Medical cost growth rates have steadily decreased in the past 10 years, sinking from an 11.9 percent growth rate in 2007 to today’s 6.5 percent, according to professional services network PwC. Preventative care and better at-home care for patients has been boosted by technology, empowering individuals to take more control of their health, get help as soon as they need it, and maintain their well-being at home on their own.
As the healthcare industry continues to increasingly embrace tech within diverse practices, from offering electronic medical records to the use of social media, patients can look forward to more opportunities to take an active role in the state of their health in 2017. Here are five technology-related trends in healthcare that are helping patients stay healthier in their everyday lives.
1. Technology Boosts At-Home Health Maintenance
Improved precision in at-home medical devices is helping patients regulate and respond to conditions with more accuracy. Technology such as Microchip for medical devices helps diabetes patients accurately measure blood glucose levels, while digital blood pressure meters can be used at home to store and transmit blood pressure data back to a doctor’s office.
Diets are even becoming optimized with the development of at-home food sensors like offerings from Tellspec, a doctor-developed product that scans food at the molecular level to deliver caloric data and ensure food safety.
2. Telemedicine Provides On-Call Assistance
By 2021, research firm Research and Markets predicts the telemedicine industry will be worth $40.9 billion, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 14.77 percent from $17.9 billion in 2015. Contacting doctors or nurses via a virtual medium provides quick help and convenience for patients at home, and can often be more affordable than a traditional visit.
While digital-only services like Doctor on Demand are available, the amount of physical medical institutions that introduce telemedicine aspects to their organizations is also expected to increase in 2017.
3. Healthcare Apps and Wearables Keep Patients Fit
Patient knowledge about how to better take care of their health is improving, through the adoption of healthcare apps and the use of wearables. Market research firm Kalorama Information reported in their 2017 report The Global Market for Medical Devices that wearables related to healthcare is one of the top 10 healthcare trends this year.
In 2016, medical wearables were valued at more than $13.2 billion. Beyond devices that help a patient take care of their health through a specific action, devices such as Fitbits and healthcare apps like WebMD enable patients to be more proactive about staying healthy through better fitness and nutrition, as well as identifying potential symptoms to treat them earlier.
4. Internet of Things Becomes Smarter
Not including wearable devices, healthcare-related Internet of Things (IoT) devices will grow from 95 million in 2015 to 646 million in 2020, reports Business Insider. Some examples of IoT products transforming patient healthcare at home include:
- Smart medication dispensers that alert doctors to patient behavior, either that medicine is being taken on time, is being over-consumed, or is not being taken at all
- Smart scales that present not just weight, but also body fat percentage to motivate better fitness
- Smart security monitors that give remote caretakers or family members access to knowing where the patient or loved one is within a home at all times to increase safety
Using connected devices for healthcare purposes within a home allows patient data to be visible to those who need it, such as doctors or caregivers, while also allowing patients at home to be more independent and autonomous.
5. Social Media Spreads Knowledge
Hospitals and doctors’ offices are no longer shying away from social media and online communication. Instead, organizations are using online networks as a way to build patient trust and offer resources for preventative knowledge and advice.
Healthcare-focused marketing firm Healthcare Success reports one of the most notable marketing trends of 2017 is the use of social messaging apps as one of the most significant marketing avenues, while healthcare organizations can proactively use social media to stand out from competitors in a hyper-selective healthcare consumer market. The firm also predicts more healthcare providers will use digital marketing and social to form a one-on-one connection with patients, forming relationships online in addition to in person.
Access to better care at home helps patients make smarter decisions in regards to their healthcare and perform better health maintenance at a lower cost. As more healthcare organizations embrace technology, from how their employees converse with patients to the type of health management they prescribe, the benefits of at-home health tech can also result in better efficiency for health providers and increased loyalty.