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What's next for Health IT - Trends for 2018

What's next for Health IT - Trends for 2018

2016 saw the emergence of some cutting-edge AI innovations in healthcare IT. With the repeal of Affordable Care Act (ACT), adoption of AI diagnostics is expected to further accelerate through 2017-18. The repeal will likely intensify patient demand for lower healthcare costs in the wake of rising premiums. This points towards an important role to be played by telehealth in making healthcare affordable.

The period will witness greater emphasis on healthcare systems integrating telemedicine services throughout their clinical operations. Hospitals have started to do this by getting all or most of their telehealth needs outsourced to a single service provider for increasing efficiencies.

98% of times, patient outcomes are based on factors that occur outside the physician's premises. This explains the impact of telemedicine on the future of healthcare.

What are the key HIT trends set to impact patientcare in 2017, 2018?

Studies indicate future ready patients don't just want to test the waters but are willing to be regular telehealth users - going for assessment, support, and even therapy using video and other digital means. Over the next two years, telehealth will approach $1 billion mark in annual investments by fulfilling some critical patient care needs.

Let's look at the three areas where HIT trends are going to make a big impact:

1)    Emergence of Telemental health for home therapy

Telemental health has witnessed 45% increase in acceptance rates in rural US. Leading therapists say patients are showing greater preference in using digital screens to see them instead of personal visits. Telemental health is thus on its way to become a household name in US by 2018.

Perceived as an alternative to in-person sessions, it will occupy a prominent part in a mixed-bag of therapies. In a well-known survey conducted by Mercer, it was found that close to 59% of large employers offered insurance that covered telemedicine services. To leverage this opportunity, all major telehealth companies are expected to create specialized offerings for mental health too. Such programs are expected to soon over ride physical visits to psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers in the coming years. 

2)    Healthcare plans encouraging virtual home visits for seniors

Though still nascent, virtual visits for seniors is about to take off in a big way. Aversion to technology and new medical practices have become a passé. Seniors are coming forward to experience nursing programs that give assistance on remote diagnosis, treatment and prescriptions for more than 60 common conditions like sinus, bladder infections, etc. Service providers have already started informing seniors about these programs by reaching them through social media. 

Early this January one of the largest insurers in the US launched virtual visits for more than 1.1 million people enrolled with them. It incidentally includes lot of seniors who use the company's Medicare health plans. Lot of other health plan providers are also expected to make the plunge follow the trail. According to a recent healthcare report, the telehealth virtual visits market in the US is projected to reach over $813 million in 2021.

3)    Growing demand for home-based vital-sign devices

Startups are expected to bring many new device innovations within the patient's reach by 2018. These include home lab testing devices capable of remote managing even chronic patient care. These devices will allow clinical staff from one facility to see and treat patients in other locations with absolute ease.

The industry will also witness an explosion of downloadable digital apps for providers and patients combined. Patients will get to experience low-cost and almost instant lab tests that will allows them to get results straight away. Using computer analytics future devices will also make suitable recommendations for preventive care to patients.

With telehealth become cheaper, it will also expectedly play a major role in the growth of small scale health providers as well. It will help transform traditional bricks and mortar operations to bring more patients under their fold at much lesser costs. Here once again, they will look to outsource selection, installation, management, training and maintenance of telehealth equipment while they would focus more on patients.

Overall, healthcare IT is headed towards a future based on automation and artificial intelligence. Although consumers are yet to fully understand how robotics and big data will help them take decisions, the vision will certainly clear out as we approach 2018.



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