Over the past few years, the healthcare sector has faced numerous challenges arising from worldwide digital transformation, the pandemic, significant demographic shifts, and growing patient demands. As we enter the age of evidence-based medicine, individualized healthcare, and digital customer service, it becomes crucial for healthcare practitioners, startups, and entrepreneurs to stay informed about the current trends changing the industry. At the same time, it is important to distinguish between a really viable solution and just a promising idea with great potential. Here, we highlight six technology innovation trends in the healthcare industry that can yield tangible business advantages and that you can start adopting today.
Trend #1: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is One of The Key Innovations in Healthcare Technology
The costs dedicated to artificial intelligence and machine learning in the healthcare sector are expected to surpass 10.5% in 2024, up from 5.5% in 2022, according to a recent Morgan Stanley research report. AI in healthcare can benefit almost everything from communication with patients to assisting with surgeries and creating new pharmaceuticals. Let’s look at some AI use cases in more detail.
HEALTHCARE DATA MANAGEMENT
AI systems can play a crucial role in addressing some healthcare challenges by automating various aspects of data management, starting with document processing, completing electronic health records (EHRs), medical imaging, genomics, and wearable device data.
AI algorithms can analyze EHR data to identify patterns and trends, helping healthcare providers streamline workflows, improve documentation accuracy, and enhance clinical decision-making. For example, Epic EHR, one of the leading Electronic Health Records software systems has integrated AI into its software using Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service. Another EHR software provider, Allscripts, has leveraged Azure OpenAI’s GPT-4 to create an EHR system with personalized patient care capabilities. The integration assists physicians in creating personalized treatment plans, encouraging patient engagement, and achieving better treatment effectiveness.
AI IN DIAGNOSIS & DRUG DISCOVERY
AI is beneficial for improving efficiency in information processing and decision-making when it comes to the drug development process. For example, predicting the 3D structures of proteins from their amino acid sequence is an extremely difficult and challenging task. With AI technology, AlphaFold2, developed by DeepMind, has achieved a breakthrough level of accuracy in this field and is openly available via Google Colab. The latest version of AlphaFold predicts protein structures using a machine learning approach that incorporates physical and biological knowledge about protein structure, leveraging multi-sequence alignments, into the design of the deep learning algorithm.
Another example is DeepAffinity. This is a semi-supervised model that unifies recurrent and convolutional neural networks to forecast the binding affinity between a drug and target sequences. The model uses both labeled and unlabeled data to encode molecular representations under unique structurally annotated protein sequence representations. DeepAffinity outperformed random forest, ensemble methods, and RNN-CNN models.
AI continues to be viewed as a promising solution, with its limitations and benefits, in cancer diagnosis. Our engineer conducted complex research on utilizing AI for processing whole slide images or WSI. Working with WSI appears challenging due to the giant resolution of the image. While WSI scans are extremely informative, it takes hours of scrupulous zooming in and out, scrolling from area to area to conduct the examination. AI can process WSI using computer vision and convolutional neural networks. This approach supports healthcare professionals by spotlighting the area of interest where potential cancer cells can be located, reducing the time for diagnostics.
However, the implementation of AI for the WSI examination not only brings solid outcomes but also requires specific preparation for model training. This aspect should be thoroughly considered during the adoption of AI across the healthcare industry since WSI scanners have become a conventional part of medical institutions.
AI IN MENTAL HEALTH
Mental health solutions have been at a peak in recent years. At MobiDev, we worked on a group therapy and wellness platform where users are matched to groups with people like them based on several variables. This is not the only project for our experts in this domain, so we continue to research how AI as a technological innovation can add more value to mental health apps.
For example, Breathhh represents an AI-driven Chrome extension created to automatically provide mental health exercises tailored to an individual’s web activity and online behaviors. Through continuous monitoring and analysis of user interactions, Breathhh identifies the best moments to give stress-relieving practices and strategies. This innovative approach seamlessly blends AI technology with hands-on mental health support, simplifying the integration of self-care into users’ daily routines.
AI can also be used to detect the symptoms of illnesses caused by chemical changes in our brains, which result in several mental symptoms. We are talking, for example, about dementia. Actually, dementia can come in different types, including Alzheimer’s disease, which has symptoms that inhibit communication, and reasoning, and also cause memory issues. Such conditions are accompanied by a list of mental symptoms and may develop over decades without being noticed. At the same time, early diagnosis of dementia is one of the most effective ways to treat the condition and relieve symptoms.
Thanks to advancements in deep learning and AI audio processing, it is now possible to analyze human speech for early signs of dementia. In fact, a speech-processing AI model can be trained to distinguish between the speech characteristics of a healthy person and those exhibiting signs of dementia. These models have practical applications in screening or self-assessment for Alzheimer’s, allowing suspected diagnoses years before severe symptoms manifest.
THE CHALLENGES OF AI IN HEALTHCARE: DATA AND PRIVACY
The performance of machine learning-powered software is inherently tied to the quality of its training dataset. A model’s capabilities are directly proportional to the excellence and comprehensiveness of the data it is trained on. To effectively work with data and train the model, your AI development team must include both experienced software developers and data scientists who can work together to achieve the best results.
Furthermore, the usage of AI for data processing and diagnosis raises some ethical considerations. AI systems heavily depend on extensive patient data, including sensitive health information. Protecting the privacy and security of this data is paramount for maintaining patient trust and adhering to regulations. Robust security measures need to be implemented by healthcare organizations to prevent unauthorized access, breaches, and misuse of patient data.
Moreover, AI algorithms often function as “black boxes,” adding the challenge of understanding and clarifying the explanation behind their decisions. In the healthcare context, where decisions carry significant implications for patients’ lives, it becomes crucial to develop transparent AI systems that offer clear explanations for their outcomes. The adoption of explainable AI appears to be a viable solution in this scenario.
Trend #2: Telemedicine Continues to Drive the Evolution of Remote Care
Another technological innovation in healthcare is connected with the recent pandemic. Telehealth has been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic. The infrastructure supporting telemedicine has seen significant improvements. The popularity of telemedicine has soared across various medical specialties, encompassing primary care, mental health, dermatology, and pediatrics. In April 2020, more than 43% of Medicare primary care visits were made using telehealth services. Although telehealth visits have dropped since the peak of the pandemic, according to Fortune Business Insights, the telemedicine market is expected to reach $185.6 billion by 2026.
mHealth stands as an innovative and swiftly evolving domain within healthcare, leveraging the capabilities of mobile devices to extend the reach of telemedicine solutions globally. Recent years have introduced a new category of mHealth applications that prioritize users in the health data equation, empowering them with greater control over their data. These healthcare mobile apps go a step further by focusing on user engagement in self-care, offering payments or rewards to encourage users to actively use the mHealth app and contribute their healthcare-related data.
For example, let’s take a look at Stepler. It is a health app that rewards users for being active, as they collect points for every 1,000 steps they take.
The growing usage of mobile devices and mobile application development services will definitely continue to encourage the growth of mHealth applications in the coming years.
COMPLYING WITH REGULATIONS
One of the key challenges with telehealth is HIPAA compliance. Although some restrictions were relaxed during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, care providers need to consider the applications that they are using to communicate with their patients.
Whether you opt to develop your telehealth application from the ground up or choose integration with third-party services like Zoom for core functionality, it is necessary to ensure that it complies with the healthcare industry’s standards for data storage and transmission.
WEBRTC FOR VIDEO CONFERENCING
When there is a necessity to create a tailored video-conferencing application, a more specialized solution is essential to ensure strict adherence to legal privacy requirements. For a dedicated telemedicine app, one crucial technology is WebRTC — an open-source API-based system facilitating the connection between web browsers and mobile applications, enabling the transmission of audio, video, and data. This proves especially advantageous for implementing teleconferencing features.
CLOUD HOSTING AND DATA STORAGE
Storing data in many cloud storage services offers a reasonable level of security, but it may not align with government regulations concerning protected health information. The implementation of HIPAA-compliant cloud hosting solutions is crucial to ensure the functionality and efficiency of any healthcare operation that deals with electronic health records (EHR).
Nevertheless, teleconferencing and data hosting represent only a part of the features that could be beneficial for your organization. Additional functionalities such as security mechanisms, location services, appointment management, secure messaging, healthcare provider reviews, visit history, and integration with wearables are all potentially beneficial features.
Certain applications might also require the storage of fitness data from consumer devices like Google Fit and Apple HealthKit. The ability to maintain these integrations securely and efficiently can greatly benefit both the patient and the healthcare provider.
At MobiDev, we worked on HIPAA-compliant cross-platform Mobile and Web solutions to integrate patient-doctor interactions and data exchange. Such integration allows you to analyze and manage information on the scale of a hospital facility and integrate it with EHR. You can find more details in the case study below.
Trend #3: Using Extended Reality in Healthcare Settings
Extended reality, an umbrella term including augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality can be innovative and beneficial in the healthcare industry. From assisting surgery to improving telehealth applications, AR and VR technologies can improve the healthcare industry substantially.
AUGMENTED REALITY AND MIXED REALITY IN HEALTHCARE
Augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality find valuable applications across diverse healthcare settings. AR development services play a pivotal role in enabling remote consultations and telemedicine, empowering healthcare providers to share visual information and guidance with patients in real-time. Through the use of AR-enabled devices, healthcare professionals can virtually guide patients through specific actions or procedures, offering remote support and expertise.
Moreover, AR proves beneficial in the realm of medical education, enhancing learning experiences for students and professionals alike. It can provide interactive, immersive simulations of medical procedures, anatomy, and physiology or user instructions for taking tests, etc. The technology can be used, for example, to help nurses find veins to draw blood from. AccuVein uses AR to visualize veins efficiently and easily.
In rehabilitation and physical therapy settings, augmented reality (AR) finds application in crafting interactive and captivating exercises. Through the overlay of digital elements onto real-world environments, AR has the potential to inspire and guide patients throughout their rehabilitation journey, enhancing both their engagement and overall outcomes.
VIRTUAL REALITY IN HEALTHCARE
VR has proven to be exceptionally beneficial in healthcare, particularly in the realm of training. The creation of virtual training scenarios for doctors enhances their skills and readiness for medical procedures. Beyond training, VR is also applied in certain contexts for treatment. For example, The Virtual Reality Medical Center utilizes VR therapy to aid individuals dealing with phobias such as fear of heights and PTSD. Companies like Osso VR and ImmersiveTouch provide virtual reality solutions to train surgeons and/or to sharpen their skills, and these have been proven to be better than traditional training methods.
In Connecticut, Maplewood Senior Living has implemented a VR therapy program for the elderly, promoting the unlocking of memories and improving emotional well-being. Innovative platforms like InMotion’s Corpus VR utilize motion-enabled games to collect data during virtual exercises, allowing doctors to personalize and adjust therapy based on individual progress.
To conclude, AR and VR technologies show promise in enhancing the effectiveness of telehealth systems by delivering a more immersive digital experience.
Trend #4: IoT and Wearables Become More Widespread in Healthcare
With wearables and IoT technologies becoming a common part of our lives, their potential in the healthcare industry has grown enormously. In 2020, Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) solutions accounted for about 30% of the total IoT market. At that time, the IoMT market was valued at $30.5 billion, already in 2022 this figure reached $144.23 billion, and the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 20.4% from 2023 to 2030. While the healthcare industry is becoming more and more connected through these technologies, IoT plays a crucial role here.
The ability to remotely monitor a patient’s status throughout the day with wearables or enable patients to track their own health is immensely valuable. According to the latest GWI data, 3 out of 10 working-age internet users possess a “smart wrist” device, such as a fitness tracker or smartwatch. The increasing availability of consumer smartwatches underscores their potential for healthcare app development.
Among the fundamental health metrics that a smartwatch can provide, heart rate monitoring is crucial. Yet, the capabilities extend beyond this basic function. Smartwatches can also track physical health using features like pedometers and blood oxygen saturation measurements. Detecting low blood oxygen saturation, a potentially life-threatening condition, becomes possible with specialized sensors on these devices, potentially contributing to life-saving interventions.
Furthermore, smartwatches are enhancing their capability to measure users’ blood vitals. Optical technology like Photoplethysmography (PPG) can measure variations in blood volume and composition. As this technology is miniaturized for smartwatch use, it furnishes users with more comprehensive data on their blood vitals. Healthcare providers can leverage this information to offer valuable advice to patients and facilitate accurate diagnoses.
Smartwatches aren’t the only wearable that has potential for the healthcare industry. Bio patches and smart hearing aids have similar levels of impact. Bio patches can provide a better understanding of a person’s vitals without the use of a smartwatch. Artificial intelligence can also be used to improve the noise isolation of hearing aids. Moreover, Artificial Intelligence-based techniques have demonstrated the potential to estimate BGL using data collected by non-invasive Wearable Devices (WDs), thus simplifying the monitoring and management of diabetics.
OTHER IOT SOLUTIONS
The integration of IoT can revolutionize hospital operations by connecting various devices and systems. A prime example is the usage of IoT-enabled asset tracking systems, which monitor the location and status of medical equipment. This optimization enhances inventory management, reducing the time spent searching for resources. Additionally, IoT can automate temperature and humidity monitoring in healthcare facilities, ensuring optimal storage conditions for medications and specimens.
Wearable devices and smart hospital beds, equipped with sensors, offer another facet of IoT application. These devices can detect falls or unusual patient movements, promptly triggering alerts to healthcare providers. In emergencies, IoT-enabled response systems play a crucial role in locating and tracking patients, ensuring swift assistance. Take, for instance, the IntelliVue Guardian solution, which employs wearable biosensors and IoT connectivity to continuously monitor patients’ vital signs. It alerts healthcare providers to any abnormalities or signs of deterioration. Furthermore, IoT-enabled solutions extend to remote patient monitoring, telehealth, and connected home care.
It’s essential to remember that wearable technology comes with inherent limitations and may not offer 100% precise data. However, it proves valuable as a tool for tracking trends and monitoring progress over time.
The accuracy of health trackers is significantly influenced by the algorithms and proprietary tracking methods employed by different companies. Whether it’s Apple prioritizing wellness, Samsung incorporating its BioActive sensor, Fitbit offering various models, or any other brand, each utilizes unique algorithms to process raw sensor data and deliver health metrics.
Due to the design of most wearables relying on general population data, they may not consistently factor in individual differences.
Trend #5: Upgrading Legacy Healthcare Systems for Market Demands
In a 2021 report by Kaspersky Lab, it was revealed that 73% of health systems utilized medical equipment operating on legacy operating systems. The increasing frequency of security breaches and rising patient expectations in the past two years have impeded the ability of healthcare companies to innovate. Therefore, if you are considering modernizing your healthcare software, now is the opportune time.
Updating your software systems may involve actions like:
- migrating from legacy medical systems to alternative healthcare software platforms
- transitioning to modern operating systems
- reconstructing specific components, or engaging in other forms of re-engineering legacy healthcare software tailored to your specific requirements and technical feasibility.
According to research by both Deloitte and McKinsey, the key factors for successful modernization include two things: establishing a clear strategic direction and instigating a cultural mindset shift. Legacy healthcare software often operates in isolated silos and lacks interoperability with other systems. Hence, modernization efforts should concentrate on facilitating seamless data exchange and interoperability with other healthcare systems, including electronic health records (EHRs) and laboratory information systems.
The modernization of legacy software presents an opportunity to harness the power of data analytics and insights. Integrate capabilities that allow for the collection and analysis of pertinent data, such as clinical outcomes, patient demographics, or operational metrics. Involving data science engineers can help with this.
The process of modernizing legacy healthcare software demands meticulous planning, taking into account the distinctive needs of the healthcare industry. By prioritizing aspects such as security, interoperability, user experience, scalability, data analytics, training, collaboration, and testing, healthcare organizations can effectively modernize their software and enhance the delivery of patient care.
Trend #6: Data Security As A Priority for Healthcare Providers
Beyond the scope of efficiency and quality of care, privacy and security take critical priority in the healthcare industry. According to IBM, between March 2021 and March 2022, 550 organizations worldwide experienced a data breach. For example, Postmeds, a company that does business as Truepill and fulfills mail-order prescriptions for pharmacies has suffered a massive data breach in 2023 that has affected 2,364,359 individuals.
Ensuring your organization is HIPAA compliant is a critical measure to avoid costly data breaches. If you are serving patients internationally, it may be a good idea to take a look at the regulations of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union.
While compliant video conferencing software is readily available, there are cases where a more tailored solution becomes necessary. This is particularly true if the existing data infrastructure doesn’t seamlessly integrate with the available options. Moreover, if a healthcare provider intends to utilize an established system for exchanging electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) with patients through third-party software, they must navigate the challenge of obtaining a business associate exception with the vendor, a process that can be intricate and cumbersome.
Even with these efforts, there is no absolute assurance that the third-party program can entirely safeguard patient data. Furthermore, ensuring information security during remote doctor calls presents challenges. Transmitting ePHI data in structured formats is imperative, and these calls can complicate the process.
Thanks to its convenience, facial recognition became one of the most popular technologies, ensuring authorized access of medical staff members to handheld devices or workstations.
Future Trends in Healthcare Technology
The pace of technological advancements is swift, making it challenging to anticipate what the upcoming years will hold. While security measures are expected to enhance throughout the industry, the evolving landscape of threats necessitates a proactive approach to prevention, rather than a reactive response. Advancements in technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and extended reality will stay with us, contributing to ongoing improvement in the quality and efficiency of healthcare.
While it might sound like science fiction, the reality of 3D-printed body parts is emerging and has already entered clinical testing. Organs such as ears, corneas, bones, and skin are undergoing trials for 3D bioprinting. Another noteworthy innovation is smart pills, which not only function as pharmaceuticals but also offer care providers valuable insights into patient health. While the first smart pill approved by the FDA emerged in 2017, its common usage is still in progress.
When deciding to bring promising healthcare trends to your product, you should team up with the right team of software engineers who understand your needs and goals. Check out our healthcare app development services and contact us to start with a conversation followed by a clear plan for action!