I’ve always found health IT fascinating, particularly the unexpected twists and turns it takes. In many ways, the industry is slow to adopt and integrate many modern technological conveniences that we see take off with great success in the consumer space – and this is for very real and necessary reasons. But, then there are things such as Glass that despite barriers to adoption, has been embraced with excitement by health IT innovators and has become the focus of many different clinical applications to support a variety of use cases, such as immediate post-procedure and point-of-care dictation for surgeons. So when looking at the year ahead, it’s not always easy to foresee what trends will gain traction and which will fall by the wayside.
What I do know is that we tend to see an uptick in health IT adoption when it comes to trends and innovations that help to bolster the Art of Medicine; they become a knight in shining armor of sorts, a beacon of hope for clinicians bound by strict regulations and burdened with challenging technology. With that, there are three major developments I believe will have a profound impact on health IT in the coming year.
Empathetic interfaces and a more natural user experience
We’ve seen an increasing emphasis being placed on user interfaces, user interaction (UI/UX), as well as with usability testing and design. In a clinical environment, this is an essential component of the innovation process, impacting not only physician satisfaction, but technology adoption rates, as well. The next wave of UX/UI in healthcare will revolve around creating interfaces that adapt to their users. As the consumer technology market moves toward artificial intelligence (AI), the virtual assistants and health IT interfaces will become more intuitive as well, leveraging contextual cues to better predict a clinician’s needs.
Emergence of new form factors in health IT
The marketplace for new devices, such as wearables, continues to expand and the convenience afforded by them will not go unnoticed by the health IT sector. This will further be supported as these types of devices continue to rapidly mature and gain much needed capabilities, like untethered wireless connectivity and better battery performance. By the end of 2015, we can expect to see new and existing clinical workflows augmented by these always on, always ready, and hands-free form factors beginning to take shape. It’s plausible that physicians, nurses, and other clinical professionals will one day soon leverage devices, like secure smart watches, to input and retrieve vitals, order a prescription, schedule an imaging scan, or document a brief patient note.
Blending of patient and provider tools
Meaningful Use regulations are placing increased pressure on healthcare organizations to improve interoperability and patient access to personal health data. With such an uptick in health-focused wearables, patients will take a stronger and more active role in their own care and begin asking for the capability to share the information being collected by these devices with their physicians. We will also begin to see more clinical apps designed to assist patients as they manage their chronic conditions. The blending of patient and provider-focused technologies will assist with building population health initiatives.
While there is no real way of knowing what the future holds for the health IT industry, two things are certain: we are all patients and we are all consumers. The conveniences afforded to us by the technology available in our daily lives will continue to be expected of our healthcare interactions. 2015 might just be the tipping point where technology makes healthcare more easily accessible to both patients and clinical staff.