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The Future of Healthcare: Five key trends that are changing healthcare

Healthcare has changed dramatically over the last ten years, and the industry will continue to be transformed, particularly in the era of the Covid-19 pandemic. Technology is considered the driving force behind the evolution, with innovations changing how consumers manage their health and interact with healthcare professionals. In addition, the rise of specialized care delivery services and the move to value-based models are also reshaping healthcare by resulting in more personalized care and improvement of the patient experience. Here are five emerging healthcare trends modernizing the healthcare industry:

  1. Telehealth

    Telehealth refers to a broad scope of remote healthcare services, including clinical services. It is one of the most notable emerging healthcare trends, with COVID-19 accelerating the use of its resources.

    • Telehealth comprises telemedicine that provides a variety of services using mobile applications. Patients can schedule teleconference appointments, manage their appointments, and communicate with healthcare professionals through secure messaging and video/audio communication. They can also transfer files and download electronic health records that allow healthcare providers access to patient medical records. With telehealth, access to care is facilitated, and individuals who require treatment for certain diseases such as mental health disorder can engage in treatment remotely via video chat.
    • When combining the internet of things with telemedicine, a new Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) has emerged. This allows the use of wearable devices, sensors, and the ability to perform medical measurements, including ECG, heart rate, skin temperature, and oxygen saturation, etc. This technology enables healthcare workers to monitor and prevent chronic diseases using real-time patient data remotely.

    A crucial feature of telehealth is the improvement of access to healthcare, as patients can connect with their healthcare professional more regularly. Its success is based on its versatility and patient adoption. This trend marks a significant shift in the modern world of healthcare while embracing a value-based model of care.

  2. Specialized Outpatient Care Centers

    Recently, healthcare delivery moved from inpatient to outpatient facilities, changing from a hospital-centric model to a patient-centric model of care. This has occurred as the result of patient preferences, financial incentives, telemedicine, and value-based trends. Covid-19 further accelerated this trend, driven by beneficial patient outcomes and constraints in hospital capacity.

    Specialized outpatient care centers improve patient experience, quality of care, and clinical outcomes. Many surgeries and diagnostic procedure can be performed more safely and efficiently in an outpatient setting. Also, patients are becoming more inclined to avoid hospital stays whenever possible, and specialists can work in an environment focused on their area of expertise. Specialized centers concentrate on a specialization, such as diabetes, pulmonology, orthopedics, ear-nose-throat, and dermatology. Same-day or outpatient surgeries may include cataract removal and cosmetic surgeries, and diagnostic procedures such as colonoscopy and mammography.

  3. Precision Medicine

    In contrast to a one-drug-fits-all model, precision medicine is an innovative trend that considers an individual’s genes, environment, and lifestyle to identify personalized disease treatments and prevention strategies.

    This approach is best known for its use in oncology, where the most effective treatment is chosen based on the genetic profile of the patient’s tumor, but it is also influencing healthcare technology and pharmaceutical research (medication development).

    The ability to provide precision medicine in clinical practice depends on the availability of and the accessibility to a genome sequencing test. This test will display DNA perturbations associated with certain conditions, enabling the tailoring of medical decisions accordingly.

    In clinical practice, this test provides valuable information about family history and the nature of the inheritance of the medical condition. It also provides information about drug sensitivity, predicting the response to particular drug therapy, avoiding ineffective treatment, and preventing unnecessary side effects and drug interactions. In addition, one aspect of genetic testing is the provision of information about the proteome and the microbiome supporting the field of nutrigenomics, which is the cross-field of nutrition, dietetics, and genomics, offering the opportunity of personalized diets based on genetic codes. Furthermore, genetic sequencing can provide information regarding the risk of increased conditions leveraging preventive healthcare that allows patients to take preventative measures and make better lifestyle choices. Genomics and precision medicine are trends that are expected to shape the future of medicine.

  4. Value-based Model of Healthcare

    Enhancing patient experience is taking center stage in the healthcare industry, with the quality of the patient’s individual experience becoming a top priority.

    As such, many providers are shifting their focus from the traditional fee-for-service (volume-based) to the value-based model of care. Instead of reimbursing health care professionals and centers on the number of services delivered, the value-based (high-value) care rewards providers by determining the cost of the service related to the value of care, the quality of care, and patient outcomes. The model provides incentives for more efficient care and imposes penalties for failing to meet cost and quality targets. The use of technology (telehealth, bundle packages, electronic medical records) and delivery services (patient-centered medical home care) are advancing this model.

    Ultimately, value-based care can reduce unnecessary medical costs while improving the quality of care. This model is here, but there is still more work to do, particularly in understanding the foundations of patients’ data, clinical conditions, and services delivered and finding an adequate risk/reward balance.

  5. Technology-assisted Delivery of Care

    Technological innovation will continue to dramatically and rapidly change how healthcare is delivered. Several tech trends are shaping the future of health care.  In particular, technologies like virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), robotics, and nanotechnology impact patient experience and enhance patient engagement.

    • For example, VR has been proven to be effective in pain management by distracting patients from painful stimuli. In clinical practice, it has been used to decrease pain in women during childbirth and in patients undergoing surgery. Moreover, the technology allows access to activities and experiences that can stimulate memory, motor function and improve emotional well-being and has been used for elderly patients with dementia and cognitive impairment and stroke survivors with motor deficiencies.
    • Similarly, AR greatly influences the delivery of care. In contrast to VR, users do not lose touch with reality, and it provides information in 3D space. This technique offers real-time access to information about the condition and procedures that can benefit healthcare providers and receivers.
    • Robotics is another growing and exciting field of healthcare. There is a wide range of robots currently used or in development: surgical robots assist with surgery;  exoskeletons (external frames) assist the rehabilitation of patients with lower limb disorders such as spinal cord injuries;  care robotics can help nurses lift patients and perform a multitude of other tasks; pharmabotics can help in dispensing medications; and a robot companion  - which could be interactive - alleviates loneliness, treats mental health issues, and helps children with chronic illnesses.
    • Nanotechnology is an evolving technology that enormous impacts on diagnostics and drug delivery systems. For example, the PillCam is already being used for gastrointestinal imaging exams in a non-invasive friendly environment, enhancing the patient experience. As the technology progresses, it could potentially be used remotely and wirelessly for biopsy and precise medication delivery.

Digital advances will continue to revolutionize healthcare. The demand for simultaneous improvement of health outcomes, quality of care, accessibility, and consumer empowerment will drive technological innovations. As we move forward, it is critical to embrace technology and models of care organized around the consumer.

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