In the rapidly evolving landscape of healthcare, the integration of technology is driving a transformative shift. As industry navigates these technological frontiers, the collective goal is to enhance patient experiences, streamline processes, and make healthcare more accessible and equitable. This article explores key emerging trends that are not only improving patient engagement but are also set to redefine the future of healthcare.
Patient-Centric Technologies: A Paradigm Shift
A prevailing trend toward patient-centric technologies will drive the development of new devices. These technologies will enhance communication and collaboration between patients and healthcare providers, notes Hari Prasad, CEO of Yosi Health. Prasad says the increasing demand from patients for a healthcare experience mirrors the convenience and seamlessness seen in other consumer aspects of their lives. He envisions a modernized patient experience, from digital check-ins to error-free integration with electronic medical record (EMR) providers.
The administrative aspects of healthcare play a pivotal role in improving the overall patient and staff experience. Integrated health technology platforms, says Prasad, address the challenges faced by medical practices with large footprints, ensuring standardized and centralized processes.
“A major part of improving the patient and staff experience is dependent on efficiently managing the administrative aspects related to care,” he says. “But the demand for unified administrative processes can be a challenge, particularly for medical practices with complex needs that are already dealing with staff shortages.”
“It’s this divergence in patient experiences across the care continuum that has underscored a call for standardization and centralization, says Prasad. “In response, integrated health technology platforms have emerged as a solution bringing together a healthcare organization's disparate and fragmented billing, scheduling, and patient records management processes into a cohesive and unified framework. These new platforms streamline administrative tasks, ensuring a uniform high-quality approach throughout the healthcare organization as well as freeing up staff to focus on patient needs.”
As open APIs gain prominence and EMR systems adopt a more integrated delivery approach, practices can now create a unified technological framework, says Prasad. Multidimensional vendors that fill in the gaps for the entire continuum are delivering a high-level patient and staff experience.
“This evolution has facilitated specialization in specific segments, such as patient intake and allowing companies like Yosi Health to successfully address the intricacies of real-world challenges more comprehensively, moving beyond quick fixes to provide enduring comprehensive solutions,” he says.
Dr. Jo Varshney, Founder and CEO of VeriSIM Life, underscores the significance of such integrated platforms in providing enduring solutions that move beyond quick fixes.
“I am biased, but I believe AI is fundamentally changing the healthcare industry,” she says. She sees AI as a force that extends from drug discovery to disease diagnosis, contributing to improved outcomes and increased accessibility.
In the next 12 months, the adoption of AI-driven telemedicine and mHealth (mobile health) applications will significantly reshape patient-provider interactions, says Asher Lohman, vice president of data and analytics at Trace3. “We’ll see a proliferation of platforms utilizing natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) for symptom triage and preliminary diagnosis, much like the models employed in Babylon Health’s virtual consultations.
Lohman says that AI-driven personalized health plans will become increasingly sophisticated, leveraging genomics and phenotypic data. “Tools like IBM Watson Health are pioneering in this area, utilizing predictive analytics for personalized treatment pathways. Healthcare providers must adapt by developing competencies in genomics and AI-driven analytics to offer personalized patient care at scale,” he says.
Gregg Hill, founder of Parkway VC, adds that advancements in telemedicine, personalized health technologies, and the use of artificial intelligence to streamline efficiency and prioritize patient care will drive the future of healthcare. “More people are strapping on health-tracking wearables, and we’re giving mental health services some well-deserved attention,” he says. “Plus, diving into digital health platforms and working to make data play nice with each other are big players in shaping how healthcare is evolving.”
Transformative Technologies: AI, Blockchain, and Sensors
Dr. Varshney sees AI as a fundamental force “revolutionizing” healthcare. The impact of AI extends from drug discovery to disease diagnosis, contributing to improved outcomes and increased accessibility. The integration of AI into medical devices, particularly in biomarker testing and monitoring, holds promise for precision medicine, she says. “VeriSIM Life’s use of AI to analyze biomarker datasets is a testament to its potential in driving stratified patient treatment recommendations,” she says.
Lohman predicts a strong convergence of AI and IoT in medical devices. He envisions the expansion of AI-enhanced diagnostic tools and continuous patient monitoring, emphasizing the potential of blockchain in healthcare data management for security and transparency.
“We’ll see an expansion of AI-enhanced diagnostic tools like IDx-DR, which uses deep learning algorithms for retinal image analysis,” says Lohman. “Healthcare facilities should focus on implementing IoT frameworks to leverage these AI-powered devices effectively, ensuring data security and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance.
“Furthermore, the integration of AI in continuous patient monitoring (CPM) devices will aid in proactive health management. Healthcare organizations should explore partnerships with technology providers like Medtronic to harness the predictive capabilities of these devices for chronic disease management,” he says.
Blockchain technology, he says, is already mainstream in sectors like finance and supply chain management but is now poised to transform healthcare data management. “It offers unparalleled security, transparency, and interoperability in handling patient data,” says Lohman. “By leveraging blockchain, healthcare systems can create immutable, tamper-proof records, ensuring data integrity and enhancing patient trust. This technology could streamline data sharing across providers, payers, and patients, facilitating better-coordinated care and improved health outcomes.”
As the world becomes more connected, intelligent, and automated, the role of sensors has become increasingly significant in the healthcare ecosystem. Marc Schillgalies, senior director of engineering at TE Connectivity, notes that new sensor technologies are helping to lower costs, improve patient outcomes, and better manage health conditions by enabling deeper data-driven decisions for both medical staff as they treat patients and patients as they aim to become more informed about their own health.
“What is changing is the size and availability of these sensors. Miniaturization and cost advantages through scale allow for more sensor content in home care devices, which in turn moves health services from the hospital into the patient’s home providing improved patient safety and comfort. What’s more, miniaturization allows for tiny, lightweight sensors to fit into smaller medical devices that are connected to the Internet, often via mobile applications,” he says.
Another area where miniaturization of sensors is providing benefits to patients is minimally invasive procedures, says Schillgalies. “Sensors used in these procedures are as thin as a few human hairs. During the procedure, sensors deliver feedback to surgeons. For example, force sensors will tell the surgeon when a cutting tool is touching human tissue; temperature sensors can help protect nearby tissue during laser surgery; and pressure sensors allow for control of the most sensitive body parts where managing gases is an important part of the procedure.”
“We are also seeing improved patient safety through sensors in medical pumps,” says Schillgalies. “Pump failure could have fatal consequences so advanced sensors are used to measure force, pressure, position, temperature, and ultrasonic sensing are crucial. These sensors are integrated into smart pumps, which measure liquid levels and continuous flow, detect occlusion, and alert the user to air bubbles in lines. The development of air bubble detectors using ultrasonic sensing in combination with a force sensor that continuously monitors if the tube is in place and the ultra-sonic sensors ensures that not even tiniest air bubbles are pumped into the body. This combination of sensor modalities in one component saves both space and cost.”
Finally, vital signs monitoring is also an area in which sensors are having an impact. Sensors enable the collection of data in various vital sign monitoring applications, helping both patients and doctors to monitor health conditions — in the hospital and at home. One innovative technology, says Schillgalies is piezoelectric film sensors, which are sensitive enough to measure a patient’s pulse and respiration rate based on physical contact, eliminating the need for a nurse to use a blood pressure cuff or pulse oximetry reading.
Lohman predicts that AI and data analytics will play a crucial role of in enabling real-time monitoring, analyzing behavior, and providing personalized feedback to patients. The shift towards AI in real-time health monitoring is characterized by advanced predictive analytics.
“Systems like Philips HealthSuite harness AI for comprehensive patient monitoring, analyzing data points from wearables and biosensors. Healthcare providers should integrate these systems for continuous, data-driven patient care, especially in managing chronic conditions like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and CHF (congestive heart failure),” says Lohman.
Predictive analytics, powered by AI and big data, are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are expected to play a crucial role in population health management. These systems can analyze large datasets to identify health trends, predict outbreaks, and allocate resources efficiently. They are instrumental in proactive health management, targeting interventions to high-risk groups, and reducing the incidence of chronic diseases.
He says healthcare will see a growing role of machine learning in precision medicine, particularly in oncology and chronic disease management. Technologies like Flatiron Health’s oncology platform, he says, use machine learning to analyze clinical and molecular data, tailoring cancer treatments to individual genetic profiles.
The transformative potential of technologies like AI, Hill says, are exemplified by products like the OXOS Micro C. “This handheld x-ray imaging device, empowered by AI, brings advanced technology directly to the point of care, offering impressive sharpness, clarity, and a low radiation profile. Innovations like OXOS’ have the potential to democratize access to life-saving care worldwide and enhance workplace safety for healthcare professionals.”
Wearables and Telemedicine: Improving Patient Care
Wearables and telemedicine stand at the forefront of innovations in patient care. Lohman anticipates advanced bio-sensing technologies combined with AI-driven analytics in wearables. The incorporation of FDA-cleared ECG functions in devices like the Apple Watch exemplifies the integration of technology in remote patient monitoring programs.
In the next 12 months, the adoption of AI-driven telemedicine and mobile health applications is expected to reshape patient-provider interactions. Natural language processing and machine learning will play pivotal roles in symptom triage and the development of personalized health plans, says Lohman.
Hill adds that advancements in telemedicine, personalized health technologies, and the use of AI in streamlining efficiency and prioritizing patient care.
Robotics, AR, and VR: Redefining Healthcare Procedures
The integration of AI algorithms into robotic-assisted surgery is enhancing precision and decision-making. Technologies like the da Vinci Surgical System enable data-driven, patient-specific surgical planning, reducing recovery times and enhancing outcomes. In rehabilitation robotics, AI-driven adaptive algorithms are personalizing therapy regimens, exemplified by devices like the ReWalk exoskeleton.
Lohman sees the role of AR and VR, augmented by AI, transitioning from nascent technologies to essential tools in surgical planning and training. AR-assisted navigation systems and VR training modules are set to become integral in enhancing surgical accuracy and reducing learning curves for surgical residents.
“VR’s role in surgical training will be augmented by AI to provide dynamic, responsive simulations,” he says. “Platforms like Osso VR will become integral in surgical education, offering a risk-free, immersive learning environment. Implementing these VR training modules can significantly reduce the learning curve for surgical residents.”
In rehabilitation robotics, AI-driven adaptive algorithms will personalize therapy regimens. Devices like the Re-Walk exoskeleton use AI to adjust to patient’s mobility levels, offering tailored rehabilitation. Healthcare facilities specializing in physical therapy should consider these technologies for enhanced patient recovery outcomes.
The role of robotics in healthcare is expanding rapidly, with AI algorithms driving surgical precision and decision-making. Schillgalies emphasizes the significance of sensors in providing critical data for robotic systems, particularly in surgery. The integration of sensors into medical robots extends to telesurgery, where remote control of equipment is enabled through telecommunications systems.
The increasing use of robotic-assisted procedures, as well as the potential role of generalized humanoid robots, signifies a broader impact of robotics in healthcare, says Hill.
The Impact of 3D Printing on Healthcare
The focus on personalization in applications like craniomaxillofacial, orthopedic oncology, and spinal fusion surgeries positions 3D printing as a transformative force. Dr. Gautam Gupta, senior vice president and general manager for medical devices at 3D Systems anticipates the acceleration of additive manufacturing’s adoption in medical devices. The surge in popularity of ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) further underscores the potential for increased adoption of 3D printing by medical device OEMs.
“ASCs typically have a much leaner operating cost model, so they can offer surgeries at significantly reduced costs to the patients,” says Dr. Gupta. “Since these are smaller footprint centers, thus present in larger numbers with cities, they can also cater to a much larger patient population with greater flexibility to schedule surgeries, thus amplifying the number of cases being handled by these institutions. These institutions typically have a low inventory model as compared to large hospitals due to their size and are incentivized to address personalized cases to reduce inventory burdens for implants and instruments. As a result, I believe we’ll see an increased adoption of AM from medical device OEMs as they start servicing the demands of this growing network of ASCs nationwide.”
The Future Landscape: A Confluence of Technologies
The rollout of 5G technology will significantly enhance IoT applications in healthcare, says Hill. High-speed, low-latency networks will enable realtime data transfer from a multitude of sensors and devices, vastly improving remote monitoring and telehealth capabilities. Quantum computing, still in its nascent stage in most sectors, he says, holds tremendous potential in healthcare, particularly in drug discovery and genomic medicine.
As industry navigates these technological frontiers, it becomes evident that the integration of technologies such as AI, blockchain, sensors, wearables, robotics, and 3D printing is reshaping the future of healthcare. The focus extends beyond merely advancing medical care; it encompasses the mission of making healthcare more accessible, equitable, and efficient.
Hill says, “Data is the new soil, and cultivating this data through advanced technologies will lead to insights, innovations, and solutions across the medical frontier. The next few years in healthcare technology will be marked by innovation aimed at enhancing both patient and physician experiences, transforming hospital systems for better efficiency and effectiveness, and ultimately creating a personalized, accessible, and transformative healthcare experience for all.”
The convergence of all of these advanced technologies is reshaping healthcare, offering unprecedented opportunities to enhance patient care, streamline processes, and make healthcare more accessible. As these trends continue to unfold, the future of healthcare looks increasingly promising, driven by a commitment to harnessing the power of technology for the betterment of individuals and communities alike.
Whether it’s the utilization of AI in diagnostics, the integration of wearables in patient monitoring, or the revolutionary impact of 3D printing in medical devices, each technological advance is contributing to a healthcare landscape that is more connected, intelligent, and patient-centric. The journey into the future of healthcare is marked by continuous innovation, and the collaborative efforts of healthcare professionals, technologists, and innovators will play a pivotal role in shaping this transformation.
This article was written by Sherrie Trigg, Editor and Director of Medical Content. She can be reached at sherrie.