December 20, 2016

Healthcare has a future akin to The Jetsons: Sensors that track patients when they enter and leave their hospital room; real-time location technology that detects the flow of staff and the status of clinical equipment; pills that “report” medication adherence and software that predicts results from treatments. These technologies are New Age for most medical facilities. Yet some are already here and ready to be deployed.

Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled technologies are an exciting development in healthcare IT, facilitating timely and even automated decision-making. Take clinical documentation—an activity that is required, audited and extremely time-consuming. By applying natural language processing to dictation, Arizona State University researcher David Kaufman found that clinicians could save ample time in the process while also improving documentation quality.

“There is such a high amount of human labor built into [healthcare] that if you can find ways to use intelligent technology to decrease your operations expense, you can increase your top line,” said Matthew Russell, CTO at Digital Reasoning, during a session at the recent 2016 emids Healthcare Summit.

Panelists at the Summit discussed emerging opportunities for AI and IoT that have the potential to disrupt healthcare today and in the future. Some of these include:

Remote Care

Sensors have been collecting healthcare data from people for a long time: Consider blood glucose monitors, fetal monitors and electrocardiograms. Adding the ubiquitous smartphone or tablet to facilitate visits, patients can avoid longer hospital stays and frequent office visits. A new generation of “smart pills” is allowing healthcare organizations to ensure that a patient takes his or her medication, while also collecting other vital data. This area is expected to grow dramatically in the near future, according to panelists.

Patient Experience

What if a patient could ask the thermostat to raise the temperature in his or her room? What if you could ask your wellness app how you’re doing with your diet—and what to do about the nagging pain in your back that happens during exercise? Such tools would not only deliver accurate and relevant information quickly, but also send data back to clinicians who could monitor the situation and intervene if necessary. You can ask Siri almost anything, and we can expect that healthcare technology will become much more conversational, panelists noted.

Drug Development

Imagine opening up the doors for new ways to conduct clinical trials, so that testing a potential new drug would incorporate lifestyle data, such as how the drug affects fit patients compared with those who don’t exercise, and any other number of non-clinical factors. Or, what about after a drug is released to market, analyzing data collected from a wide array of mobile apps and devices to better understand efficacy and safety? “We have been in a very hierarchical evidence-based world, where one adverse event can cause a drug to get taken off the market,” said Jonathan Morris, MD, chief medical information officer at QuintilesIMS, during the emids Summit. “We are looking at how to view evidence and move away from hierarchical thinking.”

There are plenty of reasons why disruptive technologies such as IoT, AI and mobile telehealth may not work: Patients aren’t all ready for digital health, and healthcare providers don’t have adequate financial incentives to change, panelists agreed. Yet they all urged Summit attendees not to overthink the possibilities for the future. Just one new app allowing chronic patients to easily collect vitals from a medical device in their home to send to their physician could help avert a medical emergency—and that’s a brilliant, affordable change that’s viable today.

Want to learn about more disruptive technologies that are changing the healthcare consumer experience? Visit our website to download this year’s from the 2016 emids Healthcare Summit.

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