As 2019 comes to a close, this is the perfect time to consider what lies ahead in the new year. As a physician working in digital health, my sense is that the pace of change in medicine is accelerating in ways that we haven’t seen before.
Here are my picks for the top healthcare trends to watch in 2020:
1. Tech giants will build more tools to support doctors. Apple, Amazon and other tech giants have been increasing their focus on consumer healthcare products for several years now, from the Apple Watch to Alexa’s voice-enabled prescription refills. In 2020, expect to see these companies increase their attention on the physician community.
Google is determined to fix the mediocre choices among existing electronic health records (EHRs) with its own integrated charting system. They plan to leverage their dominance in Search to make it easier for doctors to find data across multiple systems with a single login. In addition, their “smart compose” technology will help clinicians enter information accurately, with typos becoming a thing of the past. Users will also be able to search scanned documents, such as faxes, handwritten and typed notes.
The optimist in me hopes that all EHR companies will see Google’s entry as a nudge to be more physician- and patient-friendly, enabling doctors to spend less time staring at computer screens and more time making eye contact with patients.
2. Personalized medicine will become even more precise. The past decade showed us that a one-size-fits-all approach to medicine is under attack. While customized medical therapies are not yet available on a wide-scale, we are on the path to making substantial life-saving strides soon. The capability to leverage a person's distinct genetic make-up to provide them with tailored therapies will continue to be refined in 2020 and beyond. This should give physicians more treatment options and possibly help patients diagnosed with serious conditions to live longer, fuller lives.
3. Telemedicine will continue its growth streak. Research reveals that patient demand for telehealth is growing fast. According to a study published in JAMA, telemedicine visits grew 261% between 2015 and 2017. And physicians are enthusiastically supporting this trend.
At Doximity, we saw the number of doctors that self-reported practicing telemedicine double in just three years between 2015 and 2018. At the same time, the government is recognizing the benefits of telemedicine. An Executive Order signed this year outlined Medicare reform intended to help speed telemedicine adoption. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will focus efforts on telemedicine to benefit veterans in need of care.
Technological advancements, an aging population, and personalized medicine will all have an impact on the future of healthcare. The next decade will certainly introduce the healthcare industry to new challenges—and from those challenges solutions for providers and patients will emerge.
Peter Alperin, M.D., is vice president at Doximity, an online networking service for medical professionals.