What’s next for the world of e-health? After a flurry of innovation in the past few years, now is the time for providers to experience the benefits of new technology.
For the last five to ten years, the healthcare community has focused on innovation. We’ve seen the emergence of transformative new technologies like tele-health, remote monitoring, wearables, AI, and other important tools that enhance the patient experience, improve clinical results, and streamline processes for healthcare providers.
Telemedicine, for example, is a valuable diagnostic tool that allows physicians to communicate with patients remotely. It enables providers to see more patients — especially those in rural or underserved communities — and can also reduce the cost of care by eliminating unnecessary in-person appointments.
Artificial intelligence is another emerging technology that could facilitate drug development and provide accessible in-home care to elderly or disabled patients. Consulting firm Accenture has put AI capabilities into action with a pilot program that uses voice assistants to help seniors manage their care. These devices use machine learning to remind patients to take their medication and check-in with their doctors, as well as help them cope with loneliness and isolation.
While the past five years have been dominated by continuous advancements in medical technology, the next stage is likely to focus on adapting to these changes. Many healthcare providers are aware of the variety of technology available to them, but have yet to implement these tools on a regular basis. In the next five years, I predict that the medical community will focus on normalizing these technologies and experiencing the benefits of their widespread adoption.
Upcoming Challenges for Healthcare Providers
As providers shift their focus to preventive care, they will continue to rely on technology to screen and treat patients. Yet integrating new technology into all aspects of the patient experience is likely to present some challenges, including:
- Scalability: Hospitals and medical practices will need to implement technology and manage its usage in a uniform way across every location. This requires relying on a IT infrastructure that can grow consistently across an organization.
- Cost: The price of new technology often remains high, with medical devices alone making up 5-6% of total healthcare expenses in a given year. Hospitals and clinics may struggle to keep up with these costs, or to find ways to keep patients from paying those increased costs.
- Education and training: In order to ensure widespread adoption of medical technology, healthcare providers need to be properly trained in its operation. Hospitals and practices should also ensure that staff are provided with adequate resources to handle the transition to a new system.
Ultimately, the success of revolutionary technology like wearables and remote monitoring devices depends on providers’ willingness to use them. It’s therefore essential for hospitals and practices to develop an environment that is open to change and innovation, as well as a willingness to shift strategies to achieve the best results.
How to Approach Implementation
New technology is a primary area of focus for many providers, and it can provide a wide range of benefits such as continuous monitoring of at-risk patients and reaching communities who may not otherwise have access to medical care. However, implementing these new tools can be a complex and time-consuming progress.
Studies show that physicians believe in the usefulness of e-health, especially those who have previous experience with it. Given the chance to chance to try a new technology, providers are likely to consider its various benefits and be open to implementing it. Hospitals and practices can usher in this change by taking a proactive approach, allowing physicians and staff to learn about new technology before applying it across an organization.
The Journal of Medical Informatics Association provides a multi-step approach to guide hospitals and medical practices through the process of adopting new technology. The plan consists of four distinct stages: establishing a need for change, selecting a system, planning, and maintenance and evaluation. Throughout each stage the authors provide a series of practical tips, focusing on areas like comprehensive staff training and continuous evaluation and modification.
This approach underlines the importance of recognizing that the benefits of new technology don’t always appear right away. Instead, their success often arises over time and with constant adjustment. It’s therefore important for providers to stay the course and stick with new systems long enough to see the full range of results.