White linoleum floors with an antiseptic smell may be what you imagine when you picture a hospital, but technology is changing the modern hospital. We’re seeing the hospital lose its walls. Technology is allowing parts of the hospital experience to happen outside the traditional physical spaces and that’s changing Healthcare for everyone.
Remote Patient Monitoring
The simplest example of this is patient monitoring. In the past you would have to spend extended time in the hospital because it was critical that you were monitored by expensive hospital equipment. As technology has advanced it’s become more cost effective and affordable to allow medical devices that leverage IoT (Internet of Things) to monitor and report back key metrics and alerts on patients. This gives patients the ability to leave the hospital sooner and it also frees up hospital beds. In addition, patient monitoring can provide longer-term visibility on patient health preventing or pre-empting emergency re-admittance.
Remote patient monitoring boosts engagement and improves adherence to doctor recommendations. There’s also a macro-level trend shift toward value-based care. This means that healthcare companies are increasingly incentivized by results rather than the number of tests and procedures that are run. Because of this there’s a growing interest in knowing how patients are feeling after they leave the walls of the hospital.
As remote patient monitoring grows, we also see a growth in the value of data produced by these systems. Large databases, sometimes called big-data, can be used with machine learning and artificial intelligence to provide predictive alerts and analytics. The more data you have the more it becomes possible to train software to recognize issues earlier.
Telemedicine is the logical extension of patient monitoring. Once you have data flowing to the doctor or the hospital, it’s natural to enable the data and recommendations to flow back to the patient. One of the largest drivers of telemedicine is the mobile phone. Tools like SMS, Facetime, Lyft and Instacart have created an on-demand patient expectation that things can be dispatched and solved from your phone. To address this in the healthcare space, telemedicine has started to fill this gap connecting patients with on-demand consultations with live nurses, doctors and therapists.
The integration of telemedicine into more insurance tools is also simplifying the experience of entering in all of your information over and over again. There are estimates that one quarter to one half of doctors' visits could be virtual.
Telemedicine is also making its way into other mediums including web or text based chatbots and even voice assistants such as Alexa. These technologies break the physical walls of the hospital both for the patient and for the physicians. While this can be a good thing for patients it can also reshape hospitals to be more hospitality focused than they have in the past.
Patient portals are cousins of telemedicine. While patient portals are oriented with access to data, they are broadening the walls of the hospital by taking the administrative burden away from forms, paperwork and bureaucracy. These tools further access to information and provide visibility to this data on the go, from mobile applications, tablets and doctors.
The trend around hospitals without walls is ubiquity of access and data. It no longer requires the patient to fax documents and information back and forth because you can now access your data and accounts directly. While most patient portals are transactional, these portals are moving toward telemedicine and interactivity. Over time these terms and technologies will begin to converge.
Digital Therapeutics and Software as Medical Devices
You’ve heard of physical therapy, but companies are increasingly working on digital therapies. Where a physical therapy will train a muscle or movement, a digital therapy can train a behavior or the brain. We are also seeing a growing trend toward software as medical devices. Both of these trends don’t require the traditional hospital setting and are often designed to be mobile, portable, and connected. (Read more on digital medicine here.)
These digital solutions paired with the growing trend in patient monitoring and IoT means that we have a more integrated solution that treats, measures and reacts to the progress of the entire patient, not just the symptoms.
Building the Future Hospital Today
It’s clear that the hospital is no longer bound by the physical walls and the hospital of the future will be even more de-centralized. As healthcare evolves and the price of technology continues to fall it’s likely that the hospital of the future will, at least in-part be in the cloud.