Technology Innovations That Will Have a Big Impact on Medical Practices in 2021

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Photo credit: Depositphotos

By Daniel Kivatinos

2021 will be another year of major innovation for healthcare technology. Because COVID-19 has disrupted the way medical practices operate, we will see how developments in security, infrastructure, data and patient networks play a pivotal role in how practices are run this year.  

Security

COVID-19 has accelerated the need for all industries, including healthcare, to modernize infrastructure and move to the cloud, thereby allowing companies to maintain quality and productivity as employees work from home.  

With such abrupt changes comes the potential for more data exposure, which some hackers might target, such as the recent SolarWinds hack, which used a compromised vendor platform to exploit networks across the U.S. 

With running a medical practice, there is a need to ensure digital technology security, and the security team should review their tech infrastructure and software. Fortunately, solutions such as cyber protection and threat detection & response technologies have been developed by companies such as Acronis and MistNet.

5G

With healthcare professionals providing more digital care outside of the clinic, the demand for faster networks is imperative, and physicians and patients need better upload and download speeds. 

All healthcare companies should be looking at building and utilizing next generation products that leverage 5G and 5G-enabled products.  Fiber optic quality in the wireless world is upon us and ubiquitous usage is imminent. High quality video streaming, for instance, opens a myriad of opportunities for care teams, such as tracking the brain and nerve endings for blockages. Prior to 5G, this type of video stream was simply not possible from a cell connection. 

Telemedicine appointments will also continue to rise in comparison to in-person visits, and patients and providers won’t need to rely on WiFi when 5G is available to have real-time encounters via video chat. With the release of iPhone 12, Apple’s iPhone can now support access to telecom companies’ 5G networks.

Apple’s new iPhone release has benefits beyond its network capabilities. The Image Signal Processor allows providers to see images on the iPhone 12 Pro with unprecedented detail, such as medical CT scan videos, and it can process multiple images simultaneously. A slew of other investments were made on the camera, such as low light settings and more detailed video recordings.

FHIR / Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources

With companies like Apple, Amazon, and other Fortune 500 companies leveraging modern APIs like FHIR, we’re going to see more data exchanged than ever before. 

What this means is that with this new API standard, patients’ medical records can more quickly and seamlessly travel between medical institutions, decreasing the reliance on paper records.  

For example, if a patient with an aggressive cancer is getting care from one team at a medical facility and decides to take that information to get a second opinion from another care team, they can quickly  take that information coming through FHIR data and present that to the next medical team. 

Currently many medical facilities have data that is siloed, inaccessible and without any modern APIs to allow that data to be accessed from other facilities. This is problematic because as researchers are trying to tackle problems like COVID-19, it’s  difficult to access data about the spread of the virus and what it is doing to patients around the world. With FHIR, medical facilities will be able to transfer necessary data instantaneously to the facilities and institutions that need it most. 

Patient Networks

With the increase in telehealth visits throughout the country and world, patients need to find the right provider for them. Prior to COVID-19, most care was conducted  locally in person, but with the backing of payers such as Medicare and Medicaid, patients and providers can conduct virtual appointments with the same costs and reimbursement. Now, patient networks like ZocDoc have become even more successful, because they match patients and providers based on specific care needs, not just location. We’re going to see a plethora of new patient networks emerging and expanding as providers are giving more remote care. 

These are some of the biggest areas where we will see technology innovations making their mark in the coming year.  As vaccines become more available, and hopefully COVID-19 becomes part of our past, these technology breakthroughs will still have a lasting impact on how medical practices operate more efficiently and safely for years to come.

Daniel Kivatinos is COO and Co-Founder of DrChrono.

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