Digital Transformation in Healthcare – 5 Key Trends to Keep an Eye on in 2021

The healthcare industry made a promise to become more patient-centred, but attempting to change a system that has been working a certain way for centuries is not easy. Fortunately, healthcare professionals have an important ally they can rely on – technology.

We are still battling a pandemic that changed our lives in unimaginable ways, and that includes the healthcare sector as well. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought disruption to all fields of healthcare, prompting a dramatic shift in healthcare technology. As we continue to find better ways to manage the crisis, there will be a mountain of opportunities for digitalisation and streamlining of healthcare access. We are witnessing the future of healthcare shaping before our eyes, even though it took a pandemic to accelerate change.

Technology is powerful, but it can also be intimidating, especially with continuous advancements shaping up faster than we can assimilate. This is why, if we want to take full advantage of what it can bring, we need to become familiar with the latest developments and understand how to use them in our favour.

Below are some of the biggest technology trends we are going to see taking shape in the healthcare sector this year, so continue reading to understand what the winds of change will bring.

Improved data security with cloud computing

Many of you are probably already familiar with the cloud. The term can be a metaphor for what the internet is today, as instead of using applications and software that is stored on the computer, we have slowly started to migrate towards apps that have their data stored in the cloud, making things more accessible, safe, and easy to use.

For the healthcare sector, migrating to the cloud means improved reliability and security, reducing the risk for breaches and data loss. For example, if a doctor uses a computer to store patient data, and that computer becomes lost, all of this data can be at risk of getting exposed. However, if this information was stored in the cloud, even if the device is lost, the information is still protected and there are fewer risks to face. With cloud computing, the computer can be remotely wiped, or it can only act as a dumb terminal, meaning data can’t be saved on the device.

This is just one of the advantages of cloud computing in healthcare. Other benefits include fewer costs, scalability and flexibility, as well as improved patient satisfaction.

Big data in healthcare

Big data collects information, analyses it, and identifies patterns so that it makes it easier to predict trends. This information can be collected from all over the internet, including social media, online financial transactions, search engines, and customer preferences.

If used correctly, big data can bring about an array of benefits, including:

  • Fewer medical errors: by using software to analyse patient records, doctors can be notified if there are any inconsistencies between certain methods of treatment and the patient’s medical history, removing the risks of medical errors.
  • Improving preventative care: it is often better to prevent than to treat, so by using big data, healthcare professionals and patients can spot potential issues or predispositions to certain diseases and act fast in order to prevent the disease from actually occurring.
  • Better staffing: big data can aid healthcare facilities in predicting future admission rates and needs, helping them allocate proper staffing.

Virtual reality (VR) as a form of treatment

VR has long been associated with video games, but what if this type of technology can help patients find new methods of treatment? There are plenty of methods to include VR technology in healthcare, giving patients access to unimaginable methods of treatment.

Take, for example, patients battling PTSD and anxiety. By using VR technology, healthcare professionals can help patients explore their emotions and understand where their fears are coming from in a safe environment, similar to regular exposure therapy but with a much greater variety of situations that can be modelled.

Apart from this, VR can be used to improve medical training. Doctors and residents can use this technology to perform surgery simulations and improve their skills or get used to being in a medical facility. This can help lots of aspiring young doctors to see if they are suited for the healthcare environment before investing time and money into med school.

Wearable medical gadgets

Wearable gadgets have become a huge trend, especially among young people. Smartwatches, in particular, are one of the most sought-after devices in the past few years.

In healthcare, wearable devices can collect valuable data about the patient’s health and report any potential issues to both the individual and their healthcare provider. If, years ago, we were content with going for a physical once a year and hoping there’s nothing wrong, the digital age can make people more aware of their wellbeing and help them prevent potentially severe health issues.

By 2023, the wearable medical device market is expected to reach over $27 million, registering tremendous growth. Some of the most popular devices you can expect to find on the market are exercise trackers, sweat meters, oximeters, and heart rate monitors.

These devices can lead to personalised healthcare experiences, improved insurance options, and access to better preventative care.

Innovation through Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is everywhere, so it comes as no surprise we are seeing it in healthcare as well. But AI has become more than just a trend – in healthcare, it has become the epitome of innovation, attracting huge investments. Experts believe the market will exceed $34 billion by 2025, meaning we will surely see more of it in the years to come.

As for now, AI healthcare companies can help the healthcare industry in a number of ways. Hospital robots are just one example, and they are becoming more popular than ever. They are tasked with simple activities, such as restocking supplies and helping nurses with routine tasks, reducing time-consuming chores.

The biggest power of AI, however, can be leveraged in the field of precision medicine. Patients that were offered cookie-cutter methods of treatment can now have access to personalised treatment plans suited to their particular needs and biochemistry. This results in more efficient treatment methods and higher chances of overcoming severe conditions.