2020 Healthcare Trends
Healthcare is a hot topic heading into 2020, with the presidential election cycle kicking into high gear and candidates debating the best way to handle health insurance and healthcare costs. Those aren’t the only trends heading into 2020 though: according to a report by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions, several more trends are influencing healthcare today. These include education and involvement of patients, the continued rise of digitized medicine, a growing emphasis on quality over quantity, an ever-growing amount of collected health data, and regulatory changes.
If you work, or plan to work, in healthcare administration, you’ll need to stay up-to-date on these changes and be prepared to address them. Here we explore the biggest trends in technology, care, and medicine that may affect healthcare administrators most in 2020.
There may be no greater issue affecting healthcare than technology, which allows patients more access than ever to their own health and genetic information. Watch for a patient shift toward wellness and technological tools that enable patients to receive medical care remotely. Here are the biggest healthcare tech trends to watch.
Digital Device Advancements
Thanks to smartphones and other portable “internet of things” consumer devices, a world of information is at our fingertips. Digital technology has made us more informed as consumers—whether we’re selecting restaurants, picking movie seats, or scheduling doctor appointments.
Wearable technology is affecting healthcare as well, from fitness trackers and smartwatches that monitor physical activity and heart rates to biometric sensors that detect heart and blood pressure problems.
Apps allow patients to customize diet and exercise plans, and web-based portals enable patients to engage one-on-one with providers through online chat or video. These digital advancements will give patients greater control over their own health.
Artificial Intelligence from Patient Care to Operations
By 2020, the amount of medical data collected by the healthcare industry will double every 73 days. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools can process this tremendous volume of data and use it to make diagnoses, develop treatment plans, monitor epidemics, and streamline healthcare facility operations.
AI offers opportunities for brain-computer interfaces, giving doctors unprecedented access to brain activity without the need for a keyboard. It can automate patient reminders for medication or identify patients at high risk for certain conditions. And AI is transforming radiology, reducing or even eliminating the need for tissue samples to make diagnoses. With AI imaging tools, physicians can even treat patients on the other side of the globe.
Social Media for News, Community, and Marketing
Medical and wellness apps aren’t the only sources of health information for patients. An increasing number of healthcare seekers are turning to social media for this information. In fact, more people now get their news from social media than newspapers.
Providers and public health organizations use social networks to share updates about outbreaks, epidemics, disaster relief, or vaccination clinics. Patients use it to forge connections with others facing similar health issues, or to gather provider recommendations. And as healthcare becomes more consumer-driven, providers employ social networks for marketing purposes, to promote events, or share success stories.
Population Health Management to Leverage Big Data for Individual Outcomes
Research shows that a full 80% of the factors that affect health outcomes are considered public health concerns—from risky behaviors such as tobacco use, to social or environmental issues such as income, education level, or environment. Yet the healthcare industry has more access to public health information than ever, including patient outcomes, cost, and socioeconomic data.
Population health management (PHM) technology enables providers to use local and regional data spread across several information technology resources to make recommendations to patients to minimize their risks, track conditions, identify and address care gaps among populations, and ultimately reduce patient healthcare costs.
Interoperability of Digital Health Platforms
Patients are increasingly using multiple technologies and providers to receive care and collect health information. Such technologies may include online bill pay services, self-registration systems, or apps that monitor their physical activities or nutrition.
Although each vendor has collected data independently, the trend is toward interoperability, or ensuring that those technologies are communicating with each other and sharing information to create more robust patient records. Apple Health Records, for example, is an app that merges data from multiple providers to create a more holistic picture of health, including allergies, immunizations, lab results, and medications.
Electronic Health Record Optimization for Realtime Diagnosis and Detection
One of the greatest benefits of technology in healthcare is early detection. Providers are increasingly looking to optimize the electronic health records (EHRs) they’re already required to keep in order to improve early detection efforts. For example, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have developed an algorithm that can detect sepsis in patients based on EHR data.
Another goal of EHR optimization is to make it easier and faster for providers to input patient data and to access it in real time, so if a patient winds up in the hospital, the attending doctor has the most up-to-date information in order to make proper decisions about the patient’s care.
Virtual Care for Remote Connectedness and Patient Access
Virtual care, sometimes called connected care, allows providers to communicate with patients remotely. This is a game-changer for rural patients who cannot access the care they need, or for home-bound patients requiring follow-up medical care.
Tools such as telehealth, in which physicians consult with each other or with patients via videoconference, and remote patient monitoring using biometric sensors and electronic tablets, allow doctors to reach greater numbers of patients. Some healthcare organizations, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS), which administers the nation’s healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid, are even expanding their coverage for telehealth services. Watch for greater investment among providers in these virtual care services.
Managing Cloud Storage
A 2016 survey of healthcare information technology executives found that 84% of providers were using cloud services. That number has increased as healthcare administrators have come to realize that cloud technology not only frees up technical staff from managing data, but the cloud is also more digitally secure than server-based storage. In 2018, a full 93 percent of hospital chief information officers (CIOs) were actively hiring staff to oversee cloud infrastructure compliant with HIPAA regulations.
Cloud technology also provides greater EHR storage capacity, opportunities for mining and analyzing data, and interoperability for patients and providers.
Protecting Patient Privacy
The healthcare industry collects and maintains highly sensitive data, from social security numbers to home addresses and more. More than 11 million healthcare records were exposed because of cyberattacks in June 2016 alone.
As the healthcare industry’s amount of electronic data grows, protection of that information will take center stage. Healthcare administrators will need to make data management a top priority and hire more information technology (IT) experts. Also, watch for increasing privacy regulation at the federal and state level.
Innovations in Patient Care
Today’s patients realize they are consumers who have choices—even when it comes to healthcare. The industry is responding with new models of care in which providers work with each other, offer more services, enhance data privacy efforts, and ensure their skills are up to date in order to compete in this industry.
Collaborative Care Model
We know anxiety and depression can make us feel ill, but recent research shows it can cause actual illness: for example, people living with these mental health conditions are 65% more likely to develop heart problems and 87% more likely to have arthritis.
Providers are realizing that joining mental and medical health services improve patient outcomes, saves money, and helps to reduce the stigma associated with mental health. In this approach, called the Collaborative Care Model, a primary care doctor leads the provider team, which includes behavioral health providers and psychiatrists, to create care plans that address both the medical and mental health needs of patients.
Patient-Centered Medical Home Model
The Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) model involves the primary care provider operating as the home base for patient care. The PCMH includes a team of providers, led by the primary care physician, under one roof who work together to provide whole-patient care that’s more comprehensive than the standard model. In the standard model, you see your primary care physician and they refer you to outside specialists as needed. In the PCMH model, the primary care doctor can work more closely with patients and their specialists to set goals—weight loss and stress management, for instance—and track them using a range of technological tools. Research shows PCMH improves patient outcomes.
Education Expectations for Healthcare Administrators
Healthcare administrators and managers will be leading many of the changes in care delivery—adopting new technology, adhering to increasingly rigorous laws, and finding new ways to treat more people at a lower cost. As a result, medical and health services managers usually must have a bachelor’s degree, and graduate degrees are increasingly preferred by employers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ideally, job seekers in the field will have both medical and business training. Increasingly, a background in business is proving useful to healthcare administrators.
Trends in Medicine
Healthcare trends span not just technology and care, but medicine as well. Advancing technology is making diagnostic tests more accurate and less expensive than ever. This means doctors are able to diagnose more conditions and begin treating patients appropriately and more quickly than ever before. Watch for these trends in medicine in 2020.
Precision Medicine for Customized Treatments
With vast amounts of accessible data about patients’ genetics, environments, and lifestyles, doctors can deliver highly personalized care—an approach called precision medicine.
Consider the genetic tests sold at your local drugstore that indicate whether you are predisposed to have a certain genetic condition. Your provider can adjust treatment or prevention efforts according to the results of these tests.
In a sense, medicine is already tailored to you—you wear prescription eyeglasses, and blood transfusions are matched to your precise blood type. Precision medicine, an initiative launched by the Obama Administration in 2016, takes this personalization a step further by expanding genetic testing and developing more effective, targeted treatments for diseases.
Continued Drug Shortages
One of the most worrisome trends of 2020 is the shortage of vital medications. Currently, 70% of hospital pharmacists report at least 50 shortages a year, and 121 key lifesaving drugs are in short supply nationwide. The problem has numerous causes: raw materials shortages, spikes in certain illnesses (flu season, for example), and limited numbers of generic-brand suppliers are primary culprits. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and manufacturers are taking steps to address the issue, but healthcare workers can expect this issue to continue through 2020, which may require rationing of medications based on the severity of need, and emergency reserve stockpiling at pharmacies.
Adapting to Changes in the Industry
Healthcare is one of today’s most dynamic and rewarding career fields. Working in healthcare puts you at the forefront of technological and scientific advancements while allowing you to positively affect people’s quality of life.
However, healthcare is also a highly challenging field. The rapid changes in technology, care delivery, and medical treatment mean that practitioners will need to work hard to keep their skills up to date. If you want to work in this profession, particularly in healthcare administration, the following steps can help you to manage these changes:
- Make continuing education a priority. Healthcare providers are required to earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits every two years to maintain certifications. But even providers who don’t treat patients should continue their education to maintain relevant, up-to-date knowledge and improve their performance.
- Join professional networking organizations. Professional organizations not only stay up to date on the latest research, but their events and seminars provide opportunities to meet and share ideas with fellow professionals in the industry
- Read medical journals. These journals are reviewed by medical professionals to ensure accuracy and quality, and they’re an important source of information about the latest medical research.
Most importantly, a willingness to embrace change and focus on delivering the best possible care will be essential to anyone working in healthcare in the coming years.
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