Paging Dr. Mobile! Emerging Technology in Healthcare

James Hoshor | April 5, 2017 | Mobile Strategy

Recently I attended Orlando’s HIMSS conference for the Healthcare Information and Management System Society. I went into the medical conference with low expectations, since historically the healthcare industry has always been slow to deploy emerging technologies. I have to admit, however, that I was blown away by the advancements healthcare organizations (hospitals, clinicians, providers) have made. Every aisle featured innovative technologies aimed at improving the way healthcare is provided and administered, and at enriching the very nature of patient engagement.

I’m confident that in 2017 the increased adoption of emerging technologies will bring about a disruption in healthcare. I’m not just talking about mobile apps and wearable technology (that’s old news), but artificial intelligence, augmented/virtual reality and drones. But with these innovations come security implications and additional considerations healthcare organizations and solution providers must address.

Before we discuss these cool new technologies and their potential impact on healthcare, let’s first understand who is going to benefit from them. Everyone! That’s right, this will affect us all. As patients and consumers of healthcare services, emerging technologies impact how we engage with our physicians, hospitals, pharmacists, and insurers. Healthcare providers may now access real-time information about their patients from multiple sources. Thus enabling better and faster diagnoses for patients. In short, mobile and emerging technologies are helping save lives.

Consumers have long-since embraced the use of mobile technology as a means of improving our health and our daily lives. Greatcall asserts there are over 97,000 health and fitness apps on Google Play and the Apple App Store, with 4 million apps being downloaded each day. But consumers aren’t the only heavy mobile users. Greatcall states that 80% of physicians use smartphones and that over 25% use mobile technologies to deliver patient care. Traditional healthcare is rapidly transforming into “mobile healthcare.”

Here are some examples that further demonstrate this transition and its implications:

Improving Patient Engagement. Healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies are already finding new ways to improve relationships with patients and consumers. Eli Lilly recently launched a mobile app that helps patients remember to take their diabetes medication. Takeda launched an app that enables patients to track their symptoms using a smartwatch.

Consumers seek more personal service, something facilitated only through a better understanding of our behaviors and preferences. PWC’s “Top health issues of 2017” reports that 78% of consumers 25 to 34 answered “Yes” when asked if they would be willing to incorporate a videogame into their treatments, if diagnosed with a mental health problem. This is referred to as “gamification.” More and more healthcare organizations are incorporating some form of gamification into their mobile solutions, providing fun, interactive ways to track fitness and even train healthcare professionals.

So the implication here is that healthcare organizations cannot wait for patients to reach out to them. Yet they need to improve how they engage with patients and the timeliness of those patient interactions. If used appropriately, mobile technologies can enable healthcare providers to connect with consumers (patients) anytime, building trust and enabling providers to gain the knowledge they need to improve patient engagements and services.

Modernization comes with risks. To harness the benefits of mobile and emerging technologies, healthcare providers need to continually modernize not only their engagement methods, but also their back-office systems. One of the areas organizations are focusing more on in 2017 is modernizing payment processes and systems. According to an HRI survey (again from PWC’s “Top health issues of 2017”), 1 out of 4 consumers reported that poor experiences with hospital billing and payments affected their opinion of their healthcare provider.

Unfortunately hackers are targeting healthcare systems more than ever. The PWC “Global State of Information Security Survey 2017” showed phishing tops the list of healthcare security issues, followed closely by email compromises and ransomware.

Our recommendation for healthcare organizations is increased investment in modernization initiatives (i.e. payments, health systems). The benefits are twofold: improve customer loyalty and prevent malicious threats.

Emerging technologies disruption in 2017. Drones and augmented/virtual reality are now commonplace in the worlds of consumer gaming and recreation. Companies such as UPS and Amazon are testing the feasibility of package delivery by drone. Welcome emerging tech to the healthcare industry! I bet you Star Trek fans never thought you would ever see the day when a “tricorder” would become a reality. But guess what? It will be soon! Qualcomm created a contest where teams compete for a chance to win $10 million by designing and developing a real working tricorder for the healthcare industry. “The winner will be the team with the technology that most accurately diagnoses a set of diseases independent of a healthcare professional or facility, and that provides the best consumer user experience with its device.”

The tricorder is just one example of a cool emerging technology poised to disrupt the healthcare industry. Here are some more:

  • Blockchain – Blockchain technology first appeared in 2009 as the foundation for the digital currency Bitcoin. Today it is being used in healthcare for distributed electronic ledgers that can record and confirm transactions securely (e.g. consumer identity management, Medicare and Medicaid fraud prevention, personal health data protection). Gem, a company providing enterprise blockchain solutions, recently launched Gem Health, a network for developing applications and shared infrastructure for healthcare. Gem Health hopes to connect users of wellness apps, EMRs, patient ID software and more on the same network. According to Gem, “This technology allows participants to move data in real-time, without the need for reconciliation, because each participant is connecting to the same network, working on shared information, and collaborating peer-to-peer—all without exposing these channels to theft, forgery and malice. Because the integrity of this history can be proved with mathematics, everyone can trust that it is secure and true.”
  • Augmented Reality – From fitness and wellness apps to grocery aisle tours, and now even for surgical guidance. The HIMSS conference provided a first-hand example of a surgeon performing a procedure using AR. AR can help medical students prepare for real-life operations as well as enable surgeons to enhance their capabilities. Medsights Tech has developed software to test the feasibility of using AR to create accurate 3-dimensional reconstructions of tumors. The complex image-reconstructing technology empowers surgeons with x-ray views–without any radiation exposure, in real time. 
  • Artificial Intelligence – AI algorithms are able to mine medical records, design treatment plans or create drugs far faster than any current actor in healthcare (including any medical professional). Tech startup Atomwise represents one example of how AI was used to help treat the Ebola virus. Last year, the company launched a virtual search for safe, existing medicines that could be redesigned to treat Ebola. The company’s AI technology identified two drugs as possible treatments to significantly reduce Ebola infectivity.
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These are but a handful of examples that demonstrate the emerging technologies disruption in healthcare. The point is technology advancement isn’t going to slow down. But we need to determine how to best harness the capabilities of such technologies and integrate them with consumer devices to deliver the most value.

Being on the forefront of emerging technologies means healthcare organizations need to create a strategy that defines a roadmap and tactical objectives for leveraging these technologies in the delivery of solutions that improve how they engage with us as consumers and patients, and ultimately how they can help save lives.

For more information on the state of emerging technology in healthcare, check out this recent Healthcare IT News article, “From science fiction to real world: Emerging technologies poised to disrupt healthcare.

Propelics helps organizations devise comprehensive enterprise mobile strategies along with working prototypes and Proofs of Concept that demonstrate the capabilities and value emerging technologies can deliver in healthcare. Contact us today to learn how we can help your organization improve its patient engagements and save more lives. Let’s get started.

James Hoshor

James is a Senior Mobile Strategist & Solutions Architect for Propelics. He has over 20 years experience in executive leadership, strategic planning, marketing and business development in information technology. For the past 10 years James has worked with many clients across multiple industries, including financial services, insurance, retail and manufacturing, approach mobile strategically to identify and deliver solutions that result in market differentiating solutions and great user experiences.

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