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The key to success for any new technology is for it to be adopted by the industry as a whole. That’s especially true for advances in healthcare, as easy-to-use technologies and new reimbursement rules have encouraged providers and consumers to rapidly adopt connected devices, wearables and other technological advances to improve healthcare delivery and long-term patient outcomes. Take a look at how personal technologies will revolutionize the way healthcare is delivered and experienced in 2018.

1. Administrative

Self-service kiosks are no longer just for purchasing movie tickets at the theater or checking in for a flight. Patients can expect to see kiosks more frequently at healthcare provider locations to check in, record health information and help manage their care. When used in a hospital, patients can check in at a kiosk without the help of medical administrators, which can reduce time spent waiting in line for patients and cuts costs for the facility by eliminating the need to use paper forms. Plus, self-service kiosks enable hospital staff to spend less time on administrative duties and more time providing care for patients.

2. Elder Care and Monitoring

By 2033, there will be more Americans over the age of 65 than under the age of 18. And by 2060, one in four U.S. residents will be over 65 compared to one in seven in 2013. Thanks to advances in connected home technology, some elderly people are able to stay home rather than assisted living. Small sensors can be used to track an elderly person’s daily habits and register change. For example, a sensor under a pillow can monitor sleep patterns, while a tiny sensor in a sock can measure the wearer’s gait  – and alert a nurse if movement stops. A sensor on a pill bottle can keep tabs on how many times the bottle is opened, while one on a toilet tank tracks the number of flushes. The sensors are linked to mobile applications that family members or healthcare providers can use to monitor their loved one and prolong their independence.

3. Chronic Pain Relief

Wearable devices may provide value beyond counting a user’s steps or tracking their sleep cycles. They may provide relief – and an alternative to addictive opioid medications – for millions of people suffering from chronic pain, stemming from conditions including fibromyalgia. Take Quell, for example – a device that resembles a blood pressure cuff and has been approved by the FDA for over-the-counter use. The device is worn around the upper calf for 6-8 hours a day and generates electric signals that stimulates the wearer’s body to produce naturally occurring substances, which inhibit nerve signals that lead to feeling pain. Users can tap into the Quell Health Cloud, which stores data on device usage, sleep and pain levels to provide an analysis that can further help manage pain.

Wearables that enables the user to go about their daily activities while receiving non-medication pain treatments is a new approach to managing chronic pain. Plus, these devices can interface with digital platforms to better track pain management, combine treatments, generate data and connect with other types of wearables.

4. Nursing

Nurses have are often on the frontline of adopting new healthcare technologies, from  electronic health records to telemedicine to simulated educational experiences. The goal for all of these advancements is delivering better patient care. A new breed of sensors and wearables takes it to the next level and is changing the way nurses do their jobs. One application for these tech advancements is remote patient monitoring, which uses sensors to record and transmit data about a patient’s health status, such as pulse, temperature and blood pressure. Collecting this biometric data remotely means that nurses no longer need to physically see patients as often and reduces the amount of time and energy spent on tasks. This data will also play an important role in tracking treatment plan adherence, which is a significant healthcare obstacle. Nurses will no longer be reliant on patients to self-report information, which may be  incomplete or falsified to appear compliant with a treatment plan.

5. Telemedicine

Telemedicine enables online patient monitoring and timely follow-up by physicians, nurses and therapists so they can catch problems early, before they become emergencies. During a telemedicine consultation, virtual doctors can treat anxiety and depression, infections, skin and eye issues, sprains, vomiting, coughs, congestion and many of the most common medical issues seen in the ER and urgent care. They can also refill prescriptions for people with diabetes or high blood pressure and provide medical advice to help prevent a stroke or other serious disease complications like diabetic ketoacidosis.

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) estimates that 7 million people will have experienced a telehealth visit by 2018 –up from 350,000 in 2013. In a survey of healthcare executive earlier this year, the ATA found that 83 percent of organizations have plans to invest in telehealth and mHealth within the next year. Only one percent of respondents had no plans to do so at any point in the future. Drivers for the rapid adoption growth include the desire to improve access to care and care coordination, increase efficiency, prevent readmissions and expand population health programs. Investing in this telehealth may be a wise decision for healthcare systems and hospitals, as the the industry’s market value is set to hit $36.2 billion by 2020, up from $14.3 billion in 2014, according to a Foley & Lardner report.

6. Digital therapeutics

Digital therapeutics, also known as “digiceuticals,” are an emerging trend that  uses software to improve a person’s health in lieu of a drug, but without the same cost and side effects. This new category of apps can help treat diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease by changing patient behavior and providing remote monitoring to improve health outcomes. For example, these apps can encourage patients to follow a diet and exercise programs or improve sleep for insomnia-sufferers through cognitive behavioral exercises. The key difference between traditional wellness apps and digital theraputics is that the latter is used to implement treatment programs tailored to specific conditions and diseases. Early evidence shows that these digital health programs, when combined with human coaching and interaction, can make a significant difference in health outcomes.

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