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The healthcare revolution is well underway, and as a result, medical fields across the board are expected to undergo massive changes in the next few decades. Already, the medical field has seen increased investment in healthcare forecasting, as well as a reimagination of the doctor-patient relationship due to telehealth. Here, we’ll explore just a few healthcare trends that are already working to change the landscape of medical care nationwide.
Improvements in Telehealth
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare facilities everywhere jumped into action last spring to offer telehealth services to patients. However, access to telehealth isn’t just a COVID-19 issue. Those in rural areas or with limited mobility also stand to benefit from expanded access to medical professionals. Telehealth can afford a greater number of people the chance to consult a specialist across geographic distance, for example.
Telehealth’s reach is vast. The technology can even be employed for purposes beyond routine check-ups. Almost 90% of U.S. counties don’t have any abortion providers, making access to safe, medical abortions sparse. Innovations in telehealth now allow women to terminate a pregnancy from the comfort of their own homes. Although access had previously been restricted due to unfounded safety concerns, new options are beginning to offer secure, medical-grade telehealth abortions.
Healthcare mobile applications are also on the rise, allowing for streamlined appointment scheduling, efficient billing processes, and seamless access to test results. As usage continues to expand, security and privacy concerns are rapidly diminishing.
Robotics in Healthcare
As healthcare enters the digital age, robotics is one innovation with the potential to transform medical services. Robotics is changing how surgery is performed, and can even help transport supplies in hospitals to reduce the risk of pathogen transmission.
Increasingly, robots and artificial intelligence are being used to help perform minimally invasive surgeries and orthopedic operations, like hysterectomies and knee replacements. In long-term care environments, robots can also provide companionship and medical monitoring for patients, reducing the load on human nurses and caregivers.
The Great Physician Shortage
“Adequate primary healthcare eludes over 80 million Americans,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physician demand is only expected to increase in the years to come, as a growing number of Americans age and chronic illnesses become more common.
Physician shortages in the U.S. are another contributing factor — within the next decade, up to a third of current physicians may enter retirement, leaving the future of the medical field uncertain. It all depends on whether or not the new generation of physicians, family nurse practitioners, and other providers can step up.
New Areas of Practice
While the number of doctors in the nation may be dwindling, new employment opportunities in healthcare are cropping up every year. Bioinformatics and IT is one of the areas that promises growth in the coming years. IT doctors work with big data to organize medical information into manageable chunks, along with creating software programs that work in tandem with medical equipment. As technology evolves, new practice areas in the medical field could work to counteract the reduced number of general physicians.
Surveys conducted before the pandemic indicated that only 43% of healthcare facilities were equipped to provide telehealth services. However, under the necessary circumstances, providers stepped up to the plate, and up to 95% of healthcare facilities in the U.S. offered some degree of telehealth services in 2020.
A similar transformation is underway in the medical field as a whole. Even if facilities and practitioners feel unprepared to adopt new practices, the future is upon us and it’s time to jump on board or get left behind. As America continues to redefine the future of healthcare, trends promise optimized healthcare processes, increased use of telemedicine, and a new kind of doctor-patient relationship. What role will you play in the future of American healthcare?