As 2023 draws to a close, it’s time to take an annual collective pause and plan for what’s in store for healthcare in the coming year. In the spirit of tradition and championing innovation in healthcare, here are a few of our observations on the trends that will shape the digital health landscape in 2024.
1. A Measured Approach to Health AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the topic on everyone’s lips this year, but 2024 is shaping up to see the technology implemented in a more measured approach.
Healthcare organizations are starting to realize that the true value of AI lies not in its novelty but in its clinical and operational impact. With nascent generative AI and other technologies flooding the market, many healthcare organizations are taking a cautious approach to point solution adoption. 2024 should see an increased focus on building a secure infrastructure to introduce audio, video, and other sensor-based AI technology safely while improving large-language and other data models to better leverage AI tools.
As a result of this trend, hybrid care models have been on the rise, and their popularity is only set to grow in 2024. These models combine the convenience of remote healthcare staff coupled with the personalized touch of in-person care. Virtual Nursing, in particular, has proven effective as an inpatient workforce multiplier for understaffed hospitals, providing real-time reinforcement to overburdened floor staff.
As telehealth and adjacent technologies continue to advance, expect to see hybrid care models integrated into more acute and nonacute healthcare settings. In the coming years, patients will not only appreciate but come to expect the added layer of care, and healthcare providers will benefit from the improved patient experience and reduced reliance on travel staff.
3. Empowering Patients with Wearable Health Tech
Wearable health technology has been steadily evolving, and 2024 will witness a new era of data-driven insights. From smartwatches and fitness trackers to remote patient monitoring devices, wearables are becoming increasingly sophisticated, offering new sources for real-time health data capture in almost any setting.
In 2024, wearable health tech devices will play a more significant role in chronic disease management and early detection of health issues, both in the patient’s home and in hospital settings. With the adoption of AI technology, wearables will provide even more patient-specific health recommendations and alerts, helping to guide care more proactively.
Caregility CEO Ron Gaboury sees these trends coming together to leave an indelible mark on healthcare in 2024. “AI-enhanced hybrid care sets the stage for emerging home-based care delivery models like hospital-at-home, envisioning a future where highly skilled virtual nurses, alongside bedside clinicians, are empowered by intelligent tools to deliver high-quality patient care directly in patients’ homes.”
From a measured approach to health AI to the continued embrace of hybrid care models, digital health trends continue to redefine the way we approach healthcare. As we step into 2024, one thing is certain: the future of healthcare is digital, patient-centric, and teeming with new possibilities.
Scaling Virtual Care
Programs like virtual nursing and continuous patient observation have rapidly risen to prominence as telehealth models mature on this side of the pandemic. The trend reflects an emerging hybrid care paradigm where remote and in-person engagement are blended to optimize patient care. Health systems can modernize care models and overcome many of the resource challenges hampering hospitals today by scaling virtual care to bring remote reinforcement into clinical workflows in acute settings and beyond.
To enable hybrid care across their enterprise, healthcare organizations are making virtual care and engagement accessible at every patient bedside. For many campuses, this means migrating away from siloed, pandemic-era telehealth implementations to a virtual care platform that’s better suited to support diverse clinical use cases.
As you’re scaling virtual care and refining your telehealth strategy, you want to establish infrastructure that is versatile enough to grow with you as needs change and your roadmap evolves. Here are five core tenets for ensuring long-term sustainability.
1) Reliable Infrastructure
Your virtual care platform is the heart of telehealth operations in your organization. Above all, you need a platform you can trust. Look for reliability across multiple areas, including HIPAA compliance and encryption security, ample capacity to support spikes in session concurrency, and uptime guarantees with retrospective analytics to back up claims. Conduct a network assessment with your solution partner early on to pinpoint and proactively address network weaknesses that may impede virtual care programs. Seek out partners who champion open communication and transparency in root cause analysis if and when issues arise.
2) User Experience
Ease of use can make or break adoption regardless of how much you invest in your virtual care platform. Solutions should avoid application download requirements for patient users and offer clinical users a consistent user experience across various workflows. Beyond the GUI, consider your experience with program builder, implementation, and IT support teams. Secure virtual care partners who are as easy to work with as the software and endpoint solutions they provide.
3) Centralized Administration
As operations expand, you’ll want a solution that allows you to easily manage your growing device fleet. Web-based administration portals help centralize managing multiple telehealth programs and allow remote governance and support of telehealth endpoints. Endpoint systems should be configured to proactively alert tech support remotely in case of malfunction and should be able to be restarted remotely. Reporting and analytics functionality should wield insight into program performance metrics and endpoint utilization.
4) Clinical Workflows
Clinically driven virtual care solutions that are purpose-built for specific workflows fare better than more generalized, one-size-fits-all solutions. Virtual care solution companies with extensive patient care experience on their bench bring clinical integrity to program development and can help bridge gaps between your internal IT and clinical teams. Both internal departments should be involved in strategy from the onset. Virtual clinical programs can and should be tailored to your health system’s specific needs. Start with one or two virtual workflows and expand from there.
5) Innovative Integrations
Virtual care platforms with API integration are ideal. They allow you to centralize core telehealth capacity while layering in integrations as you pilot emerging technologies. Each unit can tailor virtual care program workflows and resources for their unique needs. EHR integration allows clinicians to launch virtual sessions from a familiar work environment. Consider additional virtual care integrations such as clinical decision support (CDS), interpreter services, digital devices, and AI. Platforms that support HL7 and SMART on FHIR data standards help streamline interoperability and enable real-time access to patient data during virtual visits.
When scaling virtual care, it’s important to think multi-dimensionally about telehealth programs. What are your core workflow priorities? What additional resources can be brought into workflows to amplify efficiency and patient and clinician experience? Can programs be expanded to support multiple campus locations? By considering these variables early on you can develop a strategy that meets today’s challenges and sets the stage for continuous growth as hybrid care models continue to mature.
For a deeper dive into virtual care roadmapping and program implementation considerations, contact Caregility today to speak with one of our telehealth experts.