We now live in anticipation of the flashy future that awaits us. We expect today's tech gimmicks to find their place in the future, with virtual reality (VR), wearables and even space explorations promising to go mainstream much earlier than we anticipated. People such as Elon Musk, Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg are changing the world much faster than we anticipated.
Healthcare is the biggest promise of them all. Even in emerging markets such as India, healthcare will emerge as the biggest bridge between healthy lives and the current state of affairs today. This has to happen or the dreams of riding the future will remain a dream. So what does the future hold for us?
Let's look at the e-commerce industry for some clues. Amazon started out as a book store, a single value proposition. Today, it takes the holistic approach of being a one-stop solution and its future is an exciting prospect. The adoption of VR and wearables by Amazon is imminent.
This is exactly how the healthcare industry will pan out. On one hand we have healthcare startups revolutionising the ecosystem, on the other hand we are amalgamating new and upcoming technologies such as that used by Fitbit, with social components. Together, the future of healthcare looks invigorating.
The m-health revolution
Mobile is going to play a huge role in healthcare. Apart from preventive healthcare functions that the smartphone handles on its own or does in conjunction with wearables today, the smartphone has the ability to be a hub for everything. The holistic healthcare system, right from the ambulance to the hospital records to bill payment, is connected via your smartphone. Apps such as Medscape which compresses a plethora of information for doctors, to innumerable apps that help patients remember the time of their medication, have made smartphones an integral part of healthcare.
VR in medical education
Medical education needs a quantum change and VR is the way to go. With the prospect of virtual operation theatres becoming a new reality, medical education is poised to take a big leap. Also, with the severe dearth of skilled healthcare professionals in the country, VR could be leveraged as an excellent teaching tool. Da Vinci consoles for robotic surgeries have already made their debut. It won't be long before medical students use VR to learn about the intricacies of the human body.
The healthcare industry is bound to go digital. With more and more doctors finding regular social media and vertical networks alluring, the various stakeholders will need to move to the digital medium for execution of their marketing plans. Various doctor-only platforms are coming up to make communication within the community more efficient. The platform which gets doctors to spend maximum time on it will win the healthcare marketing space.
On one hand we have healthcare startups revolutionising the ecosystem, on the other hand we are amalgamating new and upcoming technologies with social components.Social proof of listings
In other industries we have apps such as Zomato, BookMyShow and UrbanClap where a user rates and recommends the services that are provided. These ratings and recommendations then becomes their metric of merit. Their future clientele is defined by their past services. On top it, a comment about a movie or a restaurant on social media tends to influence our decision. In healthcare, this behaviour has been limited to offline word-of-mouth till now. Online, most of the websites are just plain listings with few reviews. Soon these platforms will have a strong social layer of (closed or public) online recommendations by known patients and doctors.
Electronic health records (EHR)/ electronic medical records (EMR) are not new. Many hospitals have them. But sharing of the information has been a big issue till now. There is an ardent need for a central repository. This is long overdue. Also, doctors don't like to type in their prescriptions, especially in developing countries where they are over-burdened with patients. However, new technologies are emerging that are ensuring that instead of extravagant measures, small incremental steps can also do their bit. While ventures such as Doxper are providing better ways to collect data, many platforms are now trying to provide data storage repository to patients. Even the government of India is coming up with the National e-Health Authority (NeHA) guidelines to give a boost to this sector.
The cloud and more
With users changing devices regularly or using more than one device simultaneously, cloud computing assumes importance. Again, cloud computing finds great application in healthcare for data repository services and also inter device data management. Globally, almost 12% of cloud computing services are aimed at healthcare. Apple Health and Microsoft Health vault have made baby steps in this direction.
The future indeed promises a lot. However, present is the key. The steps we take today will decide what the future has in store for us. And even though the future looks exciting, it can only be achieved through careful planning.
The author is co-founder of Curofy, a networking app for doctors.
This is the final part of a three-part series on the evolution of the digital healthcare space.
For the first part click here: How PubMed and WebMD showed the way in digital healthcare
Read the second part here: Why getting doctors to adopt technology is crucial for a digital healthcare boom
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