Even the harshest critic of the global healthcare system cannot watch the coronavirus crisis without recognizing the heroism of each healthcare worker or patient fighting a desperate battle. We all saw how healthcare professionals organized hospitals in parks and exhibition centers, how they drew up new rules to put multiple patients on a ventilator, or how they found new ways to sterilize personal protective equipment (PPE) and thus made it possible to reuse it. Obviously, neither we nor the global healthcare system had been ready for the pandemic.

As governments worldwide start to ease the lockdowns, it’s important to start analyzing the quality of response and how to make the future healthcare system more resilient to potential emergencies. Consequently, we assume that the coming decade will be full of unprecedented challenges.

The State of Healthcare System and How Far We’re from the Future

The COVID-19 crisis turned into a wakeup call for many industries, and healthcare is no exception. It highlighted a lack of beds, protective gear, vital equipment, workforce, and resources. However, the post-coronavirus period may become even more challenging. Around 34 percent of caregivers in 15 countries have considered quitting their jobs due to work-related stress. Meanwhile, 44 percent of medical workers state that they feel unprepared for all the business administration tasks. They are burnt-out and demotivated. 

Even before the coronavirus epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicted a shortage of 18 million caregivers in the next ten years. Will these numbers change in the post-COVID world? — We still have to find out. Can we leverage technologies to mitigate those gaps? — We should absolutely try since merely increasing the daily workload of medical personnel to meet the growing needs is not a sustainable solution.

What the Hospital of Tomorrow Will Look Like or How Technology Will Change the Future of Healthcare 

Currently, healthcare leaders face multi-pronged issues as they have to fight against the industry crisis on the frontlines, ensure staff safety, and deal with economic challenges. But most importantly, today, they’re also expected to identify the gaps and address them immediately to contribute to a more efficient and resilient future of healthcare. 

Having so much on their plate, it’s hardly surprising that industry leaders can’t dedicate enough time to business evaluation and reformation. Moreover, the enhancement of business amid the global crisis is twice as hard. That’s why stakeholders often call on a reputed IT partner like TEAM International to share the burden and plan the recovery stage more confidently and wisely.

As the world is still in the throes of this epidemic, it may be tough to imagine what the future of healthcare technology will look like in the long run. However, talking to our clients and leads, we distinguish the top three trends that are already shaping the future of healthcare and are definitely worth your attention.

#1 Virtual care and the Internet of Medical Things

Real-time monitoring doesn’t seem confusing and difficult anymore. The rise of wearable technology in healthcare promotes patient-centricity and brings wellbeing into the focus of people’s conscious thinking. These days millions of people leverage smart technologies to track meals, workouts, activity, sleep, water intake, and more. Health wearables allow patients to record blood pressure among other vitals and notify doctors in case of abnormal activity. 

All these and other healthcare wearables will soon create a comprehensive virtual care infrastructure that will be accessible anywhere. Consequently, instead of doing yearly check-ups, individuals can control their wellbeing more frequently and accurately. Meanwhile, doctors will be able to shift their focus from mere monitoring and treatment to preventive measures. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the smart wearable healthcare devices market is projected to hit $37.67 billion by 2025. 

And what does it mean to the future of the healthcare industry? — Unfortunately, the global healthcare system still relies heavily on manual processes, obsolete technologies, and in-person interactions. Consequently, it may require time and significant effort for industry leaders to get up to speed with the rapid pace of innovation. However, finding a reliable IT partner and creating a connected ecosystem for healthcare trackers, wearables, and sensors, virtual care providers will enhance the individual clinical experience and give patients a more proactive and responsible role in their self-care.

#2 Telemedicine 

Every crisis makes way for new opportunities. Telehealth services aren’t new, and they’ve been around for several years now. However, they didn’t earn enough support from healthcare providers and patients. Until now. 

But let’s start with the basics. What is telehealth? — Telehealth is the provision of health-related services using telecom technologies. It enables remote advice, care, education, monitoring, and treatment assessment. Consequently, when doctors had to stop seeing their patients due to the COVID-19 outbreak, they all had to go online, and so telehealth solutions received a massive boost in popularity. Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently introduced a $200-million investment program for telehealth technology. Do we need any more proof that this tendency is here to stay? 

Telemedicine services will become even more important later on. They prove their worth in medication management or follow-up visits when physicians have long-lasting relationships with their patients and know their health conditions. This is particularly true for rural communities and far-flung regions. However, telehealth platforms don’t fully eliminate doctor appointments, as many examinations and procedures still should be done in person.

#3 AI and automation in healthcare 

Even though younger medical personnel are tech-savvy, about one-third don’t know how to utilize digital patient data to inform patient care. Additionally, the amount of information they encounter in day-to-day practice can be overwhelming. All of these factors lead to stress, demotivation, and poor service quality. Consequently, ensuring better staff experiences becomes a top-of-mind priority for healthcare providers. 

In the coming decade, the adoption of robotics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence in healthcare will become a part of the ‘new norm.’ Routine, rule-based tasks like referrals, check-ins, prescription filling, or charting will be performed by automated healthcare solutions. Meanwhile, AI technology will make it possible to detect and diagnose diseases faster and more accurately. Finally, machine learning can be applied to examine treatment patterns, recognize similar cases for further research, and assist with managing chronic diseases.

Such an approach will potentially relieve the pressure on the medical staff and help to mitigate the potential shortage of qualified medical personnel, mentioned earlier. No wonder the global healthcare AI market size is projected to reach $31.3 billion by 2025.

Forward-Minded Workforce as the Main Driver of Future Trends in Healthcare

The nature of work is evolving in all the industries. Customers are becoming ever more tech-savvy and demanding. Businesses should catch up with new developments and learn to anticipate them. However, all the future innovations in healthcare aren’t possible without highly-trained and forward-minded employees, who feel comfortable working with new technologies. 

Issues related to training and skills lie at the root of any discussion about building and sustaining the healthcare workforce of the future. At TEAM International, we help to not only build smart hospital software solutions but also assist with process optimization, automation, and further enhancement; thus we can assess the situation first-hand. We want to share four simple steps on how executives can address those issues to embrace opportunities and help their healthcare workforce qualify for the coming changes:

  1. Talk to other executives and managers involving various departments and organizational layers to identify urgent weaknesses and potential use cases, like burnout, healthcare workforce shortage, and others;
  2. Communicate the corporate vision for the future of work to all the staff emphasizing the human-based processes that will be enforced and not replaced by emerging technologies and tools;
  3. Create and nurture a culture for continuous learning and teaming, investing in on-the-job education and cross-training. Additionally, managers should provide re- or up-skilling strategies or personal plans to the employees, engage them in improving customer satisfaction, all while promoting inclusion and diversity;
  4. Regularly review and update your healthcare workforce development strategies to hire and retain top talent. Digitization in healthcare doesn’t happen overnight, and we recommend introducing any changes gradually. Start small, assess the results, and proceed. The same applies to personnel training since too large amounts of information can be confusing and lead to poor service quality and demotivation. 

The Future of Healthcare in America and Globally: How to Get There? 

If we step back and take a longer view, we’ll see that the crucial point we’re experiencing right now mainly refers to how healthcare institutions are facilitating the adoption of telehealth platform solutions by their personnel and streamlining essential processes by leveraging various online collaboration tools and technologies. In fact, the future of US healthcare system is already here, but it’s just unevenly distributed. And what next?

Instead of waiting for guidelines and regulations, industry leaders may reimagine healthcare operations and services, and benefit from the cultural and business changes introduced by COVID-19. We’d suggest focusing on the following features:

  • An interconnected ecosystem that includes health agencies, government platforms, payers, and other providers. Future hospitals should be digitally connected to make it possible for patients to receive high-quality care quickly, conveniently, and globally. Safe and seamless data sharing is crucial, so shifting online give particular attention to healthcare cybersecurity and compliance with domestic and international regulations;
  • Automated procedures and services to boost the overall accuracy and efficiency of hospital care. Our experience shows that over 80 percent of back-office operations (laundry, food delivery, pharmacy, and others) can be automated. Such an approach allows caregivers to dedicate more time to patients and make improvements in other aspects of clinical care;
  • Patient-centricity. In fact, all the advances in healthcare technology, shaping the future of medical care, are introduced to improve patient experience during, after, and even before their hospital stay. Here we’re talking about wearable health devices, telemedicine services, cloud-accessible results and health records, medication reminders, and so much more;
  • Structured and accessible clinical data to improve treatment quality and boost workforce efficiency in healthcare. Big data analytics proves successful in early risk identification, collection and analysis of statistical data, and design of health management plans for the population;
  • Diverse and open teams of innovators. Rethinking and future-proofing healthcare systems will rely on the efforts and imaginations of many. It’s not a typical IT project since it requires the involvement and dedication of all the staff, starting from nurses and physicians to accountants and executives. In this way, hospitals may be sure that existing or potential problems are instantly detected, and solutions are quickly built, tested, and rolled out. 

The coronavirus pandemic has unveiled not only vulnerabilities and transformative opportunities, but also our resourcefulness and empathy. We’re well on the way to a future-proof and resilient healthcare system, and this transformation will continue on for months and years after the crisis. The above-described future trends in healthcare technology and approaches to upskilling offer industry leaders a guideway to start navigating to the next normal and catch up with the new reality.