Top Trends in 2017 For Physicians to Watch
2017 promises to be a volatile and challenging year for the health care industry as a whole. President-Elect Trump is likely to push Congress to make significant changes to the way health insurance is marketed and sold, and doctors are going to be in the middle of it. Smart physicians need to be very agile and aware of the top trends emerging in politics, law, finance and technology. Here are some of this year’s most important trends to watch.
Wearable Devices are Taking Off.
According to research firm Kalorama Information, the global wearable medical device market is worth $13.2 billion as of 2016. Mordor Intelligence estimates that total revenues for wearable medical devices as of 2016 topped $3.2 billion, and is expected to more than double by 2021.
This market isn’t just FitBits anymore. Today’s wearable medical device market includes the following:
- Wearable blood pressure/heart rate monitors
- Activity monitors
- Sleep monitors
- Fetal monitors and other obstetric devices
- Neuromonitoring devices
- Wearable pain management devices
- Glucose/insulin monitoring devices and diabetes/renal management technology
- Wearable electroencephalographs and electromyographs
Most of these medical devices interact with a mobile device and make it easy for the patient to upload medical data to the Cloud, where you can download it easily from the comfort of the office, and view it right in front of you while speaking with a patient or other health care professional on the phone.
Doctors who understand this technology and are able to integrate it into their practices will have a huge advantage over competing practices whose principals are spending too much time golfing and skiing and not enough time boning up on their technology skills and acumen.
More people will embrace telemedicine
Telemedicine has its downsides, to be sure. You can’t detect a possible warning sign of diabetes by smelling fruit on a patient’s breath like you can with an in-person examination. You can’t pick up on anything off camera, and it’s hard to hear a person’s raspy or husky voice tip you off to possible strep throat.
Patients will expect a better customer experience
The days when patients were willing to tolerate long wait times, inconvenient scheduling, uncomfortable waiting rooms and confusing bills are coming to an end – especially if you want anything above rock-bottom payments for services. These days, there are too many options and too much competition for medical practices to get away with delivering a sub-par encounter.
Physicians and practice managers should be taking a close look at their practices. Have your mom sign up for an appointment and come in. How is she treated? Start with your Web interface: Is it easy to set an appointment? Does she have to call? Does she get voicemail when she does?
Consider expanding office hours, and leverage technology to manage patient flow, minimize time spent in the waiting area, and make the waiting area more comfortable. Some practices have taken a page from higher-end restaurants and handing patients in the waiting room a pager, or texting them when the doctor is ready to see them.
This isn’t just for high-end, boutique practices. Increasingly, customers are accustomed to getting high-touch service when they get their tires rotated. Your patients shouldn’t be getting a better experience from the local Tire Emporium than they are in your own waiting room!
Routine medical care will go increasingly retail.
Americans are used to getting their eye exams and glasses from the friendly store in the mini-mall. Increasingly, this is going to be true of other medical practices as well. Since 2014, the number of retail clinics – those in store locations, pharmacies, supermarkets, Walmarts and other similar locations – have exploded by 47 percent. These are entrepreneurial opportunities for doctors, but are already putting a crimp on patient flow for traditional health care provider business models and health care institution.
Technology will be crucial for practice management at all levels
A recent study from Quest Diagnostics found that only 36 percent of doctors felt they had all the information they needed about their patients to deliver appropriate care. This was due to poor information sharing across EHRs. Patient-doctor communication is suffering because actual doctor-patient contact time is getting more limited, and information is expanding. Technology will fill the gap, but physicians have to make the investments in capital, time and training to embrace information sharing and communication technology – which is increasingly getting integrated with billing and accounting functions as well. Information security will also be an ongoing challenge as practice managers work to integrate multiple tech platforms with their security systems while keeping sensitive data segregated from general practice management data.
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