heart monitor on a patient than to keep them in an expensive and stressful hospital environment for several days, for example. Physicians will be able to view the vital statistics of their patients at a glance from the convenience of their office. Elderly patients that are unwilling or unable to travel will benefit from the convenience of at-home monitoring. There’s another benefit to this approach as well. When patients are active participants in their own treatment and monitoring, they are far more likely to stick to recommended treatment regimes.
As implant and mobile monitoring devices become cheaper and more accessible to the masses, a world of possibilities is opening up whereby both patients and physicians can observe their health from a distance. Apple, Huawei, Xiaomi, and other smartphone manufacturers have all introduced smartwatches and mobile apps that can be used to monitor and update daily health records and diagnose trends in real time.
5. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence has become commonplace in the business world, with AI assistants answering customer service questions, making recommendations, or simplifying and automating complex manual tasks. While the healthcare industry has been slow in its adoption of AI, its applications are limitless. AI can speed up medical billing and revenue collection. It can also analyze huge volumes of unstructured patient data to make diagnoses, share relevant clinical data for research purposes, and spot concerning trends, e.g., the outbreak of an infectious disease in a specific geographic area.
AI can automate many of the time-consuming administrative tasks in a medical office, including preauthorizing insurance and keeping patient records in order. AI can analyze the huge volume of information generated by wearables to spot areas of concern in a way that no human being could. For example, Bluetooth-operated cardiac pacemakers and patented monitoring algorithms can analyze patients’ data and provide timely feedback to physicians before a crisis event occurs.
This is closely tied to another trend: the use of Big Data in healthcare. Big data has changed the way we use information gathered in healthcare facilities around the globe. Healthcare records and treatment plans can be collated, analyzed, and ultimately used to improve the health of the community. Advanced data mining and analysis techniques can help identify and cure rare diseases at a rate never experienced before.
6. Innovation Overlap
Medical innovation may come from strange and unexpected sources. Multiple industries, including the gaming industry and wearable platforms, are sharing their knowledge and working together to improve digital health. Consider the remarkable ways smartphone technology has improved. Dark mode, panoramic image capture, and enhanced video capabilities found in the average smartphone are enabling digital health tests that were unprecedented a few short years ago. Image analysis that can interpret and capture results using nothing more than a phone’s native camera can provide a lifeline to rural communities without access to specialist consultants.
7. The Use of Online Portals to Improve Engagement
Patients are accustomed to using smartphones, laptops, and tablets to interact with their customers, coworkers, and schools – and healthcare is no different. More patients will take advantage of patient portals connected to their doctor’s EHR system in 2023. Using these systems, patients can log in to the system and request appointments or prescription reauthorization or simply leave a message for the doctor. This is more convenient for both patients and staff, can reduce congestion in waiting rooms, and provide a less stressful and more pleasant patient experience. Medical facilities can also use the information gathered in these portals to create effective CRM systems to stay in touch with their patients and keep their business top-of-mind.
8. Digital Platforms and Preventative Care
A few decades ago, healthcare revolved around treating sickness, not preventing it. Patients are thinking differently about their health and desired outcomes now. Fitness wearables and daily wellness tools (including meditation apps and sleep monitors) are helping people stick to healthy routines and improve everything from hydration to mental health issues. There’s a greater emphasis placed on maintaining wellness and preventing chronic diseases.
Wearables and digital health platforms equipped with biomarkers will indicate wellness and give users greater control over their own health and well-being. It will also illuminate preventative risk factors early. Information will be stored digitally, making it easier to share with physicians for more comprehensive health analysis.
9. Greater Emphasis on Cybersecurity
Healthcare facilities collect significant volumes of sensitive information that is critically important to the health of their patients and community. Unfortunately, cybercriminals know how crucial access to patient information is, which is why ransomware attacks on medical facilities have become far more commonplace than ever before. Hospitals rarely have in-house IT staff qualified and experienced enough to deal with high-profile hacking attacks. In 2023, hospitals will likely outsource their cybersecurity and embrace cloud-based security centers to protect their patients’ information – and their own reputation.
10. Cloud-based Medical Records
This brings us to our final trend: the use of the cloud. Physicians can use the cloud to access patients’ medical records and data rather than referring to paper documents that can easily be lost or manipulated. Staff can store and access medical records via centralized storage from anywhere in the world, making it easier to obtain specialist consultations around the globe. These records can be further secured through encryption to maintain privacy and confidentiality.
2023 will come with exciting new developments in healthcare. It’s clear that many of the trends embraced during the pandemic will continue to influence healthcare in the months and years to come, including the use of virtual medicine and digital patient portals, wearables, and remote monitoring tools. Regulators and insurers alike are becoming more accepting of these services and tools, which will accelerate adoption even further. However, this will mean that healthcare providers will need to improve their cybersecurity and ability to maintain, access, and analyze digital records through artificial intelligence and the use of the cloud.