5 Technology Trends Driving the Connected Healthcare Revolution

Healthcare consumers face enormous inequities in the U.S. along racial and socioeconomic lines, and the gap is only widening. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s a 22-year disparity in life expectancy across demographics in most metro areas.

Much of this disparity comes down to the so-called “social determinants of health,” factors that play an outsized role in the health, longevity and quality of life of individuals and entire communities. Studies have shown that these social determinants—such as housing stability, access to nutritious food options, and adequate community support—can influence up to 80 percent of our health outcomes.

Technology is one key component to bridging these disparities and helping to ensure that underserved, marginalized and at-risk populations have access to high-quality preventative healthcare and therapeutics for chronic conditions when needed.

But to date, technology hasn’t been harnessed effectively to overcome serious structural deficiencies in the U.S. healthcare system. These deficiencies include poor coordination among providers, siloed care and poor access and sharing of patient healthcare data and records. The result? Inefficiencies, billions of dollars wasted and poor outcomes for patients—on top of widespread frustration among patients, clinicians and service providers.

What is connected healthcare?

The future of healthcare is an equitable and connected ecosystem, with cloud technologies as a critical enabler.

A truly equitable and connected healthcare system offers many benefits to all stakeholders, including the delivery of proactive and accurately predictive whole-person care for patients, improved representation in clinical trials, and optimized coordination of services—especially for those who have traditionally been unable to access such innovations.

At the same time, connected healthcare enables patients to play a more active role in their treatment through direct access to meaningful data and their health records. It also allows patients to access such records and communicate with their healthcare providers through remote and mobile channels like smartphones, tablets and other devices. For many patients, these devices represent their sole means for accessing telehealth and countless other resources delivered via the internet.

For providers, connected healthcare reduces costs and embeds efficiency through integrated systems, access to data and the use of emerging cognitive technology and modernized workflows.

One of the keys to achieving a connected healthcare ecosystem lies in its interoperability. According to PwC, interoperability “seeks to remove barriers and break down silos to facilitate the exchange of health information, while still protecting individual privacy.” It enables the sharing of health information and data across platforms, devices and organizations to provide better patient outcomes and a more consumer-centric experience. In its ideal state, interoperability also drives innovation and efficiency within the healthcare ecosystem.

Regulators are rapidly pushing healthcare providers toward the adoption of interoperability. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented the Interoperability and Patient Access final rule (CMS-9115-F) and began enforcing its requirements in July 2021. The rule ensures patients have access to their health information by requiring interoperability and patient access to health information through Medicare Advantage (MA), Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Qualified Health Plan (QHP) issuers on the Federally-facilitated Exchanges (FFEs).

In October 2022, CMS published a request for information soliciting public comment on establishing a National Directory of Healthcare Providers & Services (NDH) to serve as a centralized data hub for healthcare organizations nationwide.

Cloud technology is broadly understood to be the critical piece of infrastructure needed to enable organizations to adopt widespread interoperability, as it serves as the backbone for data-sharing among payers and providers.

5 trends driving the connected healthcare revolution

Five key trends are emerging that will help drive healthcare toward a connected future, including:

1. Telehealth: Telemedicine finally found its footing in recent years. Spurred by relaxed HIPPA regulations in the U.S., healthcare providers started adopting telehealth in vast numbers beginning in 2020. Technology providers have quickly innovated to support this need through broad infrastructure initiatives and advanced modes of communication. Telehealth is expected to expand to become a $185.6 billion industry by 2026.

For telemedicine to reach its true potential, the technology must be able to fully support regulatory requirements, and it must continue to make strides in offering a positive and reliable experience for both patients and medical professionals. The continued growth of broadband service to rural, underserved and traditionally marginalized communities is also vital to ensuring telehealth is delivered equitably.

2. Integrated medical technology: Medical technology (or “MedTech”) has come a long way in recent years. Online, cloud-based health recordkeeping systems now allow patients and doctors to access health records anytime, anywhere, and across practitioners.

Advances in technology are also enabling doctors, nurses and administrative staff to improve coordination, communication and workflows within practices, saving time and money while helping professionals deliver better healthcare at a faster pace.

3. Personalization: Several related trends are driving the increased personalization of healthcare, including advanced data integration, advanced analytics and the increased popularity of wearable devices.

Increasingly consumers are purchasing Fitbits, Apple Watches and similar devices that track vital health metrics like heart rate, respiratory rates, irregular heartbeat and oxygen levels. These tracking devices can potentially save lives, and they’re empowering people to become stewards of their healthcare to a greater extent than ever thought possible.

4. Internet of Medical Things: The next wave of healthcare connectivity is what industry watchers call the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). Like its better-known cousin, the Internet of Things, the promise of IoMT lies in its ability to integrate and orchestrate data from various sources and inputs.

By connecting a variety of medical devices and software through cloud services—and analyzing the collected data by using AI and other advanced cognitive technologies—IoMT will enable sophisticated monitoring of long-term health conditions like diabetes and hypertension while allowing for remote patient care in rural and underserved communities.

5. Patient-focused initiatives: According to a Deloitte-Scottsdale Institute survey of health systems’ digital transformation initiatives, “consumer satisfaction and engagement” is a top goal of over 90 percent of respondents.

This makes sense, as healthcare consumers seek to take more control of their treatment and preventative care. It’s incumbent on providers to continue to explore the use of new technology to not only enable cost savings and excellent efficiency within their organizations, but also to provide patients with better outcomes and experiences.

Enabling connected healthcare in the cloud

Cloud technology is a critical enabler for this broad business transformation. It connects systems, data, devices and emerging technologies to help healthcare organizations respond more quickly and innovatively. As regulators push the industry toward interoperability, there will be more data-sharing between payers and providers than ever before, enabling patients to access their health records on their smartphones. Leaders need to be sure they’re building integration into their existing systems and processes as they pursue a truly connected healthcare ecosystem.

Learn how Docusign solutions for healthcare help enable a connected healthcare ecosystem that improves the patient and staff experience.