It is no wonder that digital healthcare has grown so rapidly in recent years. People are increasingly using mobile devices, including smartphones, to do many things they once had to do in person, and they expect to be able to accomplish many tasks digitally. Improvements in bandwidth and security make the transferal of data faster, easier, and more secure. With these improvements likely to continue, the trends below should also make it possible to continue delivering high-quality and accessible health care to more people in the years ahead.

It is no wonder that digital healthcare has grown so rapidly in recent years. People are increasingly using mobile devices, including smartphones, to do many things they once had to do in person, and they expect to be able to accomplish many tasks digitally. Improvements in bandwidth and security make the transferal of data faster, easier, and more secure. With these improvements likely to continue, the trends below should also make it possible to continue delivering high-quality and accessible health care to more people in the years ahead.

Telehealth

A 2017 study in the BMJ found that telehealth, the practice of providing medical care to patients across a distance using technology, offered a number of benefits, including making it easier for patients to communicate with medical staff, improving outcomes, and empowering patients in managing their conditions. While the study found resistance to telehealth from some older patients, others embraced it. One use of telehealth might be to obtain prescription medication more conveniently.

For example, if you are struggling with anxiety, prescription beta-blockers can help reduce the physical symptoms. Utilizing propranolol for anxiety has the tendency to slow your racing heart and calm you in other ways, and you can connect with the medical team online to get started. Many people may find this easy approach more appealing than making an appointment and going in to see a doctor.

Augmented Reality for Surgery

Unlike virtual reality, which creates the illusion of entirely new surroundings, augmented reality superimposes images on existing things. In surgery, this could help increase the accuracy of procedures by allowing doctors to see a person’s anatomy. It could also help superimpose imagery over a patient’s CT scan which, combined with a tracking system, could help doctors better visualize what they are doing. Several companies already manufacture devices that allow surgeons to do this.

Wearables

Prevention is still better than trying to cure or treat a condition after it has developed, and wearables can go a long way toward helping people track behaviors and other factors that decrease the likelihood of developing a disease. These can range from apps that record exercise and sleep patterns to those that can detect heart irregularities. In the form of a smartphone app, artificial intelligence can track factors that may indicate depression, including a person’s social interactions and even their tone of voice. Wearables are also handy for providing diagnostic information directly to physicians’ offices rather than requiring a patient to come in and do a test. For example, a person struggling with sleep issues might be able to complete a study in the comfort of their own home and bed wearing a device that transmits information to the physician. While it might be necessary in some cases to do a follow-up in-person based on the data, this kind of testing could eliminate some unnecessary travel and appointments.

AI and Big Data

Artificial intelligence can manage a volume of data that has never been possible for humans, and this means that health care can be more accurate and more tailored to the individual. AI and data can work together in a number of different ways. For example, the risk of medication errors can be reduced if AI can detect a discrepancy between a person’s health and the medication they have been prescribed.

It can also help ensure that more personalized care is delivered. This can be beneficial for patients and physicians in cases such as those in which people make repeated visits to an emergency room. AI can help in identifying these people and creating a treatment plan that could reduce the frequency of these visits. AI can also be used to help create a personalized treatment plan in a variety of scenarios, such as determining the best time to discharge patients or identifying patients who might be the best candidates for a certain type of cancer treatment. Big data can also be used to determine when an emergency room’s or other medical facility’s busiest times are and can help ensure that staffing numbers are more accurate relative to need.