Start-Ups

10 technologies changing the future of healthcare

From digital networks to wearables, the health care industry is undergoing massive technological changes. Here are 10 types of innovations changing its future.

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The health care industry will see a 21% increase in IT jobs by 2020, according to research by the University of Chicago. Across all health care sectors, there is a demand for creative, thoughtful uses of health informatics, mobile technology, cloud systems, and digital diagnostics.

Many of these new inventions have yet to be approved by the FDA, a process that can take up to 10 years. But that's not stopping the research and development of new technologies. Here are 10 types of tech that are changing the course of health care.

1. Digital diagnostics

Making health care more accessible includes providing digital diagnostics options for people who need it, especially those who can't get to a doctor's office. This is one of the main themes of digital health. One example of digital diagnostics is Neurotrack, a software-based Alzheimer's diagnostic test that can detect impairments on the hippocampus (the first area of the brain to be affected by the disease) by evaluating eye movement.

2. The cloud

According to recent research by Skyhigh Networks, more than 13% of cloud services in health care are considered high-risk for security breaches, and 77% of them are medium-risk. Cloud services provide a lot of benefits for medical providers, especially in under-developed or rural areas, but there is definite risk involved. The research showed that there are 944 cloud services in use across healthcare providers, and 53% of employees use at least three devices at work.

3. Ultra-fast scans

GE showcased its breakthrough ultra-fast CT scanner earlier this year, which can capture a still image of a heart in one beat. The company said that according to research, about 60% of patients have heart rates of higher than 60 beats per minute and are turned away from scans because their heart beats too fast to scan. With this Revolution CT, doctors can see specific areas of the heart that they could not before.

4. Wearables

Wearable technology is going to play a huge role in health care in years to come. The Consumer Electronics Association reports that sales of fitness trackers and smart watches will reach $1 billion this year. But monitoring fitness is only the beginning. For instance, Intel teamed up with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to use wearables to find certain characteristics of Parkinson's disease.

5. Health informatics

More than half of US hospitals use some type of electronic records system, but only 6% meet all the federal mandates, according to a recent study out of the University of Michigan. According to researchers at the University of Chicago, 50% of health care dollars are wasted on inefficient record keeping processes. Electronic records have been shown to save large hospitals anywhere between $37 and $59 million. It streamlines the medical care process and lowers malpractice claims, and increases coordination between providers. The federal government set a mandate to have some electronic system in place by this year.

6. Digital therapy

Digital therapy is important for patients who need at-home care, can't afford to travel to a clinic, or have no way to get to a clinic for therapy. Wellframe is a platform that combines mobile technology with artificial intelligence to provide patients with care after they've returned home from the hospital or doctor's office. It's been described as a "GPS navigation system for patients." There is a daily to-do list for the patient and a tracker for diet and exercise, but an advanced algorithm adapts the content based on the information from patient and healthcare provider. The company has performed trials with cardiovascular, pulmonary, and mental health patients.

7. Concierge medical services

Startups are making it easier to pay out-of-pocket for on-demand health care services. For example, GoodRX allows you to compare prices for drugs at different pharmacies and save up to 80%. One Medical Group was created by doctors to build a better system for doctor's visits. In certain cities, you can search for an office based on your needs, find same-day appointments, email access, online scheduling, and trained primary doctors.

8. Networks and coaching

With mobile technology, it's easier than ever to have a customized diet or health plan. ThriveOn is personalized coaching for mental health, offering plans by assessing your sleep, mood, stress, anxiety, and body image. Retrofit offers coaching and expert advice for weight loss and weight management.

9. Self-insurance

With the onset of Affordable Care Act, more consumers have had to manage their own data and health future. Several startups are using this as an opportunity to offer insurance, benefits, and solutions services. Health solutions platforms such as Jiff, which connects employee behaviors to company benefits and incentives, are becoming more common.

10. Hackathons

Hacking is becoming an increasingly popular tool to solving real world problems, especially in the health care industry. Health care, which usually evolves slowly, is being revitalized with software developments, hardware inventions, cloud systems, apps, and wearables, and many of these ideas are born out of hackathons. MIT held a hackathon earlier this year that drew 450 people from various backgrounds such as engineering, journalism, medicine, and IT to tackle global health, diabetes, and hospital IT.

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About

Lyndsey Gilpin is a former Staff Writer for TechRepublic, covering sustainability and entrepreneurship. She's co-author of the book Follow the Geeks.

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