Inside healthcare's digital future
Fortunately, digital solutions are available to improve our healthcare experience, empowering “digital patients” who leverage new technologies to improve their day-to-day health, reducing their risk of serious illness as well as waste throughout the medical industry. Databases and machine learning can usher in a new continuum of care where a doctor is not required for basic needs like changing prescriptions, noticing new conditions, or updating medical records. Freed from these basic tasks, clinicians see their bandwidth expand as if by magic to handle the issues for which their expertise is really needed. By empowering patients and liberating doctors, technology can reinvigorate the global healthcare ecosystem.
Digital healthcare can help eliminate waste
Poor day-to-day management of personal wellness is a major source of waste in the healthcare industry. Digital innovations can mitigate or even eliminate these issues, saving money for providers and improving quality of life for patients. Mobile technology, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and data mining can make every patient the orchestrator of their own healthcare through telemedicine and health tracking devices. Such technologies can create smart spaces to guide users through a more efficient and cost-effective healthcare experience while saving the medical industry over $8.4 billion every year.
According to the World Health Organization, 20 to 40 percent of all healthcare spending is wasted. A recent study found unnecessary trips to the emergency room cost $4.4 billion annually and 17 percent of all hospital visits could be addressed more efficiently at an alternate health facility. Meanwhile, proper preventive care could save $4 billion—not to mention 2 million lives—a year. When patients don’t receive smart preventative care and don’t know where to go for routine care, they end up suffering needlessly and creating undue overhead for their provider.
Digital to the rescue
This is where digital solutions can save the day. Our connected world is constantly offering new innovations to help us reduce stress and streamline tasks. The average patient or care provider in a developed market could leverage a whole fleet of digital resources to easily and non-intrusively shape a satisfying and proactive health routine. By integrating biometrics, cloud technology, the IoT, and mobile access, healthcare providers can set up both simplified and unobtrusive healthcare protocols to guide patients through their routines and help them integrate with “smart cities,” enabling patients to have healthier, happier interactions with their environments.
Under the hood
Knowledge is power, and the healthcare procedures of the future will rely on information from each patient, stored independently and aggregated with that of all patients to make self-care easy and intuitive. The integrated wellness platform will store information like medical records, purchasing history, autofill forms, and more while collecting data from smart wearables that track vital signs.
All of this information will be logged and analyzed before being passed up to a hybrid cloud to be cross-referenced constantly with similar use cases, constantly updating both worldwide records and the patient’s own best practices. As the database expands, patients and providers worldwide will have access to more precise and detailed information, making every subsequent reference faster and more accurate.
Healthcare wearables and ingestibles will reinvent preventative care
Imagine a patient wakes up in the morning and has his smart wearable check his heart rate while a safe device he ingested (a smart ingestible) monitors internal signs to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary. An ingestible could even check for changes caused by medication, to warn of possible side effects or remind the user to take any prescribed medicines it does not detect. A smart device could keep track of nutrient intake and suggest healthier snacking habits, taking the Fitbit’s idea of monitoring and encouraging exercise to new heights. The system would automatically order prescription refills and—if current meds aren’t helping—ping the doctor for alternative prescriptions.
Smart devices could notice the symptoms of illness before a user even gets the sniffles and report any symptoms to the appropriate doctor, log the symptoms in a database, and support clinicians in prescribing immediate care options, all while determining what sort of facility or specialist could best provide aid. To make the next convenient appointment, the device would use its knowledge of the patient’s routine for scheduling either an in-person or online appointment. At the care facility, the patient would be guided to a parking space, led to the proper department, and have all their forms autofilled and signed with a fingerprint in advance.
Patients can go about their lives comfortably and with only occasional interactions with healthcare details, the pressure of tracking and organizing them taken off their own shoulders and instead given to an elegant and tireless connected system.
Integrated health monitors and apps will streamline care
And that’s just the way a mobile system can ease organizational woes. With the power of data mining, analytics, and AI, every patient can have a proactive digital healthcare assistant help find the best path to wellness. Today, apps for smartwatches and other wearables can track heart rate, blood pressure, and daily step counts, but that’s just the beginning.
A healthcare app that integrates with a patient’s other software can find out what kind of food they like and suggest healthy alternatives, maybe even at their favorite restaurants or places within walking distance. Integration with citywide monitoring could create so-called smart cities where a user taking the bus home might have their healthcare system suggest getting off a stop or two early to get a bit more exercise, while someone with breathing issues could be steered away from polluted areas.
As biometric technology improves, wearable and mobile devices will be able to monitor more and more vital signs, logging any abnormalities or problems and referencing an ever-evolving, interconnected database of similar symptoms to find a solution in seconds, not days—maybe even before the wearer knows anything is wrong. Wearables could detect sleep apnea without the need for a sleep study, notice elevated glucose levels in a diabetic, or even detect the first signs of cardiac arrest and notify emergency services.
Tomorrow’s solutions today
Health is simply too important to be tossed into the jumble of day-to-day planning, potentially overlooked by harried, busy people. New technology can create a paradigm shift in the provider’s role from being necessary at every minor step to being able to help with the major issues while a smart automated system sweats the small stuff.
Greater digital integration and the proactive leveraging of new technologies is the way forward when it comes to providing the majority of day-to-day attention, helping patients manage their own wellness before they ever have to step into a medical facility and making such visits as painless as possible for both caregivers and their charges. We already have access to solutions right out of science fiction—it’s time we started using them to improve present-day healthcare.
Lessons for healthcare leaders: 4 ways to encourage wellness
- Prescribe digital solutions like apps as well as treatments to help patients manage their healthcare.
- Encourage patients to join communities for people with their condition for advice, support, and solidarity.
- Use micro achievements and incremental rewards to keep patients invested in their treatment.
- Leverage behavioral (“nudge”) economics to steer patients toward healthier choices, such as by pre-selecting more healthful options on apps and requiring a patient override.
This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.