The healthcare industry sees major changes by the minutes, and 2020, in all its abnormality, isn’t slowing down because of COVID-19 when it comes to advancements. In fact, some of those advancements have been on the brink for a while but become necessity in the wake of the coronavirus outbreaks and subsequent lockdowns. Here are three areas that are undergoing rapid change in the healthcare industry this year.
Telehealth falls under the umbrella of advancements that were in existence but expedited due to the coronavirus pandemic and is defined as “the delivery and facilitation of health and health-related services, including medical care, provider and patient education, health information services, and self-care via digital communication technologies.”
As necessity, telehealth has helped keep hospital visits minimal during stand down, as many consultations can be done with a computer screen, and checkups/report findings can also be done without a face-to-face rendezvous. As far as the future of telehealth goes, it allows for a much greater reach in regard to patient care. This opens many doors on a global level, as caregivers can now help patients regardless of locale, needing only an internet connection and some translation technology.
As an extension of telehealth, the evolution of health education is very promising, and if utilized correctly, can help straighten curves that have existed for a long time in regard to healthcare equality across the U.S. and beyond. The creation of electronic health records allow for healthcare institutions across the country to compare and contrast treatment options for an almost-infinite number of similar cases affecting patients from all different demographics. Also, trainings that would regularly be conducted internally can now be streamed the world abound, allowing for the education on new procedures and practices to be immediately spread to anywhere with patients in need.
When it comes to self-education, certification practices and degree programs are now much more flexible and one does not have to throw away their whole lives to pursue an education in a health-related field. Online nursing programs (and jobs, for that matter!) are now in abundance, and though there are still some skeptics, their credibility is also on the rise.
AI & VR
Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality are being integrated into any and every industry these days, but healthcare practices are benefitting from them in a variety of ways, most of which improve care and lower costs for patients. It is estimated that 45% or operating rooms will have AI and VR technologies incorporated in just the next four years alone.
With virtual reality, the implementations are aplenty, but training is one that stands out, as it allows for students to see a “real” patient with a given ailment via the virtual reality headset, making learning almost endless, as test subjects can become moot. Companies are already taking 360 degree videos of surgical procedures in order to utilize the footage for VR situations.
For patients, physical therapy practices will be revolutionized with VR, and many mental health issues are being tested with VR treatments such as PTSD, depression, memory loss, and autism.
As is the case with most developments in healthcare, most minds around these technological advancements are in the right place and looking to improve patient care. The very reach that telehealth allows doctors to have can truly help entire communities that wouldn’t have otherwise been able to communicate with a caregiver about new treatments.
Another great part of these technologies is the cost benefits for patients, providers, and insurance companies. The technologies themselves were costly to create, but by their very nature, they cost very little to utilize, and the amount of recipients who can benefit from digital health initiatives is truly limitless.