It’s taken place gradually over the last decade, but analysts say 2018 will be a huge year for the advancement of digital technology in the healthcare realm.
“No one can dispute technology’s ability to enable us all to live longer, healthier lives,” writes Daniel Newman in Forbes. “From surgical robots to smart hospitals, the digital transformation is revolutionizing patient care in new and exciting ways.”
Global spending in the digital health market is expected to reach $206 billion by 2020, according to Statista, up from $142 billion this year. The primary drivers will be mobile and wireless health products, it predicts.
Some specific predictions for healthcare digitization this year:
- Tools that allow patients to be diagnosed in their own homes will become prevalent this year, with more people accessing services such as senior care, nursing, physiotherapy and yoga without leaving home.
- We’ll see wider adoption of tools allowing people to test their own heartbeats, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, calories burned, etc.
- Both general tools and tools designed for specific illnesses will allow people to manage their diseases across time by gauging their conditions, reminding them of appointments and therapies, providing information and facilitating consultations.
- E-consultations will become more prevalent as a way to save patients time, money and energy. “Even patients in remote areas can receive the highest quality of care, providing they have an internet connection and smartphone,” Newman notes. “(And) nowhere has telepresence been more useful than in the mental health field.”
- AI will allow for better insight into medical conditions by predicting related issues, tracking patient vitals and providing patients more highly specific care plans.
- Apps that help optimize patient experience will become more of a competitive differentiator for health organizations. The Adobe study found such companies were 14 percent more likely to rank customer journey management as among their top three priorities, with large companies skewing even higher.
- We’ll see an uptick in “femtech” — digital healthcare tools aimed specifically at women. Research shows women drive 70 to 80 percent of all consumer purchasing, making the femtech market worth $55 billion already as of 2015. Product examples include ovulation predictor the Priya Ring; menstrual cycle monitoring device the Ava fertility bracelet; and wearable tool the Elvie Trainer that guides women through Kegel exercises for strengthening the pelvic floor. “Given the interest from its target audience and its female-centric approach to healthcare, the femtech sector offers huge amounts of potential,” writes Lu Rahman on Digitalhealthage.com.
- Cloud and mobility access: By 2018, Newman reports, an estimated 65 percent of interactions with healthcare facilities will take place via mobile; already some 80 percent of physicians are using smartphones and medical apps while 72 percent regularly seek drug info via smartphone.
“While many of us have come to associate healthcare with high costs and long waits, patients are now in the driver’s seat,” Newman concludes of the digital age. “It’s a healthy new way to look at healthcare, and one that holds promise for all of us with easy access to the digital landscape.”