The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, yet sometimes extremely slow to adapt. Take telehealth, for example. It was first conceptualized back to 1925, but it wasn’t until 2020 and the emergence of COVID-19 that it truly went mainstream.

Lockdowns, quarantines, movement restrictions and social distancing forced the closure of all nonessential businesses and government establishments. People were stuck remotely working, studying, and socializing via virtual video and/or audio conferencing. Almost every human activity became virtual.

The healthcare industry was one of the few exceptions, although the fear of exposure and contracting the disease was enough to deter many people from ever leaving the confines of their homes, which was also highly encouraged to help “stop the spread.”

As a result, demand for virtual services skyrocketed. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found there was a 154% increase in telehealth visits during the last week of March 2020 in comparison to the same period in 2019. And a report published by McKinsey & Company found that telehealth use was 78 times higher in April 2020 than in February of the same year.

Even as vaccines and boosters continue to roll-out, restrictions are eased and mask restrictions lifted, new emerging threats - such as rapidly spreading coronavirus mutations - suggest that the pandemic is far from over. As such, it’s safe to say that telehealth is here for the long-haul and will only continue to grow in importance as the weeks, months and years pass us by.

This hints at the need for ever-expanding virtual services and health information technology innovations, including a willingness on behalf of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to continue its expanded coverage for virtual care services.

But outside of this, what does the future hold in store? Here are our top 3 predictions.

Healthcare Trend 1: Artificial Intelligence Will Continue to Grow in Importance

According to a recent global healthcare market forecast, the use of AI in healthcare will grow to over $22 billion by 2025. Here are a few reasons why:

  • AI is already being used for image analysis and disease diagnosis, with high success rates. This will continue to expand as more and more data is collected, and AI gets “smarter.”
  • AI eases administrative workflows and clinical documentation by transcribing data during patient visits, as well as navigating medical records via voice commands.
  • Virtual nursing assistants provide remote support for common medical conditions, so that patients are no longer trying to self-diagnose their symptoms on sites like Google.  
  • AI helps to cut down on insurance fraud, as well as prescription errors.

This growth is being fueled by increasing patient demand for more personalized medicine, coupled with the need to identify ways to reduce medical care costs.  

Healthcare Trend 2: Wearables Will Become More and More Popular

Medical practices are increasingly promoting wearables like smartwatches and fitness and health trackers for remote patient monitoring. These types of devices help doctors and clinicians collect medical information to better monitor the health of their patients.

Wearable technology also gives healthcare professionals the ability to monitor patients undergoing at-home treatment, which can lead to earlier detection, faster diagnostics, more intelligent diagnosis, and better outcomes. Although this technology is not new to the healthcare industry, its increasing popularity amongst doctors and patients will help shape the future of patient-centered virtual healthcare.

Healthcare Trend 3: The Demand for IoT Will Skyrocket

Advances in virtual medicine and healthcare trends — including telehealth usage, AI integrations, and the popularity of wearable devices — all have a common factor in their adoption: the Internet.

At the end of the day, the world is more digitally connected than it was decades ago, and the Internet makes almost everything virtually connected and accessible, including healthcare. Telemedicine and providing virtual healthcare simply is not possible without the Internet.

There are a growing number of electronic devices manufactured with Internet capability that will allow for the sharing and accessing of patient and medical data, which gives healthcare systems the ability to set up a network of devices that collect, communicate, and share information. This network, also known as Internet of Things (IoT), includes everything from computers and smartphones to smartwatches and fitness trackers.

The explosive growth of IoT dovetails off the growth of telehealth, AI and wearables. Experts predict that by 2025, the market size will hit a staggering $534 billion, with no signs of slowing down.

What’s Next?

Telehealth's impact on the industry is here to stay, and medical practices need to stay on top of emerging trends if they want to remain competitive. Curogram is a leading telehealth platform that offers 2-way text messaging technology to streamline appointment booking and scheduling, send customized appointment reminders, and schedule virtual visits. Curogram's features help clinics reduce phone call volume and patient no-shows, as well as increase patient satisfaction and revenue collection.

If you’re looking for ways to maximize your ROI, check out our calculator to see just how much we can add to your bottom line.

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