The Longevity

The Longevity Network Guide to 2017 Healthcare Trends

January 19, 2017 |

January is a time for new beginnings for many and if you are an investor, entrepreneur or innovator, 2017 may be your year. We’ve researched emerging trends in healthcare for 2017 and summarized what we’ve found. Will 2017 be the year you’ll launch the new venture you’ve been thinking about?

Artificial Intelligence

There are an increasing number of applications for AI within the healthcare field.  Researchers are continuously finding new ways to use AI to assist doctors and nurses with patient care, freeing up valuable time for them to spend with their patients.  AI-assisted technology can track data and trends, monitor patients’ vital signs in a healthcare setting or at home, make accurate medical diagnoses and even assist in the operating room. The implications of AI-assisted technology in patients’ homes look especially promising for the 50+, as this will allow people to age in place longer.

Drones

Drones have become increasingly popular in recent years not only for their “cool factor,” but also because they are helping companies deliver products and services faster and more efficiently. Drones also have several important applications in the healthcare field and we expect to see even more in 2017. Drones can deliver medicine and other supplies to hard to reach areas and hospitals. On a smaller scale, drone devices can help elderly persons with daily tasks inside their homes. “Small drones with manipulator arms can be used to bring them medication, grab a glass of water, clean a chandelier, pick something up from under the table or even sort laundry,” Renee Knight writes in the online journal article Drones Deliver Healthcare.

Virtual Reality

According to the Virtual Reality Society, the healthcare industry has been one of the first to embrace the many applications of virtual reality. As stated on their website, “One of the advantages of this technology is that it allows healthcare professionals to learn new skills as well as refreshing existing ones in a safe environment. Plus it allows this without causing any danger to the patients.” Virtual Reality has also shown promise in easing anxiety, depression and chronic pain in an elderly population. “There are over 100 clinical research papers that are already published that show proven positive clinical outcomes using VR in managing chronic pain, anxiety and depression,” says Dr. Sonja Kim in the NPR.org article, Virtual Reality Aimed At The Elderly Finds New Fans. “And in dementia patients, all (of) those three elements are very common,” she says.

Chatbots

Siri, Alexa, Amazon Echo and Google Home are all examples of chatbots, which utilize voice-processing and artificial intelligence software. In 2017, expect to see more companies utilize chatbots to improve customer service and allow brands to communicate directly with consumers.

As telemedicine is becoming an increasingly viable healthcare option, chatbots will play an important role, being able to question patients about symptoms and follow-up with them once they are back at home. There have also been recent innovations in the use of chatbots with the elderly. Applications include providing companionship and encouraging aging people to be more active. One chatbot, called HARLIE (Human and Robot Language Interaction Experiment), is designed to provide speech therapy to elderly people who have such neurological conditions as Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

The Rise of  “Physgital”

“Phygital” is a marketing term used to describe the relationship between consumers’ physical and digital worlds. One example of this is the wildly popular Pokemon Go app, which used GPS technology in a game format, to get people of all ages (but especially pre-teen boys) moving.  Consumer messaging that includes a phygital element has been found to be highly engaging, but there are also intriguing implications for the healthcare industry. Examples include making exercise, fitness and eating healthy foods more fun and rewarding. According to Dugan Maddux, MD, FACP, Vice President, Kidney Disease Initiatives in the journal article, The Gamification of Health Care: Are We Having Fun Yet?, “Games developed to influence health behaviors have shown positive results.”