By Debra Wood, RN, contributor Dec 19, 2019
Are you looking for innovative ways to enhance your practice?
Would you prefer to work smarter instead of harder?
Medical technology continually evolves and often brings
greater treatment or monitoring options. Yet some of the technology trends in
medicine aim to support physicians and advanced practitioners—by saving time,
simplifying tasks or increasing your effectiveness.
Care reached out to key technology leaders in the field to find the most
highly-anticipated developments in 2020 that have the potential to improve the
way you work. Here’s what we found.
8 trends in
medical technology that can benefit practitioners
1. Virtual scribing
Alexa may have the corner on the market for personal digital
assistants, but the health care space is testing related technology to save
time and help make a physician’s job easier. Recognizing that entering
information into electronic health records (EHRs) remains a burdensome task for
physicians, Cerner is working with Amazon Transcribe Medical to develop a
virtual scribe, which will capture doctor–patient interactions and
automatically integrate them into the EHR.
Hospitals and health systems view artificial intelligence
(AI) as a way to improve health outcomes, while reducing costs and improving
the patient experience. Thus, they are investing in AI, according to a 2018
study from Optum, a health services company. Physicians may be able to spend
more time with patients if AI handles some of the administrative tasks.
A report from the global accounting firm PWC indicates AI
can help detect diseases and support clinical decision-making. Pattern
recognition can assist physicians in identifying patients who could be at risk
for an illness. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, developed
a model to predict which women are at future risk of breast cancer, using a
type of AI that can extract vast amounts of information from mammographic
Additionally, a December 2019 MIT Technology Review poll
found 79 percent of the health care professionals surveyed thought AI helped to
decrease burnout. The same survey indicated that medical staff with extensive
AI programs spend two-thirds less time writing reports, leaving more time for
procedures or consults.
3. Embracing chatbots
Automated conversations with chatbots reduce interruptions by
answering patient questions and providing information with text messages,
reported Greg Kefer, with LifeLink.
At 28 Banner Health emergency departments, bots serve as virtual concierges, providing patients with information, when lab results are expected
and next steps.
“In six months, the chatbots
conducted more than 860,000 interactions with 300,000 patients,” Kefer reported.
“If you do some basic math, that conversational horsepower is freeing up a
significant amount of care team capacity, which frees them to focus on what’s
Chatbots also make life
easier with the patient intake process. LifeLink chatbots were piloted with Medicare
seniors as part of the annual wellness visit intake process, Kefer continued. The
practice sent the chatbots to patients in advance to collect data, and half of
patients completed the information via the bot, eliminating the need for staff
to key the information into the EHR.
Overall satisfaction across clinical teams who have used the
chatbots has been significant, Kefer said. “Simple conversational technology is
benefiting both sides of the value equation – patient satisfaction and
4. Shifting to
telehealth visits are growing in popularity, particularly among Gen
Zers and millennials, according to a 2019 study by Accenture. About 29 percent
of respondents to the survey have used virtual care.
The ability to treat patients remotely has benefits for the
provider as well as the convenience it provides patients. It offers physicians
greater flexibility. They can “see” patients at home and save time on the road.
Some virtual visit companies allow physicians to log in and accept virtual
visits when they are available.
5. Communicating to
“Patient no-shows cost $150 billion a year, and lead to poor
outcomes and missed opportunities to meet value-based care and patient-satisfaction
goals,” said Kamal Anand, MBA, CEO of Asparia, which offers a platform to
remind patients about appointments and conduct automated two-way conversational
“Looking to solve this problem in 2020, more medical offices
are seeking out next generation technology solutions,” Anand said. “To be
effective, the key is technology that goes beyond simply texting reminders.
What providers want and need is a platform that integrates with the EHR to provide
real-time, simple rescheduling and communication with patients, which syncs
back to office appointment systems, and that provides opportunity for automated
outreach and follow-up when appointments are missed.”
6. Adopting virtual
After taking the entertainment world by storm, virtual
reality (VR) has become a medical technology gaining in acceptance. It can be
used in treating anxiety, phobias, and severe pain, according to a report by
Global Industry Analysts. Dentists are also adopting the technology to use with
their patients during treatment.
VR technology can also be used to improve the patient
experience by preparing the person for what to expect during a medical or
7. Moving to the
Technology trends in medicine include moving data and record
systems to the cloud to reduce costs and address resource constraints, reports
SelectHub. Cloud-based systems enable physicians to access a large amount of
data quickly. And cloud-based providers are offering better security than in
From Fitbits to Apple Watches, patients are generating a
significant amount of data on wearables, and the use of wearables is
anticipated to increase nearly 25 percent by 2026, according to Fortune
Some wearable devices will send information to the person’s
physician, leading to loads of data to sort through. However, on a positive
note, the wearable data offers clinicians information about how patients are
doing at home or work rather than just in the office.
Key Health Care Trends to Watch in 2019
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