As a sector that witnessed the most activity in 2020, healthcare is poised to be one of the most sought-after innovations in 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic, which ravaged most parts of the world, claiming millions of lives and forcing billions to stay at home for months together, was a wake-up call for the healthcare industry to focus on innovation.

As mobility was severely restricted, most care delivery mechanisms shifted rapidly to digital modes of operation. In February of 2020, just 0.1 % of all Medicare primary care visits were carried out via telehealth mechanisms. This figure exploded after the pandemic gripped the US. In April of the same year, the percentage rose from O.1 to 43.5% of all visits. In short, nearly half of all US Medicare primary care visits were through telehealth services.

If there is one major lesson that the COVID-19 pandemic taught everyone globally, it would be the need to be prepared and equipped to face even tougher health scares in the future as more contagious and fatal virus outbreaks could hit us anytime unexpectedly like this one. So how can healthcare organizations be prepared to fight such uncertainties in the future? The answer lies in smart technologies that they have to invest in and on-board to help accelerate digital transformation and better care delivery for patients. 

Let us examine five critical reasons why hospitals and the healthcare sector, in general, need to adopt smart technologies in 2021:

Demand for Seamless Patient Experience

In the healthcare sector, which was once hailed as being controlled solely by caregivers, patient experience has now become a key objective of the C-suite. Patients now have the driving wheel in their hands to control the overall care experience and can demand better services – thanks to the numerous choices they have in the form of telehealth and virtual care platforms that have sprung up. Hospitals and healthcare organizations must partner or set up their own digital care platforms to administer remedies and virtual care consultations to remain significant in the new normal. Thanks to the pandemic, nearly 76% of all US hospitals now offer some form of telehealth services in the form of audio or video consultations. In 2021, these services need to be made more innovative with smart technology additions like integrating AI, Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, and a whole lot of other technologies to help personalize patient experience like never before.

Increased Penetration of Self Diagnostic Tech

The global healthcare wearable industry is expected to have a compounded annual yearly growth of around 20.5 % from 2020 to 2025 and reach an estimated market value of around USD 46.6 billion by 2025. Consumers or patients can move to a more self-diagnostic and self-care regimen for their health needs with the help of wearables and smart devices. These can help them derive insights into their health from the comfort of their homes. For healthcare organizations, this would mean that their focus must shift to incorporating technologies that work in tandem with wearable consumer devices to help create a connected health system. Consumers must be taken into confidence for providing access to their personal wearables by platforms deployed by healthcare organizations. 

Faster Response

The best part about virtual care delivery is that patients can access them from anywhere. But when a greater number of patients access healthcare systems in parallel, then care providers will be facing difficulties in delivering faster care. For this, they need to invest in powerful network technologies like Cloud and 5G. 5G is expected to go mainstream in 2021. 5G will enable healthcare providers to offer faster tele and remote health services via the internet. Similarly, AI and Machine Learning solutions can be deployed to help doctors diagnose conditions faster thanks to the ability of such technology to identify hidden patterns within test results and specimen analysis reports.

Facilitate Interoperability

Healthcare should be universal at its core. The patients ultimately can decide on where they want to get treated and the caregivers that they select should have seamless access to all past medical records, reports, and data about the patients. Also, in the future, if pandemics like COVID-19 occur, then there will be a huge need for sharing data across different governments and health agencies to help build defense systems against the spread. Healthcare organizations should utilize intelligent data sharing and management platforms to ensure portability and interoperability of patient data across different hospitals or clinics. 

Cost Optimization

As more care delivery shifts to digital modes, hospitals, and healthcare providers will see mounting costs to maintain and optimize their legacy technology infrastructure and handle the rising load. This will require them to adopt faster, agile, and more cost-friendly cloud-based SaaS applications for their technology needs. Besides, having their digital backbone on a powerful cloud platform also enables healthcare organizations to further extend their connectivity to smarter consumer devices and wearables and create a connected health network for all.

The healthcare sector in 2021 will witness a marked movement into digital-first care delivery practices across the globe. Hospitals and care providers certainly need to be the front runners in enabling better care in the new normal with smarter technology. 

From applying AI to enable better diagnostics to collecting vital patient signals remotely with connected wearables, the healthcare practices in 2021 will certainly focus on rolling out a whole bunch of innovative solutions to existing and potential health scares.