As technological advances in healthcare evolve, innovations abound – in the form of digital heath tools, new programs, analytic platforms, and database systems. Those in the industry willing to embrace these new developments are able to grow and prosper.
However, recognizing chief innovations may be difficult for a facility due to the sheer volume of information, since reviewing all the literature and presentations is time consuming. At Sklar, we understand and have researched the top innovations impacting the healthcare industry. Herewith, the five most influential changes.
- Analytical Programs and Algorithms
Among the rise in new databases and patient programs, there has been a significant improvement in analytical systems when recording patient data. Developments of new programs such as AWARE™ portray the sophistication and complexity of this emerging era of advanced technological innovations, via summarizing all relevant patient data into a single screen dashboard. An article in the Harvard Business Review, “Making Predictive Analytics a Routine Part of Patient Care”, states that there is an increased success rate in “integrated predictive analytics in clinical practice” which “identified steps to make predictive algorithms an integrated part of routine patient care.” 5
Integrating these programs is much more effective than adopting an entirely new system. Programs such as AWARE™ and EHR (Electronic Health Records) data analysis support are available for most healthcare facilities, fostering ease and efficiency.
Mastering databases and their analytical systems can lead to better patient care and cost saving decisions. For instance, a clinical challenge on how to decide if a patient is being under or over treated, can be easily solved by using data from advanced analytical programs. Likewise, difficult decisions about medication or readmissions can be addressed by said programs. “Predictive analytics can allow clinicians to steer high-cost interventions to those high-risk patients who actually need them.” Researchers are able to develop algorithms to accurately predict risks, decision support, and solutions. 5
The authors of “Making Predictive Analytics a Routine Part of Patient Care” explain:
“Predictive algorithms are becoming more complex and sophisticated. However, this sophistication means little if health systems cannot apply such algorithms to improve value in everyday clinical care. In this next era of value-based care, health systems must critically think about the clinical situations where enhanced analytics can be useful, help providers use them routinely in patient care, and develop strategies to evaluate the clinical impact of algorithms. By doing so, organizations can reduce spending and improve outcomes by targeting interventions to patients who need them the most.” 5
Utilizing analytical programs by integrating them into everyday patient record systems has resulted in more productive clinical decisions, and improved data leveraging. These opportunities have a strong influence on healthcare facilities whose goals are to improve their outcomes and patient safety by initiating improved analytical technologies.
- Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence in the world of medicine has always been a debate involving ethics and social issues. Assisting rather than replacing programming methods already in use, is the key. By definition Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a “branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers” and contains “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.”
Peter Szolovits and his book, Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, cite how research and discoveries of AI open many doors in the world of medicine. He explains that advancements in technology are creating programming methods with unlimited medical knowledge and assistance in patient diagnosis or treatment. Szolovits establishes the significance of adapting AI and what it can possibly accomplish in the healthcare industry as the “opportunity for new computer tools: to help organize, store, and retrieve appropriate medical knowledge needed by the practitioner in dealing with each difficult case, and to suggest appropriate diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic decisions and decision making techniques.” 7
AI has the ability to resolve the need for high quality healthcare by increasing the number of patients seen daily; and assisting in decision making based on analytical programs, medical information databases, and flowcharts. The purpose of AI in the healthcare industry is both challenging and exciting because of its representation of medical knowledge and demonstration of organic behavior in order to solve problems.
An academic journal, Artificial Intelligence in Medicine dedicates its scientific research to the “wide variety of interdisciplinary perspectives concerning the theory and practice of artificial intelligence (AI) in medicine, human biology, and health care.” Articles are published regularly and focus on the influence of artificial intelligence in medical, computational, and engineering intelligence, as well as the ethical, social, and philosophical issues associated with the integration of AI in medicine.6
Here are a few AI programs developed and defined in Szolovits book, “Artificial Intelligence and Medicine”:
- CASNET - causal-associational network in glaucoma
- EXPERT - generalizes the computational techniques of CASNET
- MYCIN - patient-specific model in the digitalis therapy advisor
- INTERNIST - diagnosis in general internal medicine
- Present Illness Program (PIP) – diagnostic program utilizing the history of the present illness of a patient diseases
- ABEL - program for the diagnosis (and eventually treatment) of acid/base and electrolyte disturbances
The integration of AI in healthcare nonetheless isn’t without obstacles. A deep neural network millions of annotations—or labels—is needed for greatest prediction accuracy. Also, in the field of healthcare, ‘deployment’ can be difficult, since EMR software is sold in multi-year cycles to a centralized purchasing team in each hospital. To get innovations through, there needs to be a clear return on investment. “Hospitals tend to prioritize what they can bill for, and under fee-for-service, the hospital bills for each individual activity –for example, a misdiagnosis may yield a bill for follow up tests, and a better algorithm may actually reduce the revenue to the hospital.” 10
- Care Clinics/Urgent Care
As technology increases, so does the expectations of consumers, care management, and patient engagement. Convenience, value, budget, and speed are major factors influencing the growth of clinics and urgent care facilities. Care clinics are estimated to exhibit an “exponential growth from 1,200 sites in 2013 to 6,000 projected by 2018.”8 They are ideal for large number of people because of their flexibility in hours and appointments, affordable services which are often defined before seeing the doctor or physician, and their direct connection to pharmaceutical chain stores which offer the ability to purchase prescriptions and other medical supplies.
Urgent care facilities are also “defined as clinics that provide general radiography, a small lab, sutures and extended hours, [and] exist as both part of larger health care systems and for-profit companies.”8 Urgent care sites also offer flexibility and convenient hours. They are unique to the healthcare industry because they can diagnose and treat critical patients with more resources available than a care clinic.
These factors define what most patients are seeking when they are unable to visit their primary care physician. Whether it is a time conflict or financial barrier, clinics and urgent care facilities serve a large demographic of individuals who desperately need patient care by offering resources that were once out of reach. More care clinics and urgent care facilities are now widely available in most towns and cities. Care management, efficiency, affordability and patient engagement are exhibited in care clinics and urgent care facilities.
- 3-D Print Technologies
The production of 3-D printers has opened many doors for doctors and patients. Since their inception by American engineer Chuck Hull in the nineteen-eighties, 3-D printers are an inexpensive and widespread invention. 3-D printing is “a mechanical process whereby solid objects are created by ‘printing’ successive layers of material to replicate a shape modelled in a computer”.2 This innovation will continue to grow especially in the healthcare industry as technology advances, stronger research succeeds, and more clinical tests are achieved.
Notable 3-D Printing Achievements
- 1999 Frist synthetic scaffold of a human bladder was created 3
- 2002 First functioning kidney 2
- 2010 First blood vessel printed in San Diego 3
- 2015 Facial implants rebuilt a face after it was damaged from a motorcycle accident 2
3-D printers have become a medical revolution due to their unique abilities and successful patient results. In the “Top 10 Health Care Innovations” article analysis, co-authors Bill Copeland and Michael Raynor state the importance of 3-D printers as a “lower-cost and highly customized medical technology product[s] that can be tailored to suit the physiological needs of individual patients”1. Likewise 3-D printers are more cost-effective for engineers, scientists, educators, and consumers. The possibilities are endless with 3-D printing, and the process will continue to evolve.
- Social Media in Conjunction with Marketing Tactics
Social media yields value for those engaging in the capabilities of reviews and testimonials. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are essentially free to open and run. Most social media channels have a business format which allows analytical insight on number of views, engagements, shares, and much more. Facilities are now able to review and monitor their presence on social media and see how it affects their patient care and revenue, as well as evaluate the marketing budget and return on investment. Social media is an excellent marketing method with the opportunity to enhance a facility’s credibility or patient experience. It is always best to research and test each platform first to gauge appropriateness for the particular audience you want to reach. Trying all resources available in each platform will also help decipher the best fit.
Improving the patient care experience while remaining cost-efficient is a major goal for 2017. Rapid advancements in technology come as a result of focusing on implementing innovations that are value based yet patient centered. From a rise of support in social media to the integration of artificial intelligence in medicine, the future is full of exciting medical discoveries. Technology alone presents so much opportunity in patient care. Despite remaining obstacles in medicine’s embrace of technology and resistance to change, there are benefits to be had.
Tell us your experiences with algorithms, artificial intelligence, 3-D printing, social media, and the growth in urgent care access in the comments section below.
1 Copeland, Bill and Raynor, Michael. Top 10 Health Care Innovations. June 2016)
2 Whitaker, Matthew. "The History of 3D Printing in Healthcare." The Bulletin 96.7 (2015): 228-29.
3 Harris, William. How 3-D Bioprinting Works. December 2013.
4 History of 3D Printing. 3D Printing Industry. 2016.
5 Ravi B. Parikh, Ziad Obermeyer, and David Westfall Bates. Making Predictive Analytics a Routine Part of Patient Care. April 2016.
6 Artificial Intelligence in Medicine. 2017.
7 Szolovits, Peter. "Artificial Intelligence and Medicine", Chapter 1 in Szolovits, P. (Ed.) Artificial Intelligence in Medicine. Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado. 1982.
8 Aliber, Jennifer. The 8 Types of Ambulatory Care Settings. February 2016.
9 Williams, Evan. Dimensions Unending. April 2017.
10 Ballinger, Brandon. Three Challenges for Artificial Intelligence in Medicine. Cardiogram, September 2016.