Five important trends in health technology in 2021

It has been a great year for the healthcare sector. As COVID-19 continued to push everyone to extremes, remarkable innovations and advancements have resulted. Healthcare technology has reached new heights, both in what it can do and in the number of organizations using it.

Although the field of medical technology is large and diverse, a few specific trends have emerged this year. Here’s a look back at the top five health tech trends of 2021 and how they could shape the future of medicine.

1. Telehealth

By far the biggest healthcare tech trend of the year has been telehealth. Technologies that allow patients to access medical care from anywhere have become extremely popular as COVID has made in-person hospital visits less appealing. The use of telehealth is now 38 times higher than it was before the pandemic, and it will likely continue to grow.

The rapid adoption of telehealth over the past two years is mainly due to COVID, but its potential goes further. When patients do not have to travel or sit in waiting rooms, it is easier to see a doctor. Widespread use of these technologies can then remove economic barriers to quality health care.

Since these technologies are so much more efficient than in-person visits, they also allow doctors to see more patients in a day. Hospitals can capitalize on this technology to save more lives than ever.

2. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has flourished in many industries, and healthcare is no exception. AI could analyze patient data to recommend treatment pathways or make diagnoses, potentially revolutionizing medicine in the future. Some of its top use cases in 2021, however, were more mundane but still very beneficial.

Overcrowded and understaffed hospitals have started using AI to automate tasks to help them run more efficiently. Two of the leading electronic health record (EHR) systems introduction of voice-activated digital assistants in 2020, leading to greater use of AI in 2021. While it may seem like minor improvements, saving time in hospitals can save lives.

Some medical organizations have also started using AI to predict how best to use their resources. As finances have tightened throughout the year, these scans have helped healthcare companies manage their assets more efficiently and stay afloat.

3. Digital twins

A less publicized but equally valuable technology that saw an increase in healthcare was digital twins. This technology was already growing before 2021, with many dental companies using 3D scans of patient teeth to customize the aligners. It hit new heights last year, however.

According to a survey, 25% of health executives experienced with digital twins this year. Likewise, 66% expect their investment in these technologies to increase over the next three years. This should come as no surprise, as digital twins allow companies to test new products, experiment with new layouts, and visualize procedures without expensive and slow physical processes.

A zone or patient’s digital twins could allow healthcare professionals to run endless “what if” scenarios. After all the surprises of the COVID-19 pandemic, this kind of preparation is hard to dispute.

4. Portable devices

Wearable devices are one of the hottest tech trends in consumer circles, and the healthcare industry has started to take an interest in them as well. These handy devices make it easier for medical companies to collect patient data or provide care remotely. Users can also use them to better control their health.

The latest Apple watches, for example, include heart monitoring and automatic alerts that trigger an emergency. Features like this give you better insight into your health and allow you to seek help faster if you need it. As telehealth becomes more and more mainstream, hospitals can use these devices that patients already have to communicate with them.

Over the past year, more and more wearable devices have come with built-in health features. They’re also coming in more shapes than ever, from smart rings to connected face masks. As these trends continue, healthcare will become more accessible and agile.

5. Cloud computing

Despite the high-tech treatments they often use, healthcare facilities are notoriously behind with office and administrative equipment. That changed in 2021. The increased pressure from the pandemic has prompted many hospitals to finally embrace the cloud.

Cloud service providers have helped this transition by offering new solutions. At the end of 2020, Google launched its Cloud Healthcare Interoperability Readiness Program, which provided templates, guidelines and tools for implementing cloud systems. Offerings like this have helped organizations unfamiliar with cloud technology transition into the digital age.

This change will help hospitals become much more efficient in the future. The cloud enables faster and easier sharing of medical records, helping different healthcare organizations to collaborate. It will also be easier to manage patient data and reduce management costs.

2021 has been a landmark year for healthcare technology

No one would argue that 2021 has been an easy year, especially for the healthcare industry. However, some positive changes have come out of these widespread challenges. Medical technology is now experiencing a kind of renaissance, advancing at a remarkable rate. 2021 has seen many impressive changes in the medical technology space. These changes will make health care more accessible, affordable, efficient and effective than ever. While the past year may have been the industry’s biggest challenge in decades, it can also be a turning point.

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Last updated on November 11, 2021.

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