After a rollercoaster year in the spotlight, healthcare remains one of the top concerns for our country — in fact, 47% of Americans named it one of their top two issues this year. And while governmental policies are a large part of shaping the healthcare landscape, fields like technology, science, information management and consumer demands also make a huge impact. Take a peek at 7 healthcare trends to watch for in 2018 below.
- Gene Editing Technologies: Molecular engineering and gene editing has been making huge strides in the last few years. CRISPR, a genetic editing technology introduced in 2012, allows scientists to edit the genetics in every cell. This means diseases like ALS, Huntington's and some types of Muscular Dystrophy could be a thing of the past.
- Healthcare Workers Shortage: It’s no secret that the pool of qualified U.S. healthcare workers has been steadily declining. Statistics for nurses are among the most shocking: the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be more than 1 million vacancies between 2014 and 2022.
As baby boomers get older and medical issues become more complex, the healthcare industry will need to find innovative ways to fill in the gaps. In a recent report, the American Hospital Association recommended strategies like redesigning workforce processes and partnering with local colleges and universities in response to shortages.
- Big Data: Whenever we see an ad on Facebook for something we just searched online, we know our data is being collected and used to target us with relevant content. The field of healthcare is no different, and, in fact, can largely benefit from data analytics. Devices such as your smartphone or FitBit can track your health in real time (in some cases, save your life), and transfer that data to your doctor to be monitored. This advancement will be particularly important as our aging population increases.
- 3D Printing of Medical Devices: 3D printing is quickly becoming a viable way to address certain rising medical costs. Researchers at the University of Florida have started developing 3D silicone prints of medical devices that are quicker and more cost-effective to produce. Researchers from the University of California San Diego are using 3D printing to develop whole networks of blood vessels and lifelike tissues and organs.
- Rising Healthcare Costs: Some economists are predicting that rising healthcare costs will cause the next recession. Between 2014 and 2016, household spending on healthcare rose from 8% to 10% causing consumers to delay or abandon needed care. Some healthcare executives argue for embracing consumerism in order to survive; other healthcare experts want to address profit-driven hospital corporations driving up the cost of an annual exam.
- Virtual Reality: This holiday season, families will give Virtual Reality games as gifts to their kids. But VR is also making some significant contributions in healthcare by supporting areas like pain management, physical therapy, and cognitive rehabilitation.
- Telemedicine: The delivery of healthcare is being reshaped by telemedicine. With faster internet connections and ever-present smartphones, doctors and patients are linked instantaneously. Doctors can give virtual consultations while patients send them their vital signs. In situations such as a heart attack or stroke, this technology has been and will be indispensable for saving more lives.
While the field of healthcare may seem tumultuous, the influence of new technologies, science and management could help stabilize and improve rising costs and worker shortages over time. Healthcare professionals will need to remain proactive, flexible and innovative in order to maintain a high quality of care, whatever the future holds.