The health care industry is one where innovation and advancement is the norm as new treatments and technologies constantly improve short- and long-term patient care. Health care is one of the most rapidly evolving fields of business, and technology is squarely at the helm.

As we continue our look at how technology is radically changing specific industries, read on to see how big changes are affecting the entire health care landscape, and how you can stay abreast of it all.

Know Your Industry

There is so much innovation and transformation in health care that it is difficult to keep up with all the trends and disruptions. The complete picture includes the actual technology in hospitals and physicians’ offices around the world, as well as tools that are in the hands of consumers:

  • Autonomous Surgery: The improvements in both robotic and AI technology have found their way to the operating room — and initial tests in soft-tissue surgery have shown that autonomous robots are more precise than seasoned human surgeons by themselves or with assisted (non-autonomous) robotic technology.
  • Preventative Care: With insurance programs now federally required to include many preventative care procedures such as vaccinations, physicals and prenatal care, expect advancements here as health care facilities need to accommodate more patients for relatively quick visits.
  • Consumer Education: While not limited to health care, consumer education is already transforming the health care space. (WebMD diagnoses, anyone?) Consumers have access to more information than ever before from a variety of sources, and are often extremely well-versed and prepared when discussing diagnoses and care with health care providers. This of course has its good and bad sides, as patient awareness can help drive advancement, but also increase appointment length and lead to unnecessary tests and procedures.
  • 3D Printing: 3D printing is already in use in medical devices and prosthetics as a way to create customized and intricate designs. We may even be a few years away from printing simple organs and actually using them!
  • New Technology: As a whole, nurses and doctors must keep up with the tools and devices that emerge with new tech trends. The practice of doctors pushing examinations and procedures to assistants is on its way out — health practitioners of the new generation are smart, equipped and eager to use technology to help advance the science of patient care.

In addition to these changes, Silicon Valley is spreading its innovation into non-tech industries like never before. Today we can see: Google looking to break into the medical device, biopharmaceutical, and electronic health record (EHR) markets; Sean Parker researching a cure for cancer; Apple’s ResearchKit and HealthKit platforms and the proliferation of its hardware in hospitals and research facilities; and a variety of new health apps for both consumers and care providers. Apple is also seizing the opportunity provided by the millennial generation’s willingness to share data to help others by creating open trials for the advancement of medicine. Systems are being merged for the prosperity of all, exemplified in high-profile acquisitions, such as Teva Pharmaceuticals’ purchase of Gecko Health Innovations.

Your IT Budget

In the face of all these innovations, it should come as no surprise that the IT budget for the average hospital and care provider is increasing. Analytics, patient engagement, customer relationship management (CRM) and security have all led at least 40 percent of hospitals to increase their IT budgets in 2016. There are also many overlooked areas that may contribute to higher IT budgets, such as end-of-life and obsolescence (e.g. Windows XP).

For those companies that are not actively innovating, but that need to incorporate the latest tools and technologies, we fortunately see that the cost of technology is continuing to drop. We already have portable, mobile size EKGs, X-ray scanners, heart rate monitors, thermometers, fitness trackers and more, and innovation will see these devices continue to become smaller while costing less.

Security

With more and more health records becoming digital and cloud-based, security is extremely important. But similarly to the financial sector, the health care market is very confused on how to efficiently deliver the right options, so expect more tools to help manage security and compliance in the future. Connected or “smart” medical devices are also cause for concern. As lifesaving pieces of equipment become part of the Internet of Things (IoT), the security around these devices could be a matter of life and death.

Another new aspect of health care that will require heavier security is remote medicine or telemedicine. Not only will communication between patients and care providers need to be protected, but so will transmission of remote procedure results and patient data from mobile X-ray, MRI and other units.

Regulatory Compliance

Tech training and compliance training will absolutely need to increase in the future, as a lot of smaller providers have no idea what is necessary to comply with regulations like HIPAA, or how to protect consumer data. Technology will also play a role in helping to manage compliance.

Nursing shortages will cause shifts in the ways in which training programs are offered and accepted. Expect online programs to make it easier for nurses to further their careers, as well as for RNs to become nurse practitioners without sacrificing their current careers. Of course, these programs must comply with current requirements, but don’t be surprised to see compliance requirements change to accommodate the new programs as well.

Moving Forward

Hopefully, the current advancements discussed above weren’t too overwhelming because there are many more long-term trends we expect to see in health care:

  • Insurance: Insurance systems will need to converge, as the current in-network/out-of-network organization is a deeply flawed system that technology is making obsolete and antiquated. Expect to see a system that allows systematic processing of claims independent of provider and insurer, and expect a tech giant to not only come up with the idea, but to quickly move it through the political landscape necessary for approval.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Political bureaucracy is changing as new technologies give more people the ability to hold politicians accountable (such as apps that measure the influence of candidates by party, company, donation, etc.). This will help increase the pace of change in the medical field, leading to the introduction and widespread adoption of new systems and regulations.
  • Medication and Pharmaceuticals: Anyone who has been paying attention to U.S. news knows that drug prices are out of control and far ahead of inflation. Expect new programs to replace the current pay-per-pill ones, such as contracts that depend upon actual patient results. We can also expect consumer frustration to force more radical changes, such as alternative sources for drugs like biosimilars that will eliminate dependence on expensive local options.

These possibilities and all of the trends discussed above are indicative of radical shifts in health care, and they are closer than most people think. It is imperative to get your organization to the right stage of IT maturity to be ready for the future.