From the Internet of Medical Things to AI: The state of healthcare in 2020

Health technology experts make their predictions for the market over the next 12 months

What's next for healthcare in terms of technological advancements? We ask the experts

The past year has thrown considerable challenges and questions for healthcare providers, and the fast-changing sector is set to see further evolution and upheaval in 2020.

Notably, hospitals are facing the greatest pressure due to an array of challenges, including long waiting lists, squeezed budgets, and staff shortages.

In fact, recent figures from NHS England show that there are now 4.4 million people in England waiting for an operation - the highest total on record.

But technological advancements can help mediate challenges in communication and improve collaboration within the healthcare sector, through streamlining procedures to create efficiencies.

With this in mind, we've spoken to some of the biggest industry leaders to give an overview of some of the biggest changes we’re set to see in the next 12 months and beyond:

Personalising healthcare with AI

Speaking to BBH, Dr Ian Roberts, chief technology officer at Healx, said: “AI is transforming every industry in which it is implemented, with its impact upon the healthcare sector already saving lives and improving medical diagnoses.

AI is transforming every industry in which it is implemented, with its impact upon the healthcare sector already saving lives and improving medical diagnoses

“However, the transformative effect of AI is set to switch healthcare on its head, as the technology leads to a shift from re-active treatments targeting populations to pro-active prevention tailored to the individual patient.”

The future, he predicts, will see AI-generated healthcare recommendations extend to include personalised treatment plans.

An example of this in practice is the ability to mitigate the risk of a person developing a chronic illness by having the foresight to make changes in lifestyle choices ahead of diagnosis.

“This medical understanding will be formed in part by their own genome, combined with machine learning algorithms,” said Dr Roberts.

To date, consumer personal genomics companies such as 23andMe are already helping to inform people of the need to manage their health. This ranges from avoiding coffee late at night to elevated risks of dementia and certain cancers.

“Currently we are in the infancy of AI in healthcare, and each company drives forward another piece of the puzzle and once fully integrated the future of medicine will be forever transformed,” said Dr Roberts.

Data-driven patient care

Alan Jacobsen, chief data and analytic officer at Alteryx, predicts: “In 2020, we can expect to see better patient outcomes fuelled largely by the growing prevalence of data science and analytics.

“Much of the data that is required to solve some really-key challenges already exists in the public domain, and in the next year we expect more and more healthcare organisations will implement tools that help to assess this rich information as well as gain actionable insight.”

In 2019, the sector saw issues such as the over prescription of opioids in the UK come under scrutiny, and data analytics has gone a long way in showing the patterns between misuse and other factors, such as geography and social demographics.

“The first step to making a change is identifying these patterns, and we expect to see other such challenges benefit from solutions that let not only technical staff, but workers in all lines of healthcare, input data and extract value," said Jacobsen.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) will be key to the delivery of healthcare services over the next decade

Cyber security hacks in healthcare

Chris Sherry, regional vice president for EMEA North at Forescout, says: “In 2020, healthcare organisations will move up the maturity model for cyber security.

The first step to making a change is identifying these patterns, and we expect to see other such challenges benefit from solutions that let not only technical staff, but workers in all lines of healthcare, input data and extract value

“Many are shifting the way they procure Internet of Things (IoT) medical devices and are increasing the budget made available to ensuring that devices meet high security standards.

“This is particularly important for those that are no longer supported by vulnerability patches issued by manufacturers; as these types of devices can leave huge gaps in a hospital’s IT infrastructure, with potentially-devastating consequences for patients under their care.”

He adds: “Sadly, despite the growing focus in this area, it’s likely there will be a notable data breach at a healthcare organisation by the end of the next 12 months, whereby an unpatched Windows 7 endpoint is the entryway.

“Microsoft will ‘end of life’ Windows 7 at the beginning of 2020, meaning it will no longer receive these vital updates that protect it from new and emerging threats.

“With this in mind, all organisations that seek to bypass the trend of prioritising cyber security look set to face serious consequences.”

The rise of IoMT

The rapid growth of Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) over the last few years has brought huge benefits to medical organisations and their patients alike.

2020 will be the year where healthcare organisations of all sizes will need to realise that they are easy pickings for cyber criminals, and put a robust, reliable and resilient network security infrastructure in place to protect themselves adequately

However, creating increasingly-connected environments also brings new risks as cyber criminals try and exploit device and network vulnerabilities to wreak havoc.

In fact, a recent global survey by Extreme Networks found that one in five healthcare IT professionals are unsure if every medical device on their network has all the latest software patches installed - creating a porous security infrastructure that can easily be bypassed.

Extreme Networks’ director of healthcare solutions, Bob Zemke, said: “2020 will be the year where healthcare organisations of all sizes will need to realise that they are easy pickings for cyber criminals, and put a robust, reliable and resilient network security infrastructure in place to protect themselves adequately.”

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