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By Vatsal Jain

Healthcare is one field where innovation is indeed a question of life or death, there is always a dire need for a new experiment to figure out a mysterious new infection and a new incredible treatment to save people affected by it. With the beginning of 2021, healthcare across the globe is at a crossroads.

With global healthcare expenditure poised to drop 0.1% to US$ 8.3 Tn in 2020 before shooting up 5.8% to US$ 8.8 Tn in 2021, there is a dire need for technology, science, and regulation to focus on a better, more effective healthcare infrastructure.

While there is certainly a huge amount of work to be done – in several ways – we are heading toward the right direction by developing the infrastructure upon which material progress can be achieved. And with the proper blend of innovation, collaboration, and momentum, we will be able to follow this route well into the new decade.

Here are some of the major trends that will reshape the healthcare realm in 2021 and beyond.

1. Shift Towards Value-based, Patient-centered Care Keeps Going

2020 marks a turning point in healthcare – a point when the urgency, capacity, and momentum to push substantial transformation is evenly strong. As we think through the last two decades and contemplate what the future will hold, we must continue to collaborate as an industry to innovate the ideas and technologies that will promote a truly patient-centered healthcare ecosystem, and the health and cost advantages that it entails.

2. IoMT for Better Analysis of Health Data

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Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) – a combination of IoT and telehealth – devices such as heart and diabetes monitors, wearables, and mobile health apps will become more vital and prevalent over the years ahead.

The geriatric population (aging 65 years or above) is estimated at 727 Mn worldwide in 2020. This figure is expected to surge over 2X by 2050 – reaching over 1.5 Bn. These stats are making the degree of connectivity the IoMT offers crucial to observing and engaging this population cohort, as well as other vulnerable demographics.

The ability to smoothly communicate critical health information from patients to care providers enables healthcare teams to recognize and handle health risks outside of the acute care setting.

And with the inception of 5G, medical professionals will be able to do this with unmatched efficacy and response time, paving the way for better health outcomes and decreased healthcare expenditure.

3. The Future Could be AI–powered

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Artificial intelligence (AI) holds huge potential for stepping up healthcare technology in 2021 and beyond. With data processing and decision-making skills akin to humans, AI has opened up several possibilities. This disruptive force can enhance the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of diagnoses.

Early treatment can be realized through AI-enabled analytics that can assist healthcare professionals to discover the proper approach for the patients. Through machine learning (ML) algorithms, drug production can be enhanced by driving the search for biological and chemical interactions. This will help bring new pharmaceuticals to market faster.

Another use case of ML is chatbots. These would be used to provide assistance to patients in self-testing as well as for helping doctors diagnose the patients. Although chatbots are not yet ready to offer diagnosis, they can be used to aid in this process.

4. AR and VR Turning Sci-Fi into Reality

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Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are game-changing technologies with immense potential to step up the quality of telehealth amidst the COVID-19 crisis. From improving patient and provider visits to assisting train medical students in procedure simulations, both these innovations are turning science fiction (Sci-Fi) into reality.

AR and VR hold promise for aiding stroke victims to suppress motor inadequacies. These patients need to be placed in a robust ecosystem to help recover their motor abilities. But simulated settings offer more flexibility which physical therapy might not be able to provide. These controlled simulations could be used leveraged collect data to help therapists customize care plans for their patients.

Another aspect of AR that is beneficial for the healthcare industry is developments in robotic surgeries. The future of AR will be significantly affected by its application in healthcare settings. According to recent surveys, AR and VR in the healthcare industry are projected to hit US$ 11 Bn dollars by 2026.

5. Ensuring Safe Access to Data with Blockchain

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Blockchain has made it easier for healthcare providers to distribute transaction records to patients safely and will considerably enhance data security. Its peer-to-peer system enables huge numbers of users to safely gain access to a common ledger.

Now, there is no need for a basis of trust between the two participants. As healthcare technology keeps on improving, security, portability, and accessibility are all desired goals that blockchain could help achieve in tandem with the above-mentioned trends.

In A Nutshell

These trends in healthcare are not a new phenomenon as the healthcare market is consolidating swiftly with new tech-driven advances. The customers are becoming tech-savvy and continuously looking for convenience.

What do you think will be critical to driving healthcare forward in 2021 and beyond?

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