Digital Health Trends to watch in 2023
Even though the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) is expected to officially end in April of this year, its impact on healthcare will remain. Digital health trends show healthcare moving to patients’ homes, through telehealth and at-home devices.
New interoperability regulations demand the increase for interoperability tools and apps for secure and swift exchange of health information.
AI tools and applications will only continue to develop this year, which will alter how we diagnose and manage diseases, as well as affect jobs and patient communications.
Digital health trends 2023
Telehealth skyrocketed during the pandemic, with 85% of healthcare providers adopting telehealth, according to an AMA study. Regulatory flexibilities allowed telehealth to thrive during the PHE, but the long-term future is less certain.
Telemedicine’s survival in connection to PHE regulations has made it a risky business, and many wondered if the telemedicine would end once the PHE ended. But the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, part of the omnibus bill, protects telehealth flexibilities until December 2024, with the expectation that new federal regulations will materialize to make telemedicine sustainable.
Alyssa Jafee, Partner at 7wire Ventures, tells Second Opinion, “Providers are rapidly activating virtual health programs, payers are expanding coverage for virtual care services, and employers are developing new partnerships with digital health solutions to support their workforce. Together, these shifts represent a non-trivial wave of opportunity to increase virtual care utilization.”
While U.S telehealth use in primary care steadily remains around 21%, it has been especially important for the behavioral health industry, reaching 36% in 2023.
Related article: Telehealth use slips overall, virtual mental care remains popular
EHR: new regulations for organizations big and small
Interoperability and secure exchange are especially a priority in 2023 with new mandates from the CURES Act Final Rule that requires healthcare providers and health record owners to meet HL7® FHIR® Application Programming Interfaces (API) capability.
Part of the rule is to, “support an ‘app’ economy that provides innovation, and choice to patients, physicians, hospitals, payers, and employers,” with the intention that, “these technical provisions will inject competition into the health care by promoting an entrepreneurial economy.”
To achieve a new interoperability standard, Certified Health IT Developers involved with the ONC Certification Program, can use a range of new programming interfaces as long as a minimum interoperability standard is met. The goal is for developers to gain “real world testing” to usher in new technical frameworks for interoperability.
With ongoing healthcare staffing shortages, healthcare providers will be looking to EHRs to improve secure exchange and also streamline processes. Khalil Jammal, CEO of Ambula Health, tells Digital Thought that he hopes to achieve this by combining UX design and healthcare demands: ”I wanted to make it so simple that anyone with no healthcare experience can use it. You should just be able to use it intuitively.”
AI: From administrative to diagnostic
AI might not replace doctors and nurses, but has already begun replacing administrators by providing automated scheduling services, offering directions to patients, and answering questions and preparing patients for examinations and tests.
It’s not just for the basics—AI is most commonly used for its ability to process infinite amounts of data to make quick and effective real-world decisions, like analyzing medical images or assigning patients to an appropriate medical study
AI applications using structured data are verifiable; a patient assigned to a medical study by an AI will need to meet criteria that can be confirmed.
But AI can also make medical conclusions based on unstructured data. Natural language processing (NLP) AI has been used to diagnose diseases by analyzing vocal biomarkers to a scale that humans have never been able to reach before.
Winterlight Labs in Toronto, is headlining clinical trials to refine what vocal frequencies are associated with a range of diseases including depression, Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Kintsugi Health is an example of one NLP AI service that integrates into an existing call center to diagnose patients quickly and effectively.
But how healthcare organizations can trust AI diagnostics when its capability reaches beyond what they can verify is still unclear.
Despite any concerns or challenges, AI adoption is projected to grow 40% in 2023.