Information technology is one of the major trends in today\\'s world, and it is changing every professional. It is imperative for healthcare leaders to understand the emerging information technologies, and how those technologies can transform the delivery of healthcare and the administration of healthcare institutions.
There are several different technologies that will transform the healthcare field in the coming decade. Already, we have seen the emergence of distance health care. While initially developed for rural communities, the increasing use of apps, ubiquitous high speed internet, and new applications of long-distance health care promises to shift more care to the home, including many diagnostic functions previously only available at healthcare facilities.
Artificial intelligence is the next wave in the development of healthcare decision-making systems. AI will advance such systems by imbuing them with the capacity to learn, to continually upgrade their knowledge, to build on what they learn. These systems will soon become smarter and more capable than human practitioners, with substantial implications for the efficiency and accuracy of health care delivery, and on the administrative side impacting everything from staffing to liability.
Supercomputing will have a similar impact to AI – the ability to gather and process massive datasets will revolutionize care by providing evidence-based decision making much more quickly and accurately than was ever possible before. Data-driven clinical support systems will take health care from a field that still often struggled with the concept of electronic health records directly from the 20th century to the 22nd.
Introduction and Major Technologies
There are several major information technologies that will transform healthcare over the course of the coming years. In laying out a plan for the next decade, it is important to understand not the individual technologies so much as the broad trends. The shape and direction of these trends informs us as to the potential developments in the future. We can already imagine what some of these developments will look like – they range from modest improvements over today\\'s technology to quantum leaps that seem more like science fiction....
Healthcare administrators needs to position themselves today, via the decisions that they make, to be ready for these changes in the future, and it starts with understanding the different types of emerging IT on what the implications of that IT will be for health care provision in the future.
There is no discussion, in no field of endeavor, about emerging technologies without talking about artificial intelligence (AI). In short, AI seems set to revolutionize our entire existence, in much the same way that the internal combustion engine did. Many of the most critical applications of AI have yet to even be conceived, but there are some things that we can identify. Bodies from the world\\'s major nations to leading corporations are all betting heavily on AI, and with good reason (Knight, 2018).
AI is going to replace human thinking. It is going to run the machines that help us diagnose and treat illness. Processes today that are dominated by human thought and intelligence could easily be eliminated within the next decade, and this has significant implications for healthcare organizations. AI in healthcare is predicted to radically improve medical care at the clinical level (Bhardwaj, 2018). It will not come cheap – productivity enhancements rarely do – but it will dramatically reduce the reliance on human expertise, and it will reduce the liability risk that healthcare organizations face. If a plan is in place to embrace this technology, and we make the right strategic investments, we will see substantially reduced costs, and the ability to handle far more patients.
There are further implications that will arise from this redesign of care. The design of our physical facilities will be different. The resources that we need to thrive will be different. There will be impacts on our cash flow cycle, on payer behavior, on health outcomes, and on staffing needs. Roles that do not exist today will be critical tomorrow, and roles that are critical today could be marginalized tomorrow. Building labor flexibility today.
Because we do not really know what form AI will take in health care – individual decisions about technology adoption are down the road – we can only go so far down the road for planning. But we should have a program of reviewing the latest developments in a formal manner, so that we know about these developments before our competitors do, and start to envision the difference ways that AI can help us. It will pay handsomely to be proactive rather than reactive when dealing with this transformational technology.
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