What Will Data Look Like in 20 Years?

Technology that gathers data is exponentially expanding around us – from refrigerators that assess your food stock and send you a virtual grocery list, to your own digital advisor who can remind you of your next meeting and tell you what kind of clothes you need for today’s weather. Whether this excites you or makes you nervous, the reality is that our lives are becoming more and more seamless; efficiency is being propelled by communication between a wide range of data inputs and the people that can put it to good use. 

It is no surprise, then, that health care is looking for ways to leverage the abundance of data now floating around the atmosphere, whether voluntarily added by members of communities, or gleaned from seemingly bottomless pools of patient records and demographic summaries. Ideally, this process of turning data into useful, actionable takeaways has the potential to make health care more efficient, more affordable, and perhaps even more preventative in the years to come. So what will data look like in the next two decades, and how will it help the medical industry? 

More Efficient Processing of Data, from 9-11 to Discharge 

Thanks to agnostic, electronic patient record (ePCR) software platforms that can be used by a wide range of service providers, a patient’s personal health data and information should be able to travel with him or her from the moment an ambulance arrives on location, on through the emergency department, up until the time of discharged. Long gone are the days of piles of paperwork – patient records with five layers of carbon copies to be handed off to various providers. Instead, easy-to-complete electronic forms make it simpler to gather all important impression information, and even easier to hand off to the staff at the hospital. Doctors will no longer need to call up records from the medical records department, but will be able to review a single ePCR that has been updated and maintained throughout the journey. Hospitals and EMS providers alike can easily review these records to improve QA, initiate billing, and identify areas for improvement. 

Wireless Technology Making Data Easier to Gather Than Ever 

Perhaps the future of medical data will use the current springboards of existing technology to gather information in unprecedented ways. Your smartwatch can record everything from your exercise to your sleep patterns, while you use your smartphone to track your caloric intake, your weight, and your water intake. Your personal advising devices like Echo or Alexa could summarize the most common health-related searches drawn from a community and report it back to the medical community. Miniscule details about daily living may suddenly become widely available to aggregate and examine to learn more about health factors and risks for the general population. Similarly, your own personal data could be pulled into a health database that is readily available for your primary care physician to access, making your regular checkups more efficient. 

More Efficient Centralized Processing of Data 

Now that the avalanche of medical data is flowing in, how can health providers wrap their minds around it? Companies specializing in combining health care data by geographic location may play a key role in pulling out the pertinent trends and demographics that will help form the future of health care. Medical professionals will not have to become data analysts; instead the availability of a city’s most prominent health risks or most likely predispositions can make customized care plans a reality. Researchers, similarly, can spend more time focusing on new and potentially groundbreaking discoveries by leveraging existing data overviews, rather than crunching numbers by hand. 

More Accessible and Reliable Treatment, Thanks to Technology 

In an effort to push down costs and make health care more affordable, health care providers are leveraging emerging technology and will do so more and more in the years to come. For example, health care providers are beginning to embrace the concept of “video-based” based patient visits, but these are expected to increase by tenfold in just the next year. Quality health care, or advising from specialists, can now be made available to even the most rural communities or to housebound patients. Additionally, the use of emerging technology in surgical procedures will continue to help push down the margin of human errors – whether utilizing robotic surgical assistance or leveraging laparoscopic technology to complete procedures that would have previously been much more invasive. 

New Brands Pushing the Envelope in Digital Health 

As the line between health care and the rest of a person’s life continues to blur, it’s perhaps not surprising that more and more companies that have traditionally not been in the health care sphere are looking for ways to branch out. For example, WalMart has begun pioneering urgent care clinic locations in certain communities, offering health care to their rural communities. Perhaps one day you will visit a single location for groceries, banking, and a regular check up.  

Google – in a move many are calling more sci-fi than reality at this point – is also pushing its innovation into health care with its “nanoparticle platform.” This concept entails a pill that you swallow that then sends magnetic nanoparticles throughout your body to explore and record potential health risks, like cancer, plaques, and high levels of sodium. Since the particles are magnetic, they can then be “called back” to a specific point in your body, like your wrist, to “report back” the data they’ve found. 

From the mundane to the extraordinary, the proliferation of data – and how it is accessed and used – is undoubtedly destined to be at the center of the future of health care. With the right tools, medical professionals can take patient care to unimaginable destinations that improve quality of life and drive down the cost of care for communities. 

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