Do you ever wonder if robotics has transformed the work of the elves in Santa’s workshop? Or if drones will soon be more likely to deliver holiday gifts than Dasher, Dancer, et al.? No matter what impact technologies are having on the North Pole, they’re clearly integral to healthcare. Telehealth, cloud computing and virtual reality are just a few of the ones you’ll want to make sure are on your holiday wish list. Happy Holidays!

  1. Seeing value in telehealth. With an eye toward lowering costs, improving outcomes and increasing overall value, a growing number of U.S. health systems are signing on with telehealth providers. Other benefits include facilitating better communication between caregivers and specialists, reducing the burden on emergency rooms and improving patient access to care. Seems like the sky could be the limit as both consumers and providers continue to embrace telehealth.
  2. Room to improve. Most mHealth apps still have a ways to go when it comes to effectively managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and depression. A new JAMA study shows that few offer functionality such as guidance based on user-entered data or rewards for behavior changes. For starters, researchers recommend involving both clinicians and patients more closely in developing app usability ratings.
  3. Ageless benefits. Americans aged 80 and older who use cellphones, PCs, video streaming services and other technology appear to be healthier and happier than their less tech-savvy counterparts. Not surprisingly, being able to connect with family and friends increases satisfaction and decreases loneliness. But interestingly, the study also showed that using technology to learn new information was linked to better physical health and fewer functional limitations.
  4. VR Rx. If all goes as Cedars-Sinai’s director of health services research hopes, doctors soon may be able to prescribe virtual reality (VR) sessions instead of medication to alleviate pain. His research focuses on using VR for inpatient pain management to reduce narcotic use, decrease hospital length of stay and improve patient satisfaction. Other researchers also see plenty of potential applications for VR, from alleviating anxiety in pediatric patients to stress management to mobility training for stroke and spinal cord injury patients. Clearly, there’s a lot more to VR than fun and games.
  5. Sunny cloud forecast. Healthcare cloud computing has tripled since 2014 as the strategic benefits have begun to overshadow previous security concerns. The HIMSS Analytics 2016 Cloud Survey reports that healthcare organizations increasingly choose the cloud for back-office applications, backup and disaster recovery, revenue cycle management, and patient engagement. The challenge is no longer whether to deploy a cloud solution but how to build a scalable, future-proof network infrastructure to support it.
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