Healthcare Technology: What’s Now and What’s Next, Part 2

September 18, 2017
Cloud, Compliance, Healthcare, Hybrid IT

Robotic-assisted surgery? Physician consultations via videoconferencing? If you read our previous blog on healthcare IT, you know this is not futuristic thinking. These types of technologies are alive and well in the healthcare industry.

Even more like them will become mainstream in the very near future as healthcare providers tap into emerging technologies to optimize healthcare delivery and patient outcomes. But what about next year…or five years from now?

For healthcare systems contemplating building new facilities, predicting the requirements of healthcare IT necessitates looking beyond just the next year to ensure the necessary spaces and resources can be accommodated…that is, if facilities will be needed at all. The same applies to purchases of IT hardware and software. Will the investments made today be able to support the technologies that are waiting in the wings?

Not knowing where healthcare IT is going is why we’ll see healthcare systems focusing less on their IT infrastructure — outsourcing much of it instead. What they will focus their efforts on is employing technology to enhance care delivery and efficiencies, leaving the infrastructure power that technology to companies whose core competency is IT and who make it their business to know “what’s next”. 

What is Next in Healthcare Technology

So, where is healthcare IT going? Here are a few things we will probably see — and that will require the specialized expertise and infrastructure that third-party specialists can provide.

Healthcare Workspaces

Delivered via the internet, accessible from anywhere, and containing everything healthcare personnel need to do their jobs, these digital environments will likely become a healthcare industry standard. Healthcare personnel will be able to instantly access up-to-date test results and important tools to diagnose and treat patients.

They’ll be able to work from any location, and continue to work or consult with other medical personnel even when they are not on site. Hosted and managed by third-party providers, these workspaces won’t require healthcare organizations to worry about compliance issues, updating software, maintaining hardware, providing security or dealing with any problems that may occur.

Medical Apps

We love our mobile apps, for everything from shopping via our smartphones to increasing our productivity. Expect them to become even bigger players in the healthcare arena. Already, apps like CareZone are helping patients store and organize all pertinent notes, documents and appointment dates related to their care. Meanwhile, Patient IO enables physicians to program daily tasks for patients based on their treatment plans, track which they follow and share the information with their care team.

While apps of the future probably won’t enable “do it yourself” surgeries, they may be able to diagnose certain conditions and offer treatment options.  Currently, there are apps that help people monitor their exercise and sleeping habits. What if they could help predict potential health issues based on daily activities and provide suggestions for behavior modification to head them off?

Concerned about water safety or air quality when traveling? Apps may be able to monitor and alert you to environmental conditions that could affect your health — and then offer solutions to keep potential problems at bay. No time to go to the doctor or for that employer-mandated drug screening? What about an app that provides a “virtual physical”? The possibilities are wide open. 

However, for apps to really provide value in healthcare, they are going to need to connect to other apps and devices to gather data, exchange information and quite possibly feed machine learning systems. That’s why big data analytics and the Internet of Things will be integral to the success of future healthcare-centric apps. And that’s going to require all-the-more powerful IT systems to supply the computing power — power that will be cheaper for healthcare systems to “rent” than “buy.”

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

From virtual nursing assistants to bots that can data mine at lightning speed, we’re at the very early stages of understanding the potential of AI and machine learning in healthcare.  

To fight blindness, researchers at Google-owned DeepMind are training a deep learning algorithm with a million anonymous eye scans. This will help spot eye conditions such as wet age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy at early stages.  With the help of machine learning algorithms, the AO platform Morpheo is automating the identification of sleep patterns to help in the diagnosis of sleep disorders. It’s not a stretch to think someday AI and machine learning can be used for everything from genetic engineering to developing drugs to curing cancer.

While some of our current IT infrastructure supports AI efforts, it may be AI that shapes the IT infrastructure of the future in healthcare. Look for the emergence of AI-defined infrastructure (AiDI) that uses complex algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence to imbue software-defined infrastructure (SDI) with intelligence. The result – real-time, self-learning, self-healing IT infrastructure environments that continue to learn and connect with other AI-defined infrastructure environments to expand the knowledge pool — including that in healthcare.

How to Prepare for the Future of Healthcare IT

There really is no limit to what technology can do for the healthcare industry. But the question remains: how can healthcare systems prepare for what in mostly an unknown future? As mentioned, one place to start is by outsourcing IT infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing deal. In fact, phasing out of the infrastructure business may make the most sense for many healthcare organizations. A hybrid IT strategy offers a good roadmap for that. It allows for keeping legacy systems as needed, moving certain workloads to the cloud and gradually enlisting managed services companies to take on day-to-day IT maintenance and monitoring tasks.

By removing some of the burden of maintaining and upgrading hardware and software, healthcare organizations can free up their internal resources so they can focus more on employing technology – current and what’s coming next -- rather than figuring out how to support it. 

US Signal Has Your Future in Mind

Interested in future-proofing your IT resources? Let US Signal’s solution architects help you assess your current IT service portfolio and develop a strategy that can prepare it for what’s now and what’s next. Call US Signal at 866.2. SIGNAL or email [email protected]