E-health, or electronic healthcare services, have become more widespread in recent years, thanks to the digital revolution.
Any company involved in the healthcare industry should naturally keep up with developments in the healthcare industry, since those developments can significantly impact their operations.
This is especially true today, as we enter a period of rapid technological advancement.
The Changing Meaning of E-Health
Before examining e-health trends, it is important to clarify the meaning of the term.
Like many modern business words – especially those related to digital technology – there is ambiguity surrounding this term.
Some use the term to refer to any application of digital technology to healthcare. Others use it to refer to more specific uses, such as the digitization of business processes within healthcare.
Understanding that distinction can be useful when discussing or researching e-health, since different sources may mean different things with the same word.
For the purposes of this article, though, we’ll use the widest accepted definition: the application of new and emerging technology to the healthcare field.
Examples of Electronic Health Services
Digital technology is transforming healthcare and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Here are just a few examples of e-health:
- Digitization. Digitization refers to the changeover from analog assets and processes to digital ones. The transition from paper patient records to electronic health records represents an example of digitization.
- Telehealth, telemedicine, and telecare. Telehealth is an umbrella term that refers to the practice of remote treatment, remote monitoring, and any technology connected to this field. Specialists in an urban area, for instance, can provide consultation and treatment through a remote clinic in rural areas. These practices have become more common recently, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Remote surgery. Robotics have advanced to such a degree that surgeons can use them to operate on patients from a distance. Like telemedicine, remote surgery allows healthcare providers to expand their area of service far beyond a specialist’s specific location.
- Machine learning. Machine learning threatens to disrupt the healthcare industry in a number of ways. Trained properly, for instance, machine learning algorithms can be trained to recognize tumors far more accurately than humans. On the one hand, this advancement threatens specialties such as radiology. On the other, however, it promises to save many lives.
- Mobile health. Mobile applications allow people to receive care and services directly through their mobile devices. Some mobile apps focus only on communication and information. When combined with wearable devices, however, mobile apps can be used to monitor vital signs and receive treatment remotely, as with telehealth.
It is important not to underestimate the impact of trends such as these, since they will continue to gain momentum over time.
In the not-so-distant future, some people expect to see tectonic shifts in the healthcare industry – it pays, therefore, to prepare as early as possible.
The Future of Healthcare
Technology is certainly the central force driving digital adoption in healthcare, but there are certainly other factors to be aware of. Public demand, government regulations, and the COVID-19 pandemic are a few other major factors that will influence the trajectory of e-health.
Here are a few trends to watch for in the coming years and decades:
- Medical devices. Today, physicians augment their treatments with robotic surgeons, wearable medical devices, and other remote treatment technology. These technology trends will continue to advance in the coming years, and more will be introduced, such as nano-scale devices and medical scanners for home use.
- Robots. Robotics are used in remote surgery systems, but these only represent one application of this technology. Robots are emerging in customer service roles and they are performing basic manual tasks, such as cleaning. They may begin to take on more responsibilities in the future, however – in Japan, for instance, robots have been tested as care givers for the elderly.
- More resilient public health systems. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities in public health systems around the world. As a result, in the post-COVID next normal, governments and health institutions will work together to improve resilience, responsiveness, infrastructure, and more.
- Innovative biotechnology. Fields such as genetics will continue to bring about new and useful solutions to the healthcare industry. Through genetic screening, for instance, doctors will be able to more readily identify diseases and provide treatment when necessary.
- Pharmaceutical advances. Pharmaceutical companies will play a crucial role in the mitigation and prevention of diseases. Some predict that bacteria will gradually become more resistant to antibiotics in the years ahead, which will drive up investment in the pharmaceutical industry.
- Greater integration of digital, physical, and biological solutions. All of these trends will begin to merge, bringing about entirely new innovations. From anti-aging to home-grown organs, the future of healthcare may go far, far beyond what we think of as e-health.
Naturally, these types of changes will significantly alter the healthcare landscape, so providers should prepare now in order to survive and thrive in that world.