There is increasing clinical evidence that continuous physiological monitoring using wearable technology to manage chronic diseases and monitor patients’ post-hospitalization, will be ground-breaking. The market for wearable technologies in health care is projected to exceed $2.9 billion in 2016, and transform medical care in unimagined ways.
Telemedicine, much discussed, has become more widely adopted among health institutions and will continue to expand in 2016. Telemedicine services can address the needs of hard-to-reach patients who require assistance with rehabilitation, including physical and occupational therapy following orthopedic and cardiac surgery, and stroke. Telemedicine also has the potential to provide much needed mental health consultation services, and diagnostic and treatment advice from experts at major medical centers to small rural hospitals over video connections. This is already saving lives and improving quality of care.
Robots in health care extend clinical capabilities and leverage best of care options by performing complex tasks using integrated datasets and intricate instruments that they are able to manage much more effectively than humans. Robots, in 2016, will be used across the continuum of care, in the OR and the ER, and for home-bound patients as well as for teaching, Robotic “Flight Simulator” Surgery has become a new way to train surgical students to perform complex operations without practicing on live patients, which improves their training and reduces medical errors.
In 2016, large data sets that reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human physiology and interactions between cells, proteins and other elements in the body, will be common in the medical setting. This means that clinicians will have the ability to look for trends and associations to deliver best practices based on predictive analytics. Use of Big Data is going to be increasingly important in personalized/precision medicine (genetics and genomics), as more and more patients have their genome analyzed for the purpose of finding a specific customized treatment solution for a complex medical issues. As more connected devices come online and new data sources such as those from wearables and social media gain acceptance, the promise of big data analytics in medicine is enormous.
Over $28 billion dollars have been spent in the U.S, to date, on implementing health information technology, particularly Electronic Health Record Systems (EHR). However, these systems are not yet interoperable, meaning that information does not flow seamlessly between disparate health records. This prevents hospitals and medical groups within states and across geographic boundaries from exchanging patient data when an individual has an emergency situation that requires attention outside of his or her familiar medical home. This complicates treatment and thwarts healthcare’s most basic objectives, full information at the point of care. This is a challenge we should attempt to resolve in 2016.
Patients are consumers of healthcare, and accordingly, they expect to be treated as customers. Until recently, consumerism in the U.S. healthcare industry was a non-issue. Several issues are converging to change that dynamic. Higher deductibles and copayments, greater transparency into provider performance and cost of care, better health literacy supported by an influx of health information in every media from print, video and online, all contribute to patients becoming healthcare consumers who expect support and service.
Consumers want healthcare delivered to them in a way that is a very different paradigm from the way healthcare works today. The lack of affordable insurance on ACA exchanges, low price transparency around healthcare costs, and increasing financial burdens on consumers will drive the shift towards consumerism in 2016.
2016 will also see great advances in innovative technology and customized patient services, as well as in development of medications that provide better cures for many long-time incurable diseases. Today, there is a wide gap between the availability of such drugs and the ability of the public to pay for these remedies that are so highly priced. There are enormous hurdles to overcome in the implementation and acceptance of new technologies as old habits die hard.