Health is a universal issue in all our lives, regardless of one’s age. The reality, however, is that age-related health problems are one of the key issues adding pressure to our health care system.

With the inevitable increase in the elderly, health care deliverers are on the watch for anything that can help them manage their budgets. That’s why this year’s top IT trends are welcome news, because they’re in keeping with what we’ve been seeing in the health care industry in recent years – a shift away from treatment and toward the prevention of medical problems. When it comes to these type of trends, they all hinge on advances in IT and not only have the potential to save healthcare providers time and money but to reshape the entire industry while they change the way patients are treated.

The growth in mobile apps will make it even easier for people to customize their personal health needs, specifically those that target health problems. More and more people are looking for ways to become pro-active with their health and educating themselves through mobile health apps is a key way to achieve this. This trend will continue as more boomers cross the age 65 line. One study showed that more than one third of Canadians believe mobile health apps will make health care more convenient in the next three years.
Wearable health technology such as the Fitbit wrist band was one of last year’s biggest trends. This year we expect to see an even deeper focus on wearable devices such as smart garments that actually monitor you. Examples include the OMsignal biometric smartwear, a bio-sensing apparel to track your daily health. It works with sensors that are embedded in the apparel and that monitor your heart rate, breathing, activity level and even count calories. Patients can view their data in real-time on their smartphones, all by wearing a shirt. Information can be shared with medical professionals who can provide input or intervention for higher risk patients.
Social networks, like Facebook, will play an increasing role in disseminating health care information. The number of social network users around the world increased from47 billion in 2012 to 1.73 billion in 2013 and is expected to grow to 2.55 billion by 2017. We’ll see a trend toward more health care providers using social networks as a vehicle to share information. That could see 2015 as the year when our social platforms are driven by more purpose than simply by connecting as users look to each other to discover health care information and advice. With so many users, it’s no wonder health care providers and the health care industry are investing in online strategies to reach stakeholders. Indeed, studies have shown that patients are already using it to find out about doctors and to discuss treatments. Opportunities to connect social networks with internal hospital educational platforms broaden the opportunity to educate on a large scale. Examples include ways to disseminate information about diabetes care, heart health and other preventable diseases.
Digital technologies— from telemedicine to patient-bedside clinical systems to video conferencing through webcams and laptops — digital technologies will make healthcare more efficient and more cost-effective. An increasing number of people are using mobile devices which means patients can easily connect with their doctors over the Internet. Self-monitoring devices also allow patients to monitor their own vital signs and can even report the information back to their doctors without having to go to the clinic. Medical staff can use video conferencing to check on patients and monitor them.
The move toward electronic health records will be one of the biggest trends we see in Canada this year. The good news is that electronic health records make the system more efficient. The bad news is that Canadian physicians are long overdue in jumping into that arena. A global study showed that Canadian physicians are lagging well behind doctors in other countries, according to a survey of 3,700 doctors from Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Singapore, Spain and the United States. Globally, 66 per cent of physicians reported routinely using electronic notes, compared to only 44 per cent of Canadian physicians. This even though most Canadian physicians reported that they believe healthcare IT is key to effective patient care.