What’s New in Global Healthcare

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These trends will overhaul the healthcare industry in 2020. While data sharing, 5G, supply chain & logistics, and AI will be big, consumer behaviour will make all the difference.

Digital advances are driving innovation in all areas of healthcare. This is a trend that can be expected to accelerate during and after this era of pandemic-caused isolation. For instance, the pandemic isolation combined with digital health advances is helping shift care closer to people’s homes. From robotic surgery to telemedicine, we can expect exceptional transformations. In fact, the isolation resulting from the coronavirus pandemic has bolstered the telemedicine sector and 3D printing quite exponentially.

In 2020 cost pressures compounded by the initiatives undertaken due to the outbreak and regulatory changes will function as major catalysts to accelerate digital health treatments. This will have a significant role to play in delivering effective, fast, and cost-efficient patient care.

Traditional value systems in healthcare will continue to transform as patients evolve into better-informed health consumers. The advent of digitization is causing a shift in the “value pool” in this industry which in turn is ensuring system inefficiency – and this translates to cost savings for patients. With the full-fledged introduction of 5G, the possibilities of the adoption of a limitless number of applications involving AI, big data and the IoT is bound to skyrocket. Here are the trends that will disrupt and energize the healthcare market in 2020:

Sensors are taking the guesswork out of medicine
It seems obvious that in order to get better you need to follow through with the prescribed medications for the intended duration. However, surprisingly, medication non-adherence has been highlighted as one of the major problems inflicting both developed and developing markets, albeit for different reasons. This is a challenge that needs to be overcome.

This is where smart wearable, bio-sensor patches and even ingestible “smart pill” come in. These innovative applications can help monitor how much medication has been taken and to alert or remind patients accordingly. One of the ways that technology is further refining how doctors prescribe drugs is by enabling far more granular, personalized treatment based on in-depth data about how the patient is responding to drugs in real-time, their health profile and even their genetic predisposition. These sensors have the potential to cut down the rate of medication non-adherence and ensure that a patient stays on their prescribed course, all the while monitoring the effectiveness of the administered medication. The possibilities in this area are exciting as the world gears up to fully adapt to a robust 5G coverage.

Harnessing VR and AR for Healthcare
While VR and AR technologies have been around for some time, their compute-intensive nature has always constrained their application in everyday life. VR is already being used to improve mental health, to help children with autism, to aid cognitive function recovery, to study disease and to train surgeons. 5G will enable these amazing use cases to scale massively because they will no longer be restricted to use in hospitals by high-bandwidth connectivity requirements.

3D Printing
Advances in material science, manufacturing, and digital engineering are enabling 3D printing to come of age. 3D printing was used to build a space rocket for the first time in 2019, while in the field of surgery, 3D printed prosthetics, tissue and organs are revolutionizing medical procedures and quality of life for patients.
Digital engineering is enabling highly contextualized, responsive 3D printing, for instance, patient-specific organs. 3D printing projects are becoming increasingly cost-effective, thanks to the highly agile software infrastructure underpinning them, capable of continuous innovation and design alteration.

And, as noted at the outset, the coronavirus pandemic has brought 3D printing into the daily news space, with facial masks and guards now being produced with this technology. For a few hundred dollars, entrepreneurs and mini manufacturing companies have been able to establish distributed production facilities near where these personal protection items are needed.

While this “cottage industry” led the way, we can expect mainstream manufacturers to pick up the ball, as the magnitude of the need and the duration of the pandemic both increase.

AI – Driving Analytics, Automation, and Robotics
As quality data and consumer and patient trust increase, AI will become more reliable. It’s only a matter of time before a computer can be more accurate in making a diagnosis and determining treatment. As such, it’s not a question of if this will happen, but when and how. Healthcare data is growing faster than data in any other sector. AI and machine learning technologies will play an increased role in both managing and analyzing the data output, and the ability to put these technologies to work will be a key differentiator for healthcare organizations.

AI in the form of RPA platforms will make serious inroads into alleviating the admin burden in healthcare. However, physicians may be reluctant to implement computer diagnosis tools for fear of being replaced. And before we reach the point of trusting AI diagnoses, regulations need to be in place to enable mistakes to be tracked down. Furthermore, 2020 will be an exciting time for the field of robotics, where AI is already augmenting workforce capabilities.

And the more trust increases, the faster AI will develop. This lack of trust is a self-fulfilling prophecy of reduced effectiveness – the more AI is used (the more practice it gets), the better it can become. Players in the healthcare industry have already begun using AI-apps into their operations and scanning devices. The technology is used to acquire, collect, and organize accurate medical images of a patient’s history, as well as the patient’s scans. AI is also being used for imaging diagnosis in genetics, labs, pathology, and other healthcare areas as it facilitates decision-making and improves processes and diagnosis. Last but not least, AI helps with diagnosis as it enables decisions to be made based on the data.

There are significant benefits and several opportunities AI, and machine learning will bring to the healthcare industry. It won’t be simply optimizing monetary transactions or predicting the fastest possible route but helping doctors to find the best treatment. Or helping to reduce the burdens put upon patients by being more precise with treatments and treatment decisions.

Supply chain & logistics
Hospitals are hugely dependent on reliable supply chains. Therefore, they can benefit from moving into the supply chain space themselves rather than relying on external companies.

Doing so could enable nurses to spend less time fetching medications and more time caring for patients, while on-time delivery could free up more beds and potentially save lives.

Hospitals and the healthcare industry as a whole continue to be very traditional, though. They tend to be slow at adopting obvious solutions that could make everyone’s lives easier. However, players in the healthcare industry, especially hospitals, are starting to pay more and more attention to supply chain management and logistics.

Because to survive and succeed in the industry, hospitals and healthcare systems find it increasingly necessary to tackle supply chain and logistical problems head-on and leverage available technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, drones, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Health tech with a human touch
2020 will be an interesting year when it comes to healthcare trends. Of course, healthcare technology will continue to influence the industry, but the real healthcare trend to watch is the inevitable change in consumer and patient behaviour.

Healthcare companies, in particular healthcare startups, will need to focus on developing and building consumer and patient trust. Big organizations who may not have technical capabilities can look to partner with (or acquire) external parties to help accelerate adoption. But in doing so, they should seek to understand the consumer impact of the technology being implemented and proceed only if it’s beneficial, not just because it’s shiny and new.

No longer should it be only about treatment and diagnosis but also about providing a reliable, easily accessible, and user-friendly patient environment with short communication lines and personal interactions. Not only for more accurate analysis but also faster drug development cycles and potential alternate therapy rollouts. And once people start noticing those changes, they’ll slowly but steadily embrace the benefits of going digital.

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