Though healthcare can sometimes lag behind other industries in innovation, there are certainly aspects of medical technology that are moving at top speed. The headlines are full of breathless reports about advancements in healthcare that did not even seem possible a few years ago.
Healthcare trends in 2019 that are of particular interest are artificial intelligence, virtual patient services, blockchain innovations, mergers and acquisitions, and 3D printing. These technologies and innovations hone in on the patient experience by allowing medical care and prevention to be experienced individually. Affordability is at the heart of innovation too, which is why these five healthcare trends are worth a deeper review.
Artificial intelligence is predicted to be a $1.5 billion industry in just seven years and is striving to improve patient outcomes and experiences by creating a better balance between access, affordability and effectiveness. Typically this trifecta creates negative trade-offs as one of the areas increases positively.
How will AI create this change? First, by taking on the time-intensive tasks that a human cannot perform at a cost-effective rate. Second, by transferring these jobs to machines, and creating platforms where patients can “self-service” healthcare needs, costs to the healthcare structure should significantly decline.
These benefits will accrue incrementally, from automated operations, precision surgery, and preventive medical intervention (thanks to predictive diagnostics), but within a decade they will fundamentally reshape the healthcare landscape as we know it.
Virtual Patient Healthcare Services
Around twenty-nine percent of healthcare patients utilized virtual healthcare services in 2018—a trend that has been rising steadily year over year. Each year, data is collected in the Consumer Survey on Digital Health and evaluated by Accenture. Thousands of participants are asked about their thoughts on healthcare technology, modernization, and services. Of the sixty-one percent of the population surveyed who are unable to access non-traditional care, or has not encountered the opportunity to do so, many would be open to the experience.
According to Accenture, “virtual care has become an appealing channel for consumers with more complex needs”. Patients prefer to “seek out [care for] routine therapy/mental health, physical injury treatment, and sexually transmitted disease screenings/treatment” virtually, rather than in person.
Healthcare payers and providers are using blockchain to manage clinical trials data and electronic medical records while maintaining regulatory compliance.
Blockchain technology is extremely useful in collecting, timestamping, and tracing information. Where it seems to be most effective is in pharmaceuticals, clinical trials, and electronic medical records (EMR) management.
Prescription drug management is necessary anywhere over-prescribing errors, theft and abuse can occur. Blockchain could allow medical professionals and facilities to issue prescription drugs in time-stamped and traceable manner.
Clinical trials see a similar benefit to using blockchain. Due to the nature of clinical trial management, data collection and patient enrollment processes can take years and can cost a lot of money. Blockchain technology ensures that the data that is collected meets QA and patient safety standards.
Mergers & Acquisitions
Mergers and acquisitions play a significant role in how healthcare will be shaped in the future. Kaufman Hall recently published the 2018 M&A in Review: A New Healthcare Landscape Takes Shape.
The report showed, “growth in mergers across state borders, as health systems from different, though often contiguous, geographies come together to form regional health systems. A health system that seeks growth beyond its current market may believe it has maximized local expansion opportunities, or may see new opportunities in markets that have stronger demographics or higher population growth than its current market.”
Dr. Alexandro Pando discusses in a recent article the benefits of 3D printing to healthcare prototypes, problem solving, and the cost-benefit analysis. He uses the example of a modern-day kidney transplant that is billed at about a third of a million dollars per patient. If using a conventional 3D bioprinter, the price would reduce to ten thousand dollars per patient. 3D printing can help troubleshoot and solve implant issues regarding unique patient anatomy or deformity. It could also potentially eradicate waiting lists for organ transplant. Surgery skills, practice and accuracy can be refined through implementing 3D printing technology.
Pando stresses that the uses are endless.
“I believe the potential of 3D printing is far-reaching, and one sector that stands poised to benefit greatly is biomedicine and the healthcare industry.”
Healthcare Trends for the Future
Healthcare trends in 2019 seem to be focused on individual patient needs while decreasing the overall healthcare cost. While these healthcare goals have been around for decades, 2019 may hold some great advances in the right direction.
About the Author
Carevoyance contributor Sarah Pike, M.B.A., is a freelance marketing copywriter based in San Diego. She enjoys writing about business, fashion, food, healthcare, leadership, motivation and technology.