What Five Technologies Physicians Should Invest In In 2021

Posted by Patrick Kelly on Apr 2, 2021 4:37:36 PM
Patrick Kelly

Blockchain, Big Data, personal health records from heavy hitters such as Google and Apple. Healthcare tech has seen more than its fair share of false starts, unfulfilled promises, fear of missing out (aka FOMO) and investments of time, money and energy over the years, and for good reason. At almost 18% of gross domestic product, fee for service (FFS) is widely recognized as untenable even in the short term, and at an average healthcare spend of around $11,500 per capita, we are looking to technology more than ever to help fulfill the Triple Aim +1:

  1. Better patient experience
  2. Better health of our population
  3. Reduced per capita costs
  4. Reduced physician burnout

And that +1 is critical. According to the American Medical Association, overall physician burnout is just above 40%, with neurology (50%) second only to urology (54%) experiencing the highest percentages. The causes of burnout are likely due to attempts to achieve the first three items in the list. But there are technologies that can help fulfill the Triple Aim, while also reducing physician burnout, which is critical. Here are the top five technologies that physicians should be looking to invest in this year and beyond, and my recommendation for the top pick.

Ambient Clinical Intelligence – “Alexa” for Your Exam Room

Health IT Analytics estimates a physician spends one minute entering data for every one minute spent with a patient. What if your EMR could listen to conversations you have with your patients and document the encounter for you? Not just transcription of a recording into H&P notes, but each vital in the correct place for each vital; family history in the correct place for family history; social history where it belongs; medications, including dosages and instructions, in the proper places. Structured data entered into our EMR that can be analyzed for better patient care without having to navigate screens to input data. Truly an exciting area to watch.

Remote Presence

Remote presence is the ability to interact with patients or providers across distance. Telemedicine, including virtual visits and remote patient monitoring, typically get grouped here. Wearable devices, heads-up displays and general internet of things (IoT) come together to provide better care across distances in 2021. We’ll likely see a spike in patients venturing back to their doctors’ offices but we anticipate they’ll soon realize they’d rather wait at home than sit in a waiting room full of other patients who could be sick. Telemedicine isn’t going anywhere and it’s not too late for clinicians who haven’t implemented it yet. It’s also not too late for clinicians to improve their current telehealth offerings and services.

Data Democratization

Data belongs in business centers as it needs to be as close as possible to those with the institutional knowledge needed to understand what they are seeing. More of a journey than a specific 2021 destination, we continue to find ways to empower the business of healthcare without the need to queue up in a backlog of requests for technical resources. Certainly, software such as Tableau, Qlick and PowerBI are staples in the business intelligence arena. However, we are seeing tools emerge around data stories – the ability to move beyond charts and harness expertise to provide guidance on why something is important and even what to do about it. Add to this area advances in natural language query abilities and we have a strong case for data democratization in 2021.

Artificial Intelligence

Machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL), neural networks (NN), hyper automation (robotic process automation and AI) and natural-language processing all fall under the broad category of artificial intelligence. Once the domain of highly trained and expensive data scientists, tools such as Azure ML Studio and even PowerBI’s Key Influencers widget are moving AI into the realm of general data analysts. Watch this area, along with all of its ups and downs. I recommend testing small to mid-sized projects to establish a strong business case before moving forward with large investments.

Extended Reality

“Extended reality” is an umbrella term that includes the more well-known virtual reality. This area is a little tricky. Extended reality is making huge moves in gaming and in trading funds on the stock exchange but isn’t quite there yet in healthcare. Despite promises of improved training and better patient interactions, widespread adoption in healthcare is elusive. In addition, acceptance of smart glass is lagging despite the strong efforts of major players, such as Google, Microsoft and Apple. Extended reality is a solid area to continue watching, but at this juncture, it should be in the periphery of healthcare companies’ technology needs.

My Top Pick

We cannot achieve the Triple Aim objectives without top-tier physicians fully engaged in the process. It pains me to not only see great doctors looking to leave medicine but advising the next generation of providers to be careful in their career choice. If I were making a single recommendation, I would suggest that independent physicians look first into ambient clinical intelligence. While it is still an emerging technology, results are impressive and the rewards large.


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