Leading-edge health systems are already making strides with innovative use cases involving artificial intelligence and blockchain, but a new report from accenture spotlights a couple other innovations for which hospitals should be preparing.

WHY IT MATTERS
Accenture’s report, Digital Health Tech Vision, highlights five trends set to shape health and care delivery in the years ahead, from consumerism to workforce development to cybersecurity. But perhaps most interesting is a new acronym that health IT professionals should be thinking about: DARQ.

It stands for Distributed ledger technology, Artificial intelligence, extended Reality and Quantum computing. Each of those innovations is still in the early stages, but as they gain maturity and make inroads across the healthcare industry, they’re set to transform the future, according to Accenture.

“DARQ technologies are poised to become the foundation for next-generation products and services,” researchers note in the report. “Healthcare leaders in the DARQ-driven future will be prepared to combine and exploit those competencies as the technologies reach enterprise-level maturity.”

Blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies may still seem like a fad or buzzword, but Accenture is convinced that they’ll soon be an “important part of healthcare payments and identity management.” DLT’s many use cases around trusted datasets – from insurance qualifications to patient identification to provider credentialing – and the cost-efficiencies they can deliver make it too valuable to ignore.

More immediately, AI is poised to enable big clinical and operational improvements – and in many cases already is. Of the DARQ technologies, 41 percent of healthcare decision makers polled by Accenture said AI will have the biggest effect on their organizational processes over the next three years.

“AI has perhaps the greatest number of emerging use cases in healthcare,” said researchers. “The constellation of artificial intelligence technologies is already having tremendous impact on labor, a substantial line item in healthcare. AI is used in contact centers, for payment activities, medical chart reviews and it can help patients take part in self-service.”

But extended reality – which Accenture defines as the ability for machines to “operate cognitively, as humans do,” enabling “people to interact naturally with technology” – has already made the biggest inroads across healthcare, according to the report. Interestingly, 38 percent of healthcare organizations polled said they’d already deployed XR across at least one business unit.

For instance, Cedars-Sinai is using it to “teach patients how to better cope with pain through breathing techniques and positive thinking,” and Cleveland Clinic is using virtual reality tech from Zygote Medical Education to improve clinical anatomy education: “Students can use their mobile devices to access precise 3D models of anatomy and connect with peers all over the world.”

As for quantum technology, practical healthcare applications of that “fundamentally different approach to computing” are still rare. But soon health systems will be using it to “crunch complex data sets, such as DNA data, to enable more personalized medicine and interactions,” according to Accenture. That could enable big advancements in drug discovery and treatment innovations.

“All four DARQ technologies are, or will be, powerful on their own,” according to Accenture. “But as they advance, they will push each other forward further. Already, early pairings reveal game-changing combinatorial effects for healthcare.”

THE LARGER TREND
As healthcare leaders gather in Boston on June 13 and 14 for the HIMSS Machine Learning and AI for Healthcare event, they’ll be focused on gaining basic competencies in data management and analytics that will enable them to capitalize on the big potential of artificial intelligence.

Already, hospitals are making big strides with AI, from clinical documentation to cancer detection. And blockchain, too, is proving its value beyond the hype. As XR, quantum computing and other technologies continue to evolve and mature, healthcare is set for some big gains.

As Accenture points out, 94 percent of the healthcare executives it surveyed say the “pace of innovation in their organization has accelerated” in recent years thanks to emerging technologies such as these.

ON THE RECORD
“Even before DARQ technologies have reached full maturity, healthcare enterprises can see the value on the horizon,” according to the Accenture report. “Whether lowering the cost of care, improving labor productivity or enabling better experiences for consumers and partners, regardless of training or intent, DARQ potential runs deep. To take advantage of the transformational new capabilities that DARQ technologies will offer, payers and providers must explore the possibilities now.”



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