The healthcare industry in the USA has undergone a rapid evolution in just a few short years. Spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry has changed more in this brief period than in the decades preceding it.
One of the most significant shifts has been the staggering rise of telehealth. According to a study by McKinsey & Company, telehealth utilization in the US saw a huge increase before stabilizing at a level 38 times higher than before the pandemic.
This transformation is just the tip of the iceberg, digital health innovations are being increasingly integrated into every aspect of healthcare. Let’s take an in-depth look at how digital health innovations in the USA are transforming healthcare.
The Evolution of Digital Health in the USA
The use of technology in healthcare is by no means a new concept. Indeed, the healthcare sector has always been a major driver in the advancement of technology. However, recent times have seen disruptive tech like AI, the Internet of Things (including its subset the Internet of Medical Things -IoMT-), and cloud computing, all changing how healthcare providers think when it comes to technology.
These are revolutionary concepts in healthcare with benefits and uses that include:
· Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI involves the use of algorithms and software to approximate human cognition in the analysis of complex medical data. It has the potential to revolutionize diagnostics, treatment plans, and patient monitoring.
· Internet of Things (IoT): IoT or IoMT refers to the interconnected nature of devices and systems that communicate with each other over the Internet. In healthcare, this can include wearable fitness trackers, remote patient monitoring tools, and smart medical devices that collect and share patient data.
· Cloud Computing: Cloud computing allows for the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power. In healthcare, it enables the storage, retrieval, and analysis of large volumes of patient data, crucial factors in enabling telemedicine and real-time monitoring.
Although not a comprehensive list, these three technologies can be considered the “foundational” tech propelling the increasing uptake of digital innovation in healthcare.
Digital Innovations Enhancing the Customer Experience
The technologies described above are at the heart of many of the digital innovations revolutionizing healthcare. But what do they and other relevant technologies bring to the table?
As far as the customer experience is concerned, some of the enhancements include:
· Telemedicine and telehealth: Enables remote consultations, offering timely care and reducing the need for physical visits, especially beneficial for patients in remote areas or those with mobility issues. According to a study by Science Direct, there were over a trillion virtual care sessions in 2020 alone.
· Wearable health devices: Allows for continuous monitoring of vital signs and health metrics, empowering patients to actively manage their health and well-being.
· Strategic data use: Industries across all sectors are elevating the customer experience through the strategic use of data, an approach that health providers are increasingly using.
· Personalized health apps: Offer tailored health advice, medication reminders, and tracking, providing users with a customized health management experience.
· Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): Used for immersive patient education, therapeutic sessions, and pain management, enhancing the overall patient experience.
· Chatbots and AI-driven assistants: Provide instant responses to patient queries, appointment scheduling, and basic health advice, streamlining patient interactions and reducing wait times.
These enhancements are truly transformative, many of the innovations wouldn’t look far out of place in a sci-fi novel from just a few years ago. It is also worth noting that many of the technologies are still in their infancy and are improving at a staggering rate.
Digital Innovations Enhancing Security
Security is a fundamental part of the customer healthcare experience. This isn’t only their personal security and that of their belongings, increasingly it is the security of their patient records and other personal data.
This is even more critical in the context of the innovations we discussed above. Many of these involve the use of “big data”, securing this is critical and this point takes on even greater relevance when cloud computing is added to the equation.
Here are a few of the ways that digital health innovations are enhancing healthcare security:
· Blockchain in healthcare: Provides a decentralized and tamper-proof way to store patient records, ensuring data integrity and traceability.
· Biometric security: Uses unique biological characteristics, such as fingerprints or retina scans, to grant access to patient data, ensuring that only authorized personnel can access sensitive information.
· End-to-end encryption: Encrypts data at its source and only decrypts it at its destination, ensuring that patient data remains confidential during transmission, especially during telehealth sessions.
· AI-driven threat detection: Utilizes artificial intelligence to detect and prevent security threats in real-time, safeguarding healthcare systems from potential breaches.
· Advanced Surveillance and access control systems: Incorporate state-of-the-art hospital security system technologies such as cameras, motion detectors, and controlled access mechanisms to monitor and secure healthcare facilities, ensuring both physical and data security.
· Data anonymization: Employs techniques to remove personally identifiable information from patient data used in research and analytics, protecting patient identity and privacy.
An enhanced customer experience isn’t just about the convenience and accessibility of healthcare services; it’s intrinsically linked to the trust and confidence patients have in the protection of their personal and medical information.
Innovations in both digital and physical security are helping to ensure that this trust is maintained.
Digital Innovations in Healthcare: Challenges and Considerations
These innovations are undoubtedly changing the face of healthcare, but integrating them digs up a host of challenges and considerations that must be addressed. This is important as one of the primary ways to enhance the customer experience is to forge a relationship built on trust.
If customers don’t trust the technology then digital innovations have failed to deliver what they promised – an enhanced and streamlined customer experience.
Here are some of the main challenges that need to be addressed:
· Equitable access: Ensuring all patients have equal access to digital health tools, preventing the widening of healthcare disparities.
· Data security and privacy: With the growth of digital health data, implementing robust cybersecurity measures and ensuring compliance with data protection regulations is paramount.
· Integration with existing systems: Integrating new digital tools with legacy systems in healthcare institutions without disrupting existing workflows.
· Training and adaptability: Ensuring healthcare professionals are trained and comfortable using new digital tools for optimal patient care.
Others to be considered are the cost implications of integrating these tools and addressing the reluctance of certain patients who may be resistant to adopting new tools. Again, building trust can play a large part in alleviating patient reluctance.
Digital Innovations: Transforming Healthcare
Ten years ago if you predicted that you could have a useful chat about your health with an AI-powered chatbot, people would have thought you were crazy. Even two years ago, this seemed outside of the realm of possibilities. However, such is the rapid advancement of technology that this is no longer just a possibility but a reality.
This is just one of the ways that digital innovations are enhancing healthcare. As the parent technologies continue to evolve, we can expect more digital innovations that can help to streamline the customer experience by improving security, streamlining diagnostics and treatments, and allowing staff to concentrate more on what they are good at – ensuring the health and well-being of their patients.
Bob Sharp has been a full-time writer for over 5 years. He is also a published author and SEO specialist. He loves his work, and the passion he brings to the table shines through in his writing!