In the next decade, many of the concepts aiming to streamline the healthcare industry could be reality. Technology such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and virtual reality make interoperability and automation possible, as tech giants and startups partner with hospitals and health systems to prevent medical episodes and lower healthcare costs.
“We are entering an era of massive innovation in healthcare to combat the rising costs of the last decade,” says Jay Samit, independent vice chair of digital reality for Deloitte. He says as patients begin to get more involved in their personal healthcare, providers will have even more data to make better decisions.
“Right now, we use smartphones to track our vitals and our steps, but when artificial intelligence is tied into the phone, it could tell you that you might have a heart attack in 30 days. You would take that seriously,” Samit says. “Healthcare currently happens after the event, and new technology will make it more preventive.”
Here are five of the top healthcare technologies that experts say will be commonplace in the next decade:
1. Blockchain technology
Finding secure and reliable ways to transmit sensitive data between stakeholders has been an issue in healthcare for years. But many experts are confident that blockchain technology applied to clinical and claims data will result in huge cost savings in the next decade.
“Everyone talks about big data, but there needs to be a longitudinal view of the data that sits in different silos. Blockchain enables that,” says Shahram Ebadollahi, chief science officer for IBM Watson Health.
In a blockchain, patient health records could include clinical, behavioral health, and payer information, and can be reviewed, stored and exchanged in a peer-to-peer transaction ledger. Because information is stored in blocks, rather than one file, this allows for the information to be used in clinical decision making or population health management. Patients can give unilateral permission to use portions of the data, and past information can be stored without being changed. This also allows for patient information to be used more widely for clinical trials without researchers having to get multiple layers of permissions.
Many big players in healthcare technology have been making headway into blockchain. IBM Watson Health is currently working with the CDC to identify uses for it and barriers for adoption. Their goal is to exchange different types of information including clinical trial data, genomic data and patient generated data, making it available to several stakeholders in a secure way. Deloitte has also submitted a whitepaper to the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology detailing how blockchain can be used to make health information exchanges more secure and interoperable. Gem, a startup blockchain provider, has also partnered with CDC to explore population health solutions.
Ebadollahi says the various uses for blockchain technology would impact supply chain sectors of healthcare, clinical trials, business, and clinical fields.
“We see an increase in the number of risk-shared, gain-shared contracts and there are penalties for those that don’t make their outcomes. There are different outcomes produced by various players, and blockchain is a way to keep track of the outcomes of various players. It will be a huge cost savings once it is adopted on a wide scale,” Ebadollahi says.