One of the distinctive aspects of the current pandemic is that it has forced everyone to look very carefully at their healthcare systems. Innovation in medical fields, and their associated IT and technology advances, will benefit people down the road. Here are four healthcare IT trends that will shape the future of the industry.
1. Telehealth – Heading for One Billion Remote Consultations
COVID has stimulated the existing market for remote medical consultations. From a base of 22 million telehealth visits in 2013, we should expect one billion by the end of this year, according to Forrester Research. Healthcare organizations without telehealth programs need to implement them – and quickly – even if the pandemic recedes. The advantages of telehealth for access to mental health services alone are manifold. As this melds with medical AI and machine learning in the future, it will become central to many areas of therapy.
2. Cyber Security – The Predators Are Out There
Healthcare providers are being increasingly targeted by malicious forces, and cyber attacks are on the rise. The 2020 Healthcare Cybersecurity Report by experts Herjavec Group outlines many worrying developments for IT and senior management in this sector. Aging systems are leaving healthcare organizations more vulnerable to breaches. The emergence of the internet of things (IoT), where all devices are interconnected and communicate with each other, has some critical downsides: it enables hackers to leverage poor security in one device to access others.
3. AI and Machine Learning – The New Frontier
It is already established that computer systems can read some x-rays and ECGs better than doctors or nurses. This can be extrapolated to other medical systems where speed, accuracy, and repeatability will provide immense benefits as emerging AI and machine learning areas become part of mainstream medicine. Forbes Magazine estimates the value of this sunrise industry at $6.6 billion by 2021.
How can physicians and patients benefit from AI-assisted consultations? Together with telehealth and personal healthcare devices (e.g. smart watches), all sorts of symptoms can be easily monitored. Protocols and treatments can be rapidly updated. Big data from millions of patients can be crunched to predict optimal outcomes.
4. SD-WAN – Gateway to Better Cyber Security
With the aforementioned trends in threats to healthcare providers, what is an effective option to defend against intrusion? One of the best practices for network security to safeguard an organization’s resources without breaking the budget is a software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN).
It enables multi-site clinics and offices to communicate with each other and the headquarters without large amounts of expensive hardware. SD-WAN is software based, so it is less intrusive and cheaper to install and operate.
SD-WAN is a cost-efficient solution for small clinics and other healthcare organizations as it lets business-critical traffic have priority on the network. SD-WAN allows healthcare organizations to segment network traffic and ensure patient data connectivity is prioritized above other traffic. It offers improved security. While traditional WAN works with many applications at various sites, SD-WAN is able to integrate with a centrally-located security service that offers malware protection and other cyber security measures to every area and remote device in the company.
These technological trends are shaping a new exciting future for healthcare. Investing in them not only creates efficiencies and enhances patient care, it secures your business going into 2021. A telecom audit with PAG can help your healthcare organization save on IT costs, so you can do just that. To explore these benefits, contact PAG today.