Disruptive. Game changing. Groundbreaking. All too often, tech trends in healthcare are promoted as revolutionary advances poised to reinvent an entire industry. Yet the reality is that many of the technologies shaping healthcare in 2020 and beyond are more evolutionary than revolutionary – making them relatively seamless and affordable to integrate into everyday practice. The following trends represent just a few of the ways that key technologies are expanding possibilities, raising expectations and strengthening doctor-patient relationships in this ever-evolving field.

1. Reaching Underserved Patients With Telemedicine

For patients in rural communities or remote areas, traveling to the nearest healthcare provider can range from inconvenient to insurmountable. And for patients in underserved urban centers, the first available appointment may be weeks away, rather than days. Fortunately, the growing prevalence and reliability of internet service is making telemedicine an increasingly attractive proposition for many healthcare providers, with year-over-year global growth of 400 million users and average mobile and fixed internet speed increases of 25 percent and 40 percent respectively.

Worldwide telemedicine market is expected to top $130.5 billion by 2025.

According to a March 2019 report by Global Market Insights, the worldwide telemedicine market is expected to top $130.5 billion by 2025. And starting in 2020, the American Medical Association will be implementing a dozen new Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) medical billing codes related to online evaluations and digital communications via patient portals – a clear reflection of the growing trend toward telehealth.

Telemedicine platforms can also be used in conjunction with wearable medical devices to help patients manage chronic conditions or prevent readmission following hospital stays.

2. Enhancing Patient Compliance Through the Internet of Medical Things

From the first interconnected ATMs to today’s smart home systems and self-driving cars, the Internet of Things (IoT) has been gaining traction in the private sector for years. This extensive network of internet-enabled devices – and the people who use them to stay productive, comfortable and secure – has grown to 7 billion worldwide, according to estimates by IOT Analytics. And now, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is experiencing its own long-overdue growth spurt – making it virtually effortless for healthcare systems to collect and synthesize important patient data.

With the IoMT revolution, wearable devices can transmit patient vitals like blood pressure, glucose levels and more, allowing for early notification and intervention for patients managing chronic conditions. In addition, the invention of the first smart pill gives patients and healthcare systems more reliable and convenient ways to ensure that essential medication is being taken as directed. In terms of both patient outcomes and operational advantages, the possibilities for IoMT are boundless.

3. Sharpening Clinical and Administrative Methods With Predictive Analytics

Given the immense volumes of data being generated through medical offices, telemedicine platforms and a host of IoMT devices, healthcare providers have a valuable opportunity to transform today’s raw data into tomorrow’s preventive medicine and proactive business intelligence. Predictive analytics technology blends historical data with real-time reporting to create a clear and dynamic picture of likely outcomes for specific clinical or business scenarios.

Predictive analytics systems can synthesize a broad range of factors to determine whether a patient is at risk for certain diseases

For example, predictive analytics systems can synthesize a broad range of disparate factors – including family history, lifestyle, environmental conditions and much more – to determine whether a patient is at risk for certain diseases, conditions or readmission following a hospital stay. These systems can also provide valuable business insights by analyzing historical patient counts, changing populations and demographics, seasonal illness patterns and other data to properly allocate staff, pharmaceuticals and supplies.

4. Leaving Tedious Tasks to Chatbots

When serious medical questions or concerns arise, patients should expect direct communication with their physician team, period. Yet for straightforward tasks like scheduling patients, refilling prescriptions and fielding frequently asked questions, chatbots can save valuable administrative time for staff and physicians that can be redirected toward patient care.

Chatbots can enhance the patient experience by providing fast, accurate service around the clock.

Chatbots are software applications that use rules-based programming or artificial intelligence to respond to predetermined topics through a text messenger or voice-enabled platform. This technology has already gained widespread popularity among retailers for its ability to provide responsive, consistent customer service. And, while chatbots in any market have their limitations, the healthcare sector is beginning to embrace their unmatched ability to enhance the patient experience by providing fast, accurate service around the clock.

In some cases, chatbots are even being integrated with targeted AI systems to provide referring physicians with evidence-based responses to questions related to cardiology, interventional radiology, neurology and other areas of specialization. This allows general physicians to keep their patients informed about next steps in their treatment in real time.

The global market for chatbots in healthcare is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 26.29 percent through 2029.

According to a September 2019 report by BIS Research, the global market for chatbots in healthcare is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 26.29 percent through 2029. Along the way, the technology is projected to save billions in healthcare expenditures each year.

5. Protecting Data Integrity With Blockchain Technology

The advanced technology that gave rise to cryptocurrencies is bringing its next-generation capabilities to the healthcare market. Blockchain acts as a decentralized, hard-to-hack ledger of information that allows multiple parties to track exchanges in real time while protecting patient privacy and data integrity. Each record, or “block,” requires verification by the network before new information is added; transactions cannot be deleted or edited. It also contains a time-stamped history of the chain of interactions as well as the parties involved. This provides a built-in audit trail for everything from the movement of controlled substances through the supply chain to the billing and reimbursement cycle.

Blockchain has tremendous potential to help healthcare organizations streamline workflows, reduce reliance on pharmacy benefit managers through “smart contracts,” and put a stop to common sources of billing and data fraud. Yet perhaps the most compelling argument for blockchain technology is its ability to help healthcare providers keep electronic medical records up-to-date, accurate, easy to share with authorized parties and exceedingly difficult for others to access or exploit.

Healthcare technology trends not only reflect evolving capabilities for collecting, analyzing and securely sharing data – they also reinforce the importance of keeping the patient experience at the center of it all. An experienced IT partner can help organizations embrace and implement the 2020 trends that best align with their healthcare values and business goals.