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Five Hot Healthcare Innovations in 2013 and a Few to Look Out for in 2014

New technologies have the potential to disrupt the traditional & slow processes that are often ingrained in healthcare systems

The ability to provide fast and accurate healthcare has always depended on having the latest technology and educating the relevant staff on how to best employ these new devices and applications. Throughout 2013, a number of innovations appeared in the industry, changing the way healthcare we administer and receive care.

New technologies have the potential to disrupt the traditional, slow, and ineffective processes that are often ingrained in the healthcare system. They have the potential to offer more security to meet stringent compliance requirements, streamline distribution, and get more consistency throughout a range of services. This year has seen some new technologies and trends that are having a real impact on the industry.

1. Access Management Solutions
Security is a major concern for any healthcare provider, which is why desktop virtualization and identity access management solutions are becoming more necessary. Whether the staff is using a locally hosted application or running a specific program in the cloud, they need immediate access to the right information and digital tools. Any delay can interrupt an otherwise smooth delivery of the service.

Providers require an environment in which they can access everything they need from any device with a single sign-on. This significantly reduces a lot of the time-consuming actions that often interrupt workflow. These types of solutions provide quick and secure access to patient information, and can use everything from passwords to biometric authentication methods. This means response times and reduced confusion as staff try to access or re-access the necessary data and applications.

2. Cloud Computing and SaaS Alternatives
Healthcare technology is changing fast, and providers need solutions that can scale, evolve, and develop just as quickly. This year has seen a huge rush to the cloud for storage and other services. The cloud and software as a service solutions provide alternatives that are faster to scale, easier to implement, and, in some cases, more affordable to use.

Many healthcare providers are looking for ways to shift their budgets away from capital investments (which can be quickly outdated) to options that provide a more immediate return on investment. Security remains a concern, but the benefits continue to attract more users.

3. Big Data
With so many new ways to track data on patients, providers are generating more information than they can possibly deal with. Previously, a lot of this information would have been stored on multiple systems and accessed sporadically by people who could only hope to find some relevant data. Modern Big Data solutions have helped doctors get past this method and begin making more informed decisions based on a wide range of data. 2013 saw advancements in the speed and efficiency in which doctors and other providers could access this critical information.

4. Personal Diagnosis
Patients who don't want to visit a doctor for some of the more simple things can go to the local mall, convenience store, or other location to get a basic diagnosis on their own. Kiosks like the SoloHealth Station offer an interactive, self-service option to screen things like vision, weight, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI). This is putting certain healthcare elements back in the hands of the consumer/patient by providing quality diagnostics, often for free. They also provide access to a database of local physicians, so if the results suggest seeing a doctor, they will see some of their immediate options.

5. Personal Tracking
More people are using technology to track their own activity levels and monitor their nutrition every day. They can manage their medical records, set goals for getting fit and even watch how they eat. Wristbands and pedometers can be tied to mobile apps to track everything you do, from the calories you burn to the hours you sleep. There's even a fork that helps monitor eating habits, down to the time it takes to eat the meal and fork servings per minute.

People are taking a more active role in their own health and fitness because these new tools are making it easier than ever.

Into 2014 and Beyond
Where are these innovations leading? While it's hard to say exactly what 2014 will bring, there are some trends that are worth watching. First, doctors, patients, and other providers will be more connected than ever before. People who have been raised on social media will continue looking to those resources for help and recommendations. Currently, this is probably not the best way for someone to get valid information on which to base an important medical decision, but as they become a bigger part of the technological landscape, doctors will likely turn to these mediums to connect with current and potential patients.

How far will healthcare technology go? Can we leave it all up to the computers? At the 2013 Healthcare Innovation Summit, a technology-focused venture capitalist, Vinod Kholsa, suggested that maybe that could be a good thing. He thought that we could start relying solely on "dispassionate, data-driven technology" to improve diagnoses and patient outcomes. He said that "Technology can change the practice of medicine into the science of medicine." While it's unlikely we'll get to that point within the next few years, there are trends that certainly seem to point that way.

More Stories By Jared Jacobs

Jared Jacobs has professional and personal interests in technology. As an employee of Dell, he has to stay up to date on the latest innovations in large enterprise solutions and consumer electronics buying trends. Personally, he loves making additions to his media rooms and experimenting with surround sound equipment. He’s also a big Rockets and Texans fan.

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