January 6, 2014
Hot Technologies for Healthcare in 2014
By: Linda Frank, President of Innovative Workflow Technologies
As a software innovation company we’re excited about the coming year. 2013 saw a lot of growth in health technology innovation and application. The impetus is being spurred by a number of factors, including the HITECH act, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), and the rise of the Accountable Care Organization. Collectively these forces are encouraging adoption of information technology, as well as standardization and sharing of information. Here are some of the top technology trends in 2014 that will facilitate population health and wellness.
Consumerization: In the past engaging patients in their healthcare was at times futile. Now, however, consumers are finally being incentivized to participate in improving their health and wellness, and technology provides a significant vehicle for helping consumers to this end. Advances in patient-centric technologies include mobile apps, virtual house calls, telehealth, self-monitoring devices with feedback apps, PHRs and patient access to EHRs, to name a few. Take a look at the work we are doing with Genesis Health Technologies, where Genesis provides the patient with a medical grade glucose monitor, which instantly transmits glucose results to a database via cell phone without needing to dock or upload. Software developed by IWT provides patients and caregivers with alerts and access to the information, and links in other relevant data such as medication compliance. See more examples of how technology can empower patients through the personal story of Eric Dishman on the TED Blog. As he says, the future of healthcare is “smart teams”.
Wearable technology will factor big into this equation for both patients and providers. Talk about ubiquitous! With this technology, the era of the stationary PC is on its way out. Rather computing will become extensions of our bodies, constantly enhancing and improving our everyday lives. 2013 saw an increasing trend in consumers adopting “activity trackers”, i.e. Nike, fitbit, Jawbone. Just think… what a powerful consumer empowerment tool! Google Glass was released in 2013. Imagine a surgical team wearing Google Glasses… The surgeon might use it to view images or medical records about his patient. The anesthesiologist might pull up vital signs that would ordinarily be on monitors. For more examples, read “The Healthcare IT Applications of Google Glass” by Dr. John D. Halamka . Wearable technologies will be game changers, so watch for a lot of activity on this front in 2014.
Mobility: Increasingly users will be allowed to bring their own personal devices–tablets and smartphones–to work (BYOD). These devices offer immediate yet simple touchscreen access, and the number of applications that can be downloaded and used on them is growing rapidly. While the providers are hungry to use their devices to access our PICASO application, IWT’s experience has been that the hospitals are facing governance issues, which are proving to be a barrier. Concerns include impact on wireless network infrastructure, technical support and security concerns for healthcare data breach (identity and access management, data security, remote access, and risk of theft). 2014 should see positive movement in this area, and then the sky is the limit.
Printing technology, as in 3D printing, for creation of biological material such as implants and tissue: Surgeons have already been using 3D printing to design customized implants for surgical implantation, but it doesn’t stop there. Recent advancements, albeit early in their development, include introduction of the bio pen for “drawing” new bone, skin and muscle on to patients, and 3D tissue printing which uses inkjet printing technology to print cells taken from the eye. This represents the first time that anyone has been able to print out central nervous system cells. These are both in their infancy, but 2014 should see some huge advancements in this technology.
Energy Management: Gartner Group predicts that “energy management will become an enterprise-level discipline by 2017, which will be enabled by energy management information systems.” In partnership with Johnson Controls and HDR , IWT has already headed down this path with the development of HEO (Healthcare Environment Optimization), which optimizes air exchange rates and energy use through integration of a hospital’s building automation system with software that determines when an operating room is occupied by a patient. Look for continued use of IT in healthcare energy management in 2014.