In the ever-evolving world of healthcare, one can’t afford to remain standstill. In a tumultuous environment experiencing significant technological changes and a push toward a healthier lifestyle, healthcare businesses need to stay up to speed on current trends and anticipate how those trends might affect them going forward.
From the growing adoption of telemedicine and the need for more customer-friendly healthcare websites to the development of self-driving cars and new medical technologies on the horizon, several trends will be necessary for healthcare businesses to monitor over the next five years.
What do these trends mean? What can healthcare businesses do now to ensure they are prepared for what’s to come?
To answer these questions and more, we’ve compiled a list of the top five healthcare industry trends that we’ll be watching over the next several years:
- Expanding Role of Telemedicine Technology
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for physicians is projected to increase by 24 percent. With almost 70 million people now living in America’s mega-cities, there appears to be strong demand for primary care providers and those who can perform specialty care services such as dermatology and orthopedics. However, it’s also true that many doctors are moving toward less contact with patients through their brick-and-mortar offices. Some practitioners are able to do a blend of both, such as a patient’s first visit in the office when dealing with physical medicine like pediatric physical therapy in Chicago or prenatal care in Los Angeles. Once a baseline treatment protocol is established its easier for doctors and patients to set up follow up visits with video calls. Many health care providers are beginning to offer consultations via electronic means such as talking on the phone and streaming video, due in part to the growing demand for more convenient healthcare services and a more significant push toward integrated medical care.
- More Emphasis on Personalized Medicine
According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, personalized medicine is “a strategy for delivering the right treatment to the right patient based on his or her unique genetic makeup, which can vary from person to person.” This field of medical research was named one of President Obama’s top four priorities by a US Government-appointed panel in 2013.* The goal is to design a healthcare system capable of selecting and delivering appropriate treatments, including methods such as gene therapy and stem cell transplants. By using genomic sequencing to identify the specific mutations in each patient’s tumor, doctors can create treatments that are more effective and less punishing to patients. In doing so, doctors can apply the methods from this practice to a variety of medical conditions and diseases, including cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
- Growing Popularity of Health Management Apps
With the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and other similar devices, it should come as no surprise that healthcare organizations are using technology to improve patient experience by giving them more control over their care. And as more patients look to their devices for healthcare advice, app developers are meeting that demand by creating programs designed for health management. Some examples include apps that help patients manage chronic conditions, stay informed about prescription drug costs and find the right doctor. According to data from BI Intelligence, mobile app use among American adults will leap from 52 million users in 2012 to 212 million in 2017.* This growth is partly because many doctors’ offices are implementing programs that allow patients to access records such as lab results and medical images from their mobile devices.
- Push Toward Home Health Care
According to BLS projections, employment of home health aides is expected to grow by 38 percent across the United States between 2010 and 2020. This trend is fueled by several factors, including an aging population (approximately 20 percent of Americans are now age 65 or older), an increase in chronic illnesses (which often require round-the-clock care), and a rising demand for home healthcare services. It’s also important to consider that patients seek care at home because long-term hospital stays can be pretty expensive and exhausting. In addition, some physicians feel more comfortable with their patients receiving care at home than in a medical facility. Many insurance providers and other healthcare organizations hope to see this type of patient-focused approach over the next five years.
- Rise of 3D Printing Technology
Researchers from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center announced in early 2013 that they had successfully used a 3D printer to create living tissue by layering various types of cells into specific shapes, such as blood vessels or muscle tissue. These printed materials were then implanted into laboratory mice, where they functioned properly and sustained life for several months. This successful experiment is also expected to one day lead to custom-made implants for humans, which may improve the lives of people with quadriplegia and other people who have lost significant bodily tissue. And as this technology advances, medical experts believe that they could use 3D printers in a variety of ways throughout the healthcare industry, including designing replacement body parts, printing vaccines, and helping doctors create more accurate anatomical models.
In conclusion, the above five trends represent some of the most important issues that healthcare organizations and professionals will be focusing on in 2022. It’s also worth noting that these predictions are based on current research and data. And as new information surfaces, it could potentially change patient care in a variety of ways.