Healthcare evolves with technology. And technology is making the world a smaller place. New coding systems make it possible for doctors and medical professionals to share resources and information digitally with a colleague across the globe in seconds. As technology breaks down geographic barriers, healthcare is experiencing rapid changes worldwide. Explore the following six modern trends in healthcare.

Medical Tourism

The growth in medical tourism arises from rising healthcare costs and a lack of quality healthcare. More individuals than ever are traveling to other countries seeking affordable medical procedures at savings of up to 90% of the total cost paid in the U.S. Technology plays an important role — medical facilities in other countries can market and sell medical treatment packages through their websites to global visitors.

3D Printing

3D printing was not initially developed for the medical industry, but as with many technologies, it was adapted to improve healthcare. Prosthetics manufacturers work with 3D printing machines to create customized prosthetics faster and more economically than when using traditional methods. The portability of the latest 3D printing machines makes it possible to travel with (or ship them) worldwide to create custom prosthetics for patients in remote areas of the world.

Social Media

Social media is expanding its role — 60% of doctors see social media as another way to deliver better health services to patients. Healthcare professionals use social media to provide patients worldwide service 24/7 by:

  • Providing medical care information.
  • Sharing articles and reports on new medical findings.
  • Publicly answering patient questions that others can access in the future.
  • Communicating during a health scare or epidemic by providing the public with real-time information on hospital capacity or community health updates.
  • Gathering patient feedback on treatments or procedures.

Doctors with large social media followings include Esther Choo, MD, MPH with 75,000 followers on Twitter, Jen Gunter, MD with 233,700 Twitter followers, and Eric Topol, MD with 175,600 Twitter followers.

Virtual Health Services

Doctors who are able to provide consultations to patients in remote areas or other countries can expand access to quality healthcare globally. Visits happen by using videoconferencing services like Skype. The technology means patients can interact with medical specialists they may have been unable to access before, due to geographical constraints.

Online doctor services like LiveHealth Online and TELADOC have board-certified doctors available 24 hours per day for phone or video consultations in a variety of specialties, including pediatrics, mental health, and general medicine.

The Expansion of Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

The U.S. is at the forefront of EHRs, with more than 95% of hospitals adopting electronic records. The rest of the world is lagging behind, although the European Commission set targets for a centralized European health record system by 2021.

Streamlining healthcare Big Data worldwide can have a powerful impact. Transitioning to electronic health records in the U.S. has improved healthcare by enabling near-instant sharing and access to patient records and reducing costs by eliminating paperwork.

Increased Security

Digitizing confidential patient information means fraud protection has to step up as well. Medical data breaches have increased every year since the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights first started publishing statistics.

Technological security advances minimize the risk of patient medical information falling into the wrong hands. Encryption technology, anti-virus software, firewalls, data masking, and strong user authentication protocols are security technologies at the forefront of protecting valuable data.

A Shrinking Global Healthcare Market

Technological advancements applied to healthcare bridge the gap between countries, making healthcare information and services available to more patients and professionals worldwide. As nations streamline and digitize their data, the sharing of valuable information can create a more collaborative global environment where everyone is closer to having access to quality healthcare, regardless of location.