Finish line ahead

While technologies that impede, rather than enhance care, have made the healthcare industry somewhat skeptical of innovation, a shift toward patient-centric care is changing the game.

Healthtech innovations in 2019 are helping to transform the business of care, creating efficiencies, cutting costs, and providing better outcomes. How these new technologies mesh with the clinical skill set of a medical provider is still being determined. Providers who embrace tools now available will help to determine how healthcare delivery looks in 2020 and well beyond.

Here’s what you need to know:

If you aren’t offering your patients virtual visits, it’s likely they’ll find someone who is
Virtual visits, often conducted via a smartphone or personal computer, offer convenient access to care, saving patients the time and expense of traveling to an appointment and providing care to those who have limited access to it. Its use has exploded in 2019 and is expected to continue its climb. While millennials have been the quickest to embrace it, a recent study shows older Americans are just as willing to consider virtual visits as a care option, as are the caregivers of elderly patients.

Providers have taken note, many giving patients a virtual option for routine or prescription needs. Why make a patient come into the office just to get some quick advice? Televisits offer a reimbursable way to provide information to patients, such as test results and answers to common questions, that would otherwise require valuable office hours or be delivered via non-billable emails and phone calls, often happening after office hours. Perhaps most importantly, televisits promote a continuum of care, allowing providers to stay connected with their patients and encouraging patients to engage without the time and hassle of an in-office visit. The visits give providers a way to offer their comforting presence and clinical impact in a healthcare world that is becoming increasingly fragmented, frustrating, and expensive.

When providers do not offer virtual visits, many patients forego their care and instead seek virtual care from a provider or service they find online or at an urgent care center. Not only does care from a doctor who is unfamiliar with a patient expose both to risks, but it also disrupts patient-provider relationships, hindering the ability to provide effective, ongoing care.

Healthcare has become consumer-oriented
Patients are choosing convenience—including easy access, shorter wait times, and visits that fit their schedules— over loyalty to a provider. More than half of patients surveyed said convenience is the most important factor in choosing care. They aren’t afraid to shop around for it: A growing number of patients do not even have a primary care doctor, opting instead for televisits or last-minute trips to an urgent care facility or walk-in retail clinic.

Unfortunately, our best healthcare option—care from a provider who knows a patient’s personal history— has become our most inconvenient healthcare option. Physicians and healthcare organizations are realizing they have to get on board by offering options that fit modern demands and expectations—for instance, offering extended or flexible office hours, online scheduling and virtual visits—or risk losing patients.

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are making steady headway into healthcare
Emerging technologies like AI, machine learning and predictive analytics have become powerful tools in the medical field. They are used to track and analyze massive sets of data—quantities that are beyond human capacity—not to replace the advice of a physician, but to help them better know their patients and provide personalized, more effective care. The data, including treatment effectiveness, family histories, socio-economic factors, and far more allow them to monitor ongoing wellness; and flag signs of preventable, chronic diseases—including diabetes and heart disease to help patients avoid risks based on their own history and others like them.

While many in the industry lack understanding of how to leverage the tools and integrate them with current healthcare systems, 39 percent of provider executives are already investing in emerging technologies and 75 percent plan to invest in the technologies in the next three years. Combining the technologies with human insights will undoubtedly lead to innovation we have only just begun to imagine.

HealthTech is making it easier for patients to take better care of themselves
More than 80 percent of people are willing to wear technology to track and monitor their health and wellness. Apps for mobile devices and wearables, often attached to smartwatches, wristbands, and even clothing, make it easy and affordable. The technology puts responsibility in the hands of patients, making it easier for them to take care of themselves and to share valuable healthcare data with their doctors.

Today’s wearables allow patients to track more than just calories consumed and steps logged. They can now collect and analyze their own critical, clinical data, such as signs of infection, atrial fibrillations and blood glucose levels, together with their doctors who can leverage the data to offer more effective advice. The information provided by their patients enables providers to better monitor patient health and revise care as needed, addressing issues and fallbacks before they become life-threatening. The technologies are forging stronger patient-provider relationships and establishing true partnerships in care.

Mobile tech is easing provider workflows and improving communication
Patients aren’t the only ones to benefit from mobile technologies. Ninety percent of healthcare organizations have a digital device initiative or plan to initiate one, according to a new study.

Mobile technology, such as handheld devices and smartphones, can untether providers from workstations and enable them to deliver faster, more personalized care to their patients and more effectively communicate with their teams.

For instance, providers can scan and analyze imaging and lab reports and transfer to patients’ medical records, and track and monitor drug administration for safety and accuracy. Telehealth apps can empower them to better control their time and enable office administrators to create greater efficiencies, like reducing wait times and scheduling visits.

Healthtech is Delivering, Promising Continued Transformation
While earlier health tech innovations may be criticized for their complexity, cost, and for taking providers away from their patients, the latest innovations are often as easy as downloading an app or plugging in a device. They promise better care by empowering both patients and providers. By keeping the focus on patient-centric innovation, health tech will undoubtedly continue to deliver game-changing transformation for patients and their providers.

Photo: AdrianHillman, Getty Images