3 Health Tech Trends to Watch for in 2014

Since the early 1970s, physicians have relied on computers to facilitate clinical care. Forty years later, their reliance on technology is even stronger.

If 2013 was the year of the health app, what innovations should doctors expect to see in 2014? The following three are almost certain to make an impact on the way you treat patients this year.

Data In The Doctor’s Office

According to a Pew Research study, 21% of Americans use some form of technology to track their health data. As the markets for wearable devices and health apps grow, so too will the amount of data about patient behaviors and vitals.

This could have a substantial impact on patient care.

“The next phase of quantified self will combine physiological data with medical knowledge, transitioning us from self-awareness around a few data points (like the number of steps we’ve taken) to real potential for the prevention of diseases like diabetes,” said Heather Bowerman, McKinsey consultant in healthcare and former White House Science and Technology policy advisor.

Traditionally, healthcare has been delivered by one doctor examining one patient at a time, using whatever information available at the point of care.

But big data will foster better clinical decisions by providing physicians with useful information on population health. Just imagine the impact your treatment plans could have with the power of thousands of patient records behind them.

Self-Tracking Is Going Mainstream

Smartphone apps and tracking devices like FitBit, Jawbone and MyFitness Pal are currently spreading beyond their typical market share of young, hip, tech-savvy millennials.

So as the mainstream population adopts these technologies, developers are looking for new ways to expand their reach. What better way to gain additional customers than through healthcare? Everyone gets sick, right?

With that in mind, a new wave of wearable smart garments are set to hit stores later this year. These gadgets will be able to track patient heart rates, activity levels, calorie intake and so on.

Don’t be surprised to see patients bring this information with them to their next visit.

Google Glass

Essentially, Google Glass is a wearable Android-powered computer built into eyeglasses that contain a small, transparent display screen. The device can film, take pictures, search the web and translate languages on the spot, as well as run specially designed apps.

The possibilities for Google Glass in healthcare are endless. Physicians can use Glass to access checklists, instructional materials and images at the point of care, record patient conversations and consult with experts during surgery.

With Glass, if a surgeon is in the middle of surgery and encounters an unexpected or unfamiliar condition — like a rare tumor — they could use real-time video to communicate with an expert oncologist and receive immediate assistance.

Google Glass can also offer great advantages during the training of new physicians.

Dr. Heather Evans, a trauma surgeon at Harborview Medical Center, was one of about 8,000 people around the U.S. selected by Google as a product tester experimenting with uses for Glass. As a professor, Dr. Evans immediately realized Glass’s potential to assist in her teaching.

She asked students to wear Glass during complex procedures, so she could watch exactly where and when they were having trouble. This video shows Dr. Evans guiding a new surgeon through the complicated task of putting in a large, intravenous catheter known as a “central line.”

Glass’ testing phase is almost complete and it is scheduled to be released commercially in late 2014.

Technology already has a large stake in improving healthcare for all parties involved, including physicians, patients and administrators. Keep an eye out for these three tech trends making their way into your practice in 2014.

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