Video Consulting, Health App Prescriptions Coming in 2016

This coming year will be the year that, shift by shift, visit by visit, nurses, doctors and other clinicians learn to work in new ways.

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In 2016, millions of American consumers will have their first video consults, be prescribed their first health apps and use their smartphones as diagnostic tools for the first time, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) annual Top Health Issues report.

PwC’s analysis of the top issues in health care for the year as well as predictions for top things to watch for in 2016 includes the rise of health applications on mobile devices and wearable technology, privacy concerns and e-visits for mental health.

"Four of our top 10 health industry issues revolve around the tech industry, which speaks to the huge impact the tech industry is having on health care," Trine Tsouderos, PwC's HRI Director, told eWEEK. "We're seeing the rollout of increasingly sophisticated medical devices and apps to consumers, allowing them to access more and more care in the palms of their hands."

Tsouderos explained PwC is also seeing increased use of high-tech databases that are able to analyze oceans of data being collected on consumers, including data that aren't captured in rows-and-columns in spreadsheets.

"Health organizations--from pharma companies to insurers to retailers--can now take data from all of these different sources, analyze them and draw insights," she explained. "We're also seeing the adoption of technology in the area of behavioral health. Employers, health systems, insurers--we see all of these entities beginning to introduce telehealth services such as video consults with mental health clinicians. We’re also seeing more focus on cyber-security issues with medical devices, which are increasingly connected."

This coming year will be the year that, shift by shift, visit by visit, nurses, doctors and other clinicians learn to work in new ways, incorporating insights gleaned from data analyses into their treatment plans.

They will begin conducting e-visits with behavioral health patients and reacting to alerts from remote patient monitoring devices sent home with newly discharged patients.

Ensuring consumer privacy and security are critical for tech companies working on health and also for all health care organizations, Tsouderos said. What is at stake is more than just stolen credit card numbers and other identify theft matters.

She noted cyber-security in an increasingly connected healthcare world means that wired medical devices could be vulnerable to malicious hacking, which could lead to injuries and even deaths.

"In 2016, we will see continued attention paid to this issue of connected medical devices, by both manufacturers and health systems," Tsouderos said.