The future of health care is here. And it goes far beyond browsing reviews of doctors online or skimming search trends to see what medical conditions are on the rise.
Thanks to the increasingly ubiquitous availability of high-speed internet connections, mobile devices and other emerging technology and market trends (coupled with explosive growth in communications platforms), it looks to be much brighter for both providers and patients alike.
Here's a sneak peek at five new high-tech health-care trends that promise to transform the shape of the medical field in 2019 and beyond. And, for that matter, a number of shifts in operating reality coming to the industry that organizations looking to capitalize on these upsides would do well to be aware of in their wake.
1. 5G Connectivity
Providing fiber optic-like high-speed data transfers, and near instantaneous download and response times, 5G wireless network technology promises to transform the shape of health care within the next few years. Potential applications for the technology, which enables larger and more sophisticated software programs to run without a hiccup on a wide range of mobile devices (even without having to be downloaded), are promising. Picture a world in which surgeons in Asia will use robots to flawlessly operate on patients from thousands of miles away. Alternately, imagine one in which medical students from across the United States can come together over their cell phones to jointly perform instructor-led examinations right from their couches. Like the ability to instantly search online medical databases and patient histories on demand, these are just two of the many types of applications 5G high-speed networking enables. And that's before you factor in the many workforce applications it empowers, such as allowing hospitals and care facilities to juggle patients, manage medical inventories, market themselves, stay on top of customer relationships and process paperwork far more effectively as well.
2. The Internet of Things
Billions of devices are currently connected and communicating online, generating data every single day. What are some of the innovations and emerging business trends that these advancements are powering? Pill bottles that can track when they're opened to make sure you're following your doctor's advice; DNA registers capable of gathering and analyzing information from millions of patients; and high-tech clothes and accessories that can collect and process detailed data on your everyday lifestyle and exercise habits. Coupled with growing digitization of medical testing and records, all are enabling much more in-depth and comparative health-related analyses to occur, and making it easier than ever to gauge the efficacy, impact and risk of potential treatment options for different patients. In effect, the scale at which health-care providers can now conduct surveys, cross-referencing and comparison is unrivaled—allowing for more in-depth testing and effective care than ever before.
It's no surprise that more providers are offering ways to research and interact with health-care providers online or engage in audio- or video-conferencing sessions with medical professionals via various mobile devices. Whether you're looking to schedule a call with a nurse to get advice on treating a head cold, or plan a video chat with your doctor to take a closer look at your sneezing symptoms, engaging in appointments virtually can save time and money. Likewise, many areas of the developing world are already taking advantage of a fast-growing range of apps that allow phone handsets to quickly transform into portable heart-rate monitors and other helpful tools. This level of convenience is increasingly helping to alleviate time and cost pressures on medical providers and patients, and bringing transformative capabilities to areas of the world that may otherwise struggle to receive adequate health care.
While the future of the health-care industry currently appears bright, it will look very different from today's field when it arrives. In addition, the changes it will bring will also create many opportunities and challenges for business operators.
4. Wearable Devices
Between smart watches, wrist-mounted trackers and internet-connected clothes, many are collecting personalized, real-time data on health and fitness habits—data that's increasingly being used to inform medical research, enhance sleep and improve well-being. From helping individuals' optimize eating and exercise plans to assisting them as they work to reduce stress and cultivate healthier behaviors, all promise to transform both the health-care field (and public healthiness levels) going forward. Some insurance companies are even incentivizing customers to embrace a more active lifestyle by offering plan pricing discounts for customers who track their steps and make a point to exercise more, helping slash health-related risks and costs for all parties involved.
5. 3D Printing
From prosthetics to standard-issue medical supplies, 3D printing—which allows you to create and make physical objects as needed—promises to upend the health-care industry. Moreover, a growing range of downloadable templates or digital blueprints and a thriving community of online creators is only helping innovative care options and ideas to spread further and faster. Researchers are already exploring futuristic applications and market trends such as the 3D printing of bone, muscle and skin tissue.
Looking even further ahead, here are a few additional trends and advancements we could expect to see:
• Open cloud health-care innovation portals where manufacturers, software developers, service providers and more can source ideas (including from members of the general public) to help build tomorrow's solutions.
• Mobile innovations that let you quickly research, compare prices and buy medical devices or source care-related services from a pool of private providers, all of whom are rated and recommended by users such as yourself.
• Websites where you can post advertisements for medical or health care-related needs, set your price and sit back and watch industry professionals compete to bid on them.
• Wellness programs that let you connect, share data and collaborate with other individuals in your city or neighborhood to help build positive fitness and health habits, and even enjoy discounts or rewards for making progress.
As you might imagine, these advancements may impact the health-care industry in a number of ways:
• Lowered barriers to entry, ushering in a wave of new solutions and providers, and producing heightened competition on pricing, service and value.
• Increased ability on consumers' part to research and shop around for health- and care-related products and services.
• More data being shared online, and having to be managed, than ever before.
• Additional emphasis on the need for customer service, loyalty and relationship-building—before, during and after purchase decisions.
While the future of the health-care industry currently appears bright, it will look very different from today's field when it arrives. In addition, the changes it will bring will also create many opportunities and challenges for business operators. However, these shifts promise to usher in a new wave of innovation and advancement for the field: a wave that forward-thinking businesses who stay on top of changing market trends should be able to successfully ride for years to come.
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