Healthcare is a field in flux, with many innovations in patient care, provider reimbursement and medical technology constantly reshaping it. As the single largest sector in the U.S. economy, any substantial changes in healthcare will inevitably be felt by millions of patients, providers and payers across the country.
By earning your 100% online Healthcare Master of Business Administration (HCMBA) degree from the George Washington University (GW), you will be well-positioned to understand the most relevant innovative ideas for healthcare, both now and in the future. Let’s look at a few major trends to focus on in the current healthcare landscape.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
These two similar but distinct technological concepts denote computer programs that can make decisions in ways that are analogous to human thought processes:
- Machine learning (ML) is a subset of artificial intelligence (AI), encompassing algorithms that can draw new inferences from data sets without requiring human-initiated reprogramming and supervision.
- AI includes a broader range of technologies, such as the recommendation and natural language parsing engines behind voice-activated assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
In healthcare, AI and ML have many possible use cases, especially for image analysis. ML-powered applications could be used to go through the large image sets typical in fields such as radiology and cardiology, identifying abnormalities and highlighting areas of interest for human doctors to review. As a result, physicians can save time and possibly avoid burnout, all without compromising on the accuracy of the review process.
Point-of-care testing and diagnostics
When patients have tests or lab work done, it’s common for the results to take a while to be returned, since the process involves input from a separate facility. Bringing tests closer to the patient has long been a priority among providers seeking to improve health outcomes via superior diagnosis and treatment of conditions.
Enter point-of-care testing (POCT). POCT occurs wherever the patient currently is, whether that’s a doctor’s office, hospital bed or ambulance. To deliver quick results on the spot, POCT leverages technologies such as biosensors and labs-on-a-chip. For example, a lab-on-a-chip integrates multiple laboratory functions into a single compact circuit that can perform high-throughput screening and work with even very small samples.
The POCT market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. Worth $23.16 billion in 2016, its size could reach nearly $37 billion in 2021 as demand ramps up for more cost-effective and mobile healthcare. POCT is important in bringing reliable test results beyond the boundaries of a traditional medical setting.
3-D printing of patient-specific products
At the start of the 2010s, 3-D printing was one of the most touted technologies, with many tech commentators comparing its emergence to the invention of the printing press. 3-D printing allows for physical objects to be produced by specialized hardware following instructions set out in a computer-aided design document.
The process is usually conducted layer by layer until the final product is assembled. Multiple healthcare products can be produced through 3-D printing:
- Personalized prosthetics and implants: If a patient needs a brace or dental implants, a 3-D printer can produce a one-off design based on their specific measurements, providing an alternative to mass-produced equipment.
- Pharmaceuticals: 3-D printing could open up new approaches to drug manufacturing, including the incorporation of multiple substances into the same pill. It would also streamline drug delivery since medications could be assembled virtually anywhere.
- Tissues and organoids: One of the more exciting use cases for 3-D printing, this one involves using stem cells to create organic substances such as skin and organoids that can help support internal organs.
The internet of things
Another major trend in consumer and business technology, the internet of things (IoT) encompasses the numerous internet-connected devices outside traditional form factors such as PC, phone and tablet. Estimates from the firm IoT Analytics put the number of IoT devices at 7 billion in 2018, compared to more than 10 billion non-IoT devices. By 2025, there could be 21.5 billion pieces of IoT hardware compared to only 12 billion non-IoT counterparts.
Healthcare is expected to drive many of these new IoT connections. Because IoT devices are often small and easily embedded into many different settings, they’re ideal for use cases such as remote monitoring and telemedicine. Diabetes care is a prime example.
Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) have become more widespread as a convenient, efficient way to take blood glucose readings at regular intervals and then securely transmit the readings to a nearby mobile app via Bluetooth. Depending on the app, it’s possible to monitor someone’s status remotely as well. In 2019, Apple even began selling a CGM directly from within its stores, underscoring their popularity.
Another IoT-related application is “looping,” the practice of connecting an insulin pump to a smartphone via a specialized computer, which allows software on the phone to provide instructions on how much insulin the pump should produce throughout the day. This is similar to how a human pancreas operates.
Wearable and ingestible sensors
Devices such as Apple Watch and FitBit have greatly expanded the tracking of physical activity along with vital signs such as pulse rate. Apps that monitor data about cognitive health underscore some other possibilities from wearable technology.
Ingestible sensors could provide similar benefits for health monitoring. For example, a pill could produce a signal when swallowed, which would be relayed to a wearable on the body and in turn to a smartphone app. This could improve medication adherence, which is still relatively low with many drugs.
How the HCMBA/master’s in healthcare administration helps you understand innovation
The curriculum of the GW HCMBA covers a broad spectrum of topics, including marketing, finance, accounting, operations and leadership, in addition to healthcare electives on subjects such as electronic medical records and drug development.
To learn more, visit our main program page where you can download a copy of our brochure.
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