Healthcare, like many other sectors, is undergoing a massive technological shift – one that goes far beyond frontiers of tech implementation pre-Covid. Today, digital trends in healthcare encompass everything from diagnosis and treatment to doctor-patient interaction and convenience. This radical change is enabled by cutting-edge technologies, as well as some surprising applications of older technologies. The top digital trends in healthcare for 2023 are likely to reflect this adaptation of existing technologies in new ways, using them to meet the increasing demands for healthcare in ever more efficient and affordable ways.
One of the biggest digital trends in healthcare for 2023 (dramatically accelerated by the pandemic) is an ongoing change in the way that patients and healthcare providers communicate. Now that the entire world has embraced the convenience of telehealth for routine non-urgent care, going back to exclusively in-person visits just isn’t going to happen. Not only is telehealth becoming more and more accessible and affordable; it’s also the subject of government legislation encouraging its use. For example, the U.S. government recently passed a bill to ensure Medicare patients access to telehealth, including audio-only, through 2024.
There are several other ways that healthcare providers are routinely using technology for the day-to-day patient experience. With easy-to-use apps, patients are empowered to access their medical records, receive personalized alerts, schedule their own appointments, and communicate with providers.
Of course, these improvements for patients also bring increased competition for providers. Whereas healthcare competition prior to the pandemic was predominantly local, now patients can access care across state lines and even across borders. Add to that the ready availability of care through technology firms, large retail clinics, and digital health startups, and it’s easy to see how even major hospitals can get lost in the shuffle if they’re not on board with new technology.
Another of the major digital trends in healthcare for 2023 is the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics to improve accessibility, affordability, and effectiveness of healthcare. According to consulting firm MarketsAndMarkets, the AI healthcare market is expected to grow to $14.6B in 2023; that’s quite a leap from less than 10 years ago, when it was valued at $600M. What’s more, with a projected CAGR of 47.6%, the AI healthcare market is expected to reach $102.7B over the next five years, attributed to increasingly large and detailed healthcare datasets, growing computing power, declining hardware costs, and critical need to reduce healthcare expenses. This is most definitely a “get on board or get left behind” moment that has stakeholders investigating how they can leverage AI in areas like genomics, imaging, drug discovery, and diagnostics, just to name a few.
Of these opportunities, imaging and diagnostics are expected to be especially lucrative growth opportunities for healthcare companies. Several global organizations such as Siemens, GE, and Philips Healthcare have already integrated AI into their medical imaging software to more efficiently and accurately analyze CT scans and automatically generate a report.
Additional applications like robot-assisted surgery, virtual nursing assistants, dosage error reduction, connected machines, and preliminary diagnosis can lead to a direct increase in the efficiency and effectiveness of patient care. At the same time, administrative workflow, fraud detection, and cybersecurity AI applications will improve the overall efficiency of healthcare, cutting costs and enabling healthcare providers to increase accessibility. Even though startup and development costs for healthcare AI can be a significant investment, the technology pays for itself both in cost savings and in improved patient care and quality of life.
Along with AI comes business intelligence (BI), another application of data analytics. Like a lot of technologies, data analytics and BI were developed for industrial use, but have found increasingly widespread application as one of the digital trends in healthcare. BI is a specific application of data analytics designed to extract information that has high strategic and operational value from raw data. With health information systems producing a veritable flood of raw data, BI is particularly relevant right now. Some of the benefits that BI can offer include improved patient care, better treatment decisions, optimization of resources like equipment and specialist care, and significantly improved cost management. Unlike AI, BI is based on fundamentally human decision making, which means that there is an opportunity to maximize resource allocation and other outcomes based on the organization’s own priorities.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is another growing trend in the healthcare industry. With RPA, the administrative load of healthcare is substantially reduced, as medical claims, treatment plans, and other administrative activities can be performed automatically. This cuts staffing costs and increases accuracy of claims handling and other activities, resulting in greatly reduced administration overhead. Increasing adoption of RPA in 2023 will help everyone from healthcare providers to insurance providers to state medical services improve their administrative efficiency.
We’re also likely to see an increase in RPA integrated with artificial intelligence and machine learning. This will enable RPA to provide even greater benefits in areas such as data analysis, patient diagnosis, and treatment recommendations.
For example, let’s say a healthcare organization wants to analyze patient data to identify potential health risks and provide suggestions for preventive care. Using RPA, the organization can automatically extract relevant data from electronic medical records and other sources. However, manually analyzing this data can be time-consuming and error-prone.
By integrating RPA with AI and ML, patient data can be automatically analyzed, as AI and ML algorithms can be trained to identify patterns and make predictions about patient health risks. RPA can then be used to integrate the output of the AI and ML algorithms into the company’s workflows, enabling the organization to make data-driven recommendations for preventive care in real-time.
While new trends like AI, BI, and RPA are exciting and even revolutionary, the fact is that many healthcare organizations will be as resource-strapped in 2023 as they were in 2022, and will be looking for ways to extend the usefulness of their existing technologies and systems through software development and legacy modernization. We see this happening in three main areas.
First, we expect (and have already seen) an increasing focus on cloud migration. By migrating outdated and expensive systems to the cloud, healthcare organizations can reduce costs and improve scalability, security, and reliability of their IT systems. The cloud provides a modern infrastructure designed to meet the quickly-changing demands of the digital age, making it a key enabler for legacy modernization.
Another 2023 trend for healthcare legacy modernization is the adoption of microservices architecture. This is a modern software development approach that enables organizations to build and deploy complex applications as a collection of small, independent services. Microservices can help healthcare organizations break down huge legacy systems into smaller, more manageable components, making it easier to modernize their IT infrastructure bit by bit. This piece-by-piece approach allows healthcare organizations to improve IT infrastructure agility and respond more effectively to changing business needs.
Finally, the use of low-code and no-code platforms is expected to increase in 2023. These platforms allow companies to build and deploy complex applications without writing any code, making it easier for non-technical users to participate in the application development process. By using low-code and no-code platforms, healthcare organizations can quickly and easily build new applications and integrations, making it easier to modernize their IT infrastructure and improve the overall quality of care.
Digital trends in healthcare will encompass far more than just communication and record keeping. The upcoming year is going to be revolutionary in terms of new technologies and applications of existing technologies to patient care, in addition to administrative efficiency. AI and data analytics, BI and process automation are already completely changing how patient care is provided, making healthcare more accessible, affordable, efficient, and effective for everyone.
This revolution will be built not only through the development of new technologies, but through the flexible adoption and adaptation of existing technologies that have emerged in scientific and industry sectors for the special needs of the healthcare industry. At the same time, there are also opportunities to be had in traditional software development and modernization of legacy systems, which will bring smaller and more resource-constrained healthcare systems up-to-date in 2023.