In an increasingly digital world, virtually everything is online and electronic, and health care is no exception. In a 2022 survey, the American Medical Association (AMA) found that 93% of physicians feel digital health tools are an advantage and 80% of physicians use telehealth. From phone calls to fitness trackers to artificial intelligence (AI), the future of technology in health care is bright.
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8 Emerging Health Care Technologies That Will Transform Patient-Centered Care
Several technological advancements are revolutionizing the health care industry.
3-D printing has numerous applications in the health care industry. This includes customizing dental work, printing epilepsy medication, and customizing hearing aids. It can also help enhance on-demand inventory of medical supplies, distributed supply chains, and prosthetics and implants.
Remote Patient Monitoring (RPMs)
Many patients benefit from constant monitoring, but doctors can’t be available 24/7. By using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, patients can track their vital signs and other physical conditions, and send data directly to their doctors.
In 2019, 53% of hospitals in the U.S. had computerized RPM systems, according to telehealth service expert DigitalOptometrics. A report by global consulting firm PwC found remote patient monitors can reduce hospital readmissions by 70%, length of stay by 30% to 40%, and costs by 40%. Common conditions monitored by RPMs include blood sugar, blood pressure, heart conditions, and sleep apnea.
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR is similar to virtual reality (VR), but instead of creating an entirely new environment, AR adds to the existing physical world to alter the user experience. AR can aid people by showing the location of nearby defibrillators, showing nurses and doctors where a patient’s veins are, assisting surgeons in the operating room, and explaining procedures and drug effects. It can also be used as an educational tool for children to learn about their bodies.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI technology can use software algorithms to complete tasks that usually require human intelligence. According to a report from digital appointment provider 10to8, 80% of health care facilities use or plan to use an AI application. AI can improve accessibility, unite a patient’s care network, and reduce the length of doctor visits by providing mobile care records. It can also assist with time management, research and development, billing, and digitized supply chains.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The IoT connects devices and networks to the internet, so information and experiences can be shared. It connects patients to care providers, and care providers to research, records, and more. The IoT can affect care coordination, digitized operations, inventory control, and digital supply chains.
Mobile Diagnostic Aids
Portable care can help doctors in situations such as natural disasters, in-home visits, and overcrowded hospitals. Mobile diagnostic aids streamline diagnostics and testing. Examples of mobile diagnostic aids include wallet-sized electrocardiogram machines, blood pressure machines, pulse oximeters, and handheld ultrasounds.
Robots have the potential to assist, augment, or automate human activities. Robots can perform routine tasks, such as monitoring patients’ vital signs and lifting and transferring patients. They can serve as exoskeletons, which can increase a patient’s mobility and stabilize injuries. Robots can also act as companions and coaches. For example, they can serve as emotional support robots, assist patients with treatment plans, and alert emergency services if necessary.
Virtual systems are necessary to accommodate the large number of doctor visits, which are outpacing the number of clinicians. Remote access allows doctors to control medical devices from a distance. Remote access can manifest itself in many forms — like an optometrist controlling equipment from home, health care providers remotely accessing hospital records, or hotlines that guide patients through at-home procedures via telehealth.
Health Care Technologies Used by Health Care Organizations Today
While there may be a natural hesitancy to adopting new technologies, health care organizations have moved toward using electronic health records (EHRs), barcoding, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, and telemedicine. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology reports that as of 2021, nearly 78% of office-based physicians and 97% of non-federal acute care hospitals had adopted a certified EHR system.
Seventy percent of all medical decisions are based on lab results, with more than 14 billion tests conducted annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Correctly labeling and tracking laboratory specimens throughout the process is crucial. RFID and barcoding can aid in this process.
RFID can also improve patient safety by allowing prescribers to track and authenticate medication every step of the way. It can be used for tracking medicine, instruments, and samples; managing inventory; authenticating products; and reducing the risk of a drug mix-up or overdose.
Automated RFID inventory solutions can reduce restocking times by up to 83%, according to medication intelligence company Bluesight
Barcoding can be used to link a patient’s chart to their wristband and confirm they are receiving the correct treatment. It can also be used to share data among health care providers or track medication and manage inventory.
EHRs can be susceptible to cyberattacks, so cybersecurity is a major concern. Cloud computing firm VMWare saw a 9,851% increase in cyberattacks on its health care clients between 2019 and 2020. RFID and barcoding can help thwart cyberattacks by limiting who has access to medication, instruments, and records.
Barriers to Implementing Emerging Health Care Technologies
The health care industry is sometimes slow to implement new technology. Health care organizations can be conservative in making changes because not all technology changes succeed, and a single mistake can be disastrous. There are several other reasons why health care organizations may be hesitant to adopt new technologies.
New technology needs to meet current standards and must be greenlit by multiple departments and agencies. This can take a long time and be difficult to justify.
Resistance to Change
Health care facilities employ a large number of people, and retraining them is often time-consuming and costly.
The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) states that by law, medical information must be kept personal and private. All new technologies must be secure to be used in health care.
New technology is often expensive, and not every facility can afford innovation.
Patient Skepticism of Health Care Technologies
According to Pew Research Center, in 2022 only 29% of Americans had a “great deal of confidence in medical scientists to act in the best interests of the public.” That’s down from 40% in November 2020.
Patients also fear data hacking and a perceived lack of privacy protection by providers. Forty-five percent of security and IT executives believe ransomware attacks will increase in 2023, PwC reports.
According to global communications firm Edelman, 48% of Americans report the pandemic was a direct cause of their increased medical skepticism, and 52% of adults globally report the COVID-19 pandemic decreased their confidence in the health care system.
Despite patient skepticism, new health care technologies continue to prove their value in improving medical care, bolstering patient safety, and saving more lives.
Improving Patient Care Through Technology
As the health care industry becomes increasingly automated, there is a growing need to educate nurses and other hospital staff on the use of new technology while also being open to workflow changes. To realize the many benefits of new technology, health care professionals need to understand it and provide assistance to help ensure a positive experience for patients.
By demonstrating they are continuing to innovate and improve, health care facilities and professionals can boost patients’ confidence and improve their quality of life.