The rage of the pandemic has considerably affected industrial sectors in 2020. The impact being ranked on a 5-point scale, one of the most disrupted in the healthcare industry in 2021. A score of 4 spelling ‘major impact’ has been given to the healthcare industry, where technological advances are the most required in this demanding age.
Mental health has also suffered a great toll during the pandemic. According to a survey by PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI), 32% of the surveyed Americans had suffered from depression or anxiety due to the lockdown.
Key trends like artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and smart medicine have all been diverted towards fighting COVID-19. Technological innovations are presently sought by increasing numbers of healthcare personnel in view of preparing for more challenges to come in the healthcare industry in 2021.
Below are the 6 trends in the healthcare industry in 2021:
1. Virtual Health Care
The arrival of COVID-19 has boosted virtual healthcare. The American Telemedicine Association was founded in 1993. Yet prospects of telemedicine becoming mainstream seem bright only with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of April 2020, 43.5% of primary healthcare visits made use of telehealth methods rather than in-person interaction. While monitoring patients’ health from a safe distance, doctors can also be sure of preventing possible infection. It allows medical professionals to accommodate several appointments in their busy schedules.
The prospects of virtual healthcare seem promising. In the United States, 71% of the patients considered telemedicine at the beginning of the pandemic, and 50% had already used virtual appointments. The number of virtual visits has skyrocketed during the pandemic and is estimated by Forrester analysts to hit one billion by the end of 2020. Business organizations have taken it well with about 95% of US employers resorting to virtual health care.
Telemedicine apps are the provider of strong telehealth services. An important technology operating behind these apps is WebRTC – an open-source API based system to connect web browsers with mobile applications. Patients are supported by features like text and video chat, screen sharing, and file transfer.
Electronic Health Records (EHR) aid in effective communication between patients and health workers through medical records in the app. Doctors can send digital messages to patients via the Interactive Voice Response (IVR). A patient’s health history is also tracked by applications like Google Fit and Apple HealthKit.
2. Artificial Intelligence against COVID-19
The use of artificial intelligence has greatly helped out in flattening the curve by aiding in crucial areas like pandemic detection, vaccine development, thermal screening, analyzing CT scans, and so on. Tom Knight, CEO of Invistics, predicts that the healthcare industry in 2021 will see the benefits of machine learning.
In the detection of the coronavirus pandemic BlueDot, a Toronto based AI application has excelled. It consults over100, 000 media sources in more than 65 languages. The AI was the first to publish a paper that predicted the spread of COVID-19. It makes use of a range of threat vectors like insect and animal populations, global and regional climatic conditions, flight data and itineraries, and others.
The smartness component would be accelerated with the growth of AI. Kimberly Powell, vice president, and general manager of NVIDIA Healthcare predict that hospitals will get “smarter”. Activities can be regulated and tracked by smart cameras and smart speakers.
Machine learning has made great strides in the immunology field. With its help doctors can more effectively identify viral fragments that can elicit a response from the immune system, thus paving the way for a good vaccine. Intelligent machines can help in creating prediction tools for the effective use of resources in the healthcare industry in 2021.
Artificial intelligence has brought efficiency in swiftly screening several people all at once and detecting those with high temperatures via non-contact infrared thermometers. A similar efficacy is visible in facial recognition technology and CT scan analysis.
Robotic and autonomous healthcare is also on the rise especially due to the pandemic. These assistants would work in hospitals and also in patients’ homes. Companion robots are being introduced in old age homes in the UK, and be successful in alleviating symptoms of loneliness and social isolation.
3. Genomics and Gene Editing
Gene editing is a phenomenon that allows experts to manipulate traits that are inherited by new living cells. These traits or phenotypes determine the cell’s survival factor. By influencing these phenotypes through techniques like CRISPR-Cas9, scientists have advanced in treatments to some deadly diseases including Duchenne muscular dystrophy, heart disease, and cancer.
Further successful leaps in this field have led to prospects of a form of treatment called “precision medicine”. The drug would be made according to the genetic profile of an individual, thus making it more effective.
‘The lab on a chip’ is a handheld device that has made detection of the infected more convenient. It does not rely on precarious factors like temperature changes or coughing.
The UK start-up Tropic Biosciences has come up with a few innovative methods to ensure good health. It has produced caffeine-free coffee beans to cut down on the cost and effort spent on decaffeinating normal beans. Bananas that are resilient to diseases have also been turned out. This could help the fruit industry keep more of the huge amount it spends on fighting disease.
4. Securing Healthcare Industry in 2021
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) acts to stem possible breaches of secure and remote communication between doctors and patients. Some telehealth technologies do not entirely comply with this act which compromises patient privacy. The regulations to secure Protected Health Information are very strict and abiding by them can be difficult.
As ePHI data must be transmitted in structured formats, securing information shared through remote doctor calls is not easy. Beyond the HIPAA, the General Data Protection Regulation must be considered in order to secure personal data from European Union citizens.
Patient data will be shifted to cloud-based EHR platforms for better care coordination in the healthcare industry in 2021. Healthcare providers would be able to reevaluate the overhead costs of managing IT infrastructure.
5. Enhanced Forecasting Systems
Once medical professionals develop better methods to foresee the future, the healthcare industry in 2021 can effectively avert calamities. Instead of analyzing medical claims or behavioral trends in the last 30 days, health institutions need real-time insights to create their forecasting systems.
The pandemic has prompted health organizations to draw clearer pictures instead of taking advantage of existing data. The forecasting sensors can be used to economize the routine of health professionals, thereby saving both time and money.
Community enterprises will play a great role in tracking the social determinants impacting community health. Health information exchanges can accelerate the generation of data for better forecasting technologies in the healthcare industry in 2021.
6. AR/VR/MR in Healthcare
Virtual and Augmented Reality seems to emerge right out of a science fiction novel. With a purpose to help people with motor deficiencies, it has great potential to improve telehealth in the healthcare industry in 2021. By putting patients in need of physical therapy in simulated environments, therapists can gather more data to create better care plans for their patients.
Individuals who have dementia or cognitive impairments have got access to VR headsets at Maplewood Senior Living, Connecticut. They enter environments otherwise almost impossible for them to visit. It may help unlock memories or improve one’s emotional well-being.
Augmented reality has aided health workers by making information available in 3D space in a doctor’s or surgeon’s vision. Students can learn about procedures through overlays and doctors can swiftly compare data to make diagnoses. The future of augmented reality depends strongly on its use in the healthcare industry in 2021.
The Healthcare industry in 2021 will have to economically balance virtual and in-person medical care. Medical professionals have amped up their hopes for a less eventful 2021 with a healthcare industry geared towards better, cheaper, and more equitable care.