While medical procedures and treatments are often on the cutting edge of technology, the patient experience can sometimes feel like a blast from the past. Hospitals have historically taken longer to adopt modern business practices such as online appointment scheduling, online payment, and online profiles with test results. Hospitals are large, complex machines constantly running to improve the lives of others. It is difficult to change hospitals rapidly, especially when introducing technology to handle a patient’s private data. Despite these challenges, the healthcare industry is ripe for disruption and the innovation is already under way.
Hospitals are ramping up their technology departments in order to continue improving the patient experience. Hospitals obviously have Internet, but many don’t have the robust IT networks needed to keep up with the demand of modern technology offerings. Introducing patient appointment scheduling and digital profiles was just the beginning. Remember our previous blog on Artificial Intelligence (link)? Well AI is also being used to improve the patient experience. Algorithms are being applied to process many data points and differing factors about patients. This technology is being used to streamline patient visits and even offer a more personalized experience. Handling payments and insurance providers is another complex problem with many potential data points and combinations of factors, which makes it a great process to start automating.
As mentioned earlier, all of this technology needs a certain level of infrastructure to run. Hospital IT departments are beefing up their networks and servers, but they are also turning to the tech giants to do what they do best. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the division of Amazon that provides cloud solutions, AWS comprises less than 20 percent of Amazon’s overall revenue and roughly 70 percent of Amazon’s profit. So Amazon is looking to continue growing AWS and healthcare is a massive market, experts estimate that global healthcare spending could reach $12 trillion by 2022(1). Some hospitals are using AWS to offload their backup servers to the cloud. AWS offers HIPAA compliance, so hospitals can take advantage of the convenience, cost, and reliability of the cloud without compromising security. Microsoft’s Azure is the second largest cloud provider and has been gaining market share. Azure also offers HIPAA compliant services with advanced analytics features. Hospital equipment is becoming smarter and more connected and Azure provides special offering for Internet of Things devices to help keep them connected, secure, and integrated into the healthcare system. IBM’s Watson is an artificial intelligence platform that is being applied to healthcare. Watson is able to handle the large amount of data being produced at modern hospitals and provide insight into improving hospital operations and patient experiences.
In addition to hospitals, many other companies are looking to bring new technology to healthcare. Insurance providers like Blue Cross Blue Shield are providing platforms for virtual doctor visits. If a patient has minor symptoms, they can speak with a doctor virtually to receive advice and get a prescription if needed. An in-person visit is surely better, but the convenience is hard to beat! No need to schedule an appointment, drive to the doctor’s office, check-in, and wait to be seen. The COVID-19 pandemic quarantine has accelerated the all-things-virtual trend and has caused more people to see their doctor virtually than ever before.
Fitness companies are also creeping into the healthcare space as their smart technology advances. A startup called Mirror created a smart mirror designed for at-home workouts. The Mirror product is a full-length mirror and media device that broadcasts fitness classes for the user to follow along. While at-home workout products is a large space, Mirror hopes to expand to other areas and become a portal for everything in your life. The company has implemented two-way audio and video communication to be used in personal training sessions, but there are countless other potential uses. A user could take guitar lessons through the Mirror or potentially show their doctor an injury. Lululemon obviously liked the idea of Mirror and is acquiring the startup for $500 Million. We will have to find out if the Mirror will still be developed for applications outside of fitness or if Lululemon will keep the product targeted at their core fitness audience.
Mirror Home Workout Technology(2)
Wearable fitness trackers are moving even one step closer to the patient experience. Smart watches are helping to open up the lens on the patient by constantly monitoring and collecting data. Fitbit, Garmin, and Apple create wearables that track metrics such as heart rate and sleep quality. Studies have shown that constant data of these metrics can potentially help predict heart issues, the flu, or even COVID-19. The Apple Watch is designed to monitor for irregular heart rhythms and issue warnings when detected. Whoop, a new wearable fitness tracker company, gave the PGA tour 1,000 devices for their players and caddies to wear to help monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. The NBA purchased smart rings from Oura Health to help their players and staff monitor their heart rate, respiratory ability, temperature, and sleep. Fitness trackers have historically been created to provide accurate tracking data so that people can improve their ability to exercise, but it turns out constant wellbeing data can also prove useful when predicting common illness.
Rory McIlroy Using Whoop(3)
Technology is being used to change every part of medicine and contribute to the health of patients everywhere. For the large majority, technology is only benefitting the healthcare industry, however proper consideration and procedure must be used when innovating a sector so directly linked to the wellbeing and safety of humans. Nearly every type of software innovation has dealt with hackers and will continue to, so engineers and doctors must work together to make sure the patient’s privacy is top priority. All the while, we will all continue to enjoy fun devices that help us exercise and technology that irons out common headaches of visiting a doctor. Have any more interesting medical technology topics you would like to hear about? Let us know in the comments!