Like many modern industries, the healthcare sector is undergoing a period of significant change. Throughout the last decade, technology has worked to transform the future of healthcare, from streamlining administration and improving accuracy in diagnostics, to aiding medical training and facilitating new medical research.
Here we’ll consider the five technology trends that are changing the future of healthcare today, and consider how health insurers can benefit from these still emerging healthcare technologies.
1/ Telehealth and digital care solutions
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth services, such as those provided through apps and online hubs, became a necessity as patients avoided public healthcare settings. Now, the added convenience and accessibility afforded by digital care solutions has turned telehealth into a norm, with data from McKinsey showing the use of telehealth has increased 38x from pre-COVID levels.
This is hardly surprising when you consider the benefits to both patients and healthcare providers – shorter wait times, less expense, digital on-demand access to healthcare solutions and the ability to monitor patients remotely.
Moving forward, healthcare technology trends anticipate even further investment in telehealth and digital care, enabling patients to choose home care over hospital care and further increase efficiency and affordability of quality healthcare worldwide.
2/ Data-driven insights
Data is driving innovation and growth across all modern-day industries including healthcare and health insurance. Over the last decade, the healthcare sector has become increasingly adept in using data-driven insights to monitor customer trends, predict behaviour and create more personalised patient experiences, improving delivery while allowing providers to curate more cost-effective solutions.
The 2018 Seagate whitepaper, ‘The Digitization of the World’’, created in collaboration with IDC, predicted the use of cloud storage to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR)of 36% by 2025.
3/ Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data
AI and Big Data are among the biggest healthcare trends in 2022. AI is used in a wide range of applications in hospitals, including facilitating repetitive processes such as data input, and analysis in the context of diagnostics.
‘Deep learning’ models offer another ground-breaking application for healthcare technology, monitoring and analysing continuous data to help determine the best possible treatments and even predict illness before official diagnosis.
4/ Non-traditional healthcare
Healthcare technology is no longer limited to traditional healthcare providers. With technologies of all varieties becoming more advanced and medical functions being increasingly automated, a number of non-traditional, Big Tech and retail players have started to enter the healthcare game.
From Google Health’s AI-driven analytics software to Apple’s health record storage and remote patient monitoring, non-traditional healthcare aims to facilitate more streamlined healthcare services by improving accessibility and experience/span>.
However, the real value comes when these providers form partnerships, buying into the traditional healthcare system and offering healthcare professionals new tools to support ongoing analysis, remote monitoring and out-patient care.
5/ Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented reality (AR)
While less developed than healthcare technologies such as AI or telehealth, VR and AR are nonetheless showcasing exciting new possibilities for the future of healthcare.
One example already in practice is Embodied Labs’ “We Are Alfred”, which uses VR technology to help young medical students experience how it feels to grow old with the aim of solving the disconnect between young doctors and elderly patients.
Meanwhile, AR healthcare apps such as SyncAR are assisting surgeons in everything from minor procedures to locating tumours. SyncAR gives surgeons X-ray vision by fusing digitally enhanced, real-time images directly into the microscope of a surgical device, allowing for greater precision and more efficient procedures.
Technology is transforming healthcare from all angles, but what does this mean for the traditional health insurance provider?
Here are some of the ways health insurers are embracing technology to improve their services and mitigate risk.
1/ Predictive analysis
Perhaps the biggest technology trend being utilised by health insurers is predictive analysis – calling on advances in data-driven insights and AI to analyse medical records, clinical guidelines and clinical alerts faster and with greater accuracy.
By calling on an ever-increasing bank of real-world clinical data and removing laborious manual tasks, health insurers can use predictive analysis to provide consumers with more customised offers.
They can also better detect fraudulent claims through automated social media analysis and behavioural pattern-based algorithms.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is giving health insurers another valuable route to collecting and monitoring patient data for AI and predictive analysis. Healthcare devices and smart wearables, such as smartphones and smart watches, can be used to collect health data, while encouraging people to adopt healthy habits.
Smart wearables also offer insurers the opportunity to incentivise health and fitness with rewards, building a more holistic, personalised health insurance plan for every consumer.
The number of connected wearable devices worldwide more than doubled between 2016 and 2019, reaching 722 million. This number is expected to exceed one billion by the close of 2022.
3/ Progressive partnerships
The future of healthcare is digital, and now for the first time telehealth technology is enabling health insurers to offer on-demand access to quality healthcare anywhere in the world.
By forming partnerships with already established telehealth providers, health insurers can give patients round-the-clock access to tele-consultations, e-visits and home monitoring at the touch of a button.
Cybersecurity is an ever-present concern in the world of technology, with the number of successful cyber-attacks rising significantly in the last couple of years. For healthcare and insurance providers, this risk is arguably even greater, due to the personal nature of records being stored.
The costs associated with ransomware attacks, data breaches and other cybersecurity incidences are huge. Not only can they prevent a business from functioning, but they could also lead to potentially long-term damage to your business profile and consumer trust.
IBM’s Cost of Data Breaches Report 2022 quotes the healthcare industry as having the highest average cost to recover from incidences of cybercrime at more than US$10 million.
In today’s technology-driven world, cybersecurity threats are inevitable. However, there are things you can do to help protect your business against cybercrime and mitigate the risks of a breach.
1/ Invest in cybersecurity
Anti-virus software, firewalls and network security should be high priority for all healthcare and insurance providers, especially those who regularly collect, store and share personal data. Keeping software up to date is critical in maintaining system security.
Outdated software can leave holes in your protection, making it easier for hackers to get past your system defences.
2/ Protect mobile devices
Laptops, tablets and smartphones are making it easier than ever to access Electronic Health Records (EHRs) on the go. However, this also presents an increase in threat from cybercrime, especially where devices are being used to transmit and receive data wirelessly.
Healthcare and health insurance providers should be wary of wireless data sharing, ensuring that all transferrable data is encrypted at source and remote devices are password protected.
3/ Maintain good digital practice
Simple, everyday digital vigilance is the best way to protect against cyber threats. Make data security part of your company culture by incorporating these practices:
- Create a security checklist
- Enforce strong passwords (and change them regularly)
- Control access to protected information
- Restrict email links and attachments
- Establish a culture of accountability for digital security
4/ Educate staff
According to a study by IBM, human error accounts for 95% of all cybersecurity breaches. Education and training around cybersecurity should be frequent and ongoing.
Regular training to help staff keep up to date with the latest cybersecurity trends and threats will help them identify threats and stop cyber-attackers in their tracks.
5/ Plan for the unexpected
Cybercrime is constantly evolving, and no matter how vigilant your security, there’s always the risk of a security breach.
As a health insurance provider, you have a responsibility to the care records and personal data of your customers, so it’s vital to have a recovery plan in place in the event of a cyber-attack.
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