The beginning of the new year is often a time of heightened anticipation about what new discoveries the next twelve months have in store. This is especially true for the health care community which produces technological and scientific breakthroughs on a regular basis. This coming year should produce new changes in the medical industry and wider society which will not only make health care more effective but considerably more accessible.
Wearables and Mobile Apps
It is impossible to discuss new advances in health care without including the growing proliferation of digital tools like wearables and mobile apps. While this trend is not new to health care, 2016 should see a dramatic increase in consumer utilization of these increasingly important products. Within this area, the promise of the Internet of Things (IoT) should finally reach a maturation threshold that will enable patients to opt in. IoT is the ability for common electronic products to communicate with one another, and should prove immensely useful in helping patients manage their health and chronic conditions. For example elderly patients can be notified if their vital signs are erratic through a wearable monitor, and others can be alerted if they forget to take their medication.
The concept of health care consumerism should finally materialize as a practicality. By providing patients with more technological channels, they can access personal medical information at any time. Supported by medical professionals, organizational resources and Big Data, health care consumers can take control of their own fates.
Part of this growing consumer empowerment is access to technologies previously unavailable. Until recently, patients couldn't create medical devices with ease. However, the advent of 3-D printing has enabled consumers to design and produce customized products like limb and dental prosthetics. Not only does this allow low cost production, but it also allows a degree of personalization to the unique physiology of the patient that has hardly been seen before.
Among the more exciting, and developing, innovations is the introduction of robotic aids. While not ready for widespread use yet, these in-home assistants could prove vital for the swelling elderly population in the near future. These electronic products could include intelligent walkers, pendants which monitor patient location and mobility, or mental health companions.
Walk in Clinics
The number of entities in the health care industry has shrunk as consolidation swept through the sector in 2015. This has, however, attracted external organizations to enter the market. More companies like Alphabet and Qualcomm are partnering with established health care companies or developing independent initiatives.
Companies like Walgreens and CVS could also expand their retail clinics, in both, number of locations as well as services offered. This will pose challenges for traditional hospitals as many of these clinics try to appeal to patients by tying in drugs and health programs.
A final industry disruptor to look out for in the coming year is crowdfunding. While most health care entrepreneurial ventures have relied on traditional financing, 2016 could see more ideas find financial support through online, grassroots platforms like Kickstarter. The success of these projects will depend on their ability to overcome the traditional division between the general public and complex, technological concepts.
Article written by:
Robert Moghim, M.D.
CEO, Health Carousel Locum Tenens