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10 ideas for the future of digital healthcare

Innovative ideas and technologies aid healthcare’s efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic: among them, there are portable health monitoring devices, virtual reality (VR) technologies, and drone-driven supply deliveries, and so on. Social distancing reshapes the communication between a patient and a doctor so that both acknowledge the opportunities of telemedicine. Innovation creates the basis for the breakthrough performance of telehealth and emphasizes the concept of convenient care. Healthcare transforms into a service industry.

This article explores projects and ideas for healthcare quality improvement. They simplify the lives of doctors, patients, and other people who work in the healthcare industry. The "more for less" strategy helps physicians reach better outcomes for less human hours. The overview includes ten major ideas for the future of digital healthcare: for both doctors and patients who become equal in the health monitoring process, health management, and other aspects of care.I

Innovations at the major research facilities in the US 

The United States is currently experiencing a technological boom. As COVID-19 figures remain alarming, digital healthcare startups ideas emerge daily as society deals with the pandemics — this industry is one of the few that has gone through incredible growth.

One of the industry’s priorities is minimizing the patient-doctor communication risks. Different facilities currently test digital innovation ideas in healthcare to avoid understaffing and burnout of clinicians. The following five examples show how innovations can serve the care process and open new opportunities for healthcare improvement:

  1. Drone-delivery supplies. Flight Forward program at Raleigh, N.C. enables drone-based medical equipment deliveries between the 150-yards apart hospitals. It started as a communicative pathway between the two hospital branches within one region. The program delivers blood and tissue samples between several hospitals in the area to avoid pressure on third-party delivery services. Flight Forward’s CEO David Abney has recently expanded its services to 20 hospitals around the US to make drone deliveries a regular practice. According to him, their major goal is to make medicine available. They aim at medicine and equipment delivery not only for the local rural areas but to other underserved infrastructure regions in America.
  2. AI-assisted medical learning and surgeries. Atrium Health at Charlotte, N.C., emphasizes the necessity of AI use in diagnosing, learning, and modeling for the medical practice. According to the Chief Data and Digital Officer Omer Awan, such applications as dosage errors revealing / monitoring, fraud detection, and robot-assisted surgeries are the most significant digital healthcare ideas. For example, HeartLander, Carnegie Mellon University research, can perform heart therapy treatments through the incision and navigation within the arteries. This micro-robotic mechanism is a definite step into the healthcare future, as a nanite-type treatment like this one seemed a Sci-Fi plot somewhat five-ten years ago. AI use in medical learning and practice saves time for professional surgeons who have too much work to do to properly train their juniors. Lastly, an AI-assisted RDMD startup seeks to find and analyze rare diseases and treatment methods for them. Such genetic diseases as NF2 (Neurofibromatosis Type 2) can be studied better through RDMD: the platform connects people with rare diseases to drug developers who research variations of addressing them in a personalized way.
  3. 3D modeling and printing. Apart from its use in organ transplantation, 3D modeling has another potential. Boston Children’s Hospital currently uses 3D operating models to allow surgeons to perform complex operations. This practical training is harmless. It helps doctors avoid human errors related to fatigue during lengthy surgeries or anxiety in emergency cases. These preparatory mechanisms aim at decreasing medical anxiety related to responsibility. According to the facility experts, this approach allows patients to spend less time on the operating table, as the manipulations' speed shortens due to such doctoral “rehearsals." 3D printing is highly valuable for organ transplants and will help to eliminate donor queues in the nearest future.
  4. VR in medical teaching and practice. Similar to 3D modeling, VR largely assists both patients and doctors. According to Deloitte Medical Institute, the future of digital healthcare depends on distant virtual operations. During the recent decade, virtual reality has already proved its value for mental health treatment. Even preoperational anxiety can be decreased due to the use of VR. VRHealth research already helps clinicians to gather patient information and share rehabilitation instructions. The current stage of implementation makes it possible for patients to wear VR glasses during stressful or dangerous operations when they have to be conscious. Thus, VR creates a safer and convenient environment where patients can rehabilitate and communicate with the world both prior to and after the operation.
  5. Big Data diagnosing predictive algorithms use. The University of Chicago aims at removing operating room slowdowns. Their recent research included the blending of real-time data and AI-powered EHR algorithms to optimize operations and streamline clinical workflows. For example, machine learning is used to forecast hospital readmission. The patient-centric strategy is based on data-driven research to provide safer operations environment and emergency plans for out-of-control cases. This approach unites clinician teams to enhance their cooperation in emergency cases. The further implications of the predictive algorithms should serve a broader purpose for the early diagnosing and preventive treatment.
medical innovations

Implications for patients’ monitoring

Naturally, the latest healthcare innovations cannot serve solely medical facilities. During the 2020-21 global pandemic, remote assistance for medical customers is crucial. Patients’ monitoring technologies help engage them in the healing process. Patients gradually embrace the necessity of taking responsibility for their health, and the following healthcare tech ideas can assist them in doing so:

  1. Patients’ opinion research. Deloitte Medical Institute emphasizes the significance of social networks for medical facilities. Thus, tapping into social network data enables local hospitals to become better and helps track consumer dissatisfaction, demands, and overall trends concerning their health and well-being. Experts state that communication between a clinician and a customer improves the overall healthcare quality. The customers can also have a direct communication instant-messaging channel with their dedicated physician to use in case of an emergency. NHS offers a similar initiative in its annual Digital Healthcare Ideas Report. Thus, social media has all potential to become a valuable resource for digital healthcare learning, exchange of experiences, and for better connection between medical practitioners and patients.
  2. Self-monitoring through sensor-based wearables. Harvard Business Review considers monitoring wearables as one of the six major players in improving American healthcare. According to the review, the patient's responsibility is "still not in the place" when innovation enters healthcare: technologies help them become more empowered and transform into true clients for healthcare services as opposed to being a passive subject to the clinician's actions. Drug prescription reminders, diagnostic devices, heart rate monitors, anxiety monitors, ECG screeners, and other wearables are only the top of the innovative revolution’s iceberg. Microsoft-based CTRL-Labs wristband motors neurons down the arm muscles. The device detects the electrical impulses when the patient thinks about moving his arm, which is a useful technology for patients recovering from various neurodegenerative conditions. According to CTRL-Labs CEO, Thomas Reardon, this technology offers numerous rehabilitation forms for post-amputation, Parkinson's disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, etc. The possibilities behind CTRL-Labs require further research as they contain an unlimited potential for self-monitoring and self-care. Devices like this help post-operative patients become more autonomous and confident about their future, as they can exercise and improve through post-operational shock.
  3. Self-testing through ultrasound. More than 4 billion people globally have no access to medical imaging. They can reach this technology late or when the proper treatment possibility is far behind. To avoid that, Yale Genetics created Butterfly iQ, a handheld ultrasound that connects to any type of tablet. This lets patients receive their ultrasound results at home and deliver them to their physician without personal clinical attendance. As COVID-19 is still on the rise, the limitation of physical contact between a patient and a doctor is necessary for personal safety. This technology also allows saving $100,000 per ultrasound machine, which is very good for a hospital's finances. While the portable gadget will not be cheap, Yale Genetics researcher Jonathan Rothberg states that Butterfly iQ's gradual spreading will lower the price as fast as new iPhones. This gadgets’ precision still has room for improvement, but developers are working towards it.
  4. Cooperation through telehealth. Telehealth will continue to grow as patients become more autonomous. They can access their health data in EHR records directly and make their own treatment choices from different options. For example, ChatbotFlorence provides personalized medical advice based on EHR data and enables considerable library access to registered patients. Its Untangle Care Blog helps patients communicate and give feedback on their treatments and bot's efficiency. Patients talk to their physicians through any available software on their portable devices, such as Skype, Viber, chats on hospital portals, Zoom. This helps reduce the number of personal emergency room visits during social distancing periods, which means fewer queues and a lower risk of COVID-19 infection in a public place.
  5. VR rehabilitation. VR remains one of the most promising and least researched areas of healthcare. According to Darren Dworkin, Chief Information Officer at Cedars-Sinai, doctors see patients when they are most vulnerable. To restore their confidence, VR serves as a credible post-operative therapy opportunity. If patients suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, or psychotic episodes, the tuned virtual reality can distract them from their physical symptoms and help them re-focus. Therefore, VR does not only help doctors to study but also assists the patients in surviving their traumatic episodes and dealing with mental disorders. Yet, experts warn against VR overindulgence as it should not replace reality. Another VR application relates to medical learning, as it helps prepare the healthcare workforce to get used to applying digital tech in the field. The whole new program of dealing with VR equipment is needed to assist patients in mastering VR glasses potential. According to Forbes, Pennsylvania Hospital is currently trying to reform its traditional medical design to see which technological advances, including VR, might work for the patients’ best.

Conclusion

The future of healthcare is much broader than the ten key ideas discussed above. Yet, they outline major healthcare trended innovations in 2021. Both researchers and customers of healthcare services realize the importance of VR application in the field and want to study the possibilities of 3D modeling, 3D printing transplants, and further refine medical wearables to make patients more autonomous.

Different medical facilities show vast potential for innovations to change healthcare for the better, streamline their services, create a safer patient environment, and make diagnostics precise. With digital novelties, healthcare does not only save money and resources by optimizing logistics and work hours but also prevents unnecessary procedures. As the digital healthcare industry grows, it’s up to regulators and healthcare businesses to build infrastructure that is flexible and accepting enough to implement innovations without disrupting core care processes. To find out more about why it’s often not the case — and why healthcare stakeholders are often hesitant about adopting new technology and how to change their minds — check out this article in our blog.

On the patient's side, innovative healthcare makes them fully responsible for their treatment choices and teaches about their health, body, and different ways to manage their conditions. Technology also makes care more accessible and prices — more transparent. Digital healthcare is already here, and all we need to do is embrace it and face its full potential as a confident step into the future.

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